If the better weather outside didn’t tell me that Spring break was here, then the sudden profusion of beach, bikini and boyfriend pictures on Facebook is indication enough. I know that a lot of people put effort into getting into shape for this stupendous moment when their minimalist experiments will adorn their walls. Even though I know that I would personally never have the courage to post a picture of me semi-nude on a public forum, I like these pictures because I think that subconsciously we all seek validation through the Facebook “like” button.
So here I was, one particular evening, liking away images, some more out of pity than true admiration, when my mother spotted a friend of mine in the aforementioned state of grace.
Before I continue further, I feel obliged to provide some kind of background on my parents to establish context. I have been blessed with the privilege of parents who understand me better than I understand myself. Unlike every other teen classmate or friend, I’ve never had to complain that my parents were rooted in archaic principles. They have taught me to be rational and well-informed before making a decision, which means I have been treated as a respected equal (a form that continues to evolve with time). Similarly, I feel obliged to maintain the same level of trust with them.
My parents were the first people to know when I had a boyfriend, when I sampled my first alcoholic drink and when an equation in class has escaped my comprehension. I feel comfortable telling my parents everything about my life, even though they don’t demand it. I feel as though it is only fair that I reciprocate what is an established respected channel of communication and support. Many of my friends are surprised that I share so much with my parents freely. Some say my parents are progressive. Some say that they are extremely understanding. The more I’ve been exposed to the world, the more I discover it is true.
Rather surprisingly, my mother was shocked to tears when she saw my friend in several rather compromising bikini pictures. Having been raised in an Indian household, with a heavy emphasis on modernity and modesty, there are some limits to radicalism as well, and I think bikini pictures are that fine line I do not want to test. I consoled her from what I assumed was a culture shock. and laughingly mentioned that she didn’t have to worry that it would be her daughter. I don’t know what bothered my mother more. The fact that such a picture exists or the fact that it’s in full view on a public forum. My father gave me to understand that it was probably the latter.
I didn’t tell my parents that my friend’s escort was a boyfriend that her parents didn’t quite approve of because of his religion. Again, it is one thing to argue that love transcends religions but it is another thing to question a parent’s belief for what should be a relevant factor in their child’s welfare. My friend has always shrugged it off because she is so far away from home, and she knows that her parents will never find out. Unlike me, she hasn’t added her parents on Facebook, and therefore can “get away” with a lot more than others. I don’t know if I will ever dare to do something which I know would disappoint my loving parents, let alone worry if I can “get away” with it. If anything, they would be the first ones to know of such a crime, and have almost always been the first ones to provide a valid solution. Now, I understand that not all parents are alike. But surely, parents don’t deserve to be in the dark about things that matter in your life?
I tried to justify the image, saying that as long as her parents didn’t know about it or mind it, we shouldn’t either. It was then that my father said something which set me thinking. He said, “Do you think, someday in the future, she would like it if she discovered that her child was doing something like this behind her back?”
I continued to defend my friend, somewhat. After all, she had said that her parents would be perfectly okay with what she did with her life, as long as she was “independent” (financially). My father, who was championing for the parents (absent and present) retorted with a “Do you really think it’s all about the money? Why doesn’t she ask her boyfriend to pay for her education and living expenses then? ” And that’s where I lost the argument. What further possible justification could I have? It’s not really within our scope of jurisdiction to wonder whether her family is okay with her beach escapades, but I’m sure they would prefer to be informed about it from her than from the images cropping up years later from a malicious search in a never-ending database.
I could tell that my parents were mildly disappointed. It wasn’t so much as reconciling the differences in our value systems, but the fact that there was a lack of forethought involved in making images of the sort public. I guess there’s a justification in saying that everyone’s doing the same thing. so why is that a problem? But given the several cultural nuances of modesty that I’ve imbibed, I can tell that there is a difference between an indiscretion made public and an indiscretion in private and an indiscretion in itself.
Afterwards, when my mother still seemed a bit shaken, my father reluctantly admitted that as much as he didn’t want to praise me to my face, he was still very proud that I had chosen to abide by my ideas of modesty. I wont’ deny it, there have been days on end when I have wondered if perhaps I covered a little less surface area of my body, could I be bestowed with superficial attention? I have come to learn that perhaps that is not the sort of attention I want. Maybe that’s why my parents are proud, and as complex as it is, I will try my best to uphold the very same reasons that continue to make them proud.