Wednesday, October 29

Tired of explaining it

At any place in this world - save, perhaps, for the “Only Happy Singles Club” - pretty much the same thing happens when you drop a remark about being a single and loving your life this way.

The usual first response of any non-single hearing you say something like that is “Oh no, you’re not, you’re just saying it to justify your way of life”. Why the hell do I have to justify my way of life?

Um, perhaps because you’re a single? Singles can’t be happy, you know.

That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard ... and who are you, by the way?

Me? I’m Everybody, Everybody Knows. I’m the personification of the ultimate truth that’s known to everyone.

Okay, Mr. ... Mrs. ... Miss ... wait a moment, what are you? That black cloak is pretty much covering all of you up.

I’m a ... well, actually I’ve got no gender, you know. I’m representing the majority, after all.

Nice. So, practically speaking, you’re an ‘it’?

I prefer being a ‘they’, thank you very much.

They it is, then. So, where do you take that idea from? Why can’t singles be happy?

Well, humans need a relationship. Everyone who’s not got one has to be unhappy, because people with a relationship are happy.

Right. And what about the women getting abused by their ‘relationship’? I don’t think they are happy.

Oh, please, they only have to find the right partner and they’ll be happy.

And the abusing partner?

Well, if he found the right partner, he’d be happy, too, and not abuse anybody any longer.

You do live on the same planet and in the same reality I live in, do you? Why don’t you go back to the pub where people talk in your name so often?

Anyway, where was I? Right, justifying my way of life. Why do I have to do that? If I claimed I were eating living chicken for dinner, I’d understand people speaking about having to justify that. But the only ‘crime’ I have committed is actually living on my own. What kind of crime is that?

Nevertheless, it’s always the same and I’m so tired of it by now. Even my best friend Heike spent quite some time trying to set me up with someone. You live alone - especially as a woman - and everyone immediately thinks you’re looking for a new relationship. A woman on her own simply must be looking for her Prince Charming. Thanks, but no thanks.

I do not think everyone should give up their relationship and be a single. But, just as I accept people wanting and maybe even needing a relationship, I demand to be accepted as someone who, at this time, doesn’t want or need one, too. I can’t say what the future might bring. I might stumble upon the perfect partner tomorrow and change my point of view. But right now I’m a single and I love it.

Why do I love it? Because I’m on my own. I can do what I want when I want it - at least when I’m not at work. I can walk around naked in my flat (which is cosy for one, but would be a tad small for two). I can get up and go to sleep whenever I want. I can eat what I want when I want it.

This might sound a tad egoistic to you, but let me put it like that: I like being able to decide on my own what to do - and to stick to that decision. Were I in a relationship, I would have to (and probably also want to) compromise about things. I would do that for the right person, but I haven’t found that person yet - and I don’t see a point in actively looking.

I do not feel like I’m missing something. I do not feel happy all the time, but I don’t think anyone does. I feel happy often enough. My life is not dark and lonely, just because I’m walking my way alone. There are challenges that might be easier with a partner, but I enjoy tackling them on my own.

I’m a single and I love it! Deal with it and stop getting on my nerves!

Saturday, October 18

Sleeping Beauty

Yesterday I had the chance to watch Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” for the first time. When it originally came out in 1959, I wasn’t even born (my parents hadn’t even met). Now I’ve got one question: What the hell is it with this prince?

I know the story of Sleeping Beauty, like most German children my age I grew up with the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. I always liked it (especially as the thorn bushes around the castle in the fairy tale are deadly and kill princes by the dozen). And I must admit I rather liked Maleficent. The design, the character and the powers are something not too usual for a fairy, good or evil.

On the whole I liked the Disney story, too. It works out quite nicely, although it’s a tad unrealistic to sent your daughter away to live somewhere in the woods when there’s a mortal danger she’s in. What I really had a problem with, though, was the prince ... or rather the way the whole escape and ‘fighting the dragon’ business is concerned.

Admittedly, if you’re the prince of another classic Disney tale like “Snow White” or “Cinderella”, you have it easy. All you have to do is kiss a dead girl or find the only woman whom a glass slipper fits (as if there were just one in a whole kingdom, really, but you can’t blame that on Disney, it’s in the fairy tale). Fighting a dragon (or a prince-eating, deadly hedge of thorn bushes in the original tale) is a bit harder and more dangerous than that. But others did it.

And what does this prince do? Well, he tries, but without the three fairy godmothers, he’d be dragon toast even before leaving Maleficent’s castle. Does he get anything done by himself? No, not really. It’s their magic which gets him out (not just of the chains, but also out of the castle as a such) and which later on guides the sword to the deadly weak point of dragon-Maleficent. From a movie created in the 1950s, a time when traditional role models were still firmly in everyone’s mind (and dragon slaying still was men’s business), I would have expected more.

