Thursday, July 14, 2005

From Anja to Benno in Brussels

Happy are the women in our country, my friend! When I left for America, I did not want to accept what you told me about us and our place in society. Now, after having lived nearly ten years in a so called "liberal" American city, I see that you were right and I was wrong.

Our women are educated in a more balanced manner than the women here. That is, they learn a profession (Rather, a career. Names and labels are very important to Americans.) while they are taught how to take care of a household, cook, raise children. Women where we come from can be athletic and know how to make themselves pretty. Even wear a dress if they need to.

Here, it's completely different. At the university where I studied, I found a different kind of solidarity between women: one based on their superiority over men. According to them, a woman could do even the most "masculine" of work better than a man. Largely among these women, it was true: the engineers, mathematicians, physicists and chemists were broadly and deeply proficient in their subjects. They all were gifted with a patience that comes naturally in women and a superior ability to communicate. This made a great impression on me.

However, the price that this knowledge exacted from other areas was a high one: No one among my colleagues could even sew or cook. I am serious! After having heard the story of a friend who paid an extortionate price to a tailor to have a button replaced on a coat (her mother did not want her to have any knowledge of "woman's work" so that she'd not be relegated to an inferior status in society), I started a little business doing minor seamstress work in order to make a bit of pocket money. Benno, would you believe that I made almost as much money from this under the table job as I did in my work-study? As for cooking: the number of women I had to teach to make even the simplest items for a proper tea: some toast or a hard-boiled egg for example, is unbelievable! How are these women going to raise their own children, I wonder? Probably with much help from nannies paid by the abundant salaries they figure that they will be making.

At school, it was Man as the Enemy. Now, I hear these same theses (that we are superior, that "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle") being discussed while my female friends are dressing up in their shortest skirts and writing up lists of prepared dishes to order from the gourmet shops to charm their current men with a "domestic" evening.

Remember when our dear friend Ruis asked me why a girl as "pretty and talented" as I had no fiance? My answer (which displeased him greatly) was that "here, women mate with their men, then kill them." I was only half-joking: it's American female politics. With their territoriality, their aggression, their conquests, they are much like sharks. I stopped keeping count of the number of times I became the enemy of a woman because I was "unattached" and her boyfriend felt at ease in my presence (that is, we were friends before he met his mate, or we had studied the same subjects in school, so had things to talk about). This business of hunting down a mate is a serious one, sometimes more important than camaraderie among women. Of my entire original group of female friends, I hear nothing now, save for when one breaks up with her partner or she is having relationship problems. I'd find this new sort of solidarity pathetic if I did not have a sense of humor or rich life in other areas.

So, my friend. You said to me last time that I was too free with my opinions, with my desire for independence. That I would never find a partner if I continued as I currently do. You were also very astute to point out that it gets progressively more difficult to start a conjugal life as one approaches the age of 30. It took me much time and many tears to realize my situation. I do see here that they follow the same logic as back at home, only in a more brutal, tortuous manner. I feel as though I lost much time here. If you could ever accept a girl who is a bit worn out, but much more wise than before, I'm ready to come home and to accept my role, my destiny.

3 comments:

nappy40 said...

Wow.

Be said...

Women can be very mean to other women. Especially if they perceive the other women as threats.

nappy40 said...

So true. I've noticed that women can be very competitive as well. The writer of the letter is correct in all her observations.