I Take A Day Off Each Month From Being Me

This tweet by ChhotaHulk got me thinking.

I didn’t rally with a Yeah women! cry. I didn’t have to. Rather proudly, I replied that,

It’s true. This is something I first started doing because I didn’t have a choice. At least once a month, when my period hit, I’d keel over with cramps, nausea, headaches and low blood pressure (which makes me faint and when conscious, depressed). Once I fainted in a crowded Mumbai local train. After being lectured on eating better, exercising and what not by family, doctor and employers, I began doing that. But over the years, even in my fittest months, I struggle to cope with a regular day when I’m bleeding. I mean struggle, a physical, emotional, mental effort that leaves me wishing I had just been killed off as a fetus.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to give myself one day where I go easy on myself. I’ve slept in, eaten crazy things and shut down work. I’ve discovered that it actually makes me more productive, taking that day off instead of struggling through it and having to redo or strain through working harder on the same thing.

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Image via Unsplash/Christopher Sardegna

Over time, I’ve started learning to be even kinder on myself. My usual OCD self takes a break on that day too. I don’t make my bed. Sometimes I don’t even get out of it all day, except to get something to eat (in bed) or visit the toilet. I’ve taken to not opening my computer. Sometimes I even leave my phone in the other room and pretend I’m dead to the world. The months I’ve done this, I’ve found by early evening itself I’m feeling cheerier, hungrier, more enthusiastic and wanting to get back to my life.

And finally in the most recent past, I’ve also began giving myself the permission to drop the Social Me. That’s not bothering to be polite, not worrying about diplomacy (as little as I do anyway), not caring about who thinks what or the consequences. Each time is a revelation on just HOW MUCH I tolerate from the world. There’s the daily stupidities of people that you take just because it’s too tiresome to not do so. There’s the small cruelties and petty nastiness that people inflict on you, especially on the internet, unthinking or perhaps just because they can do so. And there is all the entitlement of men. This is rarely from men who are very close to me but comes my way by the bushel from slight acquaintances, distant friends and strangers.

“I THOUGHT YOU WOULD BE NICE! WHY ARE YOU NOT BEING KIND TO ME?? I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME. I WANT YOU TO TAKE CARE OF ME. I WANT YOU TO PAMPER ME. I WANT I WANT I WANT.”

….come the messages steamrolling me every single day. Well, that’s the one day in the month when I shut the door on them and throw cold water on their heads from the window.

The thing is, I’ve been doing this somewhat defensively and perhaps even a bit guiltily. But ChhotaHulk’s tweet made me realise it’s very, very, very tiring to be a woman every day. There is so much demanded of you, so much riding on your perfect delivery of these things, so many consequences of each tiny thought or action. It’s enough to make anyone crack up.

As I’m writing this, ChhotaHulk and I are still talking about it. He suggests that I not care about anyone and damn well do as I please. I truly appreciate his thinking about what women deserve but I know he doesn’t really understand.

Maids and landlords can make your life very difficult if they don’t approve of you. If you’re a woman, this doesn’t just mean your credit-worthiness and whether you stay quiet and clean. It also means whether you live up to their standards of what a woman should be like (read – shop for vegetables, cook from scratch, get up early in the morning, don’t drink or smoke, wear Indian clothes). Don’t believe me? I’ve had a landlady who got peeved with me because I was going to a work meeting instead of shopping for vegetables and decided to tell the dhobi, kachchrawala and the bai not to knock on my door. I’ve also had bais who would show up at any random hour because after all, “aap to kaam nahin karte ho ghar ka“. There were the watchmen from hell who would lech at me as I walked past in jeans and conveniently ‘forget’ to keep salesguys from knocking on my door. Plumbers, electricians, dabbawallas, shop delivery boys – all of these decide how well they want to do their job or if they’ll even do it at all, based on what I’m wearing and whether I smile at them. None of these have ever applied to the men.

I won’t detail again how strangers feel entitled to your empathy and politeness if you are female. I’ve already talked about that and interestingly, among the responses was a suggestion that I ‘reply politely and respectfully that I appreciated the man’s interest in me but I was a bit busy and would he mind if we didn’t talk now?’ I give up trying to explain that to anybody now.

And finally, here’s something else. As a woman, I’m rarely if not NEVER alone. It’s just not safe for me to be alone anywhere. Even in a city like Mumbai, going solo is subject to all kinds of conditions of place, time, dressing, occasion, day of the week, my age etc. Do you know just how big a luxury it is for me to disconnect from everyone? My bed is the only place I can do that in, that is all I am afforded and I’m still one of the lucky ones that has a room of my own.

For my own sanity, I’ve decided I am taking one day off each month from the responsibility of being ME, a big part of which is being a woman. The world can bloody well learn to deal with it and welcome me back with open arms when I return.

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About IdeaSmith

IdeaSmith is the digital doppelganger of Ramya Pandyan (intrepid train-traveller and frequent spouter of post-midnight rhymes and rants). As IdeaSmith she battles obscurity and slays boredom with her stories about men, books, digitalia and Mumbai. She performs live and also blogs, tweets, Instagrams, Facebooks, +G’s, Youtubes and Goodreads all as IdeaSmith. Ramya is a blogger, digital storyteller and spoken word performer. She also runs a forum for aspiring writers called Alphabet Sambar. Tweet-bomb her at @ideasmithy.

