Why Do Women STILL Enjoy Being Door Mats? in This Provocative Cri De Coeur, One Writer Asks Why - despite Being Better Educated, More Affluent and More Successful in Their Careers Than Ever - So Many Modern Women Still Want to Play the Mindless, Subservient Little Woman Role in Their Relationships

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Byline: CAROL SARLER

WONDERFUL creatures, we women. Selfless, thoughtful, kind and always prepared to put a consideration of others' feelings before our own - or so says a survey by the Priory Group out earlier this year which shows that most British women feel a need to please other people more strongly than a need to please themselves.

We are, the research continues, self-critical, prepared to accept that the fault in a dispute is always, but always, ours; deeply concerned by what others feel about us, lest we rock the boat; reluctant to express our own views, just in case someone else might disagree - and more than willing to go along with our partners' wishes, rather than our own, if we think it will keep them happy.

Or, to put it another way, here in the bright, modern, get-ahead 21st century, women are nothing more than a bunch of wussy doormats.

Further, and most depressing of all, the evidence suggests not that we are beaten into submission so that we behave that way, but that it is an actively chosen pattern of behaviour: there is some latent belief, held by altogether too many of our sex, that to be attractive we need to be 'feminine', to be feminine means to be accommodating - and should we ever, heaven forfend, act assertively we become unlovable.

I know precisely the kind of woman the survey means. Perhaps the most irritating woman I ever met - for many reasons, but for this above all - was one who introduced herself on every occasion, be it a visit or a phone call, with: 'Hello-o-o? It's only me.' Yes: cute, self-deprecating, little 'only'.

If you offered her tea or coffee, she would refuse to choose for fear of - well, what? Offending? 'Oh, I really don't mind. I'll have whatever you're having.' If she could not select a drink, obviously she could not bring herself to an involvement in larger choices.

Her husband might even have liked to know what she thought or preferred, but everything from the children's schools to the next car or the summer holiday was left to him to decide. She would have, again, whatever he was having.

If she had been forced to make a choice - if, say, she had been out to buy a dress - she could never take a compliment on it. 'This? Oooh, it was just something in the sale at Topshop; it was only 10 quid.' You see? She couldn't possibly have splashed out on a bit of a treat. Because she's not worth it.

(Has she never seen a L'Oreal ad?) If you are inclined at this point to feel rather sorry for her and her pitifully low self-esteem, please don't. She had not taken hard knocks to her confidence from parents or husband; she was, instead, a mistress of the art of what psychologists call passive-aggression.

She had her world running as she liked it: all the hard work of responsibility abdicated and meanwhile - it helped that she was exceptionally tiny - she could look adoringly upwards at her world-weary husband, still his little baby doll. The trouble is, that wasn't his fantasy of her; it was hers.

THERE is nothing new about women infantilising themselves, even into middle age and beyond. Anthropologists offer explanations that are no doubt scientifically plausible.

To wear lots of eye makeup, for instance, is to create an illusion of the eyes being larger in proportion to the rest of the face, thus more like a child's, thus closer to the health and fertility of youth that will attract a man with a mind to the propagation of the species. And so forth.

But just because that might be the excuse provided by nature is not an excuse to perpetuate it. Good grief, if we stuck in the grooves of the natural world, we'd still have Neanderthal Man carrying us off over his shoulder and there would never have been the evolution of civilisation.

Still, even if our baby doll is a throwback, she is not alone. There has been no shortage of women over the years who believe that only if he wears the trousers does she earn the right to wear the skirt - and, in doing so, to become a 'real woman' (the adored, dote-upon, baby- doll wife). …