Category Archives: Being Woman
I just bought a bunch of clothes and for the first time in weeks, I’m feeling really good. I’m trying to focus on that rather than the guilt of knowing that this was stress-shopping. I’m not a shopaholic or a spendthrift. An occasional binge like this always causes me some pangs but that’s probably the reason why it stays occasional. So I guess it’s okay that I feel the twinge too, else I might lose my in-built alarm system that keeps me from going overboard spending.
Why do new clothes make women feel good? I know I personally enjoy colour, cut, texture, material and style. I dress with care even while going to sleep. This is a personal act of honouring my body and savouring all that it can do. Yet vanity is seen as a female trait and worse, a foolish one to be looked down upon.
So can one be a feminist and also fashionable? I know most fashion is patriarchal, showcasing women as objects of desire and pleasure to men. Everything from pocketless dresses (so as not to ruin the hourglass cut) to high heels (curvy calves at the cost of foot health) screams that the male gaze matters more than the female wearer’s comfort. The existence of the bra alone tells us how close to our hearts we carry this oppression.
I fight these in all the ways I can. I only wear ‘sensible’ shoes and I can tell you this has to be a conscious act of rebellion since Indian shoe stores do not like women with large feet who also insist on durability, protection, arch support and comfortable soles. I refuse to fidget over visible bra straps or panty lines, because these are my bonds and if I must wear them, I’m not going to do the world the favour of also hiding them. I challenge conventional notions of beauty and I refuse to be shamed by those same conventions. I’ve fought and continue fighting long and hard over the right to dress as I want – with authorities and with strangers.
Me a week ago. Don't roll your eyes at the future too much. That evening my mother fell down, fractured her thigh bone, had to be hospitalised and have surgery done. I found saviours who answered to friends names (@professor.shonku, @kavanchheda28, @manishalakhe, @sensorcaine, @balrajghai, @AlphabetSambar). I reconnected with my one time favorite relative of all time. I also tangled with distant doctors, angels-in-disguise nurses, unaccountably nice canteen cooks, an autowalla with an even bigger ego than the biggest muscles in Lokhandwala, a 6 year old boy in a stretcher screaming for his mother, a cleaner who decided to bless me with affection and a fellow patient who just said "Mala tu khoob aadvadat aahe" You really never know what life throws your way. And by equal measure, you don't know what goodies it leaves behind for you to stumble onto either.
And even as I say these, I take pleasure in male attention. Attention is currency and as a woman, my looks are my surest way of earning it. I also collect attention for my intelligence, my work, my art and my personality. But my physicality is the easiest, surest way to attract attention. Retaining that attention though, becomes a function for the other things I mentioned and since I have enough of the other things, this is an adequate model. To my mind, this does not reduce me to a glamour doll. If that is all a man wants to believe of me, that is his problem, not mine.
I am a performer and it comes naturally to me to dress boldly, even flashily. This is my personality and then all of socialising is an act, after all. Why not be a star?
I’m looking at the stack of shiny, lint-free new clothes I’ve just bought with my own money. I know I’m going to look really good wearing them. I know I’m going to pull in compliments or at the very least an admiring glance or two. I know I’m going to feel like the me I see inside my head – spectacular, bright and blazing forward. And finally, I know this is what creates admiration, loyalty and even relationship.
So, expense or investment? 😜
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There’s nothing like girl talk between former tomboys.
It’s dreams and drama
and nostalgia and world dominion
and yearning and alliance and fireworks
all in one.
Be a girl.
At least once in your life.
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Aries: MARD TEREKO DIKHATI HOON DARD KUTTE KAMINE
Taurus: No, that’s not nice of you. Behave now. Let’s eat, smile and sleep. Discrimination? KILL! zzzzzz
Gemini: Internalised misogyny is problematic but there’s something to the Prince Charming fantasy as long as I can be prince but rescue me..
Cancer: I don’t know, it’s raining and I’m sad and I have to run the company. I hope my boyfriend brings me flowers or I’ll have to take the flower shop over.
Leo: Equality? Yeah sure whatever. Put it next to my prime rib served on a silver platter and maybe I’ll look at it after my nap.
Virgo: The birth ratio is alarming. We also need more funds to set up counselling for battered women. And vaccination drives.
Libra: I’ll talk to you after you’ve dressed up in designer threads and played some Mozart. By then I’ll probably have taken over the world so goodbye.
Scorpio: You dare? Hmm… *darkness falls* *toofani raat sex tere saath* Everyone found dead.
Sagittarius: Equal rights is obvious, why are you such an idiot? Sorry, I didn’t mean to idiot-shame you. Chal, let’s go drink.
