Category Archives: Hormone hangover
All the outpouring I’m entitled to because I’m a woman.
Do you remember your last kiss? Everyone remembers their first, like we remember our landmark birthdays. But kisses lose their significance as we get older and more experienced in matters of touch.
As our social rituals morph, we find our notions of personal space shifting. Once we gingerly raised clasped hands for a rendition of We Are The World. Now we find ourselves gripping strangers hands as ritual hellos. We shared tiffin boxes, school benches, computers and a football with the opposite sex so long as it followed the rules of ‘healthy not filthy contact’. Growing up in a Catholic school, I went to Christmas dinners & Easter feasts where I was routinely pecked on the cheek by babies, friends and adults of all genders. Touch was a confusing world to navigate.
A kiss is that absolute borderline between personal space and affectionate contact. It’s significant enough to remember the first time that was crossed. But is it no more than a gateway to more, a threshold that once crossed requires no further attention?
The 😘 passes easily between friends, flirting couples and all manner of non-professional conversations. Yet, those of us who remember all the things a kiss can mean are slower on the uptake. In reply to this emoji, I once sent a picture (like above but without dice). To my great dismay, there was no reply. To greater embarrassment, I discovered that the recipient had thought I was saying goodbye.
“Because that is a flying kiss.”
was the reply. FLYING KISS, that delightful gesture of ‘Goodbye but affectionately’ that we teach children. Why don’t we remember that a kiss can mean all these things but always, always affection?
Recently, a friend grabbed me in what was going to be a hug and laid a big SMACK. It reminded me of how lovely it is to be kissed. A kiss is a world of tangible more than smiling eye contact. It has the sweetness of “I LIKE YOU” before the politics of gender & relationship. Show your affection with a kiss (consensually, of course). Be sure to enjoy it because affection is good and so is a kiss.
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KISS KISS💋 Do you remember your last kiss? Everyone remembers their first, like we remember our landmark birthdays. But kisses lose their significance as we get older and more experienced in matters of touch. As our social rituals morph, we find our notions of personal space shifting. Once we gingerly raised clasped hands for a rendition of We Are The World. Now we find ourselves gripping strangers hands as ritual hellos. We shared tiffin boxes, school benches, computers and a football with the opposite sex so long as it followed the rules of ‘healthy not filthy contact’. Growing up in a Catholic school, I went to Christmas dinners & Easter feasts where I was routinely pecked on the cheek by babies, friends and adults of all genders. Touch was a confusing world to navigate. A kiss is that absolute borderline between personal space and affectionate contact. It's significant enough to remember the first time that was crossed. But is it no more than a gateway to more, a threshold that once crossed requires no further attention? The 😘 passes easily between friends, flirting couples and all manner of non-professional conversations. Yet, those of us who remember all the things a kiss can mean are slower on the uptake. In reply to this emoji, I once sent a picture (like above but without dice). To my great dismay, there was no reply. To greater embarrassment, I discovered that the recipient had thought I was saying goodbye. “But why??” I demanded. “Because that is a flying kiss.” was the reply. FLYING KISS, that delightful gesture of ‘Goodbye but affectionately' that we teach children. Why don’t we remember that a kiss can mean all these things but always, always affection? Recently, a friend grabbed me in what was going to be a hug and laid a big SMACK. It reminded me of how lovely it is to be kissed. A kiss is a world of tangible more than smiling eye contact. It has the sweetness of “I LIKE YOU” before the politics of gender & relationship. Show your affection with a kiss (consensually, of course). Be sure to enjoy it because affection is good and so is a kiss. #theideasmithy #kiss #kisses #kiss💋 #kissing #kisses💋 #affection #pda #publicdisplayofaffection
Has it occurred to anybody that we are debating a woman’s right to worship in the same month that this religion worships womanhood? Navratri, Durga Puja or Pujo, whatever name you know this festival by, honours Shakti, the divine female force that manifests in abundance (Lakshmi), wisdom (Saraswati), loving relationship (Parvati) – just a few of the avatars that Hinduism revers. Durga specifically, represents the female force against evil. And what is more evil than discrimination, than treating human beings as less than human? It is especially ironical that the very thing that is considered prime about the female energy — the ability to bear life — is also used as a reason to discriminate against everyday women.
