social conditioning

Of SATC extras

I just watched a couple of extra episodes at the end of season 6 of Sex and the City— interviews, bloopers, thoughts on completing the show etc. It’s funny how every time you watch the last episode of the series, you invariably feel a sense of loss, even though you have done innumerable marathons of the entire series. Every time you watch it, I think you keep evolving with the series and it becomes a temporary but very important part of your routine, like a secure refuge of an evening after a grueling and frustrating work day. And the extras just add to it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the extra tidbits of information that these offer, as much as I enjoy the rest of the show. In fact, even more, as it shows a very human and relatable side of the actors who represent the characters that form a part of your present memory.

I feel a very strong emotion when I watch this. I think it’s got to do with the envy and resentment of never having been part of something so creatively significant and the realisation that you’d probably never be due to various factors, the most important one being lack of any creativity whatsoever. The very scenes that you found ridiculously unrealistic, suddenly start seeming very relevant when they are put in perspective with the rest of show, the trends of the time when it actually aired and so on, which we might tend to miss if we watch it several years down the line when the time and context has changed and so has the audience.

But nostalgic musings aside, I absolutely enjoyed the extras. It was for the first time that I actually got to learn about or even acknowledge the existence of the writers to wrote the hilarious scenes that have become a part and parcel of our everyday conversations and also our linguistic repertoire. I was impressed and amazed to know facts about how much time, money, research, forecasts and frustrations went in creating one memorable scene that has a footage of no more than a minute. I felt belittled (in a good way) after seeing how many people worked so hard in creating not such a show but a social trend and behaviour that knowingly or unknowingly has shaped our behaviour through collective and personal consciousness. I wonder if I’d ever find the concept of a single, sexy woman, aware of and unabashed about her sexuality, so fashionable and alluring, if it hadn’t been for this show. Cheers!

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The Battle of Hair

I’m currently reading Caitlin Moran’s How to be a woman. I’m only into the second chapter and she has made several interesting points in a straight forward no-fuss way and also raised questions that make me reflect on my life and how it revolves around things that I’d otherwise discard as unfair to womanhood. I have been a meek participant of the crusade of hair removal since as far back as I can remember. First it was only in my thoughts, later it seeped into my actions after I had enough resources to put myself through the numbing pain of removing every follicle with painful attention to detail.

I think modern women have been perpetually at war with their hair and pull their hair everyday over how it crops up everywhere it shouldn’t and how it’s sparse where it should be most dense…on the head obviously! I think this is the first aspect of womanhood that girls who hit their puberty encounter. You look all smooth and pretty till you’re there and then you suddenly have pubic hair, hair on your legs, a slight unsightly mustache if I may, eyebrows that look like wild untamed bushes. All this at a time when you’re just learning about sex and everything around seems to evoke sex for you. This is when you think you need to look pretty and moderately sexually attractive, but  when you have unwanted (?!, may be it’s there for a reason called protection) growth everywhere and no money to take care of it. Oh the miserable age of puberty! This is also the time when you become aware of your body and are likely to withdraw into your own shell. You don’t want to be noticed, and having facial or body hair makes you noticeable, at any age unfortunately.

It’s not even funny how much planning goes into managing hair.  I keep it till the last minute so that it is closer to the day I want to look smooth and hairless, but it has enough buffer period to let my rashes heal so that I look naturally beautiful. How awesomely natural is that! I can so relate to Moran’s piece about this planning. I prefer to get done with my hands and legs 2 days before the day I want to look fancy, eyebrows a day before so that they look sharp and carved and pubic hair 2-3 days before. Because after using the epilator, it gets sore and knobbly there, and there is an occasional drop of blood [when there is conflict between your sane side that keeps telling you that you’re subscribing to the popular belief that women should have luxuriant flowing tresses but absolutely no sign of body hair; and your superficial stupid side that tells you that you want to look like those models from the hair (or no hair) ads] when I’m trying to multitask to prove to myself that it doesn’t take time and try balancing my leg over the sink while reading a book and dexterously moving my hand over the most delicate part of my body without looking at it,  and my hand slips slightly to the right. What happens next? I don’t remember because I saw stars and almost fainted.

