In another life, when I was director of studies of a tiny little school of English for foreigners, I used to bus it to work. Parking was impossible, and my car had been wrecked anyway, so I didn’t have much of an option. Every day, I used to sit in one of the two rows reserved for the old aged and, every day, I had the same two ladies in the tier ahead or behind. It was a three- or four-kilometre journey that took all of 30 minutes and, every day, I could not help but overhear what they said. It never varied.
Varicose veins, high or low blood pressure (which was the ‘better’ one to suffer from would cause arguments), diminishing eyesight, rheumatism… They would whinge all the way. Contests would arise about the best specialists to consult and the brand names of prescription-only medications exchanged, with due recommendations and claims of miraculous powers.
I never heard men talking like that. The more aged male commuters, when asked about how they felt, would always reply with a ‘so-so’ at worst and would rarely indulge in a blow-by-blow account of their latest stay at Mutter Day.
So I am being, what? Anti-feminist? Chauvinist? Sexist? But I have always loved women, even with their foibles. They are different and I have the absolute right to talk about their differences, conceding them the equal right to run us men down.
And I am not to be accused of being generous to tell them to do likewise, I think not. It is the right of women to run men down, so be it. But, meanwhile, I will speak of the foibles of women.
Again, when I had the liberty to use Facebook, I noticed it was only the women bloggers who spoke of curative herbs and home-made concoctions. Some of the claims were downright outrageous. They spoke of “things you found in any household” which, if mixed into a drink, would cure anything from neuralgia to acne.
No woman would have fallen for the serpent because women always think they know everything
Worse and worse were the multitudinous posts telling readers that certain plants cured cancer, some “within a week”. Others were claimed to produce longevity, eliminate wrinkles or extend youth. Most of these herbs could only be obtained from inaccessible places, like “the Amazon forest” or the Indian foothills.
Such posts would attract lengthy debate and many likes. I remember, some years ago, the craze about ‘Kampuchea’, a fungus grown in water-filled receptacles and kept (grown, actually) in the home fridge. Most ladies of the age where any assistance is gratifying used to drink Kampuchea tea. What happened to the blessed fungus that perpetually occupied one of your fridge shelves, I wonder.
Ever since the incident in the Garden of Eden, women have had a rather crazy relationship with vegetation, though I think it was Adam who swallowed the serpent’s lie. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, was written by a man, Moses by name, and he wasn’t going to let men look like stooges, so he pinned the blame on women but the temptation would not have worked on a woman. The serpent promised whoever it was that if the apple was eaten, it would endow universal knowledge. No woman would have fallen for that because women always think they know everything. Had he promised radiant and perpetual beauty, he’d have had Eve in the sack but it is Adam who always preens himself about being the cleverest creature on the block. So I think it was Adam, after all, and Moses did a cover-up job, just to keep the girls’ heads down.
Anyway, women wouldn’t spend a minute talking to a serpent but a man would, especially after a couple of drinks, and alcohol is as old as man, not woman.
Anyway, I shall conclude by asking my male readers to keep their ears sharpened during a party and aurally observe what the ladies are saying. The chances are they are exchanging medical incidents and experiences. Please consider whispered gynaecological anecdotes as belonging to the subject.
Why are such preoccupations so generically feminine? Is it because women are more insecure or body-conscious?
I shall stop here but I do expect a female wag to give me the cudgelling I probably deserve through an article that counters my contentions.
Charles Caruana Carabez is Commissionerfor Education within the Office of the Ombudsman.