…only in that I have a smartphone app called ‘PhoneBooth’ that lets me change clothes at lightning speed.
No, this is serious. I am friend, businesswoman, creative thinker, socially aware voice, family woman, hot single girl, gal pal and a host of other things. Each of these come with their own dress code. I exercise my individuality adequately in each uniform. And I exercise the rare privilege afforded to few Indian women, in just being able to be so many things.
In addition, I’ve come around to accepting and then even embracing vanity. I am a woman and impressions about me are formed and sustained by my physicality a lot. How I look determines a large part of the response I get. I’ve been a marketing professional in another lifetime. It would be silly to forget the lessons from then. When packaging plays such a large part of reactions and hence relationships, I would be a fool to disregard them. Also, it’s not worth the effort of dealing with the backlash of wearing something that people don’t deem appropriate for an occasion.
I’ve found a comfortable zone now, where I know what to wear that is the right blend of appropriate, individualistic, practical and eye-catching. To almost any situation that I find myself in. I’m also a compulsive organiser and juggle several engagements as efficiently as I can.
Where it gets tricky is when different uniforms jostle for consecutive time-space on my calendar. Time planning now involves not only figuring out optimal routes of travel, energy level/mindframe required for that particular engagement and location feasibility, but also what I can wear that will cover everything adequately.
Take last week for instance. I had a semi-casual meeting with a friend who I’m helping out, professionally. Lunch was on the cards with some old colleagues. After that, I was to have a conversation with a prospective client. Then, I had to proceed to cultural event with a networking session among artsy/business people. All of this on a scorching day in Mumbai, at locations clean across the city. What could I wear that wouldn’t crumple or drench me in perspiration, look formal but not severe, would be casual enough to be friendly, seem cool and also arty? I thanked my stars that I’d begun wearing sarees last year and picked out a Kalamkari cotton. Sarees work like Superwoman costumes (complete with capes). Nobody in India questions a saree. It’s considered dignified for any occasion. I was counting on my personality and general rarity of women in sarees to pull off the individualist vibe. It did surprise my colleagues a bit but overall I think it worked.
My last two jobs had little to no dress restrictions, which allowed me to practise, even perfect this perfect-for-every-occasion look. I managed to go seamlessly from train travel to client meeting to afternoon-behind-computer-screen to partygoer a few times. Accessorising helped, as did layering with such delightful things like scarves, dupattas, shawls and shrugs. Summer brings its own challenges though.
Next week, I have a casual date, a feminist play and a kids birthday party to attend. It’s not for a few days but I’m going to need that time to figure out what I can wear that will work for everything. Sarees are out (I could work a draped length of cloth anytime with safety pins but NOT around toddlers). So are jeans (what, are you crazy in this weather?). What does that leave? Dresses or skirts? Hmm, mostly okay but these might bring in more undue attention than required, while travelling back. I still have some time though.
*Sigh* That’s why I wish I had a phone app, that allowed me to dart in and out in a matter of seconds, rocking a new look each time. Tech-entrepreneurs, are you listening?
It’s hard being a woman. The whole multi-tasking thing is starting to fire on us in a beeg way and I have a sneaky suspicion that men are sniggering at us from behind their hands (or err, gadgets).
For starters there is the image of the modern, intelligent woman. Some slogging, plodding and hard work bring us the degrees and promotions. That ought to be enough to cement the image, right? Wrong! One must be a good conversationalist as well.
Now this being a good conversationalist business is tricky. What does it mean anyway? Be an entertainer? A good listener? A confident talker? A jocular being dropping witticisms with every eyelash flutter? And all of this while ensuring said eyelashes don’t drop into the food, lipstick doesn’t get onto teeth during self-induced laughing bouts and ‘statement jewellery’ doesn’t get entangled in the tablecloth, the waiter’s tie or the door. Flashes of skin must be accidental and with a large majority of us regular women are; only with us they take the form of embarassing wardrobe malfunctions and not the fantastical literary ‘accidental flash of skin’. Difficult indeed, being a woman.
