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Manolos And Sindoor

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My latest obsession is Sex and the City. For the past few days I’ve been wrapped up in the love lives of Carrie, Samatha, Miranda and Charlotte, dazzled by the wardrobes and their lifestyles, amused by their incessant man-izing (!) and thoughtful over the dilemmas they face. Okay, I know I know, I’ve taken the late train, but hell I’m driving it!!! I’ve been watching the early seasons of the show back-to-back. Desperate Housewives (still on air I think) didn’t do the same thing for me. The other program I liked so much was Ally McBeal.

Do these two have something in common? ally.jpgOh, apart from the fact that they feature sucessful, rather neurotic, ‘with it’ urban women? Errrm, it’s the same life. The same story. So Ally sees dancing babies in then midst of a courtroom drama on human interest issues in New York(?) while Carrie and her friends explore and demonstrate the vagaries of Manhatten’s delights. Ummm…and I battle Mumbai’s crowds, enjoy its movies and pubs and obsess over my men. Oh and I also enjoy Sapna Bhavnani’s column where she shows us a glimpse of the mayhem within our own heads.

So why do we identify so well with these women and their lives? And why not with the protagonists (and victims) of the K-serial brigade? We turn up our noses at their over-the-top antics, their crazy plotlines and their melodrama. But of course, getting sloshed on Cosmopolitans the night before a photo-shoot, maxing a credit card on shoes and running after dancing babies is very rational.

Their fashion sense is disastrous!!! Think plate-sized rings, think snake-shaped bindis, garish sarees and pantomime make-up. We think they’re too painted up! It’s Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and let’s not forget Manolos only for us, dahling.manram.JPG

Their value systems are oh-so-archaic and warped!! kyonki.gifThey make it sound like the only way a woman can be strong is by being bitchy and venomous!!! Ah yes, it is very progressive to obsess over the ticking biological clock , go into depression over a good-looking man’s committment-phobia, benchmark ourselves by the bedroom standards of ‘how-many-notches-on-the-bestpost’ philosophy and live with erectile dysfunction, cheating and abuse just for the magical ‘MARRIED’ tag.

Now before I get branded a woman-hater as well (the anti-feminists are up in arms already!!!), please go back and read the first paragraph of this post. I, like most other women in this set, watch and enjoy these shows. I echo these sentiments. But I have to wonder, what makes me so different from the ‘typical Indian bahu’ who supposedly watches the K-serials with the same fervour that I devour SATC? Is my mania with lingerie and perfume that different from her obsession for jewellery and silk? Are my television idols any less insecure, confused or noble than hers are?

I’m blessed with all the insecurities of my gender and I relate to women who live these out on-screen, in lives that look like mine. And they do the same. But I’d turn my nose up at their taste and they’d probably right me off as trash (brown trash since I’m Indian?). We’re all as hypocritical and shallow as each other. Or no, that’s not fashionable. They’re cynical but I’m just jaded, dahling….pass me another cocktail.

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Vanity Unfair

Ally McBeal

Image via Wikipedia

My jeans are too tight for me to breathe. I’ve put on weight. *Groan*. Why, why, WHY should it matter? I am not fat. I have never been fat. I am not going to be fat. And if I do, will it matter? Yes, it damn well will.

Mum beams with pleasure when someone tells her that she looks like my older sibling. Dad on the other hand squirms uncomfortably when someone runs that line on him.

I read (in Mumbai Mirror, where else?) that the cast of ‘Desperate Housewives’ are vying with each other to be the thinnest. Ah, doesn’t that sound familiar? Oh yes, that happened with the cast of Ally McBeal and Friends too.

So yes, we agonize over pimples and pounds (too many!), inches and shine(not enough!), long hair/short hair (whichever we don’t have), height, eye colour, skin tone, body shape, facial features….the way clothes ‘hang on/stretch around’ us, the way colours and stripes and polka dots look on us. A couple of my close friends are perfectly happy spending hours primping and shopping and pouting and look destined to spend the rest of my lives doing just that. Not that they are dumb air-heads. I pride myself on the company I keep and certainly I keep the company of intelligent, independent, strong people (well…the women at least!). But nooo…..there is all this about bad hair days, water retention, easily tanned skin and all that mumbo-jumbo. I’m trying, I’m trying frantically to hold onto my sensibilities…If you can keep your head when all about you..but then I get accused of being too tomboyish. Again, does it matter? Well…..I hate the answer to that but we all know it.