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This body is function. This body is strength. This body is beauty. This body is sex. This body is purpose. This body is life. Don't objectify me. Don't deify me. My poem on menstruation taboos and a religious celebration of womanhood. Thank you to @karthik.rao99 for the music and @kalart.ists, @me_shayar_to_nhii & @ujjain_nalini for bringing this performance to the world. Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhe25h9WVU4 Link also in bio. #performance #performer #poetry #poet #poetsofindia #poetryofindia #feminism #menstruation #menstruationmatters #menstruationmatters #menstrualhealth #kalart #periodtalk #periodtaboos #menstrualhygiene #spokenword #durgapuja #pujo #navratri #indianfestival #hindufestival #hindusim #sabarimalaverdict #sabarimala
Let’s examine menstruation taboos. What makes a woman unclean during her period days? I’ve heard people tell me that this was used as a way to give the woman rest from her hard labour and to keep her husband from imposing sex on her. Even if this were true and the only way to give a woman rest at one point of time, is this the world we want to live in? What does it say about us as a society if the only way we can allow a woman rest and reprieve from forced sexual demands is by making her taboo? Are men and society at large that indifferent to a woman’s personhood — her health, her wellbeing and her consent? And if that is the case, what kind of hypocrisy is it to worship this same aspect of the women that they discriminate against?
Menstrual blood is not unclean and is not an excuse to treat menstruating humans as untouchable. A period is not an illness, not a reason to quarantine menstruating people. Women are human beings, not objects to be put out of harm’s way or intoxicants to be locked away.
This is my poem about the dichotomy of being an object of worship/discrimination in my culture. The background score was composed by the talented Karthik Rao and the animation and video production were by KalArt/Bramha Media. Thank you Kunal Jhawar and Nalini Ujjain for bringing my message to the world.
Love. It got so much harder with age. The finding of it, the keeping of it. But mostly, the being okay with it.
We are the generation that’s living life in flinch-decision mode. Swipe Right, Unsubscribe, Alt-Tab, Mute, Disconnect. No wonder our biggest addition to the world of relationships is “It’s complicated” and “ghosting”. Do we give up too easily? An entire generation of us cannot be uniformly more cowardly, weaker or superficial than the generations of humans before us.
No, I think the world is changing faster than it ever has. It’s already a universe different from the ones we were being groomed to enter. Nothing makes sense. And no one taught us how to deal with getting hurt. We don’t even allow each other (or ourselves) time and room to heal. Get over it, snap out, set his letters on fire, flush her pictures away, we say. Quick, quick, instant heal, instant burn, instant crash. It’s exhausting.
I decided not to react but live instead. I decided to hold off on flinch reactions for as long as I could. So I did not write reams of hate posts or heartbreak poetry about the diltoot (well, not too much). I briefly lashed out but I set it right. And before I knew it, we’re already three months into 2017, taxes are being computed and the world is making plans for the future.
In between all that, this nightmare happened. I got rescued, which is a novel experience for me. Nobody was around to even offer a kind word when an asshole was abusing me in college or when a ‘feminist’ fiance was beating me up and collecting accolades for singing about it. I got used to not being rescued, then I got used to being suspicious of anyone offering refuge and finally, I forgot what rescuing or even kindness looked like. This only happened because well, too much happened and I crashed. I would never have set foot on stage again, if it hadn’t been for this rescue. And instead, because of it, I went back onto that same stage and I led the orchestra. (Metaphorically speaking, that is – I opened an event that’s gone viral and then curated and hosted the follow-up event that got such a response that the venue got mobbed). I’m very tired.
I like my rescuer. It doesn’t go anywhere. Should it? Should I? What else? Have I lined up options? Have I protected myself? Am I looking at the big picture? Am I missing any details? Who’s SuperLiking me on Tinder? Is my Snapchat account still alive?
I don’t have to make a decision. I guess I don’t have to do anything. I have to remind myself of that often. I just have to take a deep breath and live through whatever happens. At 37 and single, I’m not really as raw as I was at 22 and abused or 31 and gaslit/dumped. But my reactions come from a place of habit. These habits don’t serve well. I’ve always prided myself on being able to acquire and drop habits easily. But how do you drop your flinch reactions without flinching?
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It’s 6:30 and I have an hour to go before I get to start a webinar. It’s one of a series of things I’ve taken on that warned me that November would be a demented, mad, crazy month. Maybe subconsciously I took it on realizing it would be my last chance to let my demented, masochistic side out this year. 2015 has been otherwise so peaceful.
Yes, I know how that sounds, after all my whining and raging. But there have been no earthquakes thus far.
