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The Egg Shell dance – a dance most Indian women are conditioned to do around their men and in laws, so that their life can be good or even tolerable.
I am sure you have heard about dances like Bhartanatyam, Kuchipudi, etc. But have you ever heard of a style of dance called the Egg Shell dance?
Chances are you haven’t, but I am sure you would be shocked to know that the Egg Shell dance has existed from time immemorial, from the times of Adam and Eve (if you believe in the Abrahamic Religions) and from the caveman times (if your belief is in evolution). I am sure you would be even more surprised to know that almost all women do this dance everyday of their lives! And, Egg Shell dancing does not just pertain only to human beings, it exists amongst our female friends in the animal kingdom too! Let me allow to explain to you this dance form that so many of us do everyday, but are seemingly oblivious of its existence.
Husband goes out to work (or stays at home, doesn’t matter which!). Ditto Wife – goes out or stays in, whichever situation pertains to you.
The wife thinks that there are leftovers from the food she cooked the day before, but around dinner time she realizes that she had miscalculated, and the leftovers are not enough for dinner. She tries to scramble and make an uncomplicated dish quickly. Husband however is not impressed. He does not like these last minute simple dishes. He is used to at least one elaborate dish every day and his wife caters to his whim, literally!
Today however, the wife cannot do anything about it. She simply doesn’t have the time. Husband is very hungry, and doesn’t really like it when dinner is even a few minutes late. So, the wife being the ‘good wife’ that she is, tries to talk nice to him. She tries to praise him, please him, and make promises that she would cook not 1 but 3 elaborate dishes the next day. She apologizes for her oversight in not making sure there were enough leftovers. She behaves as if there are egg shells around her in the situation, and does a dance so as not to land her foot on these shells. She tries to talk well, be pleasing, tries to take his mind off the situation in any way she possibly can.
This is a very good example of the ubiquitous egg shell dance!
Daughter-in-law (DIL) is worried. Her parents are asking her to come visit them over the weekend because her mom is not very well, and wants to see her. Her mother-in-law (MIL) has strict instructions for her to be at home on the weekends so that she could help her with the guests that come by hordes to their house on Saturday.
DIL knows that her mom’s health is not very good and if her parents have asked her to come visit then it must be pretty serious. She tries to impress her MIL with sweet talk, buttering up to her, doing a whole lot of tasks that are not on the list like asking her MIL If she wants to go shopping etc. She hopes that she can ingratiate herself so that MIL is somewhat happy with her and gives her permission to go.
Yes, the DIL is doing the Egg Shell dance again. Treading carefully so that the shells that have gathered around her don’t go craaaack!
Wife is late getting back home from her girl friend’s house. The party went on longer than expected. She tried to leave but the girl friends she had gone there with wanted to stay longer. So, she had no choice but to leave later when they decide to leave.
Her husband does not like it when she goes over the time limit he has ‘set’ for her when she goes outside. She tried calling him, but he did not pick up. She texted him but did not get a reply. She is worried that he is going to turn downright nasty and hold back all the love and affection he displays towards her. She comes back home gingerly but heaves a sigh of relief when she realizes that he has already gone to bed.
She starts practicing the egg shell dance in preparation for the next day. She is going to make his favorite breakfast, she is going to apologize to him first thing in the morning, she is going to make sure it never happens again. She keeps thinking what else could she possibly do so that he does not go off into anger mode for the next few days or weeks, and make her everyday existence a daily hell. The next day she puts her plan into action and does the egg shell dance with aplomb.
I am sure you are realizing now that Egg Shell dance is something we women do on a daily basis. That it is ingrained so much into our psyche that we don’t even realize we are doing it. I define this style of dancing as a dance women do to ingratiate themselves so that their tinted worlds remain rosy. They do this dance in most of their relationships, especially with their male partner.
I was surprised to learn that this dance is not restricted to human females alone. It was very interesting to read in Jane Goodall’s autobiography Reason for Hope that female chimpanzees too exhibit this kind of behaviour.
She talks about a time (she spent her whole life recording the live of chimps) when the male chimps were not very happy with a female chimp for what she believes was no reason whatsoever. The female chimp was trying her best to please them by offering them berries and trying to groom them. She had an infant with her and she was trying her best to ingratiate herself to them. The male chimps seemed to thaw a little, but finally they brutally attacked her along with her baby. She suffered horrific injuries and most probably died after that skirmish, as did her infant.
The male chimps had no reason beyond appeasing their domination instinct. They were not provoked. They were just exhibiting this dominant vile nature towards the female of the species who did not harm or threaten them in any way. For some reason, they had got mad at her, and she spent what most likely were her final hours trying to do the Egg Shell dance, hoping that she would be spared. Doesn’t sound very much different from what women have to do to keep their relationship going, doesn’t it?
Why do we women perform the Egg Shell dance in spite of not being at fault? Even if we were at fault, do we expect our men to do the dance when they err at something? They don’t even recognize their faults most of the time and even if they do, more likely than not they will ignore them.
With the remote chance that a man would both recognize and apologize for it, he will be up to the point, and expect the woman to forgive and forget pretty fast, which we women invariably do. However, the reverse is not true. It takes a long time for the man to overcome a genuine mistake or what he thinks is a mistake, made by his woman. The woman in order to prevent an explosion, where the effects of the man’s anger are felt by one and all in the house (especially her kids and sometimes in-laws) decides to go the Egg Shell dance way in order to mitigate the effect. Whether it is her fault or not!
Pathetic, isn’t it? But that is unfortunately the case with most relationships. Maybe the frequency and the intensity might differ, but there is no question that the dynamics of every relationship, have this scenario built into them.
It is very difficult for a woman to break free of this mold. As you can see, even our ancestors seem to have it in their DNA, and I am sure it is ingrained in ours too. It is almost like a knee jerk reaction to a bad situation. A prevention mechanism to ward off further deterioration of an already bad situation.
But where did this situation come from? Well sometimes it can have some reasonable grounds but most of the times, similar to the case of the chimps, it comes out of thin air, out of nowhere in particular. Men are so unsure of their abilities that they need to impress on their woman from time to time that they rule the roost, that they are the dominant ones.
I wish that instead of bowing to their lack of confidence, we refuse to meet their overtures. That we, instead of doing the egg shell dance, just beat a retreat into silence, just the way men do if they don’t want to handle a situation.
So, the next time hubby dearest or anyone else for that matter decides to force you to dance on the Egg Shells, firmly decide not to. This dance happens in your mind first. Break away from it. Maybe do a real dance for a change. Go out for a walk, calm your nerves, tell yourself that you are not worried about stepping on some imaginary egg shells. You don’t need to lower yourself to that level.
Once people around you realize that you are not very keen on doing the egg shell dance, they would stop throwing the egg shells in your path. If they do, just stomp on them. Break every shell you possibly can. Real or imaginary!
Header image is a composite of stills from the movies Secret Superstar and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
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