Monday, August 8, 2016

OMG, beta, you’ve become darker and uglier!


Growing up as a girl is tough. We have to fend off leery advances from unknown men in public spaces even though we don't fully understand what's going on. We are expected to be paragons of virtue because someone somewhere decided without even consulting us that women are meant to be the pride of the family. On top of that we have to face a battalion of aunties who constantly judge us as if we are part of a beauty pageant. God forbid if you're not fair and lovely, you are constantly reminded of it, as if it was your damn fault! They could be fat, ugly themselves but that doesn’t stop those aunties from passing snarky comments about your appearance.

Interestingly the boys are spared this agony. They could be gangly, pimply, with a hook nose, yet they were handsome princes according to their Moms. We had no such luck.

As you would have guessed by now, I was thin, dark, gawky and not conventionally “good looking” as a child through her teens. I hated the shape of my nose. My brother would often make sketches to illustrate what exactly was wrong with it. I wish I had thinner lips and would often experiment with ‘pursed lips’ look hoping it would make me look pretty. Everyone around me seemed prettier. Unfortunately I was not even spectacularly good in academics to make up for my lack of comely charms.

I had a mirror at home. I knew exactly how I looked and tried not to be too bothered about it. In fact I was a pretty happy child. It seemed it bothered others a lot. I had no dearth of concerned aunts who’d fret about how tanned I had become and how beautiful my Mom was and then glance at me in meaningful silence. Since this was a yearly ritual, I tried my best to turn into carbon. People often ask me where and how I got my sense of humour. Well, it’s time to reveal it all. I developed it at a very young age as a defence tactic. I used it to counter hurt. When on a sunny lazy vacation afternoon an aunt told me that I’d get married only because I had beautiful feet, I told her I’ll ask a burqa to adopt me and make sure the world wouldn’t have to see the rest of me. She of course didn’t get the joke.

As a gawky adolescent still hungry for approval from strangers, I believed every single one of them. Each snarky comment disguised as concern stung like hell. But I made sure I never gave anyone the satisfaction of knowing that they had managed to dent my self-esteem. Sometimes I felt there was a contest going on amongst Moms, each trying convince others that their child was the best thing to have happened to humanity by putting the rest of us down. As usual, we kids were caught in the crossfire. So, when a colleague of my Mom would rue about my lack of height, ma would enrol me for swimming or make me hang from a cold iron rod first thing in the morning, hoping I’d stretch like chewing gum. I spent most of my time at the pool chatting with hot didis lamenting about their voluptuous thighs. I refused to hang like a baboon from that rod after the first day.


When some odd person did say something nice about the way I looked, I refused to believe them.

As I grew older, I became confident in my own skin. You could say I have gotten so old it doesn’t matter. Whatever. My pug nose no longer bothers me. I snap at the salon lady when insists I go for a skin brightening treatment. I am as comfortable in heels as I am in flats and nobody in this world can make me feel bad about myself. I am not claiming harsh words do not affect me but I brush them off like dandruff.

It took me over two decades to accept that I am not all that ugly. It helped that I am married to a man who thinks I am the most beautiful woman on Earth (well, almost) and makes me test my ability to step out of my comfort zone. It is now I know how shallow individuals are, who judge others based solely on their looks. That it requires extremely low self-esteem to feel good about yourself by making others feel bad. That when you are not astonishingly beautiful, people seek you and love you for who you are.

And now that I am on social media, I am everything I ever wanted to be – beautiful, talented, oh mee gawd hawt and I don’t let that self-congratulatory feeling linger for long, just like the unpleasant remarks.

The other day while with friends we somehow got talking about our growing-up years and I was surprised to discover that so many of us had similar stories to share – being made to feel bad for plain looks or dark complexion or slanty eyes. And some of these callous remarks from our own Moms!

At an age where insecurities are omnipresent and rife, overcoming self-doubt is a daily battle. Teens are constantly trying to benchmark their worth against one another and the last thing they want to put up with is unflattering comparisons. They face pressure from a multitude of sources, self-inflicted, peer, parental, and societal. This, compounded by hormonal changes, continuously cuts the ground from under their feet and feeds into their insecurities. So it’s a miracle to have emerged to be confident and content women. Maybe the barbs and taunts helped us become stronger. We defined success, strived harder to be better human beings and didn’t let frivolous remarks mess with our self-esteem.

