One seldom loses arguments with other men. When we were boys together, if you thought you were about to lose an argument you started a bout of fisticuffs to clinch the argument and, even if you lose, you only lost a fight not the argument. Once you grew up to be men and fisticuffs started acquiring legal consequences, arguments became yelling matches and both participants (if there were only two) departed the scene with the firm conviction that their calm reasoning had won the argument for them.
With women, however, it is an altogether different story. My first realization of this difference happened when I got into an argument with my sister. After the customary opening exchanges of the more-or-less courteous variety, the argument rose to the intellectual heights of vituperation. I used all the imagination at my command to shower the choicest of abuses at her only to have her return “You only!” to me. (Now this pithy phrase meant “All that you say are applicable only to you and not to me” and why it is not a part of regular English is still a mystery to me!)
Needless to say, I was infuriated that my own able discourse had been turned so deftly against me and I soared into heights of abuse that I had hitherto not touched - only to find the same “You only” reflecting all of that back at me. After that point, the argument soared to the rarefied intellectual plane of an exchange of You-onlys between the two of us. Since my sister said the last ‘You only’, I have to admit that I was bested in that argument.
Let me not give you the impression that I had had very infrequent arguments with women. I am only touching upon the highlights here rather than engaging in a long litany of my woes while so arguing.
The next highlight was during the wedding of one of my cousins. One male cousin landed in
Bangalore from Chennai
and, while disembarking, he left behind a suitcase in the taxi which
disappeared with commendable speed. The same day, we went to pick up another
cousin and, as luck would have it, one of his bags stayed back in the
auto-rickshaw, which also vanished with alacrity. The women were all over us.
“It was only today morning when Shyam lost his suitcase. Did that not teach you
to be more careful?”
Came the night and three of the women came along in an auto and – you knew it – they lost a suitcase to the auto as well. Now was our chance. Before we could even get started, the women said, “Even Shyam and you lost your luggage! So what is the big deal now?” What should have been a cautionary tale to us turns into a precedent to them! Do you really think we won that argument after that start?
The one time I really thought I had the argument won – and history made – I found out how nimble women’s brains could be. When my antagonist came to the conclusion that she was on a losing wicket on that issue, I suddenly found that the argument had shifted to a discussion of my shortcomings in an episode in the previous week. By the time that argument was done, I was left with a very strong impression that I had spent all my life waking up every day in the morning with the single ambition of making her life miserable and tossing and turning in bed bemoaning every day when I had passed up such an opportunity. Needless to say, she won that argument in a canter leaving me crawling like a worm in her dust.
I have heard of this myth that all the reasoned arguments of men are dissolved to nonexistence in a flood of tears. I have no personal experience of it. Whether it is because it is only a myth or whether it is because – as my friends say – women consider me small fry and disdain to use the most powerful weapons in their armory, I do not know!
The one thing life has taught me was that the best way to cut short an argument with a woman is to admit you are in the wrong. This, I thought, was a sure-fire recipe for success – till the day when the woman I was arguing with ended up haranguing me till I was forced to admit that I was not in the wrong after all!
Women will always be unfathomable to me!