Friday, March 13, 2015

What Will People Say

As a little girl, as a teenager, as a young woman, and well, even now, I've always run into a familiar conversational trope "what will people say". It was by far one of the most trying things, and also the most ridiculous. To me, it seemed like I was living under the scrutiny of these "people" and for some reason, their opinions mattered and, more importantly, governed my every day life.

I could never understand why "people" were more important. And after these conversations there was one thought I never articulated - WHO are these people? I mean, do I know them? Would I be able to spot them in a crowd? Do they have names? Why are we so afraid of, and so terribly bothered by, these people? Do we owe them money? Do they know some deep, dark, unmentionable secret about us that we have to live our lives in terrible fear of their knowledge?

I never really asked my family all this, and in the few choice instances that I did, I got the line about how we weren't living in isolation and we had to face "people" and it was important to be above reproach. Again, with the damn people!

I never got it. I don't get it. I don't think I ever will.

Clearly, these "people" aren't going away. They seem to be at the crux of every discussion we're having today. Take, for instance, that young girl who was brutally beaten on the streets by her police inspector father. His reasoning was that she was having an "affair" and had brought "shame" on the family and there was no way that she was going to get away with it. His solution was to force-marry her to some random they had picked out for her. Once again, the "people" won.

The worst outcome of "what will people say" is not the violence that girls and women experience in this country, it's the hypocrisy that's masked in the shroud of "IDGAS about what people say". Not only are the people who loudly proclaim this liars of the worst sort, they're also hiding their deference to convention in a statement that's more dangerous and detrimental than "what will people say".

The worst affected by the 'what will people say' adage are, of course, women. I know of many other affected parties, but I am not living their reality, so I will have to focus my angst on the territory that I am familiar with. I don't want to generalise on something unfamiliar to me and then get called out for being ignorant and so on.

Like I was saying, the worst affected are women. Why you ask? For one, people seem to care an insane amount about whether it's appropriate for a girl to wear jeans, carry a cell phone, be single, have male friends/acquaintances/colleagues, have an education, sanitation, etc. There's so much a woman can and cannot do, and practically all of it is countered with the "what will people say" tag.

Why does it matter so much? This social approval? Are these people around when you're in crisis? Do they celebrate your joys and mourn your sorrows with you? Are they the support you need to live life knowing that you're no alone in this world? I don't think so.Living in fear of judgement basically limits us from being happy. The constant worry of someone else's opinion on our life leaves no room for joy. And that's a sad way to live.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

All that Baby Talk, Pt4

You know, I really want to stop blogging about my pregnancy. But the craziness surrounding this most normal of womanly biology compels my rants.

[My dear fellow women for whom pregnancy hasn't been easy to come by, might never happen, isn't easy, please know that I empathise in full. I don't mean to beat you over the head with my drama.]

The bump watch. It's a tabloid favourite activity. Thankfully, I think the Indian media isn't as unhealthily obsessed thanks to the innumerable superstitions surrounding pregnancy and the fact that most pregnant women in our country aren't too show off-y with their bumps. Hiding the bump is as much a part of pregnancy as is announcing to the world a girl/woman's fertility (read manjal neerattu vizha, don't get me started on that, please!). So, the Indian tabloids have carried woefully little content about celebrity babies and Aishwarya Rai, mother of most famous celebrity baby in Indian tabloid history, chose to stay on the DL during her pregnancy, bless her!

But the average woman, aam aurat, sarasari manushi, doesn't have the pleasure of being the subject of zero prying eyes. No, this woman has to deal with her doctor, her spouse, her family, her friends, her own devious mind, and all the content online and offline regarding what her pregnant belly ought to look and feel like! It's a bit ridiculous this level of scrutiny. It always makes me wonder why we even announce our pregnancies to everyone around us. I get it, it's good news to those who believe pregnanices are good news, but there are some people who don't want to know about what goes on in our uterus and frankly who can blame them? Other than a mini human, the other things that a uterus expels can hardly be called pleasant. Maybe necessary, but by no means pleasant.

That's not the topic of conversation here. We're talking baby bumps.

You'll have to forgive me the usage of the colloquial term. Thanks to my first trimester, pretty much the only obvious indicator of my pregnancy has been my weight. And everyone kept commenting on how fat I've become and so on. It was tempting to tell them off, but I didn't feel like. Too much work for the opinions of people who IGAS about. The only people I do care about are friends and family, and thankfully, I've been lucky in tat they are more concerned about my well-being and less about how pregnant I look.

That being said, it's a bit sad that you go to the trouble of getting pregnant and then all you're told is "you don't look pregnant, just fat." Gee, thanks! I went through a miscarriage, and some serious time planning only to hear this from your smelly mouth. Please go sailing on the cooum and accidentally drown in cooum sludge, please? Thanks. I really appreciate how you've acceded to my wishes and whims! UGH!

Body-shaming and fat-shaming have become such an integral part of the process of one's pregnancy that you can't unhear it, or pretend it doesn't exist. The only thing you can do is rage at it and call people names. You literally leave us no choice. For the most part, pregnant women and their skewed centres of gravity don't lend themselves to grace in a fight.  And honestly, I prefer standing up straight to flailing about like an ungainly creature.

At this point, I've gone on selective deafness mode when it comes to bump talk. I mean, in my initial excitement, I wanted a bump and I wanted to look pregnant and wear maternity clothes and walk around the city gleefully rubbing my belly and looking pleased about life. But then I realised that this is probably better. A barely there belly that's finally beginning to show in my third trimester is better than walking around breathless and cursing your decision to get pregnant in the first place.

The main takeaway is of course the following:

- If you're a woman who has never been pregnant, shut up about my lack of a baby bump. Save your commentary for the time you do choose to gestate a mini human.
- If you've been pregnant before and you had the kind of belly that walked into a room hours before you did, that's your body being pregnant, not mine, so quit comparing!
- If you're a man, don't make me state the patently obvious. Just please SHUT UP!