Posted on March 6, 2016, in Being Woman, Hormone hangover and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Suddenly Truth

    Really, why not MOVE (to another country) and do your own thing? Not your fault but you can’t change them, They’re fucked in the head.

    You have to burn bridges sometimes, in order to become better. If that means bye bye to family and old friends, so be it. Consider it cost. You might feel bad for a bit but time heals everything. De-clutter. Why do you need a “maid”. Do your own dishes? I do. It’s easy if you cook for one and have mise-en-place. When I lived in Mumbai, I had the door-bell (evil fucking contraption) uninstalled. I never had a dhobi knocking on my door. You don’t really need one. Just take your laundry to the dhobi or local laundry at your convenience.

    Really, it’s up to you… It doesn’t have to be miserable. Took/taking me a while to realize that.

    • @Suddenly Truth: You seem to be labouring under the impression that you are my therapist and are required to give me a solution for my life’s problems. I suggest you read the post again. I’m talking about a solution I have implemented for my life. As for your ‘solution’, why should I run away from here? This is home. It has its flaws and I have every right as a citizen of this country to point them out and build a better life for myself here without being told to go elsewhere if I don’t like it.

      I have no idea when you lived in Mumbai, for how long and in what manner. Why would you even want to live here if you didn’t want to interact with people? It’s one of the most crowded cities in the world. You also seem to take a condescending sort of pride in doing your own dishes. That’s quite cute but how often did you cook? How about washing clothes? You seem to need to pay a laundry to do that. And finally, you might think cutting out family, friends, service people and everyone else in general is a great solution. I call it running away.

      I’d shy away from pointing out these things in such a harsh manner but really, your comment is highly offensive in how condescending and self-righteous it is. If you don’t need people at all, maybe you should think about why you need to offer random strangers such detailed solutions on what you think are their life’s problems.

  2. It’s important to have the ME time and decided to do it once a week, to be with the self, reading and doing stuffs that please me. People will always be there to criticize but since they don’t walk in your shoes, they don’t have the right to assume!

  3. Suddenly Truth

    Condescending and self-righteous? Really, is that what I get for trying to help?

    I don’t like your solution. Every day should be bliss, not one day every week.

    There’s no reason to be proud of home just because it is so. If the path of least resistance and most effectiveness means running the hell away, that’s a wonderful idea.

    As for your questions, I lived in Mumbai because I was born in and grew up there (didn’t exactly pick it). I no longer do. I moved out on my own when I was 14 and have DIY’d most chores. I don’t like doing laundry because it can be easily outsourced- doesn’t require the presence of the dhobi inside my dwelling while he works. Very unlike doing the dishes or making one’s bed. This is more than what may seem to be antisocial behavior, it has a lot to do with freedom and doing things on one’s own time as opposed to waiting for X/the help to show up. I regret not having learned to cook well before I eventually did. It takes a lot of time and effort, but pays off.

    I also dislike the condescending tone in which you refer to “strangers.” What’s wrong with talking to random strangers? It can be a lot more interesting than interacting with the same old pre-vetted clique.

  4. Would it be OK if a man actually fakes the same behaviour once a month? I do it. It is just that I want the woman to know what it is when they face a similar situation.

    • @Apasserby: You are kidding, aren’t you? Do you suppose taking a day off every month helps you understand what a period feels like? Do whatever you want but I wonder why you’d feel the need for approval on that.

  5. @IdeaSmith, I wasn’t kidding. I treat women equally, which means that I treat them the way I treat guys or children. If one is ill, you are considerate. But when you are ill, you take rest. Not throw tantrums and expect a logical answer back. So, I just want them to know when such a situation happens, how the other person feels. It is just wearing the other person’s shoes. Am I wrong in my thinking?

    • @Apasserby: You are. Firstly, a woman on her period is not ‘ill’. Secondly, a period includes physical manifestations such as dizziness, nausea, upset stomach, headaches, hot flashes and weight gain. It also includes massive hormone surges that cause can crushing depression (to the point of suicidal at times). You really have no idea what all of that can feel like. And no, I am not sympathetic. You are not doing any woman a favour by being ‘considerate’. I’d like to see how you fare when you’re facing that level of physical and emotional discomfort, expected to do your usual chores, face the unrealistic expectations laid on your gender, put up with the opposite sex’s insensitivity as well as expecting to be lauded for being ‘considerate’, being talked down to and then stay ‘logical’.

      Look at your first comment. ‘Fakes the same behaviour’ you’ve said. If you think a woman is faking it, then oh boy, just how self-important, self-centered and insecure are you? I am extremely put off by both of your comments. Please take your self-obsessed notions elsewhere or at least do some research on what actually happens to a woman’s body during her period.

  6. One small correction – I never asked her to do their chores. Just ake rest. Sleep. Drink a hot cup of tea time and again. I will deliver the tea. Can we just have the conversations postponed?
    Secondly, ill can be timely. If one does not feel their best sell, then I guess they are ill. Eiither physically, emotionally or otherwise.

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