Aroma

You know what the air smells of in the cold early mornings that I wake up to? Not the bacon I could have got the supermarket for $3 off, not the cheap coffee brew that is $5, not even the Starbucks brew that is $7 and most certainly not the $11 aromatic shower-gel which claims to give my skin a shine it will have never worn before.

When I was younger and I heard the children coughing in the 3 degree warm streets, I used to hurriedly stub out my cigarette because I felt responsible somehow for their wellness. Now the very same children share lighters with me, and I regret having unnecessarily squeezed out many of the good ones before I had used them to their fullest. But it will not do for me to hide in the shade and the poverty, I have to find something to eat before I am reduced to chewing my own sweater. And it will be a shame, because I am not nimble enough to steal another one at this age.

I was told, in my youth, that the posture of a lady speaks a lot to her beauty. Sit up straight. Walk upright. Never slouch. Walk confidently. Sway your hips if you have them. Set your feet on the ground with determination as if you have a right to walk the earth. Wear the shoes that scream your birthright. Keep those legs in shape, my girl. You never know when they will come handy. I cannot prowl. I cannot lurk. I cannot sulk or stalk. My old, worn out, uncomfortable heels that I have stolen from someone’s backstage clatter down the unfortunate alley as I sashay my way to find food.

The grubby little girls stop and stare. The grubby little boys stop and stare. When there are so many pairs of poor, filthy and uneducated eyes on me, I have to obviously do something spectacular. I take a long pull on my cigarette and blow it up into the cloudy sky, like the dream-catchers at fairs blowing up sparkles into the night. I live off the idolization of children now. This is what has become of me. It doesn’t even spike my guilt when I hear the children break off into groups behind my backs and practice blowing circles from their thinning lips and fragile lungs into the foggy air which heralds sub-zero temperatures.

Clack. Clack. Clack. Do you hear my heels talking? Exactly. They’re counting out how much I care. I can’t be responsible if they grow up and decide that the only way they seek their worth is by ruining their hard-earned money on cigarettes.

I try to enter the subway station, where the morning rush hour has started. I squeeze my form in their midst. A few of the “Excuse me, please”, “Oh, I’m sorry, don’t mind me”, “Lady, can’t you see where you’re going?” -s later, I have already brushed past 14 different kinds of coats and retrieved 6 different tickets and 3 different denominations of spare change. They smell of perfume and money and leather coats. They smell of the things I can’t have. The smell of the life that I have dreamed of beyond my cigarette-ensconced hell-hole which is comfortably warm because I burn both my money and health to keep it alive.

Finally. Finally I feel equipped. There is the store nearby where the old shopkeeper makes it his business to evaluate the functional operations of my legs, critiquing it from shape to how accessible it is. Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack. My wispy hair tries to follow the wind. Clack. Clack. My presence is announced into the store by the little bell that hangs by the door. All eyes are on me, the show must continue. I pull out five of the seven dollars from today’s conquests in notes that I haven’t bothered to carefully fold. I must dispense with someone else’s money as though it were rubbish and not as if it were my blood. After all, it’s not my blood.

“Two packs,” is literally the first thing I have said all morning. My babies are transferred to me over the counter and even though I am weak in the knees at the thought of tearing off that paper, I hold my ground.

“Will that be all?”

See, this where life is unfair. It should have been all. It should have sufficed for everything. It should have made everything okay, especially in this dingy little world and this pathetic store where I am being leered at and the air is the smell of last decade’s subway.

“Uh….And uh….a soda.” I have declared a momentary truce with my stomach and perhaps I will smoke out the rest of my hunger if that is what this war will take.

For $1.39 and taxes, I have two dollars left. Two dollars that will be negotiated afterwards with my stomach and my escapism and my hopeless need for attention.

The wrapper on them claims that cigarettes are injurious to health, and that there are versions that are “cancer-free”. It almost sounds like the “I will leave my wife and marry you” line that the man says when you realize that only one person out of the two invited you to their life.

You know what the air smells of in the cold early mornings that I wake up to? Happy little cancer-causing lies. That’s what they smell of.

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Jane Austen’s Emma/ Sonam Kapoor’s Aisha: In which I discover that happy endings can disgust me too.

On the rare weekend nights when the moon is already halfway across the sky and the Harlem skyline is still dotted with the lights of nocturnal overtime, I decided to lull myself to sleep with Jane Austen’s Emma.

To those who haven’t yet read it, don’t. It is tediously long and easily my least favorite of all of Austen’s works. As an Austen novel, I understand that there’s a special emphasis on dinners, manners, other people’s problems and gossipy village life. There’s also a focus on the marriage potential of every single lady of age in town and often it is inversely proportional to the number of young interested men in said town. I respected the book as well I could, given that these events must have been worth constructing a plot about in the late eighteenth century, when women really did not enjoy as much freedom in choice of employment.

Even with this wide margin, the book was getting tedious on several dimensions and I saw no reason why it had to be stretched out over three volumes. I was about to abandon it (and it would have been the first ever book I will have picked up and not read), when a friend recommended a different method of absorbing the story: The Bollywood movie Aisha. Based on Austen’s Emma, the lovely Sonam Kapoor proceeded to play a character that I intensely hated for the entire first half and then completely pitied for the rest.

