Friday, November 14, 2008

One of the boys

Have been described as one of the boys with such monotonous regularity from platonic guy friends (most of them - either happily married or happily separated and/or divorced) that I no longer automatically imagine a fast-forwarded Kafkaesque metamorphosis into a male version of myself. To picture this if you have nothing better to do, hark back to MJ’s Black or White video. Hey, judge the man(”?”), not his music.

But back as a newbie corpie, I would’ve been horrified to be described such.

Most of our clients were pushing 60 plus, which was good. Kept my mind on the job.

It was usually the least personable ones who chose to display certain annoying traits. Like the self-important EA to the MD of a mammoth group that probably contributed to a substantial percentage of India’s GDP with their taxes, who wanted to generate my horoscope to see compatibility with the company & presumably the managerial cadre. (Note to global readers: No further explanation on this follows, cause I haven’t understood how this was supposed to work either.) Ofcourse, I’d refused.

Or, the young marketing head of an FMCG competing with the brand leader, whose ambition was to reach no. 2 position versus them. Currently somewhere at no. 6, his part-time mission however, was to get home phone numbers of anything that crossed his path in a skirt.

Dealing with unwanted male attention in a world where you were the only one in the room with ovaries, became second nature. Strange and inventive tactics had to be adopted to deal with it which perhaps will catalogue some other time.

It often resulted in conversations like this:

Occasion no. 1: Last 10 minutes of training for reluctantly assembled sales reps

Me (in a mix of Hindi & English): Okay everyone, this was how to fill in the stock & sales summary every cycle. You already know how to analyse your daily sales numbers to get this information. And this wraps it up! (Pause) We have ten minutes for clarifications. (Long pause…) Any questions?

Sales reps (in a resounding chorus, with their murderous expressions being replaced by those of relief): No, SIR!!!

Rather than taking it as a slur, it amused.

Entering the training room often meant being thrust in a male dominated scenario with an audience that largely resembled a collection of our early ancestral primates across various stages of evolution, with the smells and scratching that went with it. And gold chains glinting from hairy chests visible through unbuttoned shirts.

Sorry if am grossing anyone out here. Am in a realist mood and feel like exploring or rather, exposing gritty underbellies of worklife. What’s that you ask? No, no. In most cases, the bellies were well confined. What I’m trying to say is, am in a gritty underbelly state of mind. Due apologies to Billy Joel.

Okay, let’s get a move on before this deteriorates further.

However, the first time I realized that I was viewed as ‘one of the boys’ in a professional context, was in completely different circumstances.

Occasion no. 2: A giant boardroom with a beautifully polished circular mammoth table, in a building tastefully and impeccably furnished, seated across from a team consisting of the VP, GMs & Brand managers of two SBUs of a multi-crore company whose brands are a household name here.

Watching their MDs at these meetings was extremely edifying. It was a privilege watching them make quick, incisive decisions. Cutting through the pfaff that was usually discussed for agonizing hours or even months by all of us.

In these meetings everyone would state their stances on various issues after which the MDs joined in and took the final call. This was standard procedure every month.

The half of the meeting that took place before the directors joined in was much more casual. Everyone relaxed in various comfortable poses in their chairs, legs stretched and one particular guy always took this opportunity to catch up on his nap. He had a trick of blending into the background somehow - all the while with an expression that looked like he was in deep, profound thought. I was convinced otherwise. The occasional gentle snore helped me arrive at that conclusion.

Once in two weeks, the ad agencies joined in. This was one of those weeks.

We’d already had an excruciating 3 hour long discussion. The tray of biscuits had nothing left on it but a few crumbs. And this was before it even reached my end of the table. Well, the room had 10 men full of hearty appetites. The office boy, fed up of serving and teas and coffees, substituted with glasses of water instead.

The room appeared animated briefly once he refilled the tray of biscuits. The sleeper opened one eye and grabbed 3 at the same time. I was deeply offended at this lack of consideration.

The Britannia Bourbon ones disappeared at record speed about 6 people down the row from me.

The Parle Gs were last to go, under duress.

Clearly, no one felt in need of any glucose supplementation. Empty tray at my end yet again.

Why was I even noticing this? It was to keep from throwing myself out the window on yet another endless repetition of all the pros and cons being discussed ad nauseum.

Their ACs worked super efficiently, and the temperature was Siberian. I couldn’t get more uncomfortable.

Suddenly, the door behind me opened with a decisive swing, which could only be the director.

What caught my eye was the sudden, amazing transformation. It was like watching a Domino effect.

The veep right across from me sat up straight, one hand automatically flying to his tie. His partner, did the same. Sleepy guy suddenly looked wide awake and alert and uncurled his spine. It was wonderful to watch. Buttons got buttoned and biscuit crumbs got brushed away. All in a few discreet split seconds.

LL who’d sneaked a look over my shoulder, looked a little red and was similarly fingering his tie and straightening his files. This was odd. He was usually unintimidated and unfazed by the directors.

The new entrant walked into my line of vision.

She was the stunning, new creative director (CD) from the agency, taking over to present a few concepts.

No wonder the wilted team now looked its smart and shiny best. It was just like a shot from one of those David Attenborough nature shows where mushrooms grew in fast-forward or petals unfolded at high speed. Like watching a stadium crowd wave.

This was human stimulus-response at its best.

Yep, I was clearly - one of the guys.


Hiren Gajria said...

Woman this is impressive once again, your getting better with every post. I think you may be another Scott Adams in the making. think about publishing. What say BETA, should we pick up the rights to this book. (Psst - I can pull a few strings with this author and get the rights thing organized)

Annoymously said...

Hey, thanks man! Like an author i really like said 'never underestimate the power of an encouraging word'. Such feedback really makes me feel good.