Once the days are sorted out, I go through meticulous planning about what methods I’d use to epilate which parts of my body. Threading for eyebrows, waxing for upper lips and arms, but not for legs shaving  as I get a lot of in-growth because of waxing. Pulling hair out with the epilator for underarms because it’s easy to manoeuvre, then waxing for the pubic mound and epilator for the rest…ouch it hurts even thinking about it; and then shaving for whatever remains. I feel ashamed of myself even as I write this. I mean I am an educated, modern woman who doesn’t need to do all this. Even my partner doesn’t care one bit about a little bit of hair here and there. But it’s all in my head. Probably because a million advertisement and videos that bombard us with unbelievably and effortlessly good looking ethereal women with a rich crown but no hair anywhere else that mere mortals like me are led to believe that we have major shortcomings that need to be taken care of on an urgent basis.

What they don’t show us is probably the very same women spending hours at the salon and even more hours locked in their bathrooms with a hand mirror or microscope imagining the existence of a wilful hair that needs to be uprooted; they don’t show a team of experts zooming into every single part of the clippings to remove even non-existent blemishes and create something that would put even wax and plastic to shame. And what they don’t see is how these ads and videos are the cause of disappointment, mortification, low self-esteem and in extreme case, depression for millions of teenager women world-wide. What they don’t see is how it’s a wrong, unhealthy expectation setting for teenage men worldwide who just grow up believing that women in their life should look a certain way, but fail to realize that all of that doesn’t come naturally. I remember an incident when a male colleague pointed out that  it was time for my monthly salon visit as my eyebrows looked like a jungle. I didn’t get angry, I just pitied how this extraordinarily intelligent man was but a victim of social conditioning. I told him of course that I don’t do things just because a random guy told me to. It’s pathetic how men who are so brilliant and can read data like stories fail to read beyond the adverts.

Anyhoo this is a debate which can conclude in establishing that we are victims of media’s bombardment but can’t translate into making us stop spending/ wasting time on the excruciating hair removal rituals.

Sarah Haskins, a woman I absolutely worship has a hilarious video called “Your Garden” which I’m unable to find anywhere now. 😦 Please watch it if you do find it and also send me the link. Extraordinarily articulate and funny that she is, she makes the very same point in 1000 % better way and in just under 2 minutes. Here’s one of her other videos, just as hilarious and thought provoking.

With age comes respect. Does it really?

As Indians, we are led to believe that age is something that HAS to be respected. You don’t argue with elders. You don’t look at them with defiance. You don’t contest their decisions, that they made for YOU. And if you manage to touch their feet at every opportunity there is, you are a winner. I don’t subscribe to this kind of assumed, obligatory respect.

I was at the pharmacy today just browsing through for some random stuff and waiting to be attended to. There was a girl right before me, whose temper seemed to be rising by the second. There was an elderly person who there giving you stuff and making bills. It’s very important to mention that it was a typical Ayurvedic pharmacy cum treatment centre. This should give a fair idea that the elderly person was also a typical one who expected respect from anyone younger and more so from a younger girl. The girl who had been waiting since long time suddenly couldn’t take it any longer and started telling the elderly guy, “Uncle, I have been waiting here since the last 2 hours and I can’t take it any longer. I need my money. I am not from here I need to go back to Hyderabad”. The uncle was taken aback of course. How could a girl talk to him like that? She said, “No I won’t take cheque. I want my money and I got stuff from here only because you promised the last time that I’d be immediately refunded if I had to return it for some reason.” And to my utter shock, the elderly uncle shouted, “Chup baith tu!” I went blank for a second. How could anyone possibly talk to someone they didn’t know like that…and to a customer, at that? The old man suddenly got defensive and started saying he didn’t have money in the morning. I totally understood the girl’s point which was it wasn’t morning for one and that it wasn’t her problem. And then the drama got more interesting. There was another middle-aged woman there who started telling the girl’s mother who till then was just sitting there not knowing what to do. The woman actually asked the mother to convince her daughter to let go because he was an elderly and very respectable person. She started telling how the man would absolutely return the money since he was such an old and honest human being. The whole discussion just turned around at this point and the girl was made to look like the bad guy. At this point the doctor came out and asked the girl to keep it low as the other patients were getting disturbed. She chose to completely ignore the older man who was yelling and creating quite a ruckus. The man also started telling the sympathetic middle-aged woman in Malayalam how the girl shouldn’t have yelled. Everyone just started cornering the girl. To the point that even her mother started convincing her to come back in the evening. The girl retorted, “why didn’t you tell this to me before. Why did you make me wait for 2 hours? Why should I believe you? and what if you make me wait for 2 hours again?” All of these were very valid points but the girl still had to back out and reluctantly agree to come back in the evening.

