Is it a man’s world?

You could say that Serbia’s women get the worse part of the national and religious holidays, customs and superstitions, and at first glance it really does look like that.

In some parts of the world – the developed ones – the ones the regime wants us to think we’re a part of and fight against at the same time… they have a day when mothers get presents from their children. Serbia doesn’t.

Actually, we do have Mothers Day here, although it’s not quite the same – you get to tie up their hands and feet while they’re asleep and don’t release them until they give you money.

At least that’s how it looked a hundred years ago, because now you can’t have both – you either have the joy of tying her up or you must repress your sadistic needs and get a few dinars for it (wow, this sounds… strange, but it’s really not as brutal as it sounds… it’s quite fun, actually, for both mothers and children).

And on 14th of February, when the rest of the world celebrates St. Valentine’s and spends a small fortune on flowers, perfume and red lingerie, we have St. Tribune’s day. He was, and if you believe in afterlife, the protector of wine, so on that day everyone gets to see if “In vino veritas” has any real truth in it, all for free. Needless to say, most of the people who have any real desire to check that out are men.

But anybody who says that women are mistreated here didn’t hear of the “International Women’s Day” we have on March 8th. I don’t know how international it is – I never heard it mentioned anywhere else – but I honestly hope for the sake of all the men in the world it stays confined to this country’s boundaries.

You don’t have to buy a present just for your mother or wife or whatever (pardon, whoever) you’re in a relationship with, you get the honour of making every single woman you know happy that day. “By giving gifts”, I should add, before anybody starts thinking the whole of Serbia turns into one great big red light district.

And it’s not only that, because you then have to treat them like gods – they have shorter work hours, they don’t get traffic violation tickets, they get to go on shopping tours. There’s no law that gives them all those rights, but it’s just not polite to mistreat a woman on that day, or so it’s thought.

It would all be bearable if gift items kept their normal price, but just like anywhere else in the world, the weather this year was bad, the temperatures were low, we got a lot of radiation from the bombing – Nature, God and the NATO alliance, all conspired to get the price of flowers in Serbia to record heights.

This year, however, there was some unexpected help from none other than the Chinese. Now, even if your knowledge of geography is limited to knowing which way is left and which is right, you can probably tell that China is a very long way from here, making the fact that every town here with a population larger than 10,000 has a Chinatown all the more mysterious.

It’s not like they’ve been populating the area for years. Two or three years ago some people here didn’t even know what a Chinese looked like, but after the “mistaken” Chinese embassy bombing they’re everywhere, setting up markets in junk warehouses, abandoned parking lots and old bookstores (Books and school supplies? Bah! Fire crackers and highly toxic super glue is what this country’s youth really needs.)

Even if Yugoslavia’s foreign minister brought back a few hundred Chinese (as souvenirs?) every time he got back from his official trips to China, which are by now measured in dozens, several thousands of them currently working in Serbia would still be left unaccounted for.

Are they a secret army acting as one of the last lines of China’s defence against a possible NATO attack, or have the Chinese economic planners got it so wrong to think of Serbia as a new and potentially booming market?

Actually, it’s neither. They are anything but stupid, so what we get of their goods is only what they can’t sell to Romania or Bulgaria, who get what they can’t sell in Russia, who get the things they can’t sell in their own country, and to their own people they give what they can’t sell in the US, which is junk anyway.

So basically, what we’re buying from them is like the tasteless muck you get when trying to make tea from the same tea bag for the sixth time, and the really sad part is that most of it is still better than most of what we used to get.

And who’s to blame? Or should I ask which member of the Milosevic family got his or hers present two days ago? And then I could rephrase it to ‘who actually wears the pants in that family anyway?’. I’ll give you a hint – it’s not Sloba. When four years ago Serbia’s opposition won the local elections, Slobodan Milosevic said to his cabinet they should accept the results because it was a good thing, giving them a challenge for the upcoming federal elections. But then he had a chat with his wife Mira, and the next day the results were annulled. Their former friends said, with a special accent given to the adjective ‘former’, that there was a lot of china flying around that night in their house.

And while he was in Dayton negotiating on that peace accord (now failing miserably in Bosnia), he left his hosts with a giant phone bill he made calling Mira every night. And every time an important decision was about to be made, he was sending her kisses and pet names like Pumpkin right there in front of the most revered diplomats in the world.

Now doesn’t that bring it all into perspective? Unfortunately, nobody’s there to tell Mira that her little holiday is an insult to Serbia’s women, giving them more trouble than it’s worth. A new name for that day comes to mind – “Ok, you’ll all be goddesses for this one day, but boy will you get crap from us during the rest of the year just to be even”. A pleasure / pain thing…