I’m practically de-sensitized to the trash overload from the television set. After all..
But every now and then there comes along something that makes me sit up and take notice.
It would have been a normal, frenzied rush-hour day just like another. And a TV schedule of saans-bahu soaps jostling with fudge-eality shows, squeezed in between commercials for insurance policies, shampoos and perfume-smelling detergents. And then it happened.
60% of women call in sick from work on a bad hair day!
…the colourful screen proudly proclaimed to me. Followed by a flood of digi-enhanced, branded-director-signature-style glossy images before you could say SEXIST!!
And the commercial signed off with a serene-faced, funky hair-styled Habib telling you not to worry about your hair anymore.
I don’t. After all I’m apparantly so stupid that I fall for that and pay for it as well. So now you can come and insult me on my face.
What, me worry? I just think, chronically.
60%…that’s nearly two-thirds of all the working women I know – friends, colleagues, bosses, peers, clients, teachers, doctors, air-hostesses, news readers, nurses, shop assistants, call center workers, hotel staff, salesgirls, women security guards, policewomen….shall I go on? So Habib tells us that more than half of this lot calls in sick when they don’t think their hair looks right.
Well never mind. I’ll just end with asking if a man thinks you are so frivolous, would you let him touch your hair?
Note: I’ve seen this ad aired just once. It would be good to know if anyone else caught it as well.
I read an email forward about the difference between a man and a woman. One of the points said that a man who walked into a party and saw another man wearing the same tee-shirt wouldn’t give him the cold shoulder but instead greet him like a longlost friend and they’d share a beer together.
This Friday I wore an old favorite tee in bright red (my favorite colour!) and dark blue jeans. I was appalled to find SNC wearing a tee in the exact same colour and dark blue jeans!!! And worse still, another colleague wearing the same colour combination. When I gasped and said “Oh noooo!!!!”, they both looked at me stupefyied (damn, how DO you spell that word??).
Okay, its a female thing I admit. So I want to look different. I’ve always had this thing, even when I was a tomboy. I hate the thought of looking like gadzillion others. I hate the idea of blending in. Okay, I am a vain peacock. There’s a reason I love bright colours and strange combinations. Few other people dare wear them and those that do….there’s not much chance they’ll come up with the exact same get-up as I. So I stand out.
The best way to ensure that no one else looks like you is to wear stuff that most people wouldn’t wear. So I’m bizarre sometimes but honestly I really do love that fake leapord print bag with red trim. And the maroon beret. And the knee high boots. All of them together. What are the chances someone’s going to copy that???? In fact I think what I love most about them is the fact that they are so OTT different that no one I know is going to have the gall to buy them and wear them. No one but me, that is.
The not-so-artful dodger has written a good post about saris. Now that’s style. But umm…its style I find very inconvenient in day-to-day Mumbai commuting. Still, for occasions, its top class. If one can suffer in stilettos, then one can very well learn to handle a sari gracefully. No smart lehengas, no fashionable shararas, no designer salwar-kameezes for me please…..its always an antique Kanjeevaram. I mean, who wears that except for women from our parents’ generation? I’m certainly not going to be mistaken for them….certainly not with my tattoo and red-streaked cropped hair! For moi, if it means I’ll be one of my kind, I’d gladly do it…..ah, my sometimes impractical-female-vanity surfaces!
However Dodger pooh-poohs my suggestion of FabIndia with the reply that there’d be several others wearing the same thing. I disagree. I’ve never had one of those embarassing situations. And that’s because I buy stuff like spaghettis with bandhini prints or formal shirts with wooden buttons. I know there’d still be a few other weirdos like me who buy the same thing. But there are such things as accessories that make a dress quite different from what you started off with. Highly unlikely that someone will match it down to that detail.
A friend of mine says that I remind her of a cat….the preening female cat from Tom n’ Jerry cartoons. That makes me 🙂 . Sure I’m vain. I love dressing up. My body is my canvas…and it carries my signature style every day!
Men will NEVER understand women’s clothing
Why we need it so much of it
What the differences in colour, fabric, fit and style are
What goes with what
How it comes off
What the hell do you mean why are women’s clothes so complicated?????? Curves aren’t square, you know…..
We has a new look. And we was most pleasantly surprised to discover that men, in general had nothing to do with it. Except for the stylist and the salesman that is..
Which is not to say that male appreciation is unwanted. It just isn’t the driving force of our life right now. It is a fine day when a woman can say that. Which is why we is going out to celebrate tonight!!! 😀
Ah….now that sounds like the kind of story you’d expect to see listed in the sidebar of a women’s magazine (which my sources tell me enjoy readerships that are over 40% male!!!).
Here’s a conversation that smug me had with fidgety male friend this weekend:
FMF: I don’t want to meet you till I’ve lost weight.
