Empire State of Mind

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I am a strong believer in the dichotomy of the human character – every person inevitably has a feminine and masculine side. Often our environment, upbringing and values are determinant of which side is dominant. Arriving 500 years after the feminist revolution, I am a woman of the 21st century, which of course entails a lot more than meets the eye. My choice of life is not just a function of the era I was born in, but also out of deep appreciation and gratitude for the arduous labour and discrimination that was endured by the monumental women in history, whose ghosts still resonate in my thoughts, ideas, figments of speech and actions today. I am overcome by a sense of awe as I imagine the battles those women had to fight so I could sit here today fervently typing away on my laptop, so I could be equipped with the skills and resources to even generate a piece of literary work like this. So I could even call this laptop MY PROPERTY.
Quietly ruminating on my existence is one of my favourite leisure activities, and the plethora of thoughts that incessantly flutter through my mind like a flock of doves in flight during this period of immense silence often serve as inspiration for the notes I write. After innumerable hours spent sitting inactive, encapsulated in a cataclysmic whirlpool of thoughts…no, not thoughts…profounds of mind, buried in the abyss of mindlessness - I came to a strange, yet scintillating realization today – I am simply not attracted to men! Like with any other epiphany that drastically alters one’s perception of self and overall paradigm of life, my heart palpitated with fear, anxiety and curiosity as I desperately attempted to unravel this aberration.
When confiding this surreptitious notion to a close friend, I can image the bewilderment it would concite, followed by a series of questions rapidly fired in my direction. Of course, upon hearing this unusual assertion, their first impulse would be to question my sexuality, and perhaps momentarily even entertain the notion of asexuality. Many would even perceive my current state of being as a predicament that demands I be rescued. I definitely empathise with my friend’s concern, and perhaps even devastation.
The feminist revolution came with its perks and privileges; inalienable rights that I would be deprived of otherwise. But as every beauty is accompanied by its beast, this efflorescence of ‘equality’ is not without its flaws. When women were granted an ostensibly equal platform as men in this world, we were also stripped of our ‘knights in shining armours’ that swooped in to rescue his ‘damsel’ in times of distress. The chivalric values that once defined the quintessential gentlemen have been diminished, or more accurately - obliterated. This undoubtedly, is a great loss to the romantic in me and occasionally I succumb to a melancholy state as the miserable mistress in me longs to return to a realm where I would be swept off my feet and enveloped in a colourful embrace upon demand; a world where my femininity would be preserved in a protective fortress constructed by my shield-bearing warrior.
But peering at the pile of tools that lie haphazardly around the scaffolding of my empire, that is still under construction, gradually a sobering reality creeps into me and my vivid imagination vanishes into a smoke of multitude colours. I once again have to disembark the ship that carried me a thousand miles on a lyrical cloud of fleeting wishes and granted me a taste of the rainbow. My tiara disappears, leaving a cold, yellow hard-hat, as I once again reach out for the blueprints of my life and feverously continue making adjustments; designing, calculating, planning what the rest of my empire will look like. This empire will be built, but not with the aid of that charming man wearing a halo, who’s piercing emerald eyes penetrate the inmost recesses of my soul, and that infuriatingly endearing grin that melts my heart at every glance, but rather, an empire constructed by my own life-long arduous labour.
Salvaging the remnants of my rapidly withering strength, I clasp my fingers and pray that after the nights slumber, I will be woken at the peaceful hour of dawn by Wisdom, who will wipe my tears of frustration and smile upon me like a loving mother. Her gentle caress will bestow upon me a sense of revitalized energy to once again ascend the mountains of books, and befriend strange figures. Striding towards the establishment of an egalitarian society has been a giant leap for humanity, since suppressing half the populous also squanders with it half the creativity, resources and power. However, it has also tipped the scale against women in the social arena where we have begun shouldering disproportional burdens. We are not only expected to bear at least half the economic responsibility of rearing a family, but also the biological responsibility as a mother. We are consistently in a race against our biological clock that ticks away with a callous indifference to our ambitions and goals. Optimists assert with much conviction that this world is made of sugar, it can crumble so easily, yet we should never be afraid to reach out and taste it. Observing life through rose glasses is out of character for me; pragmatism and practicality are pivotal is my world. This frequently earns me the labels cynic, ascetic, and pessimist, and my passive nature usually hinders me from contesting, along with fear that my heeds will fall upon deaf ears.