I’m taking a breather break between books — by reading an ‘easy’ one so to speak. This being the last few weeks, I’m making the final dash to putting a dent on my reading list and my books-to-read shelf. But even I deserve the comfort a known earthquake, I guess.
I’m reading Marian Keyes’ ‘Anybody Out There’. And on the first page I’ve inscribed,
“8 March 2009,
It’s Women’s Day. I’ll be 30 this year and my answer to the above is “Not on this planet.”
Well. There’s always room to be proven wrong.”
Now I remember buying this book using the gift voucher that someone had sent me as a Valentine’s Day gift. Someone who never spoke of his interest before and didn’t even tell me about this gift until I arrived and only observed once that it came in on February 14th for a reason. But this is not about him. He was never even a shudder, let alone an earthquake.
It’s hard to know why I find this book comforting. The story is not exactly a happy one and neither is it is highbrow, self-help or inspirational. But it allows me to cry a little bit, to grieve the things inside me that are broken, a little easier. We need those earthquakes.
Have I been proven wrong, per the book’s inscription? I really don’t know. A few months later I met a man who would go on to shake my life so much that its reverberations are still being felt.
Last week in one of those deep, intimate conversations with total strangers that I find myself in at such times in my life, he asked me if I was currently with someone I was in love with. My mind immediately sorted that into two ideas and pulled up the signboard ‘NO’ to both of them. It would be wrong to say that I don’t remember feeling that way. I can remember with precise clarity what I was wearing, what I was thinking and how I was feeling the day I met him. And the earlier him as well. I remember the rush of hormones and blood surges and the creak of my bones, innards, organs towards each of them. I remember it like I’m holding a glossy picture in my hands. What I don’t remember is what that feels like from within, right now. I have no sympathetic feeling to those incidents, those moments. They don’t recall the same feelings inside me.
And I wonder if I will ever feel that way about anybody ever again. I know, I know, it’s the kind of thing people like me always say after they’ve been heartbroken and then they go on and get over it. Each time I’ve been in a relationship, especially in the horrific last dregs, I’ve wondered how I could be so careless, so flighty, so blase about the peacefulness of singledom. Every single time, I remember that with alacrity the way a person trapped in a desert probably remembers drinking water and spilling some on their shirt and laughing it off.
This time round, I’m recalling the brutality of people frequently. Each time a ‘new prospect’ rears its head, this thirsty desert swings into view. Do you feel earthquakes in a desert? I imagine it’s hard to tell with the sand blowing over you in every direction. And after sometime, it’s easy to lie down and let the sand take you. And the sand starts to feel like home. Maybe the age for earthquakes has passed.
People around me keep telling me ‘to get over it’, to ‘stop whining and bitching’ and that ‘he is not worth it’. Of course he wasn’t. No one is. But this is not about him. It’s about grief buried so deep inside my soul that I have to plummet to depths that are raw and burning. I cannot carry earthquakes inside me buried deep and walk around in a stable state. But it’s okay. They don’t understand. Many of them have never been uprooted in the same way and that’s fine. Just like survivors of abuse, of near-death accidents and of trauma are changed forever, so have I been by the earthquakes that have already been. There are and will be butterflies but this life is spread over a broken, bruised planet.
And I must go get to my webinar now. November can throw its tantrums.
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*Image courtesy Simon Howden on FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I was in college, a guy leaned in and asked me,
“Why was there blood on the dance floor?”
These were the late 90s, Micheal Jackson was still alive, already white and not yet branded a pedophile. I shrugged. I had not understood the song anyway.
“Because Susie had her period!”
he guffawed as the boys around him erupted laughing. I frowned. I still don’t get it. The song and the joke.
If the idiot had any sense, he’d know that Susie would know to wear a tampon or a sanitary pad during her period. Even if by some miracle, she forgot to wear panties (no woman does that outside of porn films), the blood would not gush out of her and land on the floor in a puddle. It would cake around her groin, with a trickle or two lining the insides of her thighs. I very much doubt it would even get as far as her knee before it congealed and dried up. It’s menstrual blood after all, not red wine. But how would he know? He was a man. What did he know about menstruation, after all?
I once had an argument with a friend over this. He thought joking about things made it possible for people to not take them so seriously. I see where that might make sense in some things. But not here. Most men are terribly uncomfortable with the notion of menstruation. This discomfort is indulged by a society that makes it okay to not talk about it and silences girls and women about a natural, bodily process. Making a joke of it, especially in an information-deprived environment actually propagates wrong notions. It also increases the shame factor that keeps the silent zone in place.
