Are you playing Mummy to someone else’s Raja beta?
“If love is blind, then marriage is holding up a magnifying glass in bright sunlight”
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women raising a child they have not accounted for, produced, or adopted. You may be unaware that you are responsible for this creature’s fosterage. You may also be in denial.
In the aid of clarity, try recalling, if during the last 6 months, you have asked your husband any of these questions.
“Have you brushed your teeth?”
“Can you pick your shorts off the floor?”
“Are you ever going to cut your toenails?”
At this point, I would estimate that at least 86% of you are nodding away and fighting the urge to throw an entire bottle of wine down your throat.
The epiphany, that I too am stuck in the quintessential Jagat Mata mode, struck me in the form of a sweatshirt, the colour of sticky earwax.
Tired of picking it off the bathroom floor and having it washed every evening, so he could put it on again the next day, I asked, “Can you please stop wearing this?”
“It’s very comfortable,” he replied.
Annoyed at his stubbornness, I tried another method.
“All right, at least tell me what you are trying to advocate legalising with this particular garment.”
“It’s printed right here on your sweatshirt — Legalize it! I hope you realise that it alludes to marijuana. If the press asks you what you are trying to legalise, what will you say?”
He frowned, “Oh, I didn’t think about that, you tell me, what should I say?”
I replied, “Tell them you are trying to legalise sodomy!” Looking at his bewildered expression, I added, “Oh, it’s just a fancier term for repayment of back dues.”
Now, I am waiting for the last laugh when a reporter finally asks him this vital question.
Realising that passive-aggressive behaviour will not rectify this equation, where so many of us are playing Mummy to someone else’s Raja beta, I decided to do some research. Though, before that, I called my friends to complain and commiserate. Here are a few of my more notable discoveries.
1. Disable the Enable button
We pick up, switch off, fetch, and carry, because it’s easier to do it ourselves than remind our partners repeatedly. What would happen if we went on strike? How about leaving the tubelights on, all 15 of them, with the hope that the electricity bill will shock him into seeing the light?
We could also start at a more basic level. Kindly refrain from judging me on the quality of the following words, this is a verbatim account of what a friend narrated during my informal survey.
Sharing a bowl of poha for breakfast, she was asked, “Should I do potty before we eat this or after?” Unfortunately, the question was not raised by her toddler, but by her 38-year-old husband. Braver than I am, she immediately called her mother-in-law, handed him the phone, and said, “Ask Mummy!”
2. Whips, collars, and commands
Though marriage does seem to involve a fair bit of domination and submission, it is usually accompanied by vanilla sex, so this isn’t a call for some BDSM action. Watching our dog Freddie’s trainer working with him, I noticed that he uses a simple method. He ignores Freddie’s tantrums and gives him a treat when he displays appropriate behaviour. Amy Sutherland, who spent time at a college for animal trainers also used similar techniques on her husband. “You don’t get a sea lion to salute by nagging,” she said and wrote a bestseller based on her experience.
If you are highly motivated, this is a nifty method. Ignore him when he asks you to find his socks. Offer kisses and onion pakoras, in that order, as a reward for good behaviour. At the very least, it’s more entertaining than watching him watch yet another cricket match.
3. Mirror mirror on the wall, let us be fair after all
This is not an ad for a skin-bleaching cream but advice from Blaise Pascal. The 17th century philosopher stated, “We wish to correct and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter. For on that side, it is usually true. Admit that truth to him but reveal to him the side on which it is false.’”
Do notice how he says, ‘he errs’ and not ‘she errs’.
4. Set the magnifying glass aside
If love is blind, then marriage is holding up a magnifying glass in bright sunlight, seeing every flaw, while managing to set your partner on fire as well. How about we concentrate on their positive qualities?
For example, you can tell your husband your darkest secret and he will never repeat it. Yes, it could also be because he wasn’t listening to a word you said, but that’s not the point here.
The truth though, lies somewhere between the jokes we make about marriage and the notion of everlasting happiness. A good relationship, with or without the Raja Beta syndrome, is one where a couple accepts each other’s flaws and remains appreciative of the traits that drew them together in the first place.
5. Course correction
Mickey Weaver, a stay-at-home mom, decided to focus on the next generation. She prepared a ‘Husbands in Training’ course for her teenage sons. The curriculum covered topics like consent, eating etiquette, chivalry and even the ethics of the porn industry. She conducted this programme in the form of conversations, work sheets, quizzes and even gave her boys a certificate of completion. Looking at his sons, her husband ended up taking the course too.
German philosopher Erich Fromm stated, “Love is an art, just as living is an art. If we want to learn how to love, we must proceed in the same way as wanting to learn any other art, say music or painting.” We send our children for guitar, tennis, and chess lessons and assume that they will learn a vital life skill like sustaining relationships on their own. Perhaps we should teach our children the skills we had to learn the hard way; the art of navigating through our closest relationships with respect and kindness. Design our own ‘Art of Love’ course, and as in Mickey Weaver’s case, our husbands may end up wanting to learn a few tips too.
Despite deploying these techniques, if your husband doesn’t change and can’t be exchanged, then being an eternal optimist, I suggest you view your glass as half full. This could also be considered a fairly accurate assessment.
After your offspring grow up and move away, you won’t face the dreaded empty nest syndrome. Your oldest will continue living at home. Instead of reminding him to brush his teeth, you will start reminding him to brush his dentures and soak it in that half-filled glass of water every night.