Tag Archives: love

Oh Woman…Oh Man!

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This first appeared in Robin Barratt’s collection of prose and poetry titled What Women Really Want, it’s been re-published under the title The Challenges of Finding Love: and why men sometimes get it so wrong. I hope reading this inspires you to download the book. It’s enlightening, amusing, provocative, and even heartbreaking.

For now, enjoy this one.

What do women really want?

How does one answer a puzzle that’s supposedly haunted humanity from the dawn of time?

Looking back as I can, to more than sixty years of memories, loves unrequited and imagined, friends and their amours, apocryphal stories from legend, lore and gossip, I do believe that the answer to the question has not been found.
How can there be one answer to a myriad minds?

Look through the kaleidoscope of life. Turn the scope. What do you see?

The well-known tale of King Arthur, Sir Gawain and the old witch, who ostensibly solved the puzzle by saying a man should “give a woman her autonomy”.

Turn the kaleidoscope again and look at it in the mirror of today:

What’s that autonomy thing? When was it taken from Woman or a woman? And by whom?

Am I allowed to believe that most modern women – barring those who live in severely disenfranchised communities (and for them I feel we need to campaign) – are self-thinkers, self-determiners and strongly independent? It’s a feeling I get when I look around and see so many women in so many parts of the world – in top jobs, in construction, driving taxis, striding in high-heels and smart corporate style suits as they catch a bus or a train or glide through automatic doors prepared to smash glass ceilings.

Assuming that that is the demographic that we’re addressing, the answer is as multi-faceted as women.

I think we all, men and women, go through phases.

At some point – once we’ve moved away from the parental aegis – we rely on someone else. Or perhaps a group of ‘others’. Depending on our levels of self-esteem that reliance could range from self-affirmation through that individual, fitting in with a group we feel drawn to, sometimes subordinating our sense of self in order to find acceptance. And here is where a problem could begin.

If a woman subordinates her ‘self’ to such an extent that she loses focus of it, then she starts to have issues. Now I’m no psychologist but through observation of human nature and looking back, clinically at my own life and the lives of those to whom I have been close, I can state that this is the crux of the trouble.

Turn that kaleidoscope. We have another image.

Is it love when a woman is so ‘in love’ with a man that she thinks pleasing him in every way is her raison d’être? I’ve also seen men equally besotted.

Is it love when a woman leaves everything that she holds dear to be with one man?

Is it love that drives her or anyone – to pace the street on which the loved one lives? To forget all else and wait only for his call? To be blind to all else and deaf to all other sounds?

That is passion. And it has its place and time; its flaring moment – the firestorm on which many an epic has been written.

The good news is, that that’s a phase too.

Put the kaleidoscope away. Look at life in all its beautiful reality.

Most people outgrow this ‘desperately in love’ passionate phase and learn to start loving themselves. And that, as all the pundits and gurus, Cosmo type magazines and pop quizzes will tell you, is what you must do in order to truly love another person and realise ‘autonomy’.

Now to the issue of two people sharing a life together. If a man is looking to ‘please his woman’ through reading a book like this, my first suggestion is change your attitude. She’s not ‘your woman’. She’s a woman with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. Stop possessing each other and start recognising each other as individuals.

Be honest, but not rude. Sometimes what you say mayn’t make her happy, but that isn’t the end of your life together. Share your concerns with her. She wants to be a partner. Don’t leave heavy decision-making to her alone either. As every self-help column and book states, discuss things together. Don’t make decisions that affect both of you without consulting each other. That goes for women and men.

And as for those joke questions that women are supposed to ask men to which they profess they’re so nervous they feel there’s no right answer: “Does this dress make me look fat?”

If it does make her look fatter tell her. But really look at her and be honest. If it’s a special evening help her with the decision-making earlier in the day so that you’re not going through wanting to say ‘yes’ just so that you leave the house on time.