I think the heavy silence that lies around menstruation is dangerous. It gives men (and women) all kinds of wrong notions. I know men who think that having sex with a menstruating woman will kill her. I know women who use iPill as a regular contraceptive and I fear that one day they will bleed to death. (iPill is an emergency contraceptive that basically induces the period. Having a period more often than normal is not normal or good for the body.) I know men and women who think that painkillers can ‘solve’ the period. And I know men and women who think that contraceptives will ruin a woman’s child-bearing capacity.
Periods suck. They’re awful. I hate having them. Why should I not be allowed to rant about them? Why must I not be able to expect sympathy for strong nausea, blinding headaches, backache, stomach cramps and aching joints (on account of weakness due to blood loss, the doctor says)? Everyone gets sympathy when they face any one of these, don’t they? Why, when I have to have all of these together am I not accorded the same, just because it’s on account of my period? Never mind getting a day off to rest. The only people who will grant me that will also treat me as an untouchable, not allow me to pass by places of worship and create a huge hullabaloo if I reach for a bottle of pickles. Yes, this happens, even in 2014 Mumbai. It happens to me.
You know what talking about the above gets me? PMS jokes (which are period jokes in douchebag clothing, pun entirely unintended). I think PMS jokes are even more offensive. They don’t just spread ignorance like period jokes do. They also actively propogate demeaning women for natural body functions. They reaffirm the idea of women as shrieking banshees incapable of logic, sense or responsibility.
I have no problem with humour. But humour is only really funny when everyone (and not just the the person who makes the joke) gets that it is not serious. In the Susie joke, I think a lot of my classmates actually believed that a woman dancing during her period might leave puddles of blood behind on the floor. Think about what their attitudes would be towards the women in their life undertaking physical exertion during their periods?
So yes, we need to be able to talk about periods. What about period jokes? I’ll say they are okay the day it is permissible to sit around talking about menstruation as normally as we discuss Arnab Goswami and the next Salman Khan movie.
Update: I challenge every man reading this post, to go through this list. It’s creatively designed as a humour/horror quiz but is closer to the truth than most factual articles I’ve read. Go on, I dare you to read it through to the end.
A colleague said to me,
You don’t seem to be scared of me.
I’m not scared of anybody.
And I spent the rest of the day pondering that.
You never quite realize how much you live under fear until you break free of it. Afraid of your bosses, afraid of the government, afraid of your loved ones, afraid of losing face, afraid of being taken advantage of.
It’s true. I used to be scared of a lot of people. Even if I never admitted it, fear sat like a solid line above my head. It’s not that I’ve learnt courage. It’s that the fear has seeped out or evaporated. Like every experience riddled a tiny hole inside me, through which fear leaked & eventually ran out.
If you’re a woman, you’ve grown up steeped in so much of fear, fear, fear – fear of confrontation, fear of opposition, fear of disapproval, fear of abandonment, fear of a bad reputation, fear of judgement, fear of men, fear of women – this lack of fear is quite exhilarating.
I think the biggest fear most women have, is of something irreversible happening. Loss-of-virginity, marriage to the wrong man, childbirth (or not, since you’ll never be that age again and the bio clock is ticking) all fall under this. The fear looms huge like a monster, keeping you from making a decision. And back to the biological clock thing, there’s the fear that not making a decision will turn out to be just as bad a decision and just as irreversible.
There’s a conversation in Gone with the wind where an older lady observes that Scarlett has lost her fear. She also says that it is not a good thing for a woman to lose her fear. Women’s fears are the foundation of our social order. What when they are lost?
I’m just coming to realize that brashness is a result of this loss of fear. I thought about my last serious relationship. If I had feared hurting him just a little more and cared a little less about things like truth and fairness, things may have been different. Head over heart and all that. Still, that’s bygones.
The upside of fearlessness is really all that. Tremendous power and the energy that comes with it. Fatigue, boredom and ennui are indications of powerlessness. I experienced a rush of power and I think that’s fueled by (and adds to) being able to say just what I want, when I want, to who I want.
When the heady high dies down, however a hollowness returns. Hello fear, old companion, you’re back. It feels different though. This is fear of the world changing, of nothing seeming the way I thought it would be. But losing fear is an irreversible process, one that embeds itself in you. Once you’ve broken through, you know you’ll always be able to, again.
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, right? And that includes fear.