What women want Through a woman's eyes
By Cheryl Springer
Stabroek News
November 9, 2003

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We begin today a fortnightly series by Stabroek News’s Assistant Editor, Cheryl Springer, which looks at issues from a woman’s perspective.

What do women really want? Sorry to say men, but it isn’t always you.

In the 2000 film of the same name, American actor Mel Gibson plays Chicago advertising executive, Nick Marshall, who gets a whole new outlook on life when a fluke accident gives him the ability to read women’s minds. Before the accident he had been passed over for promotion and the job given to a woman, Darcy Maguire, played by Helen Hunt. Nick uses his ‘gift’ to good effect, winning over his female co-workers and managing to get his teenage daughter to change her poor opinion of him. He then sets about to outwit his new boss, Darcy, stealing her ideas before she can articulate them. But in spite of himself he falls in love with Darcy and though he loses his ‘gift’ ultimately understands what women want.

Unfortunately, as with many things not born in Hollywood, understanding women is rarely ever that simple. But women know this, which is why women’s magazines endlessly address the subject and from all angles. And just as often, they publish articles and quizzes designed to help women better understand men. (But that is another story.)

In a mini e-poll conducted by this writer, 14 women born in Guyana and aged 20 to 60 years, were asked the same question. “If you could have one wish come true, what would it be and why?” The women’s marital status covered the range: single, single and dating, married, divorced, separated. All of them had completed high school. At least three were undergraduates, some were graduates and one had completed a post-graduate degree.

Six of the sisters wanted peace. Two wanted to be happily married. One wanted moral support. One wanted a stable family life. One wanted higher education. One wanted financial security. One wanted good health. One wanted her dead father back. Only in three instances was the ‘why’ part of the question not answered. One sister who wanted marriage and a blessed life did not, or could not say why. And two of the six who wanted peace felt it was self-explanatory. Perhaps it is.

“A peaceful life. If I had that everything else would just fall into place,” respondent number one says. Peace can be either elusive or easily attained and, depending on the woman, mean different things at different times. The peace-wanting sisters articulated it thus: a peaceful life, peace, a peaceful environment, world peace, peace with myself, lifelong peace.

Of these, world peace was perhaps the most illusory wish, unless the sister (though she didn’t say it) was planning to rid the world of men. But putting such wishful thinking aside, what if by some miracle there was suddenly no more war in the world? Wars have exposed women to such atrocities as mass rape, genocide and abject poverty.

World peace might not have a direct impact on the lives of the world’s women who are born and die in a cycle of abuse. It might not make any difference whatsoever to the old-woman- who-lived-in-a-shoe sisters. It might not mean much to the career/homemaker moms, who are consumed with guilt when they miss either the PTA or board meeting. But women would be the first to celebrate.

As the song says, “It takes two, baby.” But this does not translate to sisters doing double shifts to keep the hubby happy. It means making the right choices from day one; the lazy whiner, the control freak, the womaniser and the bar prop, along with some others, are not happy-marriage material. Sisters who have this as their goal need to do some serious scouting.

Moral support
Boxing is perhaps the best example of how what this sister wants works. Fighters get into the ring and, for three minutes at a time, give and take punches. When the bell dings, the seconds rush in and in that minute the fighter gets his/her brow mopped, a pep talk, water, sometimes even a light massage, all designed to help the fighter win or just get through the next round. Okay, not all sisters want three seconds hovering at the end of a hard day. But someone to offload on or celebrate with — definitely a good idea.

This sister spoke for many of her peers when she noted that economic migration was the root of instability in her family. There are few people in Guyana who do not have relatives living permanently in other countries, mainly in North America. Sisters who choose to send their children to live with their fathers in other countries know that this sometimes causes that mother-child bonding glue to become unstuck. But they cover the heartbreak by sticking a smile on the gaping hole left by the child’s absence as they proudly list their accomplishments in their adopted country.

Higher education
There is nothing holding sisters back from attaining this goal but themselves. Other sisters have blazed a trail and left lights along the path for them to follow. Yet others are willing to hold their hands and help them over the bumps. The longest journey starts with a single step. Move your feet.

Financial security
Here again the maternal instinct surfaced. There was no mention of the house, the car, the material trappings, although financial security makes these things possible. This sister’s foremost thought was her child’s education, health and general well-being. This is a practical goal. Hard work and good money management make it attainable.

Good health
Many sisters want this, but they do not have good health-seeking behaviour. Self-sacrifice is so last century, ladies. Stop putting off having that pap-smear test, that mammogram. See a doctor about that headache that has been plaguing you for the past two years. Stop playing superwoman with your health. As this sister said, good health is an absolute must if any other goal is to be achieved.

“I miss him terribly,” says respondent number 14. This sister’s yearning gives plausibility to the legendary bond between fathers and daughters. In the continuing era of the absentee father, it also serves as a reminder that there still are good dads out there.

Common thread
As the e-mails poured in, the initial thought was that the poll question was poor and would not produce the hoped-for result - finding out what women want. What half of the women did was pick wishes which they realize will, for the immediate future, remain in the realms of fantasy. Seven of them made practical wishes, but two, by their own admission, had no control over making them real. And only two others were actually working towards the realization of their dreams. That this is the twenty-first century, a time when women no longer need permission to think or do, made the experience surreal. But a closer look revealed that one interpretation of what these sisters really wanted could be peace. When all the answers and reasons were examined with the utmost simplicity, it was the common thread linking them. To some sisters it is the escape from the torment of living with a miserable and/or abusive man. It could also be the escape to a quiet environment. But perhaps for these sisters it is that (rare) achievement of contentment when everything else — happy marriage, moral support, stable family life, higher education, financial security and good health — falls into place. Peace.