Oftentimes, I feel like I embody an old soul, born a feminist. In me resides a spirit that has already lived the injustices of the past, acquired wisdom from philosophers long gone, and experienced much of what seems out of reach from where I currently stand. From the moment I set foot on this earthly ground, I was thrust into the scorching flames of reality that seared my innocent benevolence to charcoal and hungrily devoured my naiveté to ashes. Weary of others intentions, sceptical towards acts of altruism, defensive at unexpected flattery or attention – especially the kind that come from those enigmatic and elusive aliens of the opposite gender.
Most young girls look up at the world starry-eyed, loving life with unbridled passion, bursting with optimism which is evident in their cherubic faces, sweet words that taste of nectar and mellifluous laughter which fill my ears like divine oracles. The adoring reverence with which they view their parents and teachers are evident in the way they imbibe their experienced words.
Reminiscing my past, I hesitantly testify that my childhood was quite different. For better or for worse – I will never be able to pick one over the other confidently because as the saying goes, “For everything we have gained, we have lost something and for everything we have lost, we have gained something else.” Growing up as an overtly curious and precocious child has it benefits and loses. Viewed in a positive light, I gained a head start in life, my early maturity allowed me excess time to mull over many conflicts that are inevitable as we grow older, conducting innumerable thought experiments to reflect, analyse and interpret infinite combinations of possibilities. On the flipside, I was often scolded for being a dreamer by those around me who failed to understand or empathise with my stream of consciousness. I was, and continue till today to be a girl who lives in her thoughts.
Growing up in a capitalist society, where profit is calculated in numbers, efficiency measured in material production and all investments made with rewards in mind, it is hard to escape a social setting where competition is paramount and a person’s worth is measured with price tags. Shoved into this world with the expectation that I will build my own empire from scratch while working within stringent social rules, is a perilous and daunting task. I am not only competing against my fellow ‘ladies in waiting’, but also my potential Knights. Society requires me to be proficient in the field that men have dominated for centuries. Struggle for the raw materials with which to build my empire; resources that only men have acquired for years inevitably invokes the masculine aspect of my persona – aggression, competition, tenacity, stamina, etc. But there is a catch! I have to perform these tasks within certain parameters of femininity embellished with grace, poise and elegance. The glass ceiling is quite limiting indeed! Over time, the line of scrimmage between ladies and Knights are annihilated, leaving behind just a neutral group of fellow competitors. My inner child weeps, but I rampage ahead heedless of her cries, lest I drop my weapons. Sadly, nothing transfixes the soul as a steady purpose.
Overtime we learn to calculate heart ache as an expense. A very costly one at that! For nothing matches the turbulence and trepidation that a destructive relationship or lost love inflicts. Like a wise man once said – “There is nothing more dangerous than a girl in love.” So I hastily clamber into my protective gear and erect walls of defence against any intruders that just might charm me off my guard. This brings me to my first puzzling assertion – “I don’t find myself attracted to men.”
Being an intelligent girl, I find myself amidst this cosmic dance with ambition and will-power propelling me forward. Unfortunately, ambition often goes hand in hand with dominance, territorialism, envy, rigorous competition, dissatisfaction and the unquenchable thirst for more. In the search for bigger and better things in life, we create within us an all-consuming void of infinite capacity. Will I ever humbly bow out of this arena?
Maybe I can’t state this conclusively, but my numbness might have something to do with my inability to distinguish myself from most men I am surrounded by.
I can’t speak for all ambitious girls of course, but this is a testimony of my experience.





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