I liked the style of the movie, but neither of the main characters (Aurora is just too much of a ‘typical’ passive Disney princess and the prince is ... well ...) could really fascinate me - except for Maleficent, but I do have a weak point for baddies.

If all princes were like this one, a lot of princesses would have been eaten by dragons or locked away in towers forever - and the fairy godmothers of all fairy tales would be doing overtime. Time for Aurora and all the others to learn how to rescue themselves.

Friday, October 3

Family as an economic institution

This is in fact the first thing ‘family’ ever was. It was, basically, some sort of business deal. Women married men so they were cared for, had food, clothes and a place to live in. Men married women so they had someone to take care of their homes and have their children. Everyone got what they wanted. Then romance came in.

If you think that’s a pretty cold-blooded way of defining the ‘traditional’ family with father, mother and kids, you’re probably right - and haven’t spent much time reading about the history of Europe (where our ‘western’ ideal of the family was mostly founded).

Whether among noblemen or mere farmhands - marriage has been a deal for a long time. Love did not feature into it. People married to be cared for, to have the heir they wanted, to gain more money (among noble families, but also among richer farmers or citizens). Sometimes it was merely the matter of obtaining a certain piece of land that could not be acquired otherwise.

Women rarely had a chance to earn their own money, especially in the higher classes. A simple maid could work, but she would never earn much money. And the only ‘legal’ way of having children was to get married first. The church cemented this idea, because it suited them very much. Marriage was a matter of the church and by making it the basic necessity for proper propagation, the church put itself into a very powerful position.

It was only in the late 19th and early 20th century when the notion spread among people to marry out of love. Before that time, marriage was arranged and the couple arrange things among themselves after getting married. One of that ‘things’ might very well be a mistress to the side for the husband (or an attractive stable hand for the wife). But everything was kept under covers, very discreet. The marriage as a such worked so well, because it was a business deal, first and foremost. People usually did not love each other, but they did respect each other. Love may die, sometimes even rather quickly, respect usually lives a good deal longer.

Today, the economic base of marriage - and thus of the traditional family - has broken up. Women earn their own money. It’s no longer a social death if a woman has a child without being married. Marriage has, instead, become a romantic idea. Getting married is something women dream of today (as it’s not a simple arrangement made while they were still kids - or at least without them). They want a romantic marriage in white, with everything that includes. To some, one might even think, it’s no longer important whom they marry, as long as the ceremony happens.

Conservatives (who still see the traditional family with the church-given marriage as the only ‘true’ family) are quite worried about this. Today some universities turn out more female than male graduates - which implies, of course, that one day there will be more female doctors, lawyers and so on than male ones. Shocking for the conservatives - because the woman should stay home and take care of the children, once they’re born. The mere idea of a man staying home and taking care of the children is enough to nearly give them a heart attack. Should women someday really be paid equally, family as the conservatives define it could break up forever.

There are two main questions, though: When will it happen? And what will replace the family? Humans will always live in groups, so if the family does no longer exist as a group, some other kind of group has to replace it.

Sound Volume

I might just have discovered the real difference between men and women: Sound volume.

This Wednesday I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room when four boys entered it. Well, I would say they were boys, from their talking I gathered some were seventeen and some eighteen. A guy that age can hardly be called a man, if you want my view. They’re still boys.

As I mentioned already, I listened into their talk. I fact, I could hardly avoid it. They were talking as if they had to entertain the whole room. I wouldn’t find it wise to tell a whole room full of strangers (who might be related or at least acquainted with my teachers) that I was going to skip school. But then, I’m not a boy.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where you are. You’ll always find men and boys being louder than women or girls. There might be some slight exceptions (like the place in front of a hotel where a boy band is to be found), but the level of noise produced by men usually is higher.

Men are far more used to taking up space, too. While women often cross their legs, being careful not to take up more than the necessary space on a chair or bank, men seem to delight in expanding their space as much as possible. Just think of the last time you rode a train or bus or other public transport and sat opposite to a man. Isn’t it normal (and quite ridiculous) how they sit there with their legs spread so far you could think they were hung like horses and therefore couldn’t keep those legs together even if they wanted to? And what show they make of minimizing their space if the transport is quite full and they have to give up the two extra seats they’re taking up. You could think they actually paid for those extra seats and are doing the nice, old lady and the young pregnant woman a favour by giving them up.

Maybe that’s the true secret of men’s success in the business world. By being loud (and thus being noticed) and having no problem with taking up more space than they should, they get noticed a lot more often. As their bosses usually are men, too, they are far more acquainted with people being loud and taking up space (and being quite obnoxious), thinking those guys are the best choice for the new, better paid position in the company. The woman right next to the loud guy, who is far better at the job and would be the logical choice, simply is overseen.