This weekend was exhausting and fun. I spent a lot of time and money on food, clothes and books. 3.5 hours of this fun weekend was spent in my favorite store trying out clothes (not even accounting for the 2 hours it took me to get to the store and back). With two female friends. Did we have fun? YESSSS! And tomorrow I’ll get a facial…just the thought of it is enough to bring back a glow to my face (okay, oily sheen perhaps…).

Rambling apart, are we really that shallow? It is very important for a woman to look good, in order to feel good. Well, also to feel good in order to look good. But yes, every female from age 3 upwards preens, poses and shows signs of vanity. So much for male egos…the female vanities match them.

Perhaps it boils down to the centuries old premise of the value of a woman being in her sex appeal and child bearing qualities. Of course there are statistics to show that good-looking people generally do better than their average looking counterparts. Have women known that always? I don’t think that is quite it. The underlying assumption is those studies is that a person whose ego is well-nourished enough projects that level of confidence which can make the difference between sucess and failure (all other factors being equal). Yes, feeling attractive is a big plus. There is something to be said about having a healthy body image.

With the boon comes the curse and so we’re also riddled with complexes, anorexia, disorders and annoying obsessions. Do you know what I think about The Metrosexual Man? I think he’s a fool for falling prey to the same monster that has been chewing on the long-limbed, silky-haired, even-skinned carcasses of women. Vanity.

Soul sisters

I finished reading “Bridget Jones’ diary 2- The Edge of Reason”. I could identify with the protagonist. Just like I could identify with Ally McBeal and the characters of Sex and the City. I read an article in the newspaper today, about the status of urban, upwardly mobile, independent single women. That’s the one reading BusinessWorld on the bus, the one with a nose ring browsing the high-end mobile phone section, the party animal at the pub on Friday night. We exist in every continent, every culture that allows us access to technology, independence and the right to our own minds. The Modern Woman. I am not alone.

At 26, I’m worldly enough to know how to have my way, how to look good, how to impress and influence. I’m smart enough to have an informed opinion and independent enough to voice it without having to worry too much about what other people think. I also suffer loneliness, guilt, confusion, stress. I lead an unhealthy lifestyle….no exercise, too much of junk food, not enough sleep. Thankfully I don’t smoke that much but well, living in this city is as good as being a chain-smoker.

I worry incessantly about my job and my looks and I think nothing at all about my family. I drift in and out of bad relationships and the only man I can stand for longer than a few days is someone I know I’m ‘just good friends’ with. My conversations with my girlfriends are a chaotic mix of bitching about men, agonizing over our looks, obsessing about our work and complaining about the lack of time, money, clear roads, decent guys, good beauticians and tasty, healthy food. So much for simple living and high thinking.

The generation gap has become an un-bridgeable chasm. At 26 my mother had been married for three years, become a mother and made the transition from the spacious house in downtown Delhi to the cubbyhole flats in suburban Mumbai. She was running a household, tending to a hyperactive preschooler and battling in-law issues. I, on the other hand, have rash-driven through the entire spectrum of bad relationships (abusive, neglectful, power-obssessive, shallow, cheating, rebounds…take your pick), struggled through courses I didn’t want to study, had 4 jobs, quit mysteriously and jumped in and out of crazy split-second decisions. Recently I announced that I was considering moving out. The reaction was explosive to say the least. Amid other things, there was “We are Indians! We don’t do things like that! What did we begrudge you???” I hate this. This having to be the model daughter…the definition just changed from ‘good home-maker’ to ‘smart professional’. All this while not getting the freedom that goes with taking responsibility for one’s life (and others). While still being seen as less-than-complete because I’m single (God, how I hate the word ‘unmarried’ as if being married is the natural state for a 20-something to be and anything else is an aberration)

I have few real friends who are women. The others are all married. Most of them have settled down into matrimonial bliss and the joys of parenthood. Which is fine. I have no objection to anybody being happy. But why are people so insistent that theirs is the only way to live life? Smug Marrieds as Bridget Jones calls it. The few others who manage to be not so smug, seem almost wistful when they look at my life and how carefree they think I am. It’s a bloody catch-22….no peace for my generation.

There’s always work of course. After suffering male chauvinist professors (“Why don’t you stay home and learn to cook, madam?”) and jealous peers (“Opportunist bitch, I bet you slept your way up”), welcome to the world of the Boss Lady. I’m not even going into the horrors of having a female boss. I’m going to be one of them soon.

These issues are big on my mind all the time. Hell, I write a blog about them! There are no answers. Yet, there’s solace in the fact that I’m in good company.

The bitch brigade takes a bow.

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