“Hello Uncle, Aunty, Cousin, Third Cousin, Cousin’s nosey Sister in Law, Sister in Law’s dog, dog’s fleas,” she sighs.
It’s been a while since she has heard from any of them. Although it’s now come to her attention that she isn’t exactly a rare topic discussed among the group. Apparently, her recent Facebook posts of her in a two-piece at the beach, have created some kind of havoc amongst relatives whose names she could hardly remember. “Shameful” and “Indecent” were the words used. So, like any pissed off, enraged young lady, she decided to sit down and pen down her thoughts on the matter.
Twenty-two years of age and fresh out of her comfort zone, she had recently moved away from India to the USA. She had lived her entire life in the lovely little town of Shillong. A town that prides itself in being progressive and modern, and sensitive to women. She liked to tell herself that she had been raised to be headstrong and independent, with no obligation to stand accountable to anyone. This gets hard because, as we know, human nature gets the better of us most times, but she now feels the need to address some of the issues that bother these people so. Especially since, life just will not go on for them if she didn’t. And she was raised better than to be selfish, let alone rude.
A friend of hers recently told her, she was lucky she was now in a country where women feel liberated enough to walk down the beach in a two-piece and not have to be the talk of the town or have hungry eyes violate her. She said to this friend, “That’ll change for our country too, I have hope in it. Times are changing. Our younger generations have a higher and deeper respect for women”.
You see, but that’s the thing! What are we going to do about the older generations that don’t? She had said this one too many times before and will say it again, from experience, it’s not just our men. It’s our mothers, and our grandmothers and our aunties and our ladies from down the street that make this progress just a tad harder. And now, she’s sitting here facing exactly that! As she writes this, she finds herself constantly having to edit out all the cussing, and only leaving in the niceties.
She lived the same way in Shillong as she does here now. Wore the same clothes and spoke the same language. The only difference being, in Shillong, she would be fought with comments like, “Believe what you may, but this is still Shillong.” “Remember where you’re from.” and “This isn’t the West.” She strongly believes one too many Indian girls have become accustomed to having to listen to statements like these and our revered aunties and uncles should know that the tight dress someone else’s daughter was wearing, did not define who she was, nor her character. She was expected to cover up at the beach, so their sons, and brothers and uncles and fathers would not perceive her as a slut. Actually, scratch that. She believes the situation is even worse than that – she is expected to cover up and control herself so that the same men ‘tsking’ her every move, do not have to go through the effort of controlling themselves.
Oh we can all be as broad minded as we want, no biggie. Just remember, “Not here in public, okay?” “Okay fine,” she would say. Accepted. No arguments there. For in India, there really was no arguing with those kinds of comments. She would brush them aside and let it go.
NOW, 9000 MILES AWAY FROM SHILLONG, AND THE SAME COMMENTS CONTINUE!. She was being a nuisance halfway across the world. It never ends. And she’s being told, “Look, your posts on social media have become an issue.” Her outrage at this point boiled over as she slams herself down in front of her computer to address these ridiculous remarks!
“How can you possibly be in a bikini?”
“And have the guts to post it for the whole world to see?”
“Leave something to the imagination!”
At first she wanted to scream in frustration,
“Does the carpet match the drapes? Go ahead, imagine that!”
“Does she have a sense of humor? Take a wild guess!”
“Is she a virgin? That is none of your damn business!”
She refused to believe that from halfway across the world she needed to have an answer to these questions. She had no desire to get into the basics of women’s rights that she was sure her ‘educated relatives’ were aware of. She wasn’t going to treat them as stupid.
Okay, was she overreacting here? Would they rather she covered up and lived life as a deity, so their lives would be a tad easier to lead? So they could go through their day, without having to worry about hers? She had mentioned once before, she had not been raised to be selfish.
But hold on, if she did that, wouldn’t they all just die of boredom? Wouldn’t their daily entertainment be stripped from them? Their nightly gossip over red tea, turned into sweet nothings. She was a lot of things, this girl, but rude was not one of them. She wouldn’t do that to her dearest uncles and aunties.
She wanted to send a message, to make a point, to stand up for herself. That message being:
“I am a grown woman, ever since 15 in fact. And I can handle a little criticism on my own. Critics going through channels like my mother and my father would fail. Mummy’s on my side, and Daddy too. Tough luck there. Must be hard for you to believe that no matter how many pictures I post of myself in my “shameful” two-piece swimsuit at the beach, my parents still love me. Gasp!
Oh yes, not only that, but my sisters think me quite beautiful and that my behavior is nothing to be ashamed of! How terrible!
My family? We stick together, so it’d be a little silly to continue to indirectly tell them, because that in turn becomes our little evening laugh. And that’s the last thing you want to be, we are big laughers, we are.
My father has been asked to “control me, if it were possible anymore.” Oh, he could, probably would too, if he felt the need to.
This isn’t a plea of any sort, nor is it an angry rant, although initially it had been, if not for all this editing. I know I am only one of the many girls that are faced with double standards and comments like these.
Uncle, Aunty, you’re not hurting me, you’re hurting your own children.
Every nasty comment you have to say about another’s child, is a nasty comment being said about your child! They don’t deserve that! STOP feeding the cycle!
Your definition of ‘indecent’ and ‘shamefulness’ baffles me. No, the shameful thing here is your behavior. Don’t let me, a child in your eyes, have to tell you I am disappointed in you!”
She leans back in her chair and before she stops typing, decides to finish by thanking them all for their concern and for opening her eyes to reality. She implores them, “Look away the next time you find yourself stumbling upon my posts, sparing the scarring. Or better yet, that little icon on my page? The one that says, ‘Unfriend.’ I invite you to feel free to use it!”
She writes this last paragraph with a smile on her face. She’s finally calmed down, relaxed and is now confident that all who read this will either hate her, scoff at this, completely relate, or maybe even think twice before calling the girl next door a tramp. She reminds them, “She could be you twenty years ago.”
But if this does absolutely nothing, and she ends up being faced with twice the destructive behavior, she then waves her white flag. Throws her hands up in the air and says, “To hell with it.” And for good reason, you see.
She worries not for generations to come. These guys are and will be smarter in every way.
She definitely worries not for the older generation, for this mentality of theirs will eventually die out. Her new age, disgraceful, outrageous way of thinking will outlive theirs, whether they like it or not. And all she has to do is sit back, relax and wait. Wait for it fade away.