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It is impossible not to be annoyed by (and speak up about) the system we have in place in our country. Men eat first. Now all of you who DO eat together as a family need not raise up in revolt to have my head bashed in. I am NOT speaking of you. Besides your number is so negligible, it is not worthy of being counted. Exceptions don’t make the rule and all that bosh, if you know what I mean.

So yeah, about men eating first. In my own natal home, father was served first. And only then did we sit down to have our meals. He never gave a thought to whether there was enough to go around for the rest of us. He took whatever he needed from what was on the table. Sometimes, he took such large portions that there was hardly anything left to share among the rest of us, except may be the carbohydrates. Mother too had a role here. She never thought it was necessary to set something aside for the children and herself. Apparently feeding the male stomach and ego was more important. Women themselves, or the children in many cases, did not merit the same importance as the man who brings in the moolah.

That was the older generation. Cut to my own. There have been some changes. Fathers (at least many of them) started taking an interest in what the children got to eat. Some of them even sat down with their families for meals whenever time permitted without the women folk having to stand in attendance to ‘serve’. The newer generation is even better, though the numbers are still not quite there as yet. In most cases still it holds true that, when families and friends get together, if the number of guests are more than the number of seats around the table, (meaning it is not a buffet meal), the men ALWAYS eat first.

The other day we were invited to a dinner party. As is usual, when the young children were fed, the men were called for dinner. All of them seated themselves at the table INCLUDING THE HOST. The the hostess and the other women guests hovered around the table ‘serving’ the men.

By the way, I don’t know if you are aware of a peculiar affliction specific to men hereabouts. Their perfectly good, and in top-working-condition hands mysteriously stop functioning and become totally useless the minute they sit down at a dining table. One of the hands though is perfectly capable of shoving food into the mouth. This is where the heroic women come in, even the guests who have been invited for a meal. They ‘help’ the temporarily incapacitated men by ‘serving’ them food of their choice from the dishes on the table right under their collective noses. The women’s work also includes urging the men at frequent intervals to ‘eat more’.

I have seen this scene unfolding a million times and never has it not made me feel nauseous. Barring the time when I was a new bride when people grudgingly let me sit with the husband to partake of a meal, this has been the standard routine. But luckily for me, I have been away from this scene for a long periods of time being an army wife. By the way, the system is different at the parties thrown in army stations, women always serve themselves first at buffets, and at sit down dinners, men and women sit together once the children are fed.

In the past I was probably more tolerant about women waiting on men first and eating only later on. But now it irks me no end, especially when I see even age is not given consideration at these gatherings. It seems ONLY GENDER matters. Here I was, an older woman, hungry as hell (and some of them were aware that I had to eat on time), but even the young and fit who could easily have waited an hour or more to have their meal got precedence, because they were MALES. What’s more, even the host seated himself down to fill his stomach before taking care of his guests …because, duh, MAN!

When the men were done and women sat down to eat, we found the best dishes were all mostly over. No problem, the women said, consoling themselves and each other, we’ll make do with what is left. Now, this is THE.LAST.STRAW as far as I am concerned. It may not be a problem for other women to make do with ‘whatever is left’, but it is for me, especially when the men have been served aplenty. I expect to be treated well, at par with men, not like an also-ran. I am NOT a second class citizen. What gave the men, including the bleddy host, the right to grab everything, pile their plates high with the best stuff without sparing a thought for the women? Couldn’t all of us have shared the available food?

You bet I wanted to kick their entitled asses as I watched the men walking out of the dining hall, laughing and joking, rubbing their full bellies, burping contentedly. I secretly hoped they’d throw up all that food later that night. Would serve them right too. In most houses, women on a daily basis make do with whatever is available after feeding the husband and children. Do they not deserve better treatment at least when they are invited as guests in another household? And what a host, someone who thinks he is a guest in his own house! Wasn’t it his place to see all guests were taken care of before piling his own plate with choice stuff? Pah. Men, please learn some good manners.

Note: Speaking for myself, I don’t ‘make do’ in my own home. That’s not how I am treated by the L&M and the children. But I have seen too many who do, and how the spouse and children almost routinely expect the woman to make ‘sacrifices’ for their sake. So: Women, stop it already.

© Shail Mohan 2020