Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in his shoes, so the saying goes. That way, when you finally do criticise him you will be a mile away and have his shoes.
As is the case with most sayings I know, this one is utter rubbish. There are several obvious problems. First, if you are so far away, how is the person going to hear your constructive criticism? And if he can't hear your criticism, how can he hope to reflect on it and improve?
Worse still, how likely is someone to listen to your feedback if you have stolen his shoes?
Even if we are to assume that you are about to do something foolish like criticise someone much bigger and stronger than you, footwear theft doesn't guarantee safety. After all, you would have left your own shoes behind, which said target of criticism could easily just put on and pursue you. After all, you are advancing only at a walking pace and travelling a relatively short distance.
A better piece of advice would be: "Before you criticise someone, assess if he could beat you up. If the answer is yes, shut up."
I know, I know, I'm being a pedant. I'm meant to ignore the obvious logistical and logical flaws of the saying and appreciate the spirit of it. And the spirit of this saying is that I should try to understand the other person's perspective before I criticise him.
Anyway, as you can probably tell, I am stalling. I am stalling because I don't really want to tell you about what I thought about Fifty Shades Of Grey.
One key reason for this: I don't want to admit I went to watch the movie. And I certainly don't want to admit that I sort of enjoyed it.
Now don't get the wrong idea. I have not suddenly become an aficionado of contract law S&M porn (which is basically what Fifty Shades is).
The only reason I went to watch it in the first place was that I wanted to do the whole walk a mile in someone else's shoes thing.
For months, I have been criticising nearly all the women I knew for turning the world into a place where crap like Fifty Shades Of Grey is a runaway bestseller. I mean, it has sold something like 60 million copies and I am fairly certain 99.99 per cent of those copies were bought by women.
Of course, this criticism was made purely in my own shoes. There is nothing that would make me read the book. Then the movie came out and I figured two hours of cinematographic torture (both for me and Fifty Shades protagonist Anastasia Steele) is a decent exchange for more credibility to mock.
What do you know? It's actually not that bad. I mean it's bad, but it could have been worse.
For those who know nothing about it, let me quickly summarise the plot of the movie (spoiler alert).
A student goes to interview a young, rich, good-looking billionaire for a university newspaper. The billionaire takes a fancy to her. He woos her. She falls for him. However, he has a kinky red room where he flogs women. He wants to flog her and asks her to sign a contract that would allow him to do that. They negotiate the contract in a dark conference room. Before she signs it, she wants to find out if flogging hurts. He flogs her. It hurts. She breaks up with him.
Apparently this is not the end, but we will have to wait for subsequent movies to find out what happens. I have a strong suspicion she returns for more flogging.
Still, the movie works on several levels. It's got a little something for everyone. There is a bit of fetish porn for the perverts; lawyers can debate the legality of consent in a flogging contract; social scientists can discuss the symbolism of the 1 per cent literally oppressing the working class, etc, etc.
What I especially appreciated is that it gave me invaluable insight into what women want in their men.
Until I watched the movie, I could not understand why women would be fascinated with a badly written story of a girl falling for someone who wants to tie her up and hit her with implements. I had dismissed it as a huge step back for women's rights.
But then I realise that the S&M wasn't the point at all and, in fact, Fifty Shades simply follows a tried-and-tested formula that nearly all successful love stories for women follow.
It is Fifty Shades that helped crack the code of what women want. They are not looking for Mr Right. They are looking for Mr Something Wrong.
Just think about any romantic movie you have ever seen, the woman never ever finds a perfect guy. She always finds a guy who appears perfect, but turns out to have one deep complicated flaw that is a deal breaker, something so terrible that it could potentially destroy their entire relationship.
In the past, the flaws used to be more straight- forward. For instance, in Romeo And Juliet, Romeo's flaw is that he comes from a family feuding with Juliet's. Or take Titanic. Jack's one flaw is that he is of a different social class.
These days, all the good, reasonable flaws have been taken, so people are resorting to stranger stuff. In Twilight, Edward's flaw is that he is a vampire while in Fifty Shades, Christian's fault is that he is insane.
But the point is, this is what women find exciting. They don't just want a good guy who loves them and cares for them, they want a good guy with an edge, even if that edge is a mental imbalance.
Now before anyone starts developing deep flaws in order to be more attractive to the opposite sex, I have some bad news. This stuff really works only if you are good looking, very rich or both. There needs to be something to offset the flaws.
For average guys, one more flaw isn't going to make that much of a difference. We're already basically a pile of flaws, with shoes on.
This article was first published on Mar 9, 2015.
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