Let me clarify. This is not a movie review or even a book review. Personally, I have nothing against Sonam Kapoor, as I rather admire her for being an expressive lady. But I am seriously displeased with several aspects that the movie highlighted and expected us to take for granted.

I could excuse Austen’s Emma for literally not having a life and therefore desperately seeking some form of amusement. But the Aisha Kapoor, the fancy rich girl who is too prone to pity anything that is mildly middle-class and views her amusement as “social service” was incredibly hard to swallow. Let me not even get into questioning her philosophy about love and life. She doesn’t have a job, lives almost completely off an extremely doting father’s money and spends the most of her days in malls and boutiques, when she could be making so much more of herself. The sort of idleness that makes my skin crawl.

There is literally a segment in the movie when she takes offense at Arjun Burman (The Mr. Knightley equivalent of the novel) calling her “shallow”. Please explain to me how she is not. Her cousin is declared pathetic because she is traditional and conservative. Dhruv Singh (Mr. Frank Churchill of the novel) is labeled boring and nerdy when he was trying to work hard, but now is declared “hot” because he opens the door for women semi-nude. She is jealous of the girl who is Mr. Knightley’s companion (Aarti Menon/Jane Fairfax) because her legs are long, she works with Arjun and she has a New York accent. She gets annoyed with everyone for not obeying her rules. She is selfish, self-centered and gets away with things that are downright objectionable.

Despite this, Mr. Knightley/Arjun Burman is miraculously in love with her.

A bold, brave, honorable and accomplished “true gentleman” in Austen’s words rendered well by Abhay Deol is constantly by her side, making sure she is always extricated out of trouble. All he gets for his friendship are her snarky comments at his female friends. All he gets for his love is the perpetual bickering that is not even cute enough for children, let alone full-grown adults.He has a life, hobbies, talents, manners and a job. It is boggling my mind to understand why a guy like him would settle for someone like Aisha.

There is another part of the movie when Aisha is stinging from some well-meant (and well-deserved) criticism from Arjun and she snorts into her pillow saying, “He’s just a Wharton graduate who makes money. What does he know about love and life?” Because this movie shows that obviously, Wharton alumni clearly have no idea what making good decisions are about. In the spirit of a world-class management education, explain to me why, after having an education that is so expansive and coming across people who are no doubt equally accomplished in an international environment, why would you settle for a spoilt child like Aisha?

Dude, seriously. get out of the screen and explain this to me. I study at an Ivy League university, I know what I’m talking about. What makes you think that all of the experiences that I’ve had here about growing up as a person will be nullified once I graduate?

The answer as the movie elaborately throws into my face is that they are childhood friends. They have known each other since forever, and she has been the one to “teach him how to laugh at life”. Now, I’m not denying that relationships do blossom out of well-maintained childhood friendships. I would have tried to be less caustic about the movie if they had just started dating. But no. THEY MARRIED. He literally made the best management decision of his life and decided to spend the rest of his life pandering to the amusement of the Aisha.

This is not something casual because of a physical attraction or whatever. Do you really think that marriage will make her more mature? Less self-centered? Less obsessed with the pathetic, shallow and materialistic things about life? Do you, Mr. Knightley, feel that your well-meant advice will be heard and do you really want to take on the additional responsibility of such a fragile temperament when life gets tough?  Also, how do you determine whom you marry as a child? The reason such instances are statistically rare is because people grow up and grow into wiser adults. Arjun/Mr. Knightley just lost all my respect by choosing her among the milieu.

The movie and the book talk a lot about class. About how to find people in your own tier. The Harriet Smith/Shefali Thakur character is made an example of. A simple-minded “lower-class” girl is taught how to live the rich life and forced to believe that she will find someone who is the son of a millionaire to marry her. Now, I don’t take much stock in these social stratifications. Because my “class distinctions” are based more on what comes out of your mouth and what you have to say and think than what you wear or the paycheck of your parents. The intellectual wavelengths of Arjun and Aisha are too disparate to be reconciled with love. I, for one, would hate to be trapped into marriage with someone who is incapable of deciding what to do with her life beside spending her father’s money.What of the class distinctions here? Why not marry the accomplished New York expatriate instead of this bumbling shopaholic?

I will finish up this rant with another about happy endings. To be honest, one of the reasons why I enjoy Austen is because I’m certain that there’s a happy ending. This has to be the first Austen book where I have despised the protagonist so much that I wished Mr. Knightley didn’t step in and “save her” from being single. On the other hand, maybe Mr. Knightley did us all a favor and stopped her from setting up other people’s marriages and not giving a fig for their feelings because she knows what’s best, don’t you know? Basically, this happy ending says that if you’re doing nothing with your life, try to get snarky, jealous and childish around your now-rich childhood friend and they shall marry you because of your astounding earth-shattering beauty and your supposed good-will fueled out of pity and not the genuine wish to see others do better.

Ugh. It’s too late for me now to deal with this. Emma/Aisha has ruined my night. I might as well sleep it off. Goodnight.

Romance, race and questions of identity

Sometimes I feel that my opinions or perspectives are less judged harshly when a fictional character speaks them instead of a true human being. But maybe it’s time to express a few of my opinions as personal, however unpalatable they might be deemed. I haven’t talked about romance for a while on my blog, and recently something has come across which has spiked my radar.

