Sunday, May 10, 2009

The weight of men

ARE we really now kinder to mothers?

Returning to the city from the countryside, the first newspaper I open in days ran ads touting “Mother’s Day” on May 10.

The visual cliché of husband, son and daughter gazing up at a beatific female was incomplete. Wouldn’t it be mirroring also other truths to show also a mother with children but no partner? Or a woman with a partner but instead of children, a basin of unwashed clothes? How about splicing images of two or more women and their children, with one male dividing his time (and resources) among his several households?

This country joins other liberated nations in observing “International Women’s Day” on March 8.

But the stories I’ve heard these past days weave not just a thread but a skein of the enduring labors of women as wives and mothers suffering under the weight of men, pardon the pun.

For these field interviews, there was no intention to select the male respondents for their female connections (or disconnections). However, in the space of five days, I’ve met more than a handful of not just unrepentant but cocksure fellows who were happy to confirm that, whether 40 or 80, men’s natural disposition is to be on top.

There is the rolling stone who looks for a local woman as often as he moves to a place to find work. In the two decades that we’ve known one guy, it is bewildering to remember the chronology of his employment unless we associate every posting with his partner of the moment. Asked if he has not tired of this erect-and-dismantle pattern, the stoic shrugs: he needs someone to wash his clothes wherever he finds work.

Another type is the connoisseur who shows no remorse and no flagging despite the years. He appreciates women, flipping open his billfold to show strangers pictures of not his wife or grandchildren but the first love he courted when he was just callow and green, and his latest conquest, now that he is no longer young but still green.

This man is the master of disappearances, hiding the second or the third when the first makes a surprise visit. There is only one sun but there can be many planets; it will only disrupt nature if the planets cross paths and collide. Otherwise, believes this dubious man of science, the planets can revolve around the sun till hell freezes or the first discovers the second or the third.

And then there is the Compassionate One. One fellow meets a former partner one day at the “tabo.” After he compliments the fine looks of the girl his ex is tugging along, the woman replies: she should have your looks as she happens to be yours. The compassionate fellow does better than apologize; he buys his ex a new pair of stone-washed denims and his (now accounted for) offspring, “halo-halo.”

Another guy feels it his social duty to listen to the tales of woe women spin about their imperfect husbands. To wipe the slate clean for his gender, the savior of the world makes up by taking up with the dolorous wives. In two cases, the confessional proved to be the shortest route through a woman’s defenses.

Of course, for the men to live happily ever after, women whip up quite a storm in the backstage. Matriarchs spare the wives but introduce all the children of lapsed husbands to ensure that they know their half-siblings and do not add incest to their father’s cupidity. When a betrayed wife gives up or dies from heartbreak, an offspring, usually a daughter, continues the crusade, pursuing and punishing rogue father and mistresses with that direst of sting: a woman’s tongue.

In one case, neither a daughter’s fury nor a wife’s martyrdom cured a fellow. This connoisseur broke an arm while battling a boa constrictor that slithered into their bedroom. While the septuagenarian was sedated for the major operation to replace his shattered bone, his legitimate children asked the surgeon to include a vasectomy in the medical package. No more wild sowing, vowed one daughter.

He who travels lightest goes farthest, retorted the serpent (slayer) who, approaching 80, is still on top of his world. 09173226131

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu's May 10, 2009 issue

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