A week back I stumbled on something that crossed my timeline on Facebook, the way these memes do. I read, liked and went my way. The thought however, lodged itself in my head and would not let go. I tried pinning it down a couple of times without luck. This morning as I looked at the pictures I had Saathi and my brother take of me all dolled up to go Golu hopping, it came to me.
I have been invisible practically half my life. Growing up a pudgy girl in a family of stick thin siblings and cousins should have made me stand out. It only made me do my best to disappear. To become the wallflower. To be the fly on the wall. There. Present. Yet invisible for most part. When surrounded by girls prettier than me (which was always), I learned quickly to play chaperone. I learned to deflect, observe and absorb. When the spotlight is always on the seat next to you, you feel the transition from warm to chill pretty accurately. The line that demarcates the two is solid, immoveable. Every conversation seems like an afterthought. She is not pretty but… she is intelligent.
Most importantly I learned to cope. I coped by hiding myself in baggy clothes, by shunning cosmetics with a vengeance and taking to my words as weapons. I bowed and accepted defeat when the process of finding a life partner meant I could no longer ignore what the market demanded i.e., fair, slim, beautiful brides. I walked, watched portions, subjected myself to facials and grooming rituals that can be equated to torture. Eventually, with proper clothes, artfully designed pictures, I could pass off for pretty.
The glow lasted perhaps a few years and eventually I slid back to my base nature which meant avoiding grooming and dressing to disguise rather than to flaunt. With three children at home who will watch what I do rather than what I say, I am at crossroads. I am forever goading my children to look inside. To focus on traits rather than appearances. To shun beauty aids with a vengeance. Even as I do that, a part of me realizes that to survive in the world outside the walls of the house, they will need to fit in. They will need to speak the language of their peers. Being able to fit in is as important as being able to take a stand. As much as it is important for them to love their body they way it is, it seems to be as important to present themselves the best way they can.
To this means, I have to critically examine my biases and see where they come from. I wonder if my views would have been different had I been beautiful. I suspect they may have been. Then that begs the question, how do I parent my girls who are beautiful to me in every way, just they way they are?
At the moment, I have no clue.