I decided to put one fine Monday of my summer to good use: foray the universe of Harry Potter fan-fiction. For whatever expectation I had of fan-fiction, this work has surpassed it completely and I must somewhat shamefully admit that I am addicted to re-reading this whenever I can. I don’t want to sound like I favor one fandom over another, but here is a Draco-Hermione version that actually does the characters justice. Bex-chan, the author of this fabulous work has my immense support and gratitude. If you are above 18 and you so dare, here it is: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6291747/1/Isolation

I have recently been trying to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to be ashamed of secretly indulging in a good/turbulent/passionate love story every once in a while. Given that I have a history of severely shunning the feminine aspects of me and my awful, short romantic history, I feel that the appeal in reading a good love story lies in that I can picture myself as the female protagonist easily, and be assured of having my affections returned. After all, it is flattering to be admired, isn’t it? It is flattering to know that someone out there who is charming and attractive cares about you, accepts you for who you are, changes you into a better person and embodies perfection. Even if such a person is a work of fiction. Even if the high is momentary. For that period when you are trapped between pages of your escapism, the assumption of guaranteed admiration is enough.

So there I was, several chapters down and embodying the very spirit of Hermione, until I realized that the physical descriptions started to fail. My illusion began to fall apart because even though the romance between a Muggle-born and a pure blood wizard sounds tenuous, it is far more tenuous to assume that someone will transcend the cultural baggage that I carry from home and the ethnic boundaries that my tradition has established. How can I ever expect someone in the real world to adapt to the collection of dissimilarities that I am? At what point does the illusion become too lovely to be real and should I stop this stupid fragile heart of mine from nursing the notion that perhaps someday I will experience something similar?

At the other end of the spectrum is the Yellow Fever syndrome or equivalents. The idea that someone’s availability is dependent sorely on how exotic they are. There’s research on this as well, and it is encompassed by an umbrella theory called “Exotic is erotic” by Dr. Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University. This is the borderline racist territory that we, as human beings, are superficial to the point where we reduce a strong relationship to the mere fascination of the obvious.

I apologize if I sound like a pessimist, but too often I see this portrayed in real life. There may be many multiracial couples, but they are sparse in the Indian community that I interact with. There are many examples of Indian boys from back home who would unabashedly admire the blond girl in shorts and would even frequent many a frat party or so to “get with” her. But should they chance upon an Indian girl there, her reputation is ruined forever. She is no longer one of the girls that they can take home and show to their mother how pure/chaste/marriageable she is, even though they’d rather hook up with the blond girl that with her. My hope is that the “many examples” are not all, and perhaps even beyond the boundaries of race and ethnicity there are people who love other people for simply being people.

For a very long time, I had tacitly assumed that I could never be perceived as desirable by anyone who was not Indian, and even among them I was perceived to be as quite the oddball. But I have put in a lot of work on my self-esteem (namely by focusing my anxiety and efforts elsewhere), and I have realized that perhaps there is more than just beauty, more than even an attraction to a personality that boils down to a relationship. From the relationships that surround me, I know that a lot of what is love appears to be duty, sacrifice, teamwork and the tenacity to ride through the hard times. Even then, do I dare to hope that even some of the glamour of intense attachment will come alive from the pages and touch my life?

Perhaps it has already touched my life. Perhaps a corner of my mind is softly wrapping up the memories like delicate figurines for the one day when love will come knocking again. Until then, I continue to read and be overwhelmed with vicarious joy.

Reference links:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-pacific-heart/201304/yellow-fever-the-exotification-asian-women

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1002050303320#page-1

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1996-01742-006

 

 

Cracks In My Armor

This may just be my most honest blog post yet. I’m going to talk about why I’m scared to be myself. I’m going to talk about why I have this perpetual need to keep comparing myself against other people, and how I resort to punishing myself for simply being me. As it is, dear reader, I don’t want your pity or sympathy, even though you may be humane enough to give them to me. I don’t want them because I’m going to tell the story of me unadulterated, to remind myself that I have conquered several demons, most of whom have lived inside my head for years and whom I battle even now.

There was a time in my life when I was afraid of being alone. I was always scared of new people who interacted with my friends because I was terrified that my friends would always abandon me for that new fascination. As a kid, it used to be the new resident with the shiny toy. Over the years, this perpetual fear of isolation has morphed into a judgment of not being worthy enough. But I have come to love solitude. I have come to respect the fact that even I need space, if I am to search for truly worthy companionship. I have build my self-esteem to the point where I don’t have to feel like I hate myself.

Sometimes, I have this desperate need to be understood. I talk to my friends and family and they all advise me, and they make my problems look so small and stupid that I feel as though I’ve been a burden on them simply for existing.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m not interesting enough for a person. I am surrounded by so many talented brilliant people that I feel hollow within. It frightens me that other people can see through my facades and tell what’s going on because they know they have me at an advantage. So they do take advantage. Once that ordeal is done and their utility satisfied, they leave and I am left to wondering about the pieces of myself. I don’t play sports. I don’t watch TV, or at least I don’t watch what everyone else likes to watch. I don’t listen to the kind of things or read the kind of material that “everyone else” likes to do. I was given to understand that in this large world of people, I would surely find that one niche of people who would be like me.