Have a better idea - let's co-author!

Beta said...

Totally on-board. I would like to write the preface and make sure that there are adequate thanks conveyed to us as the first two to identify the genius.

On a separate note, I dont understand why girls feel proud to be considered as one of the boys. Whenever I have told a girl that she has been boy-ized, she has always felt good about herself. Your post, although meant to be a crib, shows strong underlying currents signifying that you are also secretly proud of the same. wonder why. If I were ever told that I am one of the girls, oh no(just writing that statement has made my skin cringe)

Hiren Gajria said...

nicely put beta. However knowing annoymously for a while now makes me conclude that shes happy being a woman (shes not a girl, thats for sure).

Brings me another point. Is being called a woman different from being called a girl? Any views?

Back to the first point, I know shes happy being a woman but hidden desires are always unknown to most. Did i just put my foot in my mouth. Ouch. LOL.

Beta said...

In my experience, 'woman' is used to call out a female in below situations:

i) By a good friend like, "Hey woman, behave yourself."
ii) If she is old enough. Ouch! You can let go of your foot now, Hiren. Its my turn.
iii) Black men referring to black woman in US of A.

Girl is used as a term in all other situations. Happy to modify my theory based upon inputs.

Annoymously said...

Sorry for the delay in response folks - was out getting children's day surprise treats for all my kiddy pals. Hope u've planned smthin sp. for your wife & kids H.

Reading all this makes me glad u two are away in far off places. Else may be tempted to aim swift kicks in your general direction.

Okay here's what y'all need to know:-
Beta - your theories are technically correct. However, hiren uses 'woman' in a tone of voice (imagined) to indicate "oh woman!!!, bane of my existence'. That's when he uses it for me. Presumably his wife hears more suitably romantic terminology :) I don't mind - mika's one of the platonic v.v.happily married men mentioned here & that's wot makes me comfy abt knowing him. And am sure hiren did not mean it as a slur on my age. He meant that he sees me as a complete woman (wch i take as a compliment) as opposed to an empty headed fluffy self-absorbed 'girl'? i hope am not assuming too much here & that this inference is true, hiren. It better be! ;)

Hiren - i do think of myself as a 'girl' at times and will do even when am 60! Women call themselves girls only to indicate their state of mind - being forever young. Which is a good thing. A parallel eg here would be a lotta 'men' i've met who were no better than 'boys', read, immature.

Beta - offer accepted. Let's all hv a celebratory nite out whenever u folks are here if ever. Promise not to be petty abt sharing royalties between all of us.

Re the 'boy' question - had pondered over writing abt this phenomena in this post- whether it is flattering or not to be labelled such. Not really. The phrase conjures up a sexless, unattractive vision of me & heheh that's so not possible. (I love it when folks are too far away to confirm this claim. )

However, i don't mind when it's from the right ppl:
From guys married/in a relationship:-
- their wives/ current partner are lot more secure knowing that they see me like that
- they could be lying & saying it only to make their wives/ partners comfy.
All other single men:
- they are probably secretly lusting after me anyway ;-)

In the context of my post, yep i was okay with being one of the boys with this gang - believe me. Would've gagged and thrown up if they hd evinced the slightest interest.

Another Q - why does everyone have to belong to a 'club' when it comes to men? Beta - what this means is you are the real culprit :) for wanting to label gals such. In a professional context, why do girls have to be seen as one of the boys for YOU to feel more comfortable abt having us around?

Thinking it over - i think guys say this to mean - 'Congratulations. I no longer see you purely as a sex object. I can now remember you face & recognise you from that alone - not your bodily dimensions.'

Annoymously said...

Beta : Re point (ii) : Your suspicion is correct. Am pushing 60 plus myself.

Annoymously said...

And Mika: Would not substitute being a woman for anything in the world!

Beta said...

Woman- you are right. Boyisation refers to acceptance of the person. It also signifies that you can hang out with him and he will not try to rape you (it doesn't mean that he will never make any moves). I don't understand why any girl would take it to mean that she is a sexless object. Would you really prefer to be seen as a sex object than be accepted as a person?

Boys are straight forward and since "sex" plays on their mind, they assume the worst that it plays on the girl's mind too and thus try to get it out of the way by various means incl boyising them. Then there are game theory experts like me who get it out of the way just to be on the safe side :-)

Ps- my nephew will soon be turning 60. Too bad you are too old for him.

Hiren Gajria said...


Pretty hot comments flying around. Lemme clarify things here, Annoy knows what i think - shes a woman and surely will remain that. She harbours no intentions of being a boy/man. Secondly Annoy your surely not 60 and beta you know that as well. So stop on that one both of you.

However one thing is decided for sure, when Beta is down in Bombay, we 4 (ill bring my wifey along to maintain the balance - lol) are surely meeting up for dinner. Topic then - how we can make money out of Annoys next book.

Annoymously said...

Beta - i bet u wrote that only to annoy :).

And puhleez, i do not want to see the word 'woman' anymore! Beta - cease & desist!!! :)

And i do not p.r.e.f.e.r being seen as a 'sexless object'! What i was trying to say is that men seem to see women as either/ or, either a sex obj OR non-sex obj. Which is clearly a problem t.h.e.y have!

I hope we've done this topic to it's death. Before we get started on everything from men are from mars.. & quotes from toni morrison.

And for the record. I do not hv such straight-jacketed absurd views ofcourse. Jokes apart, I don't really see men in those extremes :)
- i hv friends of both genders and am happy with what i am - a hetero gal.

(Just in case anyone had any doubts)

Annoymously said...

Hiren, like your choice of topic.

Not sure i'd like to blow my cover with anyone else, but the dinner with you and family is certainly on!