These days when I see an unsure gawky girl with her gorgeous mother or a far prettier sibling carrying the burden of comparison on her shoulder, my heart goes out for her. I want to run up to her and hug her and tell her, stop believing those women who have nothing better to do with their lives than comment about others. Don’t let anyone contaminate you with their insecurities. The outside world is a harsh place, especially for women, created by women. You’ll never be able to rid yourself of people who will try their best to bring you down by ridiculing you for how you look and what you wear. The higher you go, the lower the barbs will get. Should you let that bother you, you are simply handing over the keys to happiness to them.

And please don’t wait for two decades to realise that beauty has very little to do with the way you look. It has more to do with how you make others feel. It’s beyond almond shaped eyes, an aquiline nose, smooth skin and cascading hair – things that are just a biological by-product that nobody consulted you on. True beauty is about the sparkle in your eyes, the kindness of your smile, the confidence in your stride and your head held high.




62 comments:

  1. Had I read this article during my teen years I wouldn't have suffered from inferiority complex. I also would have posed for my high school pics with friends at school picnic. Now I dont have many pics of myself with my group of school friends, as I looked ugly and dint want to be compared with my prettier friends when the film came back from the studio!

    This post is basically the story of my life. Well said - guys are always handsome Prince Charmings for their Moms, but the same Mom judges brutally the appearance of own daughter ! How mean is this? I am a victim of that as well! Now, I am in my 30s and actually feel good in my own skin and don't want to look like anyone else. It is not too late though, right?

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    1. You are funny, intelligent and attractive. Maybe sometimes we need a push from others (read uncalled for negativity) to find ourselves. And that you have.

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  2. I was too , a thin dark girl with a broad forehead. It took a loving husband and lots of awesome friends for me to finally come out of my cocoon and realize I'm beautiful after all. Thanks for the lovely articel

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    1. And thank you for sharing your journey.

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  3. "These days when I see an unsure gawky girl with her gorgeous mother or a far prettier sibling carrying the burden of comparison on her shoulder, my heart goes out for her. I want to run up to her and hug her and tell her, stop believing those women who have nothing better to do with their lives than comment about others. Don’t let anyone contaminate you with their insecurities. The outside world is a harsh place, especially for women, created by women."

    In love with these lines.

    As a girl/women who had always been body shamed for her looks/underweight/overweight, this post spoke to me. :)

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    1. I just wish I had more friends to share my angst with when I needed it the most.

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  4. So identify with every word you've written! Straight from the heart and brilliantly described as usual!

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  5. Very well written article Purba. It takes a lot of introspection and courage to share ones complexes and innermost feelings.I remember growing up , myself and my sister faced a lot of these comparisons , in get togethers , parties , weddings etc. Our parents tought us very well to brush them off . Thats one important aspect of parenting we should look at , to make our children just brush off the comments on physical appearances.

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    Replies
    1. Parenting has evolved quite a bit with time and thank god for that!

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  6. Great Purba. Straight from the heart as usual. I also have my personal story on this.

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  7. No doubt it is tough to grow up as a girl.We Indians are well known for our penchant for fair complexion.The modern era has added loads more to our benchmarks-it is all about externals today.
    As you have pointed out,it is up to us to find a niche for ourselves and trash the offensive verdicts.

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    1. I hope you will write about this in your next article.

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  8. Right on!! I was this sickly thin girl while growing up ... too plain I was told once by a guy. I spent the whole night looking at dictionary wondering what that meant. The only thing going for me was I was a topper. That's the only reason I was given a second look. But I guess my parents had filtered out all other deteriorating comments from relatives, which I am sure were plenty. They were proud of me and made sure no one else felt otherwise :P I guess that saved me from being damaged :P
    It's sad to see other parents being so judgmental ... let a child grow first, let them show their potential ... it's sad that something as trivial as looks are given more importance ... it's not just in India... most Asian countries are absolutely crazy about how a girl looks like. When a girl of 15 is given a plastic surgery voucher by parents in South Korea, you know there's fundamentally something wrong with the brain wiring.

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    1. As parents we need to instill enough confidence in our kids to enable them to differentiate negativity from well-meaning advice.
      But they need to fight their battles on their own.

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  9. Success and happiness comes from our hard work and honest deeds.People need to educate themselves, arise, awake from this limited reasoning.We should immediately stop from giving the coming generation any sort of restricted sensibilities.

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  10. Such a wonderful post...and even in beauty our society has gender bias, be it India where Radha is expected to Gori or Mills and Boons where the guy is always TDH ( By the way I always called myself one - Tingu, Dark and humorous ) :) ...

