My partner was away on a course recently, for a month. Before he left many friends jokingly asked if I had given him a few pep talks before he left, sorted him out. Needless to say, I had not been aware that my partner needed ‘sorting out’, and did not give him any kind of advisory lecture before he left. Alternatively, nobody asked him whether he’d had a little chat with me, presumably because there was no need to be afraid of me running amok while he was away. Maybe he should have, because I spent a glorious month eating cereal for dinner, being in one hundred percent ownership of the remote, not having to do two huge loads of laundry every day and ordering all kinds of treats online for my partner to stuff into his suitcase and bring back home. He, on the other hand, spent his days studying fiendishly. Ha!

The annoying thing was that he and I were just fine. Everyone else seemed to think that he was either a giant man-baby who wouldn’t last a day without me, his mama-wife, to fold his shirts and tell him to eat dinner, or a repressed beast raring to crash out of his martial shackles and live it up whilst his anxious wife called him all the time to ‘check’ on him. In either situation, my partner and I looked like idiots, and it was bewildering to be cast in any of those roles. A wife is not a guardian, a gate-keeper, a chowkidaar of her husband. It’s not a spouse’s job to police the other, and why is it that the onus of being mistrustful must always fall upon the wife, and the expectation of misconduct be blithely set on the husband’s shoulders with a guffaw and back-slap of “boys will be boys”? Why am I supposed to worry about my partner’s fidelity when he is away? Why do people expect that I should be doing this? Are men not worthy of trust? Are they supposed to be treated with suspicion because the same society telling me to be distrustful is also the one that will not only turn a blind eye towards, but tacitly encourage ‘bad’ behaviour from my partner as an affirmation of a group masculinity?

Nobody expecting me to be bad is the flip side of this over-confident coin. The patriarchy is obviously so confident of its powers that a gallivanting wife is hardly expected or allowed. It simply isn’t considered because it seems so impossible. Surely a good patriarchy has solidly brainwashed women from their infancy to consider their domestic duties as the sole reason they exist. That all of their worth as individuals lies in how useful they are to others, and by others we don’t mean humanity at large that can be served by being a doctor or the head of a charitable organization or a scientist developing a cure for cancer, but your family, your in-laws, your children and your husband. They are the only people that matter, and one’s Chief Womanly Duty is to subsume oneself in kidmat to them for your entire life and like it. By that logic, of course no woman would ever grab the car keys and go off on a joyride or spend time talking to a fascinating stranger or get dressed up even though her husband is away. So husbands aren’t meant to ever feel insecure, and by dint of that work harder to be better husbands, but women are trained to feel insecure all the time because patriarchies also set up women to compete with each other for the commodity of male attention. While one’s husband is away one must be fretting, and calling, and messaging because some evil woman might be casting her evil eye towards one’s prince. It never occurs to anyone that if your prince has a roving eye, it’ll rove no matter where he is, and that having said eye doth not a prince make. It’s laughable, when you look at it that way. Do you really want to be desperately keeping the interest of a third-rate man?

The most important thing that one must take away from all this is the burden of responsibility. Patriarchies absolve men of it almost entirely. The responsibility for a good marriage or a happy relationship is always on the women. He’s a cheater? You weren’t nice enough to him, and probably not pretty enough. He’s got a flaming temper, sometimes fists fly? You should learn not to provoke him. He’s a stingy Scrooge? Potty-mouthed? Doesn’t floss his teeth? You should have trained him better, good wives know how to “convince” a man, like wise vazirs manipulating kings. There is no opposite narrative, ever. There is no telling the men that they should be kinder, that they should be a friend instead of a lordly head of the house, that they should listen. Nope, because that is all feminine nonsense and real mean don’t have feelings other than licentiousness, anger and helplessness when confronted with a washing machine. It’s the reason why I was being told to “talk” to my partner—the burden of responsibility for his actions was being placed on my shoulders. It wasn’t his problem if he was planning to get up to no good, it was somehow, bafflingly, my problem. No wonder men run amok in this world. No wonder that violence against women, children and minorities is on the raging rise. Men have a free pass, because they aren’t held accountable for their choices. They aren’t told that they did anything wrong—it was their mother’s fault, or their wives’ fault for not doing their Womanly Duty properly. No thanks. In the immortal words of Jennifer Lopez, “I ‘aint your mama”, and neither am I a lady constable. If you need a mama all the time then it’s time you grew up, Peter Pan. This isn’t Neverland.