Saturday, January 31, 2009

Men, Purses and Tea

At first glance, it seems strange to see men carrying purses (not masculine-leather-man-bags but strappy-pink-suede-glittery-tassled-large-and-female-bags). After a few moments, a woman will inevitably exit a clothing shop, saunter over to the man and toss a few shopping bags in his direction. On occasion, one will see her return his credit card but it normally remains comfortably in the back pocket of her slim jeans. If her shoe lace comes undone after having had run up and down the aisles of the clothing shop, she will toss him a curt phrase and he will kneel on command. And yes, she will often place her foot on the thigh of his clean trousers to facilitate his tying her shoelace.

Less-urban-wealthy-imposing women lumber past, their arms filled with children-shopping-laundry-a-purse-and-a-briefcase. They will glance over their shoulder longingly as their husband calmly walks a few paces behind them, concerned only with opening a box of cigarettes while shouting into his cell-phone. And yes, he spits his gum onto the sidewalk along with the plastic wrap from the cigarette pack.

Please note that the joke in town is that a man who was born in Shanghai will carry his wife's purse, whereas a man who was born outside of Shanghai will have his wife-girlfriend-concubine-carry everything but his over inflated ego. Of course, this is a gross generalization. The man does not always accept her reign and a power struggle can ensue, transcending to entertainment as we saw on Saturday night.

We joined our friends Josie and Gregor for dinner on Saturday and afterwards, we ambled along the cobble stone streets of Xintiandi in search of a bar with live music, stiff drinks and no prostitutes. We found a great anonymous bar squeezed in between a Starbucks and a corner alley. Our timing was perfect and we had a table right in front of the band which hailed from the streets of New York City. The gender of the singer will be debated endlessly but nevertheless, her/his voice was tremendous and she/he could certainly twist her/his hips in a very inviting fashion, the shirt’s tassels shaking wildly in tune with his/her hair extensions.

A not-very-discreet argument broke out at the table to my left. Two couples had entered (the men carrying the purses for their partners) and sat down at the table directly in front of the band. The wives had ordered tea with milk for their obviously inebriated husbands but one of the men loudly protested this choice, disrupting the band. He stood and waved towards the waiter, shouting for some beer across the room. He laughed at his wife, who was tugging his coat sleeve in an effort to pull him back into his seat, and shrugged off the coat and his tie as he started to perform the drunk-man-who-also-has-no-rhythm-when-sober dance. Since everyone’s attention was on the ensuing power struggle between man and woman, the band was struggling to captivate the audience. The man helped resolve the issue by trying to climb onto the stage, pull the microphone away from the singer and wrap his arms around the singer’s waist.

Now, wouldn’t it be funny if the singer really was a man?

Later that evening we walked home from the bar and, although Andy offered t carry it for me, I preferred to carry it myself.

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