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  11. Roohi Bhatnagar · Freelance Writer at Self-Employed


    Your post has touched the right chord in me. Social media has really changed lot of perceptions that people forced on seedhe saadhe log like you and me. Haha. I was just like you only my lips are thin but I too had to endure the nosey jokes thrown unabashedly on me by my brother and bother-in-law. But see, I have just finished writing a fashion post on my blog. Confidence. That's the real beauty!!

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    1. Roohi, my Facebook comment widget seems to have a mind of it's own and is giving me grief.

      And i did see your maxi post. You look gorgeous!

      Delete
  12. I was the family's ugly duckling since birth - unnaturally tall, painfully thin, and dark in a family of fair, petite buxom gujju ladies, each of whom are still stunning to look at. And to top that off, both parents and bro have filmstar good looks. So I really identify with this writeup which totally nails it. Kudos!

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    1. Phew! Must have been so tough on you.

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  13. What an amazing post! Could relate a lot to it as I was constantly underestimated by my relatives in my teenage years because I was very thin. It was great reading the post :)

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    1. The things we have to put up with!

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  14. Love the post, Purba. Our social Gyan Givers free and they think they are the Vitamin Sun makes it tough for girls. See, today, now you can write and give them a taste of their own medicine. Superb post:)

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  15. Love the post, Purba. Our social Gyan Givers free and they think they are the Vitamin Sun makes it tough for girls. See, today, now you can write and give them a taste of their own medicine. Superb post:)

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    Replies
    1. Hahahaha...not really!

      But I'm hoping many will self-introspect and stop hurting others with unnecessary comments.

      Delete
  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  17. A lovely, humourous and sensible post!

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  18. A beautiful, heartfelt post Purba that strikes a chord with so many of us, who have battled some or the other insecurity through their growing years. I think, the generation now is far more civilized about passing comments or judging people based on their looks. Being comfortable in your own skin is gaining momentum, as I believe the parents of the current gen have supportive parents from older/our gen....having ourselves passed through those trying times.

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    1. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

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  19. This is a perfect analysis and beauty is so much more besides the color complexion! I am glad I know someone who has proved the world wrong in more than one way, Purba:)

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    1. A lot of it has to do with how life treats you :-)

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  20. I took the liberty to have a look at your pik... What are you talking about... i would kill to have hair like you... Well #StraightHairWoes
    PLus you have a beautiful smile and your nose is very normal and suits you just fine... Come on think about poor voldemort before yourself. :P
    We all suffer through people with prejudices... for a long time my mother would be told she looks like my elder sister - she used to laugh at their jokes not realising that they hurt me. Possibly she thought that would motivate me to lose weight. Also she also grew up with a lot of jokes about her having big teeth and being darker than her younger sister - i think she liked the compliments for a change. I don't blame her.

    We as a nation are very judgemental about looks... well we as a world are, but Indians really top at this, no competition.
    A friend who had come down from ireland was very amused when a neighbour in delhi looked at her and said "you look sick and pale today - is something wrong?"
    I asked her so what's amusing. She said that finally she got over from the jetlag and was feeling really fresh that day only to be put down by a person she has known only for a week.
    My friends from other countries are appalled at the number of fat jokes I have to bear in a day from everyone around me... Forget aunties - at my wedding reception someone told me that obviously I married SS (he is slightly more plump than me) as no thin guy would be able to make me look this good... I still wonder if it is more insulting to me or my husband.

    Thank god some of us are able to get over these things... Glad you did... I still make an effort and compliment anyone who looks a little low in public... Maybe just say that your saree is great... Your hair looks really nice.. just something that would make them smile...
    Great post.
    Sorry for the long rant.

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  21. Thank you, Aparna for sharing your story. You are right, as a society we have no respect for other people's boundaries and the notion of inappropriateness.

    People don't think twice before commenting about intimate details of your life when it should be none of their business.

    The only way to deal with it is humour :-)

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  22. "It is now I know how shallow individuals are, who judge others based solely on their looks. That it requires extremely low self-esteem to feel good about yourself by making others feel bad. That when you are not astonishingly beautiful, people seek you and love you for who you are. "

    I'll be honest and frank here- someone (mother of my ex) rejected me because of I was not 'good looking' for her son. You've no idea how much these lines mean to me.

    Amazing post!

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    1. Your ex's happiness was the last priority for his Mom it seems. And he let her. Sad.

