Today, I take a passive pride in wearing jewelry and make-up, even though I know that at some level, I’m just boosting my ego to a shallow external world. Deep inside, I know that when I wear these vibrant colors, when I dress up, when I feel the eyes of the world on me, I m finally accepting, embodying, one of my most fundamental identities: an Indian girl.
I used to dread dressing up for some reason. It always seemed to be too much of an inconvenience to manage to get my clothes right. It came to a point where I was tired of analyzing my shape in the mirror and asking myself what would possibly look good on me. Usually, most people who graduated from a high school to some form a pre-university institution were allowed to wear whatever they want (given the restrictive boundaries of a dress code). I was glad that I landed up in an institution with an enforced uniform. With the uniform, it didn’t seem like so much of a bother to decide what to wear everyday. With the uniform, my school dressing didn’t come to me standing before my closet, extending an arm to pluck out some random clothing from a messed up closet and then pulling that shapeless mess over my head.Perhaps it was because of the strict years of uniform enforcement that I had come to care so much about how I looked. Since I looked the same everyday, on a working day, I wanted people to see my other avatars. I wanted my friends and peers to see me when I was not being just a plain schoolgirl. After all, we wear what we embody. The clothes that we choose to wear define our purpose, something that is crudely exemplified by lab coats and aprons. The school uniform was a reminder of the institution that belonged to, and how I represented through my words thoughts and actions within and beyond it’s walls. Despite the few occasions within school that I got to be somebody different (dramatics, sports captains, etc.), I wanted to explore how to best represent the other aspects of my personality.Why did it matter to me so much how I looked? As a self-conscious teenager, who progressed on the scale of awkwardness as time passed by, I was already an oddity for being naturally tall. So, I strove to either mask myself with the background, hoping to take some of the attention off me. On the rare days I felt something remotely like a diva, I would choose to embark on the ambitious project of dressing myself up. I would begin this process only to realize that I wasn’t as good at it as I wanted to be, so I would slink my tastes back to something “safe”.I think it was only in college that I finally embraced being girly. Years of awkwardness and awkward fumbling, and being criticized for wearing what I chose to had made me choose a standard gear for myself: A sort of non-symbolized, non-glorified uniform. It had to be something that was in colors I could endure and carry off, and something that did not involve any physical nuances about it. Until I discovered that I had grown beyond caring what other people would think of me, and more so that gave me the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to wear however I please. If anybody had a less than appreciative opinion of my attire, it was going to be their problem, not mine.And so, for the first time, beyond my staple jeans, and a sweater and a pair of ever-reliable black converse sneakers, I told myself that it was time to bring in some more color into my being, to be a little more. In college, I have the flexibility of being me to the fullest (weather permitting, of course) and thus began the infiltration of brighter, and if I may say so, more “feminine” colors into my wardrobe. As a confused tomboy, I used to think that feminism meant beating the boys at their own game, until they wake up and realize that they’re up against a girl. Then, as reality and experiences told me, that most of the young, juvenile males my age, could not be susceptible to such epiphanies. As I grew to accept the more female version of me, I realized that hiding my femininity wasn’t leading to any rapid acceptances anyway. So, why not dress up and look girly? After all, I am a girl.