Capricorn: Here’s my contract. We already agreed on equality. Thank you for confirmation. I’ll send you the bill at the end of the month.
Aquarius: Feminism? Oh right, the 70s thing. Sorry I haven’t kept up since I got on that Mars mission.
Pisces: Here’s water for Gemini to drink, Aries to wipe the blood, Scorpio to wipe other things, Sagittarius to hydrate, Cancer stop crying.
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I saw the fuckboi yesterday. He is part of the same circles and I refuse to acknowledge him anymore so his presence in isolation is not such a bother. But I am surrounded by his manipulative behaviour, in the form of other women who look as starry-eyed as I *cringe* probably did back in December. (Notice how I feel ashamed of myself for a positive emotion and a pretty good performance; thank you, fuckboi.)
Some of them are women I know and I’m caught in a quandary. Should I warn them, risk the heavy ugliness that society and men thrust on a woman who dares speak (including from these very same women themselves)? Or should I stay silent and let other women fall prey to the same fuckboishness that makes them doubt themselves and cripples them in male-dominated spaces? I need more women like me in the spaces I frequent and I can see how behaviour like this costs our kind dearly. What a catch-22.
Maybe it’s highlighted by the fact that I’m watching Mad Men right now. But doesn’t “Oh, he suffers social anxiety” just feel like a modern, fashionable version of, “He’s deep and brooding” (Mr.Darcy), “His parents didn’t give him enough attention as a child.” (romcoms featuring white males and Manic Pixie Dream Girls) and other such excuses? A fuckboi is a fuckboi. There is absolutely no excuse for treating another human being badly and making them question their self-worth. Women have problems too (rape culture, online harassment, salary disparity, biological clock ticking, unsafe spaces) and most of us don’t get to use that to tread all over men and get applauded for it. No, fuckbois, I don’t care if this is politically incorrect but I’m not buying it.
I am thinking about whether this particular fuckboi and my strong reaction to him is just a symbol of my deeper feelings for my ex, the longest running fuckboi in my life. That one issued a vague apology last year on Twitter that could have been aimed at anyone but that I suspect was about getting in on the ‘I’m a reformed man, applaud me’ trend. I wish my friends had not bothered sharing it with me. I was going along in my life, having put that particular nightmare behind me. But with that screenshot fed into my inbox, I was forced to think about him again.
His apology was public and got him a lot of positive attention. He never once said sorry to me, in person or in any form of private communication. He did not even acknowledge my existence. I concluded that he was no different from who he was in 2011-12 when he isolated me from my family and friends, stopped me performing or working, hit me, gaslighted me, abused me, allowed his family to subject mine to dowry demands, ended the engagement when I called it out, said “It’s not my problem” when my period was delayed and then “So what? Breakups are difficult.” If that apology was aimed at me, I say
“Not good enough. Too little, too late. Wait, was that an apology or your version or Being Human?”
But no one cares, do they? The truth has not changed but I’m forcibly pulled into this Fuckboi’s drama every time he feels the need for attention. And everyone who knows either or both of us even slightly, is looking at me expecting me to hand out the bouquets like the gracious woman I am supposed to be. I lose every way I look at it. Is there any escape from the land ruled by Fuckboidom?
The current fuckboi of course, didn’t get to do a fraction of what that one did. He vanished, then when I stopped, he reappeared with gifts and love poetry. When I relented and agreed to have a conversation, he pointed out that “You come across as having very strong anti-male sentiments”. When I refused to take note of it and him beyond that chat, he took care to message me and remind me that “I listened to your work. No, you are not anti-male.” Back-and-forth, back-and-forth till the unpredictable approval could be distracting enough to be all I would think of. So familiar. He’s just another in a long line of fuckbois who don’t care or even really see the women around them. Not in any way other than breasts, butts, vaginas to grope, ears and arms to receive their existence and words only to validate them. I am still grappling with how to deal with so many men being this way. The challenge grows exponentially considering that they’re surrounded by women who fall prey to them and enable their fuckboi behaviour, even to the point of hurting other women.
I asked a friend yesterday why I was attracting such nastiness when I tried to steer clear of people and focus on my own writing only. He said,
“You know what you want. Not many do. That creates a dichotomy between you and such people. My advice, if you want it? Not worth engaging. It will tire you and they will not understand what you are saying.”
My friend is right, in part. The tricky thing is identifying the handful that are willing to let me live, from the vast hordes that want to pull me into fuckboiness-and-support-fuckboidom.