I don’t understand this. Where is it written that you HAVE to respect older people? And even if it was, just because it’s written doesn’t make it right or valid. Wouldn’t people like to earn respect instead of claim it for age which is just a number and needs no contribution  whatsoever from them? I am surprised how the expectation of respect from a person is directly proportional to their gender. If you are a woman, you HAVE to respect anything. I also fail to understand the irrational importance attached to touching people’s feet. Okay, I get it that it’s a sign of respect and acceptance of someone’s power. But what has age got anything to do with it. It’s very unfortunate that even today, when girls do everything that only boy’s traditionally did, this meaningless gesture is still the yardstick of a girl’s character a.k.a her docility and readiness to submit to authority.I hated touching people’s feet even as a child. I felt I was being dishonest to myself every time I touched my grandmother’s feet. Why I was being dishonest to her too. She didn’t have any quality that to me defines a person worth respecting. She disrespected and mistreated her daughter-in-law, she demanded respect, never commanded it. When I couldn’t take it any longer I stopped doing it as often as I did it earlier. But due to the embedded need to show if not have respect for someone, I still did it occasionally. It’s funny how I’d feel guilty when I didn’t. And it felt guilty even when I did because there was no emotion behind the physical activity of bowing down.

I don’t believe in numbers when it comes to respect. I have respect for anyone who has respect for other’s point of view and for other’s right to have an opinion and express it. It’s high time we started questioning meaningless gestures we routinely do without any feeling. What do you think?

They never tell you that you may not want to do it on your honeymoon!

I don’t quite like the term honeymoon. I’m not completely sure why exactly, but I think it’s mostly due to my pattern of not liking to be associated with anything “common” and “popular”. Sounds extremely childish I know, but it’s probably a defense I have created every time I don’t have a perfect answer for something. So ya, I don’t like the term honeymoon, but I’m perfectly fine with the idea of going on a trip with your partner…from my experience, it’s much needed. After I married EM, I felt so disconnected with EM for a week, that this was going to be my chance to hurl a million questions at him in the privacy of a beautiful room in an even more beautiful place in the mountains.

A victim of social conditioning that I was, I had designed my honeymoon a certain way in my head. I probably didn’t even know what I really expected as I was already handed over a set of expectations that I was absolutely supposed to have. No one gave me a list, but I had a mental checklist already. I thought we’d make love non-stop: on the bed, on the floor, in the bathroom, on the balcony…why I even though we’d sneak kisses behind trees.  Little did I know that reality would be far from it. Our honeymoon period was probably when we had very little sex…that too because I insisted we owed it to our honeymoon and the stunningly beautiful place we went to. In fact, on one of the days we had no sex at all…aaaaahh shocking,no? But we were so tired after our marriage, which was although a very simple and no fuss registration, the 2 receptions that followed had made us quite tired and irritable. And we just wanted to eat and sleep.

So what went wrong??…frankly nothing apart from the fact that I didn’t go there as an explorer without any anticipation but a sheer lust for experience. Our honeymoon was nothing like I was made to believe through reels of films and reams of women’s magazines. We still had a lot of fun. We stuffed our face with delicious preparations, smoked non-stop, started drinking even before lunch, swam while it was raining like crazy and then had the we-absolutely-have-to do-it sex. But honestly, neither of us would have missed anything if we hadn’t. People say you change after marriage, I kept insisting that I wouldn’t…but hell yes. My attitude towards sex completely changed. We thought the likelihood of coming to this wonderful place again anytime soon was a lot less than the likelihood/ surety of having sex many times over. And that was a shocking revelation for me. I who would be up for it anytime, all the time! I think it had a lot to do with the theory of diminishing marginal utility, in anticipation of an unlimited supply of sex whenever. Earlier we’d be up for it all the time because there were so many factors that determined whether we’d get laid: we stayed 500 kilometers apart; our holidays would hardly match; when they would, we’d still have to decide dates according to my cycle; even then we’d meet only 2 days tops. So when we did get 2 days together, we’d make the most of it.  I’m not complaining; these arrangements had a charm of their own and were a sure way to be idiotically ecstatic and very grateful whenever we did get to do it.

But since marriage, there is no longer this urgency. We have become very zen about it. It’s like a man who doesn’t have to worry about buying things when they are on sale because he has enough money to buy them only when he needs them, irrespective of the price tag. And this zen calm showed even during our honeymoon and made me go bonkers because you know…they never told me that I might simply not want to do it then. I could always do it later. I’m just saying.