Smug me: (“I don’t believe I’m hearing this!!!”) Why? You don’t have to become beautiful for me.
FMF: *Chuckling* Yes, but I want to.
Smug me: Why? I have no such reservations about myself before meeting you.
FMF: So I still want to lose weight.
Smug me: But why? Enjoy your body as it is. I always assume I look great.
FMF: But you do!
Smugger me: *BIG GRIN* Yes, and you believe it because I believe it!
Now, am I right or not? Just for the record I am no raving beauty. Not even close. I could list out my physical imperfections but….why? Why go to all that effort to make myself feel bad? The cosmetics manufactures/gymansiums/apparal dealers are at it full-time. But well, they have to earn their living.
And I have to live my life. In this body. With this face. Under this head of hair. Of this colour. And with eyes that look this way. And none of them are anywhere close to what the beauty magazines define as perfect. Worse still, on the same face (and body), they’re a motley crew at best.
But I can make heads turn when I walk into a room. I know I can and hence I do. Not the other way round. Go back and read that again, please.
I’m not saying I’m this so totally confident woman who couldn’t care less what the world thought of her looks. Give me some credit, I’m a woman after all…with all the vanity a woman possesses. I just decided to lose the insecurity. Its a constant battle but worth fighting every single day. And you start winning more and better each time.
When I was a teenager, agonizing over pimples and braces and labouring under the burden of dusky skin in a country obsessed with the milky-white…yes I was there once. My best friend in contrast…was a complete contrast. Strikingly good looking, fair skin, deep, clear eyes, a perfect profile and body. She could turn from a beauty to a complete knockout with one swish of eyeliner. Black eyeliner makes me look like a close relative of the Adams family. Of course I was insecure. I tried very hard not to be jealous. I don’t know if I suceeded. I know she didn’t let on that she knew. And she was a good enough friend to never use it to her advantage.
Time passed, we drifted apart…..which was a good thing. I really came out into the sunlight in those later years. I guess I could very easily have let myself get slotted into the ‘pretty girl’s unattractive best friend’. That is a stereotype, one that people fall into unwittingly and then despairingly accept because they don’t know that they can be any different. I was so lucky, then. I had a chance to be something different and I took it.
Years later, I met my pretty friend again. And we were best friends all over again. Older this time. Wiser. And more beautiful. I’ve learnt that vivacity can be as attractive as placidity. I now know that a bright personality is as beautiful as clear skin. I am so thrilled that twinkling eyes (even if they crinkle) are as appealing as big, luminous eyes. I’m so glad for that time we spent apart because it gave me time to accept our differences. It gave me a chance to accept myself…and then learn to like it…and the most pleasurable bit, fall in love with the mirror.
The most wonderful thing about physical attractiveness is that it really reflects what you feel inside. Sushmita Sen says her beauty secret is ‘Feel beautiful to look beautiful’. And Bipasha Basu adds, “Wear clothes that make you feel sexy, even if they aren’t in fashion.” (errrr…..someone should probably remind Ms.Basu of that…or am I alone in thinking she looked her voluptous, exotic best earlier while this new skinny look makes her look like Barbie doll fell into a muddy puddle?)
Vanity may not be a bad thing. I find I feel really good when I believe that I look good. I wear some very funny things sometimes but they make me feel oh, so very good! And that’s really the only thing that counts.
Even today, before a big meeting or an interview or an exam I like to spend a little extra time and dress well. I love bright colours and my family, friends, boyfriends and bosses have long since stopped trying to reason with me. I wear red lipstick not because it matches my dress or the vogue but because I like red lipstick. My hair is wind-swept and sometimes stuck out in all directions but I love the way it feels around my face. Oh, and yes, there is the tattoo. Which doesn’t look exactly the way I wanted. And since I’m carrying around a few extra calories all around these days, is certainly not picture-perfect. But I’ve learnt to love it. 🙂
P.S. – NMF loved it too! He never had a chance to notice all the imperfection around. But of course he never had a chance. I refuse to believe that its an imperfection. Who’ll doubt me when I’m so sure?
And jaan….”beautiful” comes in many shapes and sizes and colours.
Golden-skinned Cuddly Statuesque Roman-nosed Cute Seductive Graceful Solid Flowing Lustrous Beaming Twinkles Clefts Sharp features Soft features Soulful eyes Kind eyes Mischievious grins Dimply smiles…BEAUTIFUL.
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.
My advertising prof used to say “The only things that sell are money, power and sex.” Oh yes, we all know that. Especially the last bit. Probably never has sex been so big as it is these days.
Talk item numbers, bar girls, Emraan Hashmi, AIDS awareness campaigns, rapes, same-sex marriages….okay, so we are getting out of the closet finally. At the cost of sounding like a snooty intellectual, are we really progressing?