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  23. for everything,there are advantages and disadvantages like we have studied adv and dis-adv of science in primary school.being pretty gets bored with time and one has to bear all the attention and flirts.pain of being pretty is same as being ugly,at least ugly people can live happily in the nation of rapists. hahaha

    being 6ft tall and handsome,you will get vexed with people praising you all the time.once my ex-gf said i look gr8 in certain color t-shirt,she got angry cuz i did not respond and did not say thanks for the compliment cuz i was bored with those words from my childhood,i became emotionless for those particular words.whenever i look into mirror ,i don't recognise myself(am not gajini) cuz am made of more soul than body.

    PEOPLE WITH GOOD CHARACTER COME IN ALL COLORS. to be honest,the probability of checking pretty girl's blog is more compared to not so good looking one.but what interests me is blog content and her thoughts.if pretty girl is a great thinker,then the probability of visiting her blog is more than any blog.so whenever i check pretty face in comments section,i do visit her blog and most of the time its a disappointment cuz they are not wise and i could not write comments on pretty girls blogs.so looks are deceiving most of the time.

    from ancient times,RELATIONSHIPS AMONG EQUALS ARE HAPPIEST ONES.so a handsome guy cannot live happily with a not so good looking girl and vice versa. a wise guy cannot live happily with a dumb girl.i always had great respect for people with great character and looks always matter if you want to get into a relationship and live happily ever after.so always try for looks and wisdom in equal magnitude while getting into a relationship.for frnship,looks will never matter,only thing that matters is intellect or character.i really really hate people with make-up kits.

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    1. This comment is wrong at so many levels, I don't even know where to start!

      Firstly, your so called good-looks is not an accomplishment, so you should still feel thankful for whatever appreciation you get.

      Rape has nothing to do with how a woman looks. It's an act of violence to show a woman her place.

      A certain amount of physical compatibility may be desirable but what carries a relationship through is mutual respect and love.

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    2. whenever i write something,it will be flawless.otherwise i don't write.may be you didn't see the world the way it is. :) you may check below blog and comments.

      https://dilawarrajput.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/perception-of-women/

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  24. Had read it the day you had posted. As expected, the post echoes with most women. Unless you feel good about yourself, others won't. And beauty is beyond looks. I always wait for the person to speak.

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    1. Yes, I know, but was still waiting for your comment. It has become a habit, I guess.

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  25. It's true that 'beautiful'/attractive people often get away with more....but that kinda beauty doesn't last forever. No beauty shines brighter than that of a good heart.

    At the end of the day, it is true beauty that rules. It's sad that some of our elders, who ought to be wiser with experience, still have piddly mindsets.

    Loved reading this.

    Cheers,
    CRD

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    1. "Piddly" mindsets has nothing to do with age :-)

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    2. You're right. I stand corrected :)

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  26. Very helpful advice in this particular post! It’s the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    monkey go happy 2 | play mahjong| superfighters 2 |yahtzee with buddies

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  27. I had read this post when you had posted it. Had so much to write in the comment that I scratched it. I really used to wonder when growing up why every one was so worried about my complexion. It became a touchy subject. Luckily I had a supportive family and intrinsic high self-worth. Being so good at academics I had a bunch of admirers in my teachers and fellow students which was a big ego boost. Now my son and I are more open about these conversations and why some people may fixate only on your colour. Hopefully, he is in a better space than I was when growing up.

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    1. Some people are absolutely clueless or pretend to be clueless about respecting personal boundaries and confuse intrusiveness with concern. Which of course is bullshit!

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  28. I know. I was thin, lanky .. weak eyesight and since my parents could not afford the stylish glasses in those days had those BIG glasses.. and then the way I use to tie my turban and the the hands of the glasses had to go under I WAS A AWEFUL SIGHT.. I hated myself.. not that I have improved any better , But I think I can give the YETI a run for his money..

    other kids and also some old people can be so very harsh, unknowingly maybe.. I do wish though I was a little better looking, maybe things would have been different. I do feel that I got bullied in school just because of the way I looked. BUT its gone I dont think about it these days.. because when I do I get angry and feel like going back and Beating those who behaved so badly with me .. without any fault of mine ..


    Ouchhhh the post hurt :) :) :)


    Bikram's

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    1. Even though we have moved on, those hurtful comments linger somewhere at the back of our minds.

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  29. Don't hate yourself, girls! Keep blogging girly things :-)

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  30. Awesome ! That last line said it all. Isnt it ironical that our parents and elders harm our morale so badly sometimes during our growing up years, that it takes the maturity of adulthood to be able to shrug it away.

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  31. You are beautiful Purba, and not just in the physical sense of the word! It's just amazing that we have to 'pay' for not being pretty; like that's the only worth that we have!

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  32. Very interesting blog. Alot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that I'm interested in, but I'm most definately interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.
    list of emoticons

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