It wasn’t school. Or High school. I was deluded when I thought that admission to an Ivy League institution could mean something. I haven’t yet found those people who like me enough to spend time with me.

My best friend rarely spends time with me because she’s always busy and because she’s in a relationship. Granted, we all have that phase when we are deeply enamored and therefore deeply vested into that one solitary person and his/her quirks. She doesn’t realize that I miss her. But then again, I’ve made these demands to her and somehow I am not important enough, so looks like I’m just going to have to accept it. This is probably going to sound incredibly whiny and you can heap scorn on me as much as you please (World lesson: people love to do that), I’m not important enough for anyone.

I’m a repository of other people’s dreams and expectations and their extremely fickle standards and somehow, anyhow, I am searching for that one answer to what my self worth is truly worth.

I would have talked more about relationships, except that’s probably not a Pandora’s Box I want to open just yet.

Or maybe I do. I live in constant terror of rejection. By friends, by that one crush, by that family who loves me so much. I feel as though I’m not doing enough to make these people proud of me. It makes me tear up every time when my parents say that they’re proud of me because deep down inside I wonder if I have truly earned the love and admiration of such people. I am trapped in my own convolutions. I have a problem with not getting enough love and not feeling I’m worth it when I am getting it.

I live in constant fear of being “annoying” and “lame”. Because that was what led to my abandonment several times, and I consciously try to fit in so hard that I don’t have to be seen as the weakest link. There are times when people around me don’t extend the same courtesy to me. For the most part I grin and bear it. For the rest, I run away.

Most of the time I don’t feel good enough or funny enough or anything enough. I read this very insightful post the other day about how people who are truly funny are people who have survived emotional wounds in order to recognize the true value of humor. The humor I’m surrounded with is merely pathetic wordplay and lame puns, and somehow everyone in the world loves those. I feel as though they are eroding away at my sense of self-worth. Have I stopped understanding people to not be funny anymore?

The other day I went to a friend’s party and two friends complimented me on looking “pretty” and “hot” respectively. One was a stark sober acquaintance. The other was a very drunk best friend (same one as above). I thought the former was being too kind and the latter was too drunk to know what she was saying. My friend is superficial at times and it bother me very much, but I’m coming to terms with it. The world has told me enough times that I’m not pretty or attractive and I’ve managed to deal with it by telling myself, “I don’t need to be pretty or attractive to be a successful, happy person.”

I can’t tell you how pathetic it feels to be unrecognized or deemed ugly. This is one of the reasons why I vacillate between extremes. Universe, either make me beautiful, so beautiful that there is no doubt as to my true worth. Or make me ugly, so horribly ugly that I can revel in the fact that I am this way and that nothing can compete with my ugliness. My best friend, when sober, claims to be a good judge of such aesthetics and I have always been labeled with the “Not Bad”. Almost as if an afterthought, as though catering to that desperate hungry overwhelming need to be accepted and recognized and loved and appreciated. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be happy?

Let’s now ignore this very large chunk of reality and focus ourselves onto more practical and necessary ideas – such as academics, a career and so on and so forth. Recently I got a 0/150 in a programming assignment where out of five files (four of which were solid code and the fifth was a little tool to stitch them together), I submitted only four (forgot the fifth). Without that one two-liner of a file, the rest of my code doesn’t work. It compiled but it didn’t “work”. And voila, a 0. I had several opportunities to re-check my work.

I am terrified of being careless. It’s not that I don’t know the material or that I’m not smart enough to understand it. Luckily, that’s one of the few things working in my favor. But the very fact that everything hinges on that one small detail which I missed. It might cost me a letter-grade, which might me a cost me a research position, which might cost me a job, which might cost me the disappointment of my immensely loving and caring family who do not deserve this for their efforts.

My father says I worry about the future too much. I know this thing for sure. Even though it wears my mental energy down significantly, I have this obsessive compulsive need to worry and it eats into my health, my sanity and moreover my happiness.

I worry that I’m not resourceful enough. That I’m not justifying the $60,000+ that my parents have invested into me in order to make something of myself. There have been times when I simply break down and ask them why did they choose such a futile endeavor and they justify by saying that they know this investment of their time, love, emotions and money is not going to fail. That I am molding myself into something worthwhile, even though I don’t know it.

I used to be scared of growing up. Because I didn’t want to abandon the love and joy of childhood for whatever it was. I remember being the melancholy little child wondering about the Big Bad World, and now that I am in the Big Bad World I have no way of going back. More so, I know that if I do go back I’ll end up repeating the same mistakes.

Tonight I have finally finished 6 hours of continuous finals. A decisive battle has been complete, but not won. I am so exhausted after last night’s weeping about my self-esteem. But more so, I have finally found a reason to be proud of myself. My parents tell me that one of my strongest attributes is the ability to pick myself up and continue. Today, I feel as though I might have accomplished that. Despite all my fears, I have come to moving beyond them. Solitude has become my friend. There are times when I need self-reflection, not self-criticism, but reflection. I am not as ready to chastise myself for the smallest things as before.

I’m still fighting the hardest battle yet, and that is to hold on to my sanity and somehow love myself.

On judging and being judged

Judgement (Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

(Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

I’ve spent a large portion of my adolescence watching and discovering other people. I think one of the sole reasons that I am an extrovert is that I tend to absorb a lot of the world that is around me, visually and aurally. Given my compulsion to over-analyze details about my life and a pseudo-flimsy self-esteem, I think this bad habit was something I indulged in with unhealthy frequency.

