Friday, December 23, 2005

Man, Check Him Out!

I talked to Suze a few hours ago, she's in Boston these days. And I nearly made her choke when I told her I thought Akshay Kumar is sort of attractive. "Have you lost your mind?" she demanded. Umm...no, I really do think he's handsome, not heartbreakingly beautiful, but rather easy on the eye. And then I told her I find Rajneesh Duggal hot. I have a feeling I'm going to get an earful from Suze tomorrow about my total lack of taste, once she googles his pics and reads his interviews. I did warn her that he was a bit of an airhead, and then she insisted that all Punjabi men are airheads. Well certainly not this Punjabi man. But this is a woman who finds Tommy Lee Jones irresistibly hot, so there.

This business of checking out men for purely eye candy purposes used to put me in the throes of intense guilt in the past. Those were my teenage years, spent reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, yearning to be dazzled by razor sharp witticisms, obscure allusions and general intellectual snobbery at large. And yet a little pesky corner of my brain throbbed and squeaked at the sight of the few gorgeous boys in our senior classes. The others were unabashed and honest in their admiration for their crushes, and every day they would make the trek down to the school cafetaria at recess time to check them out. I pretended to be the unwilling accomplice, dragged along by friends, with little patience for this gawkfest. And yet never did I avert my eyes, when the cutie from XI Sc.A, with his gorgeous brown eyes, close cropped hair, and dazzling smile ambled across to get his daily fix of a potato burger or vegetable patty.

All my other friends, girls and boys, would gush about their crushes. Elaborate plans were made for striking a conversation with these crushes, and then rejected for fear of being a bit much. Just the thought of walking up to a crush and talking to him/her was enough to make them go into spasms of anxiety. And I would sit and smirk, and make fun of their lovelorn state, while all the time mentally making and destroying a hundred plans to strike up a conversation with XI Sc.A boy. Of course I couldn't admit to feeling the same way as they did, all this was quite beneath me you see, I wasn't shallow, I admired and respected men for their minds, not for their smiles. This is what the rest of my brain wanted to browbeat my pesky corner into believing, that somehow finding someone attractive based merely on looks was intellectually degrading. Sure, that was the official stance, and yet when my cousin came visiting from Bengal, we spent most of our vacation ogling at the boys wherever we went, giggling hysterically if one would catch us checking him out. Damn, was we were such shameless leches!

I think it was only in college that I managed to figure out that you can be attracted to men in many different ways, be in love, lust, affection, admiration, respect, all at the same time, and often with many different men. Besides, it was hard to sit in the college canteen, with my face buried in a book, when there were oh so many hotties strutting their stuff. It became really hard to lie to myself that what got me eager to catch that U-special bus and make to the first class at an ungodly hour was not erudite discourses on the interpretations of mercantile law, but the absolutely gorgeous senior whom I'd pass on my way to class. Yes, I was objectifying men, and it was oh so much fun!

Sure it was a bit hard to sustain interest in many of the hot eye-candy men afer initiating conversation with them, but that was rarely the point anyway. The point was to check them out, compare notes with friends, compile hot-lists and gush. I guess you could say we were hypocritical, because if I saw a man indulging in similar behaviour he was labelled a mannerless gauche who had no respect for women. But then Indian women are taught from an early age to be uncomfortable with the male gaze, and the business of female gaze is glossed over because the social consensus is that it is impossible for women to objectify men. Well auntyjis and unclejis, I have news for you. I have an Indian female friend who tells me that when she looks at men the first thing she checks out is their, ahem, "package". Quite frankly, I hardly ever allow my eyes to wander towards the nether regions when I'm looking at a man. Perhaps I'm prudish, or observe some unspoken code for respecting privacy.

