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If every one of us had the same perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect marriages, perfect jobs, well, then we might as well be robots right?
The other day I went shopping with a friend. She had a social event coming up so we stopped in at a popular women’s clothing store to find something suitable for her to wear. Fifteen minutes of scouting, and I thought I’d found the perfect dress. I mean, it was red (don’t they say, there’s a shade of red for every woman?), georgette (a flattering material indeed), and had a lovely floral pattern all over it (floral and summer are synonymous right?).
‘Uh, uh! I can’t wear that.’ Shaking her head, she quickly moved to the other side of the store.
Confused, I looked at the dress again. It was lovely.
‘Why?’ I walked over to her, still holding the dress in my hand. ‘It’s perfect!’
‘Perfect? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ She rolled her eyes.
‘I don’t understand.’ I really didn’t.
Leaning in conspiratorially, she whispered, ‘It’s sleeveless. I can’t wear sleeveless.’
Now I was intrigued. What was so awful about sleeveless anyway? ‘Can you explain?’ I could sense this was a sensitive subject so I moved in closer too.
She rolled her eyes and then shrugged. ‘It’s my upper arms. I hate them.’
I noticed that she said it matter-of-factly, almost as though she’d gotten used to the feeling. Even as she moved on to look for something else and I retraced my steps to return the dress to its shelf, I couldn’t help listening to the buzz of conversation around me. It was a weekend and the store was full of women. There were professionals, homemakers, young women, old women, all in different shapes and sizes. However, they all seemed to have one thing in common with each other. All of them hated something or the other about themselves.
‘My legs are too scrawny.’
‘I can’t show my midriff.’
‘I have stretch marks.’
‘I’m too pale to wear this colour.’
And it went on and on and on. ‘Strange,’ I thought to myself. ‘There are scores of women in here. Yet, not one of them has said one positive thing about herself. Look at that one. Yes, she’s got pale skin but is that all she notices? What about the pretty eyes? Or the great dress sense? Why does it have to be that way? Have we been conditioned to always think the worst of ourselves?’
The incident stayed with me long after we had left the store. I couldn’t help but wonder whether it really was some sort of conditioning. Had we been somehow trained, habituated, into shaming ourselves because of what we felt people around us thought of us? Or was it some unrealistic, impracticable standard that we were setting for ourselves based on what was considered socially acceptable? Super-toned bodies, glowing skin, sleek shiny hair that can be effortlessly tossed around, ramrod postures, perfect nails, perfect teeth, perfect everything!
Ugh! Was that the confident, progressive woman of today that all of us, every one of us, was aspiring to be?
I got to thinking. That was just the part about how we berate ourselves for falling short on the physical aspects of being perfect. What about the emotional aspects? Or the other facets of our lives and personalities. How we perform at work? How much we do around the house? What kind of mothers or wives or daughters are we? The key word was the same. Perfection. That unattainable, unrealistic goal that we set for ourselves but can never achieve.
Then I asked myself the inevitable question. What role does social media play in this? After all, everyone always captures and shares the best moments. The best smiles, the lunches with the girlfriends, the new hair dos, the vacay selfies.
What about the heartbreaks and the failures and the frizzy hair? That’s a reality too. Why do we work so hard trying to conceal those from the world? The long sleeved dress to hide the stretch marks, the huge anniversary party to mask the failed relationship, the new car to disguise the work stress, the perfect mom moments to cover up the meltdowns. And when there’s nothing else, in walk the filters.
Really, is it so hard, so impossible to accept, celebrate and embrace the imperfections, the scars, the failures? After all, isn’t that what makes us the unique individuals that we are? If every one of us had the same perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect marriages, perfect jobs, well, then we might as well be robots right?
‘Let’s take a selfie,’ I suddenly said to my friend, whipping out my mobile phone from my bag.
‘Oh!’ Her hands flew to her hair. ‘Wait…let me just…’
‘Oh, forget it!’ I pulled her into the frame.
‘But my hair’s all frizzy! And could you move the phone a little? I have a whopping zit on my left cheek.’
‘You’re gorgeous, zits and all!’ I declared then. ‘Come on, smile!’
Ten minutes later, we were sitting down for lunch at our favourite Chinese restaurant. Even as we scanned the menus, my friend glanced at me worriedly. ‘Are you going to put that picture up on social media? Because if you are, I have the perfect filter.’
‘Nope!’ I told her then. ‘This one’s just for us. No filters, no social media, no validation. Just us and all our beautiful imperfections.’
Image source: a still from the film Veere di Wedding
Rrashima is a senior corporate analyst with over 20 years of experience in the corporate sector. She is also a prolific writer, novelist and poet and her articles, stories and poems are regularly published in read more...
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