They say it's a man's world.
Sure enough, men have plenty going for them... No ballooning while menstruating - in fact, they don't even menstruate - no worrying about coming home late alone, no matter where they live, no crippling obsession with shoes, no taking hours to get dressed, no crying each time they watch ET. And they can pee standing up too! Seems like life's just not fair, huh?
However, there's one thing that men have been denied - and that's the comfort of having girlfriends. No, no, not girlfriends in terms of significant others - women friends, the true blues who accompany women through every joy and every unspeakable sorrow.
Take my friends, for example. Most of us have known each other from the time we were 10 - some from even earlier. I can barely remember a time when we didn't know each other. Where are we? Scattered across the world. A, T and S in Calcutta. P in Delhi. S in London. P in Bombay. B in Bangalore. Another P in Dubai.
Together, we've weathered a lot of what life has to offer - puberty, flunking classes in school, career choices, boyfriends over the years, weddings and marriages, the death of loved ones and pets. Together, we've fixed (and some of us have even beaten up) sleazeballs on the road who have passed nasty-suggestive remarks at us. We've drunk and we've sung and we've stayed up nights, talking and laughing about the world. We've told each other our worst secrets, and found there was no need - the rest already knew, without a word being said. We've fought and we've scratched, and we've made up with all our hearts. We've had the courage to tell one of us where we think she's making a mistake, trusting that this will not ruin our friendship. We've cried on each other's shoulders, dried our eyes on their handkerchiefs and drunk the coffee they've made us afterwards. We've made fun of each other's foibles, and defended each other like tigresses when others have done the same. We've held each other through illnesses, laughed each other out of the blues, and traversed the country to be with each other when we could.
In fact, we rarely get to meet. Some of us don't even mail regularly. And some anachronisms among us don't even have email addresses, for crying out loud! But when we do meet - it's the old magic. We don't have to do anything special - no need to dress up and go out and have a night out on the town. It's peaceful enough to just drink coffee in someone's kitchen, with her dog resting its head on your knees (no, most of us don't have kids yet, but we do have dogs!). Or to sit in someone's bedroom, snuggling under the covers and watching TV together. And we can still sleep 5 to a bed, like we've done years ago, and share blankets on cold winter nights.
You have to pity men - straight men - for never experiencing friendship like this. They have to make do with discussing the latest football game instead of fears, with handshakes instead of hugs. Catch a guy crying on his buddy's shoulder. Or rubbing his male friend's shoulders after said friend has been through a bad break-up. Or holding said friend while he cries, and wiping his tears away. HAR! The closest guys get to tactile bonding is an occasional playful pat on the butt and a handshake.
And as part of womanhood, who revel in the touch of friendship, I'm truly, truly sorry for you men. You don't know what you're missing, how warm and comfortable it is to have friends like this, to be able to settle back against a friend's chest and rest a moment, without having to explain.
In the balance, of course, you don't have to go through childbirth either. Weighing, weighing... naah, I'll take my friends.
And the shoes.