Regarding the male gaze though, I feel that it takes a certain level of comfort and acceptance of one's body for a woman to be unperturbed by it and to know when a man's behaviour crosses the line to become sexual harassment. Things are changing, but in the India that I grew up in, women were taught to distrust every male look, somehow obliterate evidence of the possession of a feminine body by wearing loose, ill-fitting clothes (a long, bum-covering loose T-shirt over jeans being the de rigeur uniform of college students). I think the more I was aware and appreciative of men physically, the more I could lessen my phobia about being at the receiving end of looks. It took a while to reach a level of equanimity, where to see and be seen could be free of the taint of shame and guilt.

Darn, don't you just hate how academics have to theorize every aspect of their wretched lives, instead of just getting on with it. I mean here I spend an hour writing about why it's totally ok to check out a guy, when I could be looking longingly at him, him, and them (I had to put the last link in, in case the boyfriend's reading this :) ). Vive le difference, there's so much to admire.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

:D This TM seems a lot more interesting than the one who buried her head in books in the canteen. Really?

I totally cracked up on the last para.

PS - The new template is a lot easier to read because of the less width.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Adagio For Strings said...

hi there! cool new look for the blog i see! greetings from delhi! :D its been an interesting 15 days eating (other stuff too but mostly eating)

3:19 AM  
Anonymous A Cynic in Wonderland said...

heheh. having been one of em intellectual snobs who is above leching ( well overtly) at men, your post struck a chord!

7:37 PM  
Blogger tilotamma said...

Just read a blog where some guy was complaining how girls never write about their crushes . This one is even better :-)

8:56 PM  
Blogger Shruthi said...

Ha ha.. could totally relate to it! ;) "That pesky little corner" - so true ;)

9:31 PM  
Blogger Soumyadip said...

You mention Auntijis. In the building across the lane reside two Auntijis. Their lewd gaze has prevented us from going out 'topless' after a bath to the balcony for something as innocent as hanging the wet towel to dry.

Adam-teasing seems to be the in thing.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Bonatellis said...

quite a thought-candy, this one :)

3:01 AM  
Blogger swar said...

he he he. hola.

5:04 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Pidus, yes, being seen in public with a weighty tome was a constant feature of my dorky past. And I too think women who openly lust for men are on the whole a more interesting lot :)

Adagio, you're in Delhi? What fun! And you just had to make me jealous talking about the food :(. Have a great stay, and blog about it.

Cynic, see, you know what I'm talking about.

Tilotamma, men are so naive and oblivious, if only they knew the sort of eyes that chase them around.

Shruti, the pesky corner seems to be more common than I thought!

Soumyadip, oh, the horror :). I wonder if you would have stopped stepping out "topless" if the women checking you out were not the Auntyjis but their pretty daughters (hypothetically, if they had any).

I had a friend in school who started dating the guy across the street who would frequently appear topless in his balcony, timing his visits with her balcony appearances.

Bonatellis, thanks!

bem, como estas?

1:18 PM  
Blogger swar said...

como estas? me good. como esta? he great ;p

becoming quite a regular here. and me likey it. linked your blog in one of my posts. blogrolled toh bahut pehle ho gaya tha.

11:14 PM  
Blogger K said...

So when is the visit to the local Chippendales? Do we get a blog post on that?

11:37 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Bem thanks. Glad you like the blog.

K, I tend to abjure the bland consistency of most chain enterprises, except In'n'Out Burger, so Chippendales shall be given a miss. However, this is the city of Hollywood and the biggest porn industry in the world, so there are many, many other excellent strip joints. And there shall definitely be a blog post on the visit when it takes place.

1:12 AM  
Blogger Rimi said...

yes. indeed. let all of us talk about crushes and objectifying men and forget rimi in her dank, dark corner who's NEVER HAD A CRUSH IN HER LIFE. go away swati, and let me weep... *hits forhead in totally dramatic gesture*

1:41 AM  
Blogger anthony said...

Gee...very girl post.. almost like reading a cosmopolition.. bought one the other day on the train coz the hawker was selling a month old issue for 20 bucks....lol,,much eye ...not really candy...

1:48 AM  
Blogger claytonia vices said...

Yessss!!! I knew it! ;-)

3:20 AM  
Blogger Shivangi said...