Then there is pressure to be a good date. Yes, make no mistakes, women suffer performance anxiety too. Yes, I know there are enough of men who will turn somersaults on the tops of the incomplete Mumbai metroworks if they think they can ‘win’ the attention of a girl they find hot. But what after that? Even the most aesthetically sensitive man will tire of looking at a showpiece. Therein begins the pressure to be good-looking, well-groomed and smart.
This is particularly difficult for women like me who very reluctantly don the garb of chickdom. Dressing up nicely is about as far as we’re able to go. But after that, the same forceful opinions and loud declarations backfire. Well, they never really get us brownie points and in this case we go from being branded ‘rabid feminists’ to ‘arrogant bitches’. Whatever.
Okay, okay, time out. So how does one set aside all the high drama and clashes and conflicts? Dating must be fun too, right? Let’s see, what are the common points of interest?
Books are out for a large number of people, at least in this city. The ones who do claim to read are mostly doing it for the impression, but that’s for another rant. I set my cynicism aside and dived into a genre I thought sounded promising. Graphic Novels!
“Comics.” I am told curtly, a steely look coming into the hitherto worshipful eyes. From there it only goes downhill as I blab on a bit about Fables and Sandman before being run over by a barrage of Superman, Batman and other superhero trivia. I’m relieved I didn’t mention Spiderman (actually Spiderman Loves Mary Jane); he might have thrown something at me!
How about movies? We already know how that turns out. Television seems to offer a safer ground. Reality TV is what everyone claims to hate but secretly watches, one finger always on the remote, when they’re alone. Chicks lurrve Sex & The City, guys are maniacal about Star Wars (and sometimes FTV, or if they’ll admit it, regional channels after midnight). I am about to throw up my hands on yet another possibility when I quite inadvertently hit upon an answer.
“Sheldon Cooper. Amazing. Hmm.” I say, a dreamy look coming into my eyes. Of course that’s my weakness for condescending geekboys (cue Jupiter Jones).
“Sheldon Cooper. Indeed.” He agrees.
We look at each other over the glasses of rum (another thing we have in common..but more on that another time) and grin. And suddenly I know I’ve accidentally stumbled onto the common ground.
Why is this show so popular? Let’s see. It’s four superbrainy (and nerdy) geekboys who live next door to a dumb blonde. Well, not exactly. Only two of them actually live there, the others just keep lounging around. They sit around tossing phrases like ‘Doppler Effect’ and ‘Vector co-ordinates’ to each other, playing one-upmanship games of job importance and prowess with the ladies and slobber over the girl next door in her tiny shorts, who does *wonder of wonders* smile at them and even joins them for dinner sometimes. I can see why this appeals to the boys.
On the other hand, I don’t think Penny is actually dumb. She isn’t a brainiac like any of the boys but she’s sensible, funny, friendly and nice. Yes, she’s easy on the eyes (tele-symbolised by tiny clothes). But she doesn’t carry a diva attitude even with the salivating boys next door. What’s more, their boasting and intellectual showing-off rarely bothers her and more often than not, she’s the one who really gets what’s going on. A la ‘Boys. Will So Be Boys. Hmph‘. Heh, she’s already got our sympathies. But hang on, she doesn’t need that. That’s one girl surrounded by four guys, all smart, interested in her and willing to do everything from fix up her creaky door hinges to be guinea pigs for her cocktail waitressing. They hit on her (gently, geekboys are nice that way) but they’re nice to her. They even let themselves get roughoused by the bulldog boyfriend who hurt her. Okay, who’s the smart one now? That’s the girl we all want to be!
For all that it could seem to be about a semi sci-fi, fantasy geekboy story, The Big Bang Theory is the battle of the sexes at its finest. Four men and one woman and guess who is winning? That’s enough of ego massage for even the most rabid feminist side of me.
On that note, I’d like to thank the makers for bringing out a spectacular show and also facilitating enough of gender-common conversation for dates and more. It certainly started with a big bang!