May 20, 2009

Story of a Girl

"This is the story of a girl,
Who cried a river and drowned the whole world!
And while she looked so sad in photographs,
I absolutely love her,
When she smiles... "
- Story of a Girl by Nine Days

"Wow, you look hot!"
"Oh, thanks" she mumbles. "It's the makeup"
"No, it's you" they say. "Why are you being fussy?"
"Because I feel self-conscious"

She hesitates and remembers the one clear moment during her teenage years, when getting dressed for a fashion show her A said, "Aunty [so & so] said that if you looked more like me you'd be pretty."

(Thanks A).

"Did you know that when you were a kid your grandfather said you weren't as fair as your cousin?"

(Again, thanks A).

The flash from the camera brings her back and she realizes what an awkward model she makes. She gets angry with herself for appearing silly, but she can't help it. If she wasn't good enough for A, how can she be good enough in terms of anyone else? If people stare at her long enough they will find a flaw. Stupid self-doubt, even though she knows better. She's managed to re-invent herself but certain moments linger especially at such times. So much for the days when she tried to hide herself (it's a whole other can of worms) - she wishes she could go back to them now.

If you really think about it, many women go through similar emotions and moments of low self-esteem brought about by many different factors - from personal to societal influences. In Singapore, for example, fairness creams are well advertised and much sought after. Most Singaporean women are quite fair already and some of them to the point of being pale. But the society they live in deems it so. The fair-er you are the more attractive you were. Singapore isn't the only country that has this notion however absurd it may seem. Look at what MJ did to himself. In India, we have products like Fair and Lovely and the name says it all. Job opportunities, your Prince Charming, Happily Ever After - all good things follow the fair skin factor or so we're led to believe.

What about issues of body image that the media is more focused on these days? I, personally, know someone who had to deal with bulimia. It was at times shocking to have a conversation with this person because there simply was no getting through. As a concerned support person I was quite worried about the damage this was doing to the said individual internally, externally, psychologically and emotionally. Thankfully, she has managed to overcome bulimia, however her image of herself remains an issue every now and then.

And while we're going down this road how about all the atrocities that are committed against women, some simply because they are women. There is a law in India that states that you're not to ask your doctor for the sex of your unborn child. This, of course, came about because of times when families simply didn't want a girl born to them. Female infanticide is still a dark reality. The point to all this is that ... well I don't really know. I started in one place and ended up somewhere else. For the most part, while I try not to fit into any norm or expectation (colouring outside the box is fun), there are times when others opinions of you seems to take over. Growing up I used to be compared, by some aunties, to a tamil actress. Cute, yes. Fun, no. These days, I seem to be compared to a Hindi actress. Flattering - I don't know. I suppose it's better than being called Pocahontas when you become more brown in colour than you normally are. I guess at the end of the day, if you're not comfortable in your own skin it doesn't matter much what anyone else has to say - good or bad. Of course that means you tend to focus more on the flaws pointed out instead of seeing some truth to any of the positives. When I got engaged many years ago, my dad suddenly tried to tell me that I shouldn't stay out late at night because I was now engaged and we had certain standards to maintain. I looked at him incredulously and a month later I went traipsing around Europe. I don't think it was a direct result of his saying I had to behave differently, my dad even trying to say something like that was surprising as hell, however I guess even he succumbed to cultural "rules". It's not easy sometimes, even if you don't want to view yourself as a tall, short, brown, white, pretty, ugly, fat, skinny, average, nerd, slob, posh, etc. individual sometimes you are simply made to.

"Can you become
Can you become
A new version of you

New wallpaper
New shoe leather
A new way home
I don't remember

New version of you
I need a new version of me

New version of you
I need a new version of me"
- Felicity Theme by JJ Abrams.

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