Duggal, why he's quite a hotty! As for the male gaze, I don't think its as much a problem for women as is made out to be. Why is it that any woman (including yours truly) would like being checked out by a 'good looking' guy (of course preferences will vary for this one) but would feel edgy if a road side romeo tried the same thing? I don't particularly think its only about being comfortable about your body... How is it that 'male gaze' has the ability to make you blush and feel sick at the same time? Or is it that grooming improves the way males gaze? :)

3:30 AM  
Anonymous anthony said...

lol, i have plant a few saplings of the herbs muuuhahahaa

4:32 AM  
Anonymous anthony said...

planted

4:33 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

But Rimi, my peachikins, this is merely about checking out a hottie. I'm using poetic embellishment to call the boy at school a crush. It takes more than good looks for me to have a crush on someone, something I didn't have till I began my masters (there, I've said it :) ).

Anthony, I have the opportunity to check out Cosmo cover headings every week in the supermarket checkout counter. I hope my post is not in the same league as "60 ways to win your man" *shudder*. Would you believe it, I've never read a Cosmo in my life. Vogue yes, never Cosmo.

Claytonia, me too!

Shivangi, you're spot on! Of course it's about how we perceive the person giving the looks.

Once SNL did this hilarious skit of an office, where the plain, unattractive guy would get accused of sexual harassment for saying the most innocuous things. And a hottie would get away with the most outrageous behaviour and the women would swoon and not consider it harassment. Yes, we are dupliticious that way.

But I've also seen women who are so phobic of the male gaze that the looks of the man aren't really factored in. Any male attention is contentious for them.

And yes, grooming does improve the way men gaze. Some men are more discreet than others.

1:38 PM  
Blogger anthony said...

BTW there was some random finding in some random article that there are almost as many male readers of female magazines as there are female readers.. lol. we too are quite inquisitive... rather like eavesdropping..
I bought this one coz it was CHEAP and Cameron Diaz was looking sexy and cute and crazy

9:41 PM  
Blogger Hiren said...

Just as when a man climbs a building and the view is different from each floor, here too beauty lies in the eye of the beholder but what lies in the eye varies with age.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Heh Heh said...

"... women were taught to distrust every male look"

i think that is a result of males never being taught where their behavior crosses over into sexual harassment. as a result some guys err on the safe side and risk being percieved of as not being interested/interesting, and idiots cross the line anyways.

6:47 PM  
Blogger MAHARAJADHIRAJ said...

Funny how am reading this when in the office lift I was thinking exactly this... why most women in India think it BAD to be caught checking out a guy. I think the confidence and innocence in that 'look' is supremely sexy. A definite turn on.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Essar said...

Oh god, I totally used to theorise my crushes! Then sometime in post grad, my friend and I had become the women rakes - we would size up every guy and of course it had intellectual licence - we were objectifying that species that spent a lifetime objectifying us!

3:44 AM  
Blogger velvetgunther said...

Objectifying...tell my feminist friends that...

11:10 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Anthony, I have a feeling those figures might be correct. It's my boyfriend who reads those silly relationship articles on MSN, not me :) (I think he reads them strictly for amusement value).

Hiren, is that so? I think the only change that age has wrought on me is that I've realized that intellectual arrogance and pretensions can be as much of a turn off on a man as boasts about wealth, looks and power.

Heh, heh, so true, alas. I have an Indian-American friend who grew up mostly in the US but went back to India for two years when she was in school. She said the rare boy who would approach her romantically would invariably start by saying "I love you"! It was such an all-or-nothing approach. No intermediates.

Dhiraj, do women still think like that? And then I'm fed stories about how "everything" has changed!

Essar, I'm all for the feminist licence to lech. Reverse objectification, how convenient :)

Velvet, your friends are perhaps from the no-fun, male-oppressor school of feminism. Welcome to the porn-supporting, leching, makeup-loving, equal opportunities for all feminist club, of which I am a card carrying member. We definitely have more fun.

1:32 PM  
Blogger cactusjump said...

just got round to following the link from my comment box - thanks for a fun read :)

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