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It’s housekeeping time in the relationships corner of my life. I find myself going through this periodically. I unfriend people on Facebook that I don’t even remember ever interacting with. I withdraw from groups and communities that I do not find myself engaged with. And hardest but most important of all, I draw boundaries with people who have drifted into my life.
I live a very porous life most of the time. For the past seven years, I’ve been sharing so much of life online. My work is inextricably linked to the other things in my life. And I’m an active part of the large creative-intellectual tribe both online and offline. All of these mean that boundaries are constantly being dissolved and frequently, new ground is broken where no structures exist. I hate labels, after all.
But the downside of this is that I find myself frequently sapped by the world around me. People presume too much. People give too little back. Situations spiral out of control. And everything crashes as I scream ENOUGH! I bounce back from these pretty quickly and usually back to a life that has very few of its original inhabitants still standing, the rest swept away in the outburst or shellshocked. I’ve done it enough of times and now I know this is not something I need to be ashamed of. It still is tiring, though. The alternative is to live the kind of cloistered, rigid life that would suffocate me before anyone else.
In the past week, I have exploded at this completely awful person. And that is the only way I am able to think of him. If he had shown just a bit more spine, things would have been different. But maybe I also only got as much as I believed I could get. I was glad he didn’t hit me or abuse me. Those are really low standards to hold a human relationship to and I know better now. I ask more from relationships and people now. If a person needs so much game-playing to acknowledge that they like me, maybe that’s not going to turn out great and I deserve better. Equals do not play games; they have conversations.
We know that men are socialised to take and take and take and never give back. And as women, we have been socialised to give, give, give and never question. We are now learning to identify this earlier, call it out and hopefully start teaching the next generation of men to not be so parasitic in nature. But what makes us think men are the only parasites? There is a new breed of Alpha women who think they have to be like men to succeed and that includes being self-centered, manipulative and toxic. They give their admiration quickly and voluminously. They shout it out from the tops of buildings. And they crash spectacularly. Then they lash out. Viciously.
One of them (who in the past, has woken me up at 2 in the morning to discuss her relationship, in whose support I have judged and turned my back on people who didn’t do a thing to me) told me,
“Oh I didn’t notice what was happening to you (right before her eyes). I have problems. I’m selfish. And I didn’t know we were ghosting each other’s exes.”
Her words sliced through me. Was I being selfish? Was I being needy? Was my problem (getting attacked) that trivial? I realised she was doing exactly what my abusive ex did – gaslighting me.
Another one’s callousness cost me a paying project for no fault of mine. She did not apologise. She sounded annoyed when I called her out on it. She said I should ‘understand’ because I run Alphabet Sambar. When I told her no one had ever lost work because of me, she threw out,
“You’re just so perfect, aren’t you?”
She did the other thing my abusive ex did. Reeked resentment and rage at my successes and tried to make me apologise for her shortcomings. It wasn’t even the first time she had done so and I had forgiven her for it.
I had a sudden realisation. Both these women remind me of this other person I cut out last year. I felt the same vague unease each time they announced to the world that they were ‘such good friends’ with me. I winced each time they parrotted out speeches about my strength, my style, my personality and my writing/poetry. I know now what this is.
I was not their friend. I was a trophy. There is an insidious kind of label that I’ve been unable to avoid because I didn’t recognise it as a label. That’s the ‘I WANT TO BE HER’ label. This label marks me off as a benchmark or trophy but not a human being. This is not normal appreciation I’m talking about. It’s an onslaught of starry-eyed compliments that are being heaped in the hope that I will like the giver. It’s trading flattery for validation. And worst of all, it absolves the other person from the responsibility of being an equal – a friend.
I know this now because of two things. One, I do have actual friends who express their appreciation of me but also treat me as an equal. They call me out when I’m being stupid or weak. They joke with me. They step up when I need them. They do not resent my needs. They do not react violently at my imperfections. And finally, they never throw my achievements back at me. And two, if these women remind me of the abusive men in my life, then what they’re doing is not friendship any more than what those men had for me was love.
I finally realised I enable all of these. I allow people to seep in. I allow people to call me friend (what a hateful term it has become, to cover all manner of sins) without thinking about whether our bond is that strong or that equal. I have not yet learnt how to gently put deflect such forced labels. I do not want to hurt the people who attempt to hang it on me; they do it from a deep hungry need and a misguided sense that I can satiate that need. But I cannot allow myself to be preyed on by the endless, one-sided neediness. I want to be able to give boundlessly but only to people who do the same back. I want fulfiling two-way relationships, not a fan club. Maybe I can learn how to deal with these women the way I learnt to deal with those men.
Once again, equals do not play games; they have conversations. Whether those games start with trading insults or excessive compliments, I guess they’re still games.
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