It’s odd how I suppress all these internal realizations as I am a very transparent extrovert. I have difficulties lying or deceiving. This is not due to some obligatory moral ethos holding me back. I am simply unable to fake it. It can be construed as a good or a bad thing. Good in that, I am intrinsically honest. Bad, in that, it allows other people to manipulate me rather easily. One of the easiest ways I used to get embroiled in high-school battles was because someone would approach me, pretend to care about me, tell me of their emotional problems and expect me to agree with them. I’ll admit that I gave in to that all too easily. Empathy seemed like the only route for friendship to a lonely person.

Despite all my transparency, I could not openly express anger or spite as well I needed to. Through some force of personal grooming, I would isolate myself and let the negativity fester inside me till it had permanently stained the memory of that event.

For all my aggression, I mutely accepted the world’s rubbish by excusing them as immaturities. It dawned on me that at some level this was intentional. People did want to hurt me for no fault of my own. Or perhaps some perceived fault of my own. But despite that, I tried not to let these instances cloud my general opinion about that person. I make mistakes, too. It’s only right that I forgive someone else’s.

Except that’s not how the world always works. Positive slogans that claim, “Treat others as you would like to be treated” are not often followed by people. You do not get treated by others the way you treat them. Some will treat you like princesses even on the days when life seems gloomy. Some will spite you no matter what. Some will merely smile back politely and make small talk as you wait next to them in the elevator. I learned that everyone, under the external layer of politeness, was judging me, evaluating me, closing off parts of themselves to me, categorizing me into some stereotype or niche in their head. For some people, this first impression process is cast in stone, with others, the labels change with time.

I’m not going to be very self-righteous and say that I don’t judge people, because I do. There used to be a point when I wanted to make friends with everyone so badly that I didn’t set up any stereotypes in my head at all. I wanted to know people for the actual real people they are, not what they represent. This liberal outlook was rewarded with coming across some very unhappy people all the more willing to siphon off their negativity onto me. But, like chasing all the good things of life, I persisted.

I am lucky that this trait has survived with me. In some way, how a person presents themselves to another person does influence my understanding of them somewhat. One of my prime judgmental criteria lies in how people talk about things around them. Are you constantly complaining? Are you using way too many superlative objects for mundane things about life? What are you passionate about? Those are the things that I will notice about you. If you show passion and dedication, or appear knowledgeable about a subject of your choice, you have endeared yourself to me. I may not necessarily agree with your opinion, but I will appreciate the loyalty with which you stick to it.

After high school, as I started meeting more of the world, I realized that there were other criteria as well. People liked me because I was skinny. People did not like me that I wasn’t pretty enough for their attention. People did not like me because I wasn’t fair enough or something. I still don’t quite understand how you can judge a human being based on their physical appearance, because I don’t they can help it. You are born and have grown the way your genetic structure and health habits have led you to. But pessimism, optimism, sarcasm and the like are all cultivated, by the person’s own choice, so everything about that is under their control.

I got into an argument with a friend once. She claimed that she would date only guys who fulfilled a certain physical criteria, as in tall, well-built, fit, etc. It sounded (and still sounds) rather shallow to me. She justified by saying that a well-maintained body shows some dedication and passion. Her stance was that a guy who knows how to look after himself is equally well capable of looking after her, if she should choose to be in a relationship with him. Physical maintenance seemed to be a way of showing how much a guy was willing to invest into well-being. While I cannot disagree that health is important, I still cannot reconcile that to the idea that all fit people must “look” a certain way. You can be fit and not be skinny. You can be fit and not have a six-pack.More so, she then turned the argument and asked me whether I didn’t estimate the dating potential of a guy through his looks. I didn’t and I’m proud to say that I still don’t. I may casually notice aesthetics, but even that is at an arm’s length. I start observing about you the instant you start talking. That tells me not just of a guy’s dating potential, but also of his friend potential.

The reason why I was compelled to write this rather rant-like post is because I have this acquaintance, who judges people and proclaims it proudly. We call each other our friends, but more often that not, he is brusque and nasty. More so, he isn’t afraid of dealing it out to me. Through the last few months, when my self-esteem was convalescing, I’ve shrugged it off. But now I have this instinct to hand my opinion of him on a platter. I try to tell myself that I am more mature than he is and that I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. He is not necessarily a bad person, and maybe I’m simply overreacting to his twisted humor, but somehow, I don’t think that I should accept his bad treatment. Pardon me, I seem to be reverting back to the behavioral cycle I referred to in the beginning. I think I’m just going to avoid him, minimize contact so I don’t have to invest mental energy in worrying about whether I have evaded his scathing criticisms.

Which brings me back to judging. Why should you judge someone? After all, do they not deserve an opportunity to feel special in their own right? Some people say that judging is a defense mechanism. Somehow by categorizing someone else in their head as something demeaning, awful or caricatured, people try to boost their own self-esteem. Blame it on my naiveté, but I honestly didn’t know that could be true. Until I heard a story from another friend who told me that the guy she liked rejected her because she was “too chubby” and then went on to gloat about it. I’m not here to evaluate whether or not my friend is chubby or isn’t or maybe she has self-esteem issues or whatever. But I do blame this guy for having such a shallow criterion. Are you really going to abandon a girl, walk out of her life, break her heart into possibly irretrievable pieces the day her clothing size grows by one unit? I realize I may come across as slightly sexist with the number of male antagonists in this piece, but I know that this sort of opinion is not just limited to gender, age, shape or any demographic.

