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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.

PMS: The Bogeyman’s Here!

Image via Microsoft Office

PMS: Three syllables that could rock your world. But what does this word mean? As a man, it is one of those words you never want to use to describe away women’s seemingly irrational behaviour. Unless you want to hear a very loud and shrill rant.  Or if you know the women I do, get a prompt kick in the crown jewels. For women, it is the constant irritation of dealing with pop culture and stand-up comedians love affair with PMS jokes.

But is the alternative to making crass oversimplifications, just shutting up? I think not. The fact is, in our increasingly politically correct world, we do not address some things just to pacify, well, the angry women. The women whose eyebrows go up when you mention PMS and tell you “Don’t even think about it!”

Now here’s my problem with that. Society and culture thrives on making certain topics taboo- female sexuality, periods, rape, etc.  When you cannot even talk about something openly, it provides a connotation of shame to it. How do you expect women to believe there is no shame in their being women when everything about their bodies is brushed under the carpets as ‘inappropriate’?And it is that culture that tolerates locking up women when they menstruate, treating them as social outcasts and of course dismissing them as professionals. For years, men thought women could not be involved in outdoors activities and professions because of- wait for it- menstruation!

This was fine in the world that was but it cannot be a part of the world the Modern Man seeks to build. In order to deconstruct what he has been raised to believe he needs to understand. So women can continue to be overly sensitive about words like ‘vagina‘ and ‘PMS‘ and god knows what else. But the Modern Man is not a gentleman. He is no knight in shining armour. He has little patience or indulgence for your baggage and who has been oppressing you.

The fact is, the more ‘secretive’ and ‘inappropriate’ any topic is deemed, the more power it has to dominate and repress people. So what we propose is this: rob it of its power by taking away the secretiveness. That is the key to a lot of the issues that come with the conversation on gender. It certainly is the key to this one.

And if you want, I can start. Men don’t hate talking because they think it’s a bore. Men hate talking because most women don’t really want to hear what they have to say. And ignorance breeds bigotry. Or in this case- sexism.

Mr. Garrison as a child, as seen in "Weig...

Image via Wikipedia

I will end with a quote from South Park by the delightfully offensive Mr. Garrison:

“I’m sorry, Wendy, but I don’t trust anything that bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.”

Sure, you can call him a chauvinist pig. But what then? What then indeed.

Settle For To Settle Down

I’m reading a book called Rubbish Boyfriends. But hang on, that’s not all that’s responsible for this mood o’ mine. I’ve been talking (and talking and talking) to the following women:

A has been steadily (as opposed to happily) married to a ‘Who says we get it right the first time?’ pedigree-carrier.

B is married to the man described by Barmaid as the ‘Good On Paper Indian Guy’ a.k.a. GOPIG (also M.C.Pig). She’s also momma to a 3-year-old and a useless daughter-in-law in the eyes of the matriarch who stays with them.

C has been hitched for four years and has to show for it the following:
– 3-year-old adorable coochie-boo
– 4 home addresses
– Career chart resembling a diagram of the universe (spotty) rather than a straight graph.

A says she stops short of being murderous at the sight of her husband, especially on certain days of the month. So she’s gotten herself a dog. Dog answers to ‘Gabbar’ (despite fancy names conceived by A, on account of pesky husband getting there first) but Gabbar loves her every day of the month, PMS regardless. Arre O Sambha, ek hi aadmi tha par chodo…they’re all the same!

B, juggling phone on neck-shoulder, scrambling about for change and yelling at the taxiwalla, bemoans being called a bad mother for working till 2 am. Then she adds that papa dearest sleeps in late right through baby’s sports day preparations. Her tired tirade ends with,

So long as he isn’t alcoholic, abusive or cheating on you, assume he’s Mr.Perfect. That’s as good as it is ever going to get.

I want to wail about committment-phobias, male insensitivity and thoughtlessness. I want to talk about my non-conversations about my non-relationship with my non-boyfriend. But I can see she’s not quite in the state for it so I take my woes elsewhere.

C, straight-faced as always listens to me and offers this sage advice,

Remember I used to say I’d never leave Mumbai. Do you know all the places I’ve lived in in the past four years? Do you know where I’m going to be six months from now? I don’t, either.

That makes me pause and think. So I watch SATC, drink a bottle of wine, laugh with a friend, read Chick Lit, go shopping and write XX Factor instead. Settle for if you want to settle down seems to be the order of the day. While there’s love (for the uncynical ones), sex, children and stability, no one told them about shrinking expectations (and fading dreams), comfort meshed into indifference, dreams replaced by ‘the best way to end the argument once and for all’. They change, they modify, they sigh a bit, wash their faces and carry on. All of them seem to be echoing that men will be men, at the end of it and there’s just this much you can make them care about things outside themselves.

Resignation appears to be every committed woman’s uniform emotion. And inter-twined with the single girl’s need to find someone special is a sense of relief at not having done so yet.

Hot Flashes

…are like disco lights behind your eyelids
…..and your stomach doing the dancing.

PMS

While PMS is no excuse for bad behavior, it is an experience that no woman is proud of. It isn’t funny to be at the mercy of chemicals that your own body produces and whose side-effects science has still been unable to find an adequate solution to. Quite alarming to turn into a marionette once a month or so.

Sometimes I think Mother Nature must be Father Nature, considering what a wicked trick this was to play on your own kind!

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Also posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Countdown To The 28th Day

The weather is sickening.
Outside the sun is scorching the earth
like something from the kitchens of a very bad cook..dark, smelly, sticky.
The sunlight on my face gives me a headache.
Inside, the fan is whipping a breeze across my face too fast.
Slower it offends my ears with its whirring.

I’m sick, going to throw up.
Food is a revolting thought.
As are dusty corners, soaking wet clothes, bathrooms..
Bathroom, I need to make my way to the bathroom.
I heave across, slow-motion in my own eyes
And suddenly comfort is there
In the splashes of red.
The twenty-eighth day.
I mark it with a red cross on my calendar
And turn around with a sigh of relief.

The longest journey is when you don’t know what awaits you in the end
D-day to D-day is just 28 days.
And yet, each of them seems to vary in length.
The first week..what a relief, what a joy!
Waves of perspiration breaking out,
Relief is the sweetest thing of all.
While my body pays for that joy.

As the pains subside,
Its time for resolutions
To be more careful,
To be less willing
To be stronger in my will.
All in good intention.

The days pass and dangers spread thin over them,
Like butter softly melting into bread,
The temptations sink into my being.
Till I slowly break down again
And sink into them.
Feeling my body’s victory over the mind.
Defiant pleasure overruling guilt.

And then, the most difficult phase begins.
The waiting, the wondering, the secret misgivings.
A million “Why did I?”s and “How could you?”s
For every hundred or so, one fight.
For every fight a hundred or so sorrys.

I’m frowning more and more each day.
Then one day tears roll down.
Then the weather starts to sicken.
And I wait and wonder if it is close to D-day again.

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