I’m tired of hearing everyone tearing down Mallika Sherawat. Why? I just am.
So the lady had a bit-role in the movie (No, I haven’t seen it, I’ll choose to believe it…I really don’t think the west is giving up its bias towards the ‘third-worlders’ that easily). So fine we’ve all heard what Chan had to say about ‘her pair’. Why is that supposed to be irksome?
On one hand we have the unabashedly ambitious “I know what I want and how to get it so the world can stuff its judgement you-know-where”. And all the really vicious mud-slinging that the rest of the world does to that woman. Remember Urmila Matondkar? How about Isha Koppikar who started off her career with an item number? Or bigger-in-the-spotlight-supposedly-delectable Bips?
On the other hand we have the parade of beauty queens. It is old news now but I’ll re-iterate. India is a new market for a lot of industries, cosmetics and personal care products only one of them. And this entire beauty business is an elaborate marketing plan to wean more and more women into the ‘prettier/taller/fairer/clearer skin/glossier hair/slimmer body’ whirlpool. Of course they are laughing all the way to the bank. And the starry-eyed aspirants sigh longingly at a pretty Priyanka or green-eyed Aishwarya.
Which reminds me, what is it about this woman after all? What is so great about being a Bond girl anyway? You get to be seduced and undressed by a goodlooking older man….one in line of several such. Big deal. The only memory I have of Halle Berry in the movie is that she looked absolutely ravishing in a bikini. So much for more meaningful roles for women.
There are a few women in the public spotlight who seem to have lived life on their own terms. By curious coincidence, their’s are the same names that populate the list of Everyone’s favorite bitching targets. Or if they are really PR-savvy, you’ll find them instead on the list of Sexiest Women. Not to be confused with the ranking of Most Successful Women (which could easily be re-titled Bitchiest Bitches ever). Consider: Who in their right minds would call Ekta Kapoor lovely? Or Archana Puran Singh beautiful? Or for that matter, Kareena Kapoor smart? Or Koena Mitra/Isha Koppikar/Urmila Matondkar intelligent? For that matter even I can’t seem to imagine that a Rakhee Sawant or a Bipasha Basu just might have some brains. See where I’m going with this?
I tell you the world hasn’t changed a whit since the days of courtesans and royal mistresses. Women have used sex to gain power from time immemorial. And been slandered for it. There is absolutely no other way to gain power. Phooey to intelligence and reason. Sex/beauty is the one single gateway to independence. And if a woman doesn’t toe that line, she’s anyway branded a slut or a bitch. The day when a woman can look at the mirror, see a fat, wrinkly-skinned, spotty complexioned reflection and see nothing amiss is the day this equation may change. I don’t feel that way now and I don’t know a single woman who does.
The equation is still very much:
Man, the powerful & Woman, the beautiful.
Women are beautiful. The fairer sex really is the fairer sex. I know this has been common knowledge for years but the full meaning hit me just today. I was in the ladies compartment of a train…for a change not squeezed into a crowd but with enough space to look around at my co-passangers. Every single face vied for my attention and captivated me.
First I noticed a short, bouncy hairdo topping a pair of big eyes that could probably make any human being melt. Then I noticed that the ‘child-woman’ I’d been looking at, was dressed in a neat (and sexy) business suit and carrying a file of important looking papers. Superwoman continues to be as magically attractive as her historical counterparts.
Then I looked at a woman of indeterminate age sitting across the corridor from me. Her still-damp hair clung to the sides of her face with one persistant lock dangling by her ear. Dark lipstick, vibrant coloured kurta…all traits of the stereotypal ‘bitch’…but ah, what a captivating bitch! Even the slightly flabby tummy was attractive in the way she subconsciously covered it up with her flashy handbag as she chatted nonchalently on her cell.
Opposite to me was a thirty-ish prim little lady. Her salwar kameez was an odd mix-up that I would never wear but wasn’t quite ugly either…just captivating (there’s the word again!) Neatly combed hair, clean face adorned by only talcum powder but her clothes seemed to show off a slight rebellious streak. She was wearing an insipid dull-white, Garden kurta and a matching dupatta with tiny meaningless flowers over it. Her chudidaar however was a deep, rich red cotton (that’s ultimate urban Indian chic)and it was bordered with thread-work zari. The whole effect was startling to say the very least.
There was another woman near the entrance who’s face and clothes I don’t remember at all. But she was holding on to the handrail at the top of the last seat and that is what I noticed. She had straight fingers with fingernails just long enough to be delicate and not enough to be claw-like. You could tell just by looking, that her hands would be soft and that she probably didn’t shake hands much but perhaps a few people very close to her had clasped that palm.