There are many ways to shrug off the feeling of being judged. Usually, the most effective method is to ignore. I’m sure there are several others, but learning to ignore is the most effective tool I’ve cultivated thus far. Don’t worry future self (and readers), someday, we’re gonna be above these nagging doubts that keep trying to claw us down.

Naked Gossip

Our society judges women for what they wear. Especially back home, girls do feel threatened by the fact that people will evaluate them and critique them for what they choose to wear. This short story, presented entirely in dialog form shows a different perspective. It also tries to bring out one of my least favorite modes of transmission of information: word of mouth. The dialog shapes the character of the central person entirely.

Modesty and other crafted opinions Image Credits: http://melzika.deviantart.com/art/Fabric-Portrait-214598450 by Melzika on dA

Modesty and other crafted opinions
Image Credits: http://melzika.deviantart.com/art/Fabric-Portrait-214598450 by Melzika on dA

“Have you seen that girl?”

“The snobby one?”

“Yeah…. Is she new to school? ”

“No. No. She used to be that little mouse at the back of the class. The quiet one, remember? ”

“REALLY?! Is that her?!”

“Yeah!  Did you see how she came to school today?”

“I did. You have no idea how surprised I was to actually find her wearing clothes! ”

“I know, right?  What does she think of herself?”

“Why would she even do something so outrageous?”

“It’s like she’s pretending that her body is so unique that she’s got something to hide.”

“You should have seen the way all the boys in class were staring at her.They were all murmuring about why she needs to cover her body, especially with something as opaque as fabric.”

“I bet that’s why she did it, that attention seeker.”

“But still, you know, wearing clothes is pretty ghastly.”

“She must be really desperate if she wants boys to look at her when she’s clothed.”

“Thank goodness we don’t need to deprive ourselves of natural sunlight just to have friends.”

“Apparently, one of the teachers reported her.”

“I heard. I am not surprised. Wearing clothes? Come on. That kind of thing ages our skin. Imagine having it chafe across your body every time you move.”

“Ew. I wonder how she deals with it.”

“I guess maybe the attention makes up for it.”

“But it’s such a pretty pathetic plea, you know?  Oh, please look at me because I’m depriving myself of natural nutrients and unnecessarily irritating my skin. I’m such a martyr. Please like me.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Anyway, so one of the teachers pulled her aside and asked her why she was being so inappropriate.”

“And then?”

“And she was all, oh, this is my body. I live in a free world, so I can do whatever I want to my body and so on.”

“Rubbish. She just wants people to notice her. And talk about her.”

“Oh my goodness, yes!  Some of the junior school kids were running away from her.”

“You know that other shy kid, who used to sit next to her and we all assumed he liked her? ”

“What about him?”

“Yeah, so he was so stunned by her “clothed” look…”

“Honestly, nobody in the world could have imagined her capable of such a thing. But go on.”

“He was so stunned that he actually tied a wristband to show off to her that he wasn’t afraid of wearing fabric.”

“I’m don’t know whether that’s funny, ridiculous, weird or all three! ”

“Freaks, the entire lot. You know what happened next?”

“No. Tell me.”

“So, he tried to approach her when she was clothed, and she just turned around and said, ‘Oh you think you’re cool just by copying my style?’ ”

“What?! Nobody in the world would want to copy her style!”

“I thought he didn’t either. He apparently threw the fabric away, shortly after. I don’t think he has spoken to her since.”

“Well, I mean, you approach a lunatic who wears clothes, you probably deserve to be snubbed. At least now he can go befriend normal people.”

“It was pretty mean of her, though. Treating him like that. I mean just because you wear clothes doesn’t give you the right to treat everyone else like filth, especially since he was one of the few who talked to her even when she didn’t wear them.”
“I guess his company wasn’t enough, so she had to go all out and do something completely bold.”

“Ugh. Then she becomes a snob, as if being an outcast is the coolest thing that happened to her.”

“Given her life, it probably is.”

“Can you imagine her sleeping with them on? ”

“No way. I’m pretty sure she takes them off once she’s back home. Her skin would itch terribly. Besides, I’m sure her family wouldn’t be okay with it.”

“I heard her boasting that she didn’t even take them off when she went back home.”

“Lies. As if her family would let her.”

“They apparently don’t care.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s just tall talk. She comes from a pretty conservative family, you know?  The last thing they’d want to discover is their daughter wearing clothes.”

“Clothes? Really?! I mean they look so ugly. They hide the natural beauty of her shape.”

“You’re assuming she had any to begin with.”

“True that . If she did, she wouldn’t need to hide it with clothes.”

“Can we please avoid her, the next time we see her?”

“Absolutely. I don’t want to talk to desperate people.”

“Me neither. Especially not those who need to seem appealing by covering themselves up.”

I’m being judged by people for clothing myself, and yet is the skin in itself not a fabric of it’s own right? Can the soul be prevented from wearing what the heart adorns it with?