What should women learn from this? Should we become just as loud and obnoxious as those men? I don’t think so. But we must learn to show men this is no appropriate behaviour. You can’t just take up space you don’t really need in a public transport. You can’t just scream your opinion through the whole room (unless, of course, you’re supposed to tell it to everyone in that room). And you can’t just treat everyone else as if they were inferior to you. Reality check: They’re not!

By simply taking it and not saying a thing, women don’t teach men anything.

Lesson for women: Don’t let those loud guys take up all the space and get away with it.

Lesson for men: Being loud doesn’t mean being clever and unless you’re really hung like a horse, try to keep your legs together in public areas. There’s nothing of interest inside your pants. (At least, nothing women might be interested in while in a public area.)

Female Killers

I’m currently reading a book about women who committed murder. Some of them only killed once, others killed a couple of times. Some killed out of greed, others out of pity (well-meant or otherwise) or without any real reasons they could name.

What I perceive as strange - though it seems to be quite a normal reaction in society - is how much more interest people show when a woman murders someone. Male murderers are basically an everyday thing - well, depending on where you live -, but women who kill are something different in people’s eyes.

The question here is why.

Most of the murders in this book have not been committed by brute force alone. Those women might have poisoned someone (in one case first given the hated husband a sleeping draught and then killed him with an axe), but they didn’t jump out of a cabinet with a huge baseball bat in their hands to hit their victim until it was dead and the head was nothing but a bloody, pulpy mass.

Poison has always been said to be a woman’s choice for murder. This is probably because it doesn’t require a lot of strength. In addition, a lot of poisonous substances are available in an ordinary household (and even more of them were available in the past - think ‘rat poison’, very popular once in a while).

The truth about society’s reaction to women committing murder is simple, though. In the heads of most people women are not capable of killing. This is a stupid notion, of course, but somehow it has sunk into the heads. In a society that differs so greatly between what’s right for men and what’s right for women (and people still do, achievements of feminism notwithstanding), people get confused about the ‘nature’ of things.

While it’s considered pretty natural for men to be aggressive (and thus capable of killing in hot or cold blood), it’s not considered natural for women at all. Society differs greatly between bringing people into this world (a process known as giving birth) and kicking people out of this world (a process that might be murder, if it’s not done by a force of nature, disease or old age). On some subconscious level, people seem to think that those who can do one thing (bringing people into this world) are not capable of the other one. As only women can give birth, this thought suggest that they are incapable of killing. Men, after all, are obviously not capable of giving birth, but certainly able to kill.

But are women incapable of killing? Obviously not. Beside the cases of female murderers, women have killed for a living in the past. As (at least in Germany, I do not know how it was in other countries) poultry was the domain of the farmer’s wife, women did care for those hens and geese and quite often also killed them when their time had come (quite often by twisting their necks). In nomadic tribes women have always fought alongside their men, they basically had no other choice. This has led to the myth of the Amazons, of a tribe made up completely of female warriors who only used men for the same things, basically, for which men in other societies use women (so they can propagate, maybe also for household chores, as you can’t be on the warpath and clean the house ... or tent ... at the same time).

Whenever a woman kills a man, the media is in uproar. The other kind (which is much more likely to happen) doesn’t draw half as much attention. If a man kills, it’s just a crime. If a woman kills, it’s an act of evil.

In addition, women are quite more likely to kill children or older people (because they’re more likely to work with both groups). And killing those you should care for (no matter, how hard the job is, how little respect you get for it, how little help you receive), is an act of pure evil, naturally.

A woman, it seems, is like the Virgin Mary. She can give birth to a divine being, she can care for all the women in the world (among Roman-Catholics it’s not unusual for a woman to pray to the Virgin Mary whenever women’s problems are concerned), but she can’t kill (or have sex with men - virgin birth, remember?).

If she’s not like the Virgin Mary, she is some sort of demon (Lilith, maybe, the first wife of Adam who didn’t want to submit to a man?). And demons are evil. Come to think of it ... wasn’t it a woman who introduced mankind to the knowledge of what is good and what is evil? (But she didn’t force Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, did she? He did that all by himself.)

If you turn your eyes away from reality and towards fiction, you’ll find a host of demonic killers of the womanly persuasion. My favourite are the two sisters who turn into werewolves in the three parts of “Ginger Snaps”. There are few female vampires around (Selena in “Underworld” being a prime example), a few female killers in thrillers, too. There are some female hit men (does the term “hit woman” actually exist?) or terrorists. There are cold-blooded women who kill off competitors. They all are shown as something not completely human, though. A man who kills is human (maybe even too human), a woman who kills is a monster.

That spiel is quite tiring, to be honest. I do not think killing is okay - taking someone else’s life (unless that someone is attacking you) is never okay. But I do think that a woman who kills isn’t any more evil than a man who kills.