Women, are a completely different species altogether. Yes, women are really beautiful. Physically beautiful. And captivating. Compellingly so. Today I had a glimpse into what the poets wrote about when they described the ‘mystery of a woman’. There is strength and vulnerability molded into the same person. There is beauty…such breath-taking beauty that is also cold and cruel in the knowledge of its power. There is silent, seething resentment buried under layers of submissiveness and devotion. There is gruff sternness which somehow encompasses gentle caring too. There is the tendency to be broken over one man’s indiscretion entwined with the ability to carry the burdens of ten other men.
Men are simple creatures. I always know whether I like a man or not and why. I like him because he is:
1…2…3…it is always some combination of these things.
I can never be sure whether I like a woman or not. The few women, whom I do acknowledge that I like, exhibit very ‘macho’ traits which makes the analysis easier. But really, I have no clue.
I thought for awhile about what it would be like to fall in love with a woman. Somehow the minute I got to that thought, all my fascination vanished. To be able to equate that appreciation of beauty with sexual attraction is beyond me. I can admire, as from an artist’s eye, critically, aesthetically. But to really, completely experience a woman, I would have to be a man. What a pity….
I started to write a comment to Shub’s query which turned out too long, so here it is as a post instead! In my opinion traditional ideas of beauty all have their roots in reinforcing the social roles. For example:
1. Long, lustrous, silky hair: Ask any woman (who’s had such tresses that is!) how she manages it. You just might get to hear of hour-long shampoos, frequent head massages, a set of combs, brushes, grips, clips that can rival a spare parts mechanic’s toolkit, not to mention the sheer fortune spent in conditioners, volumizers, dryers, serum potions, colourants, oils etc.
Flash back to some decades ago when the phrase ‘hair-sculpting’ was unheard of. Remember long hours spent in washing that headful, treating it with home remedies to ensure lustre and body, drying it, copiously untangling it, keeping it free of lice etc? What better way to keep the woman occupied by giving her a workload to care for a pile of…dead cells?????!!!!
2. Long, flowing garments: The woman, the homemaker. The woman, the mother. The woman, the hostess. The woman, the cook. The woman, the cleaner, washer, sweeper, duster etc. And all of these, in sarees or lehengas or some version of long, trailing garments. So dress her in impractical garments, put her in the midst of hot, dusty conditions and fire hazards and potential ‘honour-threatening’ situations (what a hullaballo if the dupatta or palluv should slip!) to wear her down. Obviously the same holds true for skirts, tight dresses and gowns. Reminds me of the times prisoners were put in chains attached to chunks of metal to slow them down.
A guy once had the audacity to tell me, “What’s the big fuss? You should wear sarees more often.” I challenged him to spend 6 hours (inside his own house to preserve his delicate male ego) wearing a saree and to talk to me after that. I’m still waiting to hear of his experience.
3. Uncomfortable footwear: How many men like a girl in boots, flat shoes or sneakers? (I can hear the XY-crowd booing softly) How many men wear this stuff themselves? Its a funny thing that men should accuse women of being impractical but make such a big thing about the ‘sexy stiletto’. I, for one would really love to design a men’s shoe with a knife-edge under the heel and the front too tight to be comfortable. I’d prescribe a pedicure and then a day in open-toed sandals, walking on dusty roads and getting into crowded trains…I’d like to see how they look and feel at the end of the day. I am sure the supressed groans will sound just as sexy to me.
4. Jewellery: One very wise man (yes they exist…and are in the danger of being extinct!) told me that making a hole in the lobe of the ear is believed to suppress aggressive tendencies. This could be a myth of course, considering Indian women have had their ears pierced since time immemorial and it hasn’t succeeded in entirely wiping out aggression from them. Its worth thinking about though.
I personally hate gold jewellery. Apart from the fact that I think yellow is a perfectly horrible colour, I also feel like those jewellery holders you see in advertisements and shop-windows (yeah the black, bald ones with sharp features and no eyes). Of course I suppose its a real boost to the male ego to have to ‘protect the fine lady’.
I think the best jewellery I ever wore was a bicycle chain around my neck….it had its uses 😉
5. The package: And finally the whole notion of beauty is so restricting, so confining. Flawless skin, perfect figures, crip and well-fitted clothes….all of these take a good deal of maintainence.
Ever notice, that in any section of society anywhere, most women take care of their looks and attire (as their social and economic conditions may permit). Also a larger number of women do this than the men. Even in today’s day and age, in a big city, where ‘metrosexual’ is the latest buzzword from the marketing gurus stables, I see well-attired, groomed women and flabby, shabby slobs (FSS). Makes me quite see red (and I certainly don’t mean it as a colour of lust!).
Having said all that I confess to spending some part of the day grooming myself and ‘putting on a face’. What the hell, when in Rome…