Gossip

The following is a guest post from a very insightful friend of mine. He has recently graduated from high school, and this post with it’s beautiful literary  structure and fresh earnest voice, seems to capture succinctly some of life’s lessons that he has learned and would like to share. May I present Gossip by Siddhant Dubey.

Let's talk about gossip. Image credits: http://idilsalihakuntuz.deviantart.com/art/gossip-60888863

Let’s talk about gossip. Image credits: http://idilsalihakuntuz.deviantart.com/art/gossip-60888863

GOSSIP.

Is it a noun, or a verb, or both?

Is it futile, or can it stir oceans?

Is it a whisper, or is it a war cry?

GOSSIP. GOSSIP. GOSSIP.

It’s all we do.

It’s all we’re capable of.

It’s all that’s engineered within us.

We can’t help ourselves.

We can’t help ourselves at all.

We need to know what he did a moment ago.

We need to know what she did ten years ago.

We constantly: Need. To. Know.

It’s a joke for some – an ordeal to engage in.

It makes others take their lives.

It ‘livens’ up a conversation.

It gashes someone’s self-esteem.

It generates laughter.

It disintegrates dignity.

It’s a quick exchange of opinions and statements.

It’s incessant.

It’s cruel.

It’s a burden that will explode if we don’t pass it on.

It’s the same burden that will destroy someone’s pride and possibly their life.

It can make you cry.

It can make you scream.

It can make you regret.

It can make you scheme.

It can make you shatter.

It can make you howl.

It can make you shiver.

It can make you scowl.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO IGNORE IT. Yes?

ABSOLUTELY.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO DISPOSE IT. Yes?

COMPLETELY.

THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH IT IS TO GENERATE IT OR PASS IT ON. Yes?

NO. HAVE YOU HEARD OF THE WORD ‘DISGUSTING’? THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE.

Some people don’t bother – The best option to keep.

Some people falter – Stop it, you’re not that weak.

Some people dismiss – that’s the way to be.

Some people cause – You have no right to be bleak.

__________________________________________________________________

Thousands of people kill themselves out of depression, out of being the centerpiece of judgment, out of not living up to expectations and out of sheer morbidity caused by the comments generated on their race, gender, sexuality, and other things that serve no basis for judgment.

GOSSIP IS A WEAPON.

It must be handled with care.

Disposed off when received.

Unloaded when aimed.

Enucleated before the intention of being made.

I gossip too. But with so many people taking their lives because of not fitting in or being accepted, it sucks that I’m contributing to even a fraction of pain in this world.

This is going to sound sappy to you (it most certainly should not, though) but you have to pledge with me:

I will not judge from this day onwards – be it on the basis of race, sexuality, gender or ability. I will not engage in incessant talk about other people and most definitely will not continue a piece of hurtful information for the sake of ‘fun’, ‘fitting in’ or even under ‘peer pressure’. I will not succumb to it.

Trust me, the world will be so much better when everyone stops gossiping. But this thought and idea has to take birth by itself, inside of you. Just regarding this and stopping at that will not do.

I do not know how many of you have heard of Amanda Todd and the terrible life she suffered. But if you have time, please look it up and empathise with the fact that there are so many people like her who need help and don’t know what to do except give up entirely. All of you who say “suicide is for the weak” are shallow-hearted fools who cannot, for the love of this world, see that suicide is a terrible, terrible act that anyone can succumb to when situations and people in their lives lash back on them with hatred.

I will also take a moment to talk about body image.

Being overweight myself, I know what it’s like to be conscious of body image.

It makes you feel awkward and uneasy and terrible.

There are people around us who may seem confident and poised, but that may not always be the case.

And so that gives you no right to comment on anyone’s body image.

Bulimia is just one of the very few social and emotional issues that we come across and disregard as “gross” or “disgusting”, but we need to understand that people are driven to this because of other people’s comments and expectations and that is the most unfair thing I’ve ever come across.

No one should ever be able to dictate over someone else’s body image.

Everyone’s aim should be to get healthy. Not to get skinny or be pretty.

Lastly, to everyone who’s having problems right now, be it regarding body image or sexuality or acceptance or anything at all, please consider talking to your parents about it. They may not seem like it, but they know their stuff, and they will understand. Your close friends (trustworthy ones) are also worth confiding in. For everyone who feels like that isn’t an option, feel free to drop me a message. Because no one deserves anything like this happening to them. Don’t let this emotion of self-doubt hover over you, because that’s not going to do you any good.

Thank you.

– Siddhant Dubey

Worries

A letter from a child to her mother. It’s a very telling story of how sometimes, the issues we have and the problem of body-image comes from those around us trying to make us fit some prescribed mold.

Mad Queen's Delirium

Dear Mom:

I am scared. A little bit. But above all, my chest hurts.

 

I am scared because I feel I (if not “we”) have reached a point where I can’t even talk to you. And I have no idea when exactly we reached this point. I am resorting to writing to you now, instead of talking, because it’s just not working anymore. But why does this have to be, mom? I love you so much, and you know this, I know you do, even if sometimes you like to put words in my mouth, and then yell at me for them. And let’s face it, I am no saintly victim either. I jump at you, as soon as you open your mouth I jump and stance myself in defense mode, even though I know you love me too. But why?

