I have come to dread running into a certain person – The Longlost Married Friend. An email or phone call from this species provokes the same, albeit delayed reaction. That’s to say, the email has already loaded, her over-cheery voice is trilling down the phone into my ear by the time dread starts to sink over me.
Because I know just as I start to relax and express my joy at the reunion, she’s going to swoop in with a zinger. It might be about my values or my love life or my health or my dress sense or my relationships. But it will be condescending, disapproving and worst of all – accompanied by an air of ‘there, there, nobody’s perfect darling, I’m sure you try.’
What is it about women who have been only wives & mothers to the exclusion of all else, for awhile that makes them so awful? This is Stepford wives going the Victoria Beckham way. Hard, sleek, perpetually perfect and absolutely detestable. Festival season brings out the worst of them. After all, this is their dominion, where they get to be Queen Bee and sniff disapprovingly at their single counterparts who aren’t spending their entire day decorating home, husband, kids and themselves. A single woman at Karwa Chauth is like an anorexic at OverEaters Anonymous – most of the time, you know you’re in a better place than them (independent, self-sufficient, own identity etc) but you’re going to be made to feel insufficient, inferior and worst of all – guilty – anyway.
The beauty/grooming issue is a touchy one as well. I’ve come to detest kurtis, especially with zari because I associate them so much with this species. Western wear is not taboo, it just suits Mrs.Judgemental to let you think it is because between her post-marriage-prosperity plumpness, post-pregnancy fat and disapproving in-laws, she hasn’t got a chance of wearing that gorgeous skirt you’re wearing. And if she’s going dressy-dressy for a casual occasion like shopping, it can only mean she’s got too much time on her hands, not that she’s a natural style diva. The last time I had the misfortune to run into one of these, she engulfed me in a tide of polite “Hello darling”s before moving onto a sneering glance at my rumpled linen drawstring pants and loose tee-shirt and smirking,
“You still look the same. Exactly the same.”
And my successful career, professional accolades and grace-under-pressure moments fell away as I whined in my head that it was only a movie and I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone. But Madame Perfect had already gone back to adjusting her ‘husband-bought-from-Spain’ necklace into further perfection.
I realize though, that a number of my other close girlfriends also fit this demographic. They’re married, mothers and have been away from the workplace post maternity. Maybe it is just that these women are special, really special so they haven’t let their stereotypical roles get in the way of our friendship. They give me a little sneak peek into what makes Mrs.Judgemental behave as she does.
One friend tells me the pressure to be an overachiever mum is almost worse than the stresses laid on you at work. At least, she says, you can leave your work woes behind when you leave office. But the larger social circle *never* shuts up about the best way to raise a kid and be a wife. I imagine it’s like meeting a group of Mrs.Judgementals only several degrees worse.
The Best Friend has been something of an overachiever all her life. Top marks in engineering and business management, plum placement, successful career. She’s also been a beauty queen and the heart-throb of the batch. I love her for the effort she’s making to stay that same person and not get lost in being a Stepford wife and mother. Curiously, I think becoming a wife and mother has made her a little less ‘perfect’ and relax more, enjoy life a lot more. Now, why can’t all women be like that? Because balancing the roles of a woman in a workplace and a woman in a traditional Indian family is not for the faint of heart.
To come back, I see that the other side isn’t having a great time of it. But it’s not making it any easier for me to be patient. Who’s got the time to be patient to someone who can have an afternoon siesta if she likes while I struggle through the client’s presentation? Why would I be sympathetic to someone who can get away with being in a bad mood while I have to watch everything I say or be branded ‘the bitch boss’ or endure PMS jokes? And finally, who gives a damn about how she looks when she’s had 3 effing hours to do it while I had just five minutes? She can get her ego-strokes elsewhere and grow some self-respect. After all, I did.
“Don’t worry darling, I’m sure you will, someday.”