So in the wee hours of this morning, as usual, I had a dream, but unlike my other dreams, this one was normal.
I dreamt I was with a good male friend and we were arguing, like we usually do, about anything and everything. In the dream, we had seen a bouquet of a flowers and he had assumed I’d automatically like them because they were flowers and I’m female, so he had casually remarked that “women like flowers.”
The bouquet had red roses and carnations. He thought the flowers and their colour symbolised love, which is the general myth. I did not like the flowers, the colours and the combination at all. This had triggered a lecture from me about how men generalize what women like, and prompted me to write a blog post on the subject.
So, in the dream, I’d started writing a post about “three things I wish men knew about women,” then I woke up.
Elements of this blog post were penned in my dream and merely transferred to the blog when I woke up. I figured that since it’s a subject I’m passionate about, I may as well write about it now that I’m awake.
So, here are the three things I wish men knew about women.
Not all women like flowers, and even those who do have their preferences. Just because someone is female doesn’t mean she’ll automatically like flowers and just because a woman likes flowers doesn’t mean any odd bouquet is good enough. Women are individuals, whose diverse personalities and backgrounds inform their choices and tastes.
We’ve all heard the cliche in poems and songs,
Roses are red, violets are blue…
Thanks to Valentine’s day, literature and the movies that associate red roses with love, there seems to be a widely accepted but erroneous association of roses with love, so there’s a general assumption that women will automatically interpret them as a symbol of love. I appreciate the origins of that, but I also wish men would understand that the interpretation of the meaning of symbols is subject to cultural context and individuality.
For example, I grow roses in my garden, so getting me some may not be as meaningful as doing so for someone who lives where roses are rare. Buy me red roses and I’ll be annoyed. Why? Because that’s the surest sign that you’ve not taken the time to know me and you don’t respect my individuality. It’s a reflection that someone is relating with me based on the general perception about women, rather than as an individual with specific preferences.
Buy me a protea arrangement and I’ll be blown away, even if the entire bouquet only has one. I love proteas. Proteas are unique and it takes more than an average thinking man to even consider buying them for someone. They cost more than roses too!
Anyone who buys you a specific flower, has clearly done their research and takes you seriously enough to invest some time and thought into impressing you. Of course some women love roses and if you buy a woman roses because you know she likes them, then it’s certainly different from doing so based on a general perception influenced by assumptions, convention and stereotype.
This segues very neatly into the next subject, which is individuality.
Women, men, girls and boys – the people who constitute the world’s population of about 7 billion – are individuals. I’ve found that most men I’ve met relate with women based on some default setting anchored in long standing stereotypes, so they relate with us as a group rather than as individuals. Very few men I’ve met, whether in a professional, academic or social setting, actually take time to study an individual and relate with the person based on their uniqueness. This may work in the broad sense when you can’t know hundreds of people individually, but for the close circle it’s totally unacceptable and there’s no excuse for it.
If you’re part of someone’s life and you’re investing time and emotions in each other, you cannot treat her like Sue or Zoe or Grace or Nozipho or Tafadzwa. No! I presume people spend time together so they can know each other better.
It’s quite sweet when the right man goes out of his way to be gentleman because he knows what appeals to you as an individual. However, it’s extremely annoying when all sorts of men try to impress by opening doors, bringing food, buying drinks and pulling chairs for women without any thought about how the intended beneficiaries feel.
Sometimes attempts at chilvary are plain impositions and violations that rob women of their basic right to make simple choices. For example, I like my food arranged in a particular order on my plate and I’m fussy about quantities. I’m very deliberate about most of my choices, including food. During dinner, in an attempt to be a gentleman, the man I was with decided to splatter a whole lot of salad all over my plate, creating a huge mess in my plate.
When I protested that he’d messed up my plate with food I didn’t want, he told me he was being a gentleman and I should get used to being treated well. My idea of being treated well is when someone respects my right to make choices. I’d rather be first asked what I’d like, than have someone impose their assumptions of what they think is good for me. I’d have thought of him more as a gentleman if he’d acknowledged and asked what I wanted before acting.
In the final analysis, I guess my entire dream and this blog post boil down to one thing, recognising the individuality of women and treating them accordingly.
Psychologists would probably conclude that my dream and this blog post were influenced by an deepseated yearning for my individuality and that of women, to be acknowledged and respected.
Or that perhaps, my dream and post were influenced by what was happening around me. Both could be true too.
Ever watched one of those interviews where artists are asked where they get their inspiration and they give answers like, “I dream about it then I wake up and draw it.” Well, I guess this post is one of those.
Coincidentally, yesterday I read the interview of a famous henna artist who said she saw some of her designs in her dreams, then simply translated them to body art when she woke up. Interesting. I guess that influenced my dream.
Regardless of what triggered the dream, I hope the men in our lives will take note and be more attentive to women’s individual needs. It would go a long way in making life more comfortable and the world a better place.