I feel like we have reached a point where…

View original post 847 more words

Shapes

 

Worries about shape and why it's hard to ignore them.  Image credits: http://aleeshii-chic.deviantart.com/art/Insecure-191976627

Worries about shape and why it’s hard to ignore them.
Image credits: http://aleeshii-chic.deviantart.com/art/Insecure-191976627

 

Most of the teenagers I’ve met have had some form of insecurity issues manifesting themselves in an obsessive concern over their shape and/or size. I’ve been meeting a few of my friends, whom I haven’t seen for over a year, and almost undoubtedly the first thing they notice is my shape. “Oh you’re so slim!” or something equivalent. I don’t really understand why this obsession with physical dimensions. After all, it seems to be a rather shallow way of evaluating a person. To be fair, I haven’t ever been on the other side of the spectrum. As in, I’ve never known what it’s like to be not “slim”, so I perhaps cannot claim that the discrimination they feel is imaginary. Most people would say that being called slim is something to be accepted as a compliment. Yet calling someone anything else is supposed to be an implied insult. If I am to be biased against a particular shape, then why should I not extend that bias to other shapes? Isn’t it also offensive, at some level, to call people slim? Personally, I find myself getting a little judgmental of people who compliment me on being skinny. The very fact that they notice my shape, and notice it enough to remark about it, makes me lose some respect for them. I am more than just the organic tissue that binds me. Which brings me back to wonder why people are perpetually obsessed with it, anyway.

The media, which heavily influences our lives in several insidious ways, has always been featuring their perception of the common people to a certain standard of what they should look like. I won’t deny it, I used to be one of those people too, marveling at the awe of their apparently flawless physical appearance. As someone who was tired of being an awkward wallflower, I couldn’t help but childishly envy them for being the center of such attention and supposed adoration. For a while, I even (stupidly) tried to become like that. Once again, the trustworthy network of friends and the deluge on information available via the media provided me with several alternatives on how to look a more socially acceptable version of aesthetically pleasing.

I used to stay a near constant shape as I would eat little and exercise little, my metabolism at some equilibrium. Because I expended so little physical energy, I rarely felt hungry. Until I realized that by not exploring the full culinary diversity at my availability I was going to be depriving my growing body of some very important nutrients. Even then, this realization could not promote me to eat better. That was when I started to exercise. It started with walks and then with runs and so on. My stamina was unsurprisingly poor, and after the first few times I physically exerted myself I found that I grew ravenously hungry. I started to feel more energized and I realized that I had expanded my tummy’s capacity for food. Although I knew that exercise was good for the health and all of that, somehow I had never really bothered to get into it. Strangely enough, I even discovered that exercise made me happy. While exercising, I would come across people who would say, “Oh, you’re so slim already. Why do you need to exercise?” It struck me that most people turned to physical activity only to try to shrink their current frames, which did not necessarily imply better health. People had just come to equate being slim with being healthy, and I couldn’t see how the two connected at all.

What struck me as even more puzzling was that people would hit the gym as a part of their efforts to get into a relationship. It just seemed illogical how a change in waistline would affect how endearing you were. And if it did, then that person was too shallow to deserve affection anyway. But there were people who testified to it’s marvelous effects, and there were several others who made the object of their affection the sole motivation to expand their own life-spans. I can only admire their determination and hope that the person whose appreciation they crave is worth it.

Then came the wave in the opposite direction. The media had, in an effort to garner more credible support, now begun to glorify the feminine shapes that were not size zero. Being curvy was the new in thing. Personally, I felt that this would reduce the social pressure on people to become thinner. I could not have been more wrong. It really annoyed me that even to this shape there was a maximum upper bound you could not cross. If anything, this new public favorite shape seemed to be more restrictive, as it came with a lower limit as well. Once again, a different section of society was under public scrutiny, fueling everyone’s inadequacy. When people aspired to be thin, they weren’t thin enough and now that everyone wanted curvy, you couldn’t be curvy enough.Several people, mostly my peers, now expressed concern at my previously hailed “slim” shape, and (with their best intentions at heart, I assume) advised me to “eat whatever/ eat more”. My parents still maintained that a growing girl needed her nutrients, and they didn’t really care whether that would affect my physical dimensions or not.

We can continue to blame the media for influencing the young “wrongly”, but since we are incapable of effecting rapid changes on a system that’s so all-pervasive, I think the change has to start within oneself. If you feel that you are influenced, then only you have the power to learn to be indifferent. This is not just about shape, but about any of the existing stereotypes that society holds us up to. When we start to feel scrutinized for every minute thing we do/say/appear as, we invite criticism. More often than not, at that age bracket, criticism can be misinterpreted in many different ways, some that are quite damaging and lasting.

That was when I realized one of the most fundamental things about myself. No matter what I did, due to some constancy of my metabolism, I was unable to affect a very large change in my shape. My metabolism kept my shape constant while regulating my dietary needs. It took me a while to conclude that my body is the functional tool with which I am expected to manage this world. If I unnecessarily tried to morph it into something that wasn’t part of the default design, I would lose some property that nature had eventually crafted into me for my benefit. I realized that this acceptance is usually easier said than done, and I have several friends who have overcome their personal demons and managed to deal with their food disorders. But to make these mental changes possible, the human body needs enough fuel to go on, and by reducing that, I figured I was reducing my capacity to make that mental transformation.