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     Volume 8 Issue 86 | September 10, 2009 |

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Writing the Wrong

For my Team

Sharbari Ahmed

I modelled my looks on the town tramp
--Dolly Parton

Beware of the 'hair-flipper'.

Helen Fielding, the author of “Bridget Jones' Diary”, one of those rare works of chick literature that is both highly entertaining and edifying, puts women into two categories; hair flippers and team players. Hair flippers are what I personally call the Naka-Coquettes or NCs (of which I saw in abundance in Dhaka city). These women would sell their sisters down the river for a man. They won't take one for the team and actually love is the last thing on their minds. This is not about love, folks. It is solidly about ego and attachment. No one can stand in the way of true love because it is a mandate from whatever higher power you want it to be from, and an NC is powerless in the face of true love. But, in the case of frivolous scenarios: if it came down to choosing between a man or taking into consideration a fellow female's feelings, what do think the seasoned Naka-Coquette would choose? Every woman is a rival, every man fair game and most feel that every man in the room at any given moment is madly in love with them or aching for their attention. They have perfected flirting into an art form, saying all the right things-never being totally deceptive but rarely being straight forward, leaving the opposite sex in such a state of confused desire, that they have no choice but to dump their wives or girlfriends and chase after the now you see it, now you don't tail. Phew! And I thought Joyce was long winded. They simper, they pout, they explain to you (while simpering and pouting) that butter simply never melts in their mouth. They just care so very deeply for you and your plight. They are innocence and goodwill personified--Mother Theresa looks like Pol Pot next to them. They are subtle and even elegant sometimes. Their appeal being in their peeka boo style of manipulation and the fact that they are never too obvious about their interest in you. They rarely keep or have strong, intimate female friendships, but that is because (they obligingly explain) “all women are so jealous of me”.

The diabolical machinations of the hair-flipping NCs does not absolve men of the responsibility of their foolishness and the heart break that causes. It always takes two to tango. But lets face it ladies, many men cannot be trusted to truly see a hair flipper for what she is. It's like they have been fed something that renders them incapable of using that logic they so pride themselves on. Some will have pangs of conscience or feel vaguely uncomfortable, like they are being taken for a ride, but whenever this wisdom comes to them, it is swiftly squelched by a perfectly deployed pout or simper, or simper-pout combo-followed by the delicately executed whammy--guilt. Guilt that these brain trusts do not extend to the way they treated their humiliated partners.

Then there is the team player. Team players understand and appreciate the collective struggle of their gender. It does not mean they are not passionate or don't love men; it also does not mean these women are plain, and, therefore, bitter about the NCs. Some of my closest friends (all team players) are among the most beautiful, accomplished and intelligent women I have ever met. They are mothers, homemakers, writers, teachers, architects, poets, actors, lawyers, good cooks, outstanding poker players, painters and sexy as all get out. They have all had their hearts broken, they have all known love. Sometimes they were betrayed by other women and never once did they falter in their love and devotion to those of their gender because of it. They wonder if they are good enough mothers or lovers or wives, they agonise over their strained relationships and they sometimes make huge mistakes that can cost them a great deal, but they were and will always be team players. They understand on a fundamental level that no man is worth destroying a friendship over--a real friendship. That the collective suffering, struggle and camaraderie of the female gender far outweighs any ego-driven, narcisstic and fleeting pleasure that one derives from gaining a (usually befuddled) male conquest. You can be the object of tremendous interest for the opposite sex and still be a team player. You can even be a solid sex symbol and be one. I always think of my favourite fake blondes, Marilyn Monroe and Dolly Parton. Now I would not claim that Monroe was a saint. But she was just as much a victim of her circumstances as she was a participant in them--in my opinion--but she loved women and many accounts talk about how she longed for female companionship. She would--her mother tried to drown her in a bathtub when she was a toddler. She was funny and self-deprecating, never taking her status as a sex symbol seriously, God bless her, and never afraid to show her vulnerability. This is another thing: NCs make one think they are showing you their vulnerability when all they are doing is indulging their need for attention. Real vulnerability, when it is displayed is done so, not to conquer or win over someone, but as a result of a genuine need for love and recognition--in my humble opinion. (I would like to point out that I know nothing, so prescribe at your own risk.)

Then there is Dolly, my personal guru.
I have loved Dolly Parton, the bottle blonde, large of bosom country singer since I was a little girl. I thought she was beautiful then, I think she is even more so now.

She is unapologetically female--she is unapologetically everything. She is southern, dammit! She knew she was the butt of many jokes--like she once said (I quote loosely) “I'm the first woman to burn my bra. 'Course it took the fire department four days to put it out.” Dolly, at the height of her appeal, was an object of desire for many, and she was always a team player. The film roles she chose, her songs (She penned the hit “I Will Always Love You. It's better than Whitney's version.) and her overall image is that of a tender woman who doesn't take life or herself too seriously and loves people and her gender. At first glance she does not seem in the least bit elegant nor is she subtle. She has never tried to be. Her elegance comes from knowing exactly who she is and accepting it. There is tremendous grace in self-acceptance and to me she has always been that, graceful. Team Players are grace personified.

I have been thinking about my fellow team members a great deal lately. Some are going through a few trials and tribulations--some at the hands of NCs--some are coping with death-but we all know, this too shall pass--and I am filled with gratitude at knowing them and what they have taught me. I met some new team members while I was in Dhaka (I met more team players than I did NC's to be honest, but those NCs can pack a punch let me tell you.) and I wish I could send them all posters of Dolly or Marilyn and remind them that this team is, in the end, never the losing one.

Team players love men, truly we do, in all their gobsmacked glory. We suffer their foolishness patiently, and allow them the room to grow and some do, really. We recognise how much we enjoy this sometimes infuriating dance; it is after all what makes it all so interesting. And sometimes we even let them lead.

"I have two weaknesses, food and men...in that order."
--Dolly Parton (team leader)


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