And to women I’d say, stop asking men silly questions. If you want ‘autonomy’ start making decisions yourself. He looks at other women? Sure! You look at other guys, don’t you? You can agonize over this question or keep the following poem in mind:

Khalil Gibran On Marriage:

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

 Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

 Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Now, toss a coin. What do women really want? It depends on the day, the time of the year, and the time of her life.

Your guess is as good as mine.

— end —

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The Cactus Blooms

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My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

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Visions of sugarplums

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dreamstime_s_62745608Once upon a time I had a nephew, he is still my nephew, but no longer the little boy he once was, with wonder in his eyes and a lively curiosity surging through his mind. He’s all grown up now and it’s a rare thing to occasionally see that old spark of amazement at the miracle of life flash through his eyes.

Age is the Scrooge of life that takes away our sense of awe, the ability to see a world in a grain of sand and hold infinity in one’s palm. Back then my nephew believed in witches and wizards, in magic and the truth of Santa Claus.

As often happens a day came when he challenged the existence of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and the vision of sugarplums crashed to the floor. He was rather young for that to happen so soon and I wanted so much to see his sense of wonder again.

“Of course Santa Claus is real!” I declared.

“How can he be everywhere on the same night?” he challenged me, “I know Papa or someone dresses up and pretends to be Santa.”

I was afraid those sugarplums would never dance again. So I put on my best storytelling hat and looked at him in earnest. “I’ll tell you a secret,” I whispered. “It certainly appears to be that Papa, or your grandfather or someone seems to dress up as Santa, but here’s the thing. As they slowly wear those clothes, something happens deep inside their hearts and minds. When the inside vest comes on, they’re smiling, thinking ‘Oh what fun’, but by the time the red warm flannel coat is worn and the big black belt is strapped on, the spirit of Santa Claus enters their minds and then they are no longer Papa or someone else, they become Santa Claus. Just look into Santa’s eyes tonight and tell me if there isn’t a different twinkle in his eyes.” With that I left him to think about it.

Santa arrived to the family’s raucous renditions of Silent Night and Hark the Herald. Of course he couldn’t come down the chimney in India, so with a thumping on the door and a jingling of bells he called out, “Have the children here been naughty or nice?”

I caught my nephew’s eyes; they were shining like stars of wonder. Whether he believed in Santa or not, he was excited about his Christmas gifts. The jolly old man entered and was feted. His voice was loud and booming, his belly shook like a jelly. And then it was time for the magic… presents!

I hugged my nephew, “Look in his eyes,” I reminded him. When his name was announced he rushed up and gave Santa the obligatory kiss on his cheek but he did look in his eyes. He rushed back to show his present to his parents – no it wasn’t his dad that year.

Then he came across to me. “So who was it?” I asked.

“Santa!” he said, a wonderful smile spreading across his face, his eyes sparkling, “It can’t be papa, he’s here!”

“Did his eyes twinkle?”

“They did!”

“Do you think the spirit of Santa was in him, then?”

“Yes!” he declared.

And for another year at least, Santa was real.

It is many years since that Christmas so long ago and he probably doesn’t remember this little story of mine, but the other day he posted a photograph with his baby son in his arms. And I swear I could see sugarplums dancing in his eyes again. dreamstime_xs_34782724

 

The Pearl Divers’ Songs

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Their music was so strange and distant
From hymns they sang straight to the sea
Or praises raised to mighty Allah
Those lovely songs, that fidjeri

Above the waves of Bas Ya Bahr*
The Nahhaaam raised his melody
Along with him the clappers played
The jahlah or mirwas, plaintively.
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Growing Away

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“Hello,” he said, “I’m Amar.”

“Hello. I’m alone.”

Amar laughed. “Do you always have these opening lines?”

“Not always. I never do anything always. But then I don’t always say never to anything, so perhaps I do.”

“What a complicated person you are,” said Amar.

“Do you always make snap judgements?”

And that was how we met.

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