A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: You got just one life and it’s short, so spend it your way
Do your friends taunt and gender shame you because of how you dress or talk?Updated: Mar 07, 2020 17:07 IST
After last week’s column, a barrage of feedback mails came my way which accused me of being a boomer in disguise. Well, mujhe toh kuchh bhi keh lo…baat toh maine samajhdari wali hi ki thi nah? Hai nah? There, your smile says it all. Anyway, two other mails, not on the subject but still very interesting, stood out.
These mails came from two distinct parts of India, and were written by two people of opposite genders, yet spoke of the same raw nerve. While Ambika from Lucknow said she loves her inclination to dress and behave like a tomboy, Ankur from Patiala confessed to hating the fleeting feminine traits he has in his behaviour. Both of them, however, share a common trait. They are both very, very stressed about the reaction of people around them to how they dress and speak.
“Just because I love to sport short ‘boy cut’ hair and only wear jeans and T-shirts, some of my friends have indirectly asked me if I’m lesbian,” writes Ambika. “My friends tease me all the time that I’m gay, but believe me, I’m not,” says Ankur.
Well, Ankur, don’t ask me for my belief, because I, frankly, just don’t care if you are gay or not. And I will not even want to take this discussion to the gay-lesbian angle because, as I’ve said earlier, which gender turns you on is your, and only your business. Not mine, not the world’s.
Let’s talk about the stress you are facing on account of friends teasing you for speaking or behaving like the members of the other gender. The very fact that both of you used the term ‘friends’ to describe these people smacks of irony, but I know your definition here includes classmates and acquaintances.
So let’s just correct that definition first, shall we? Here, think about it...
1. If they are friends, they won’t judge you
2. If they judge you, it’s twice as fun to ignore them
3. If you ignore them, you’ll start loving yourself
4. If you love yourself, they will want to be your friends
5. If they want you as a friend, they won’t judge you
I want to ask a question to each one of you who’s reading this just now. Can you, hand on your heart, claim that never in your life have you made fun of a guy who happens to speak in a girlie way? I can’t. I’ve laughed at actors attempting such scenes in comedy films. Sometimes, with seemingly good intention, I’ve advised female friends to flaunt feminity and not opt for really short hair etc. But the more I think about it now, I realise how less I cared for what it must be doing to their feelings at that point. All that I perhaps cared for was to satisfy the stereotypes in my own head of how others should be.
Being judgmental comes easily to us. And someone’s outwardly trappings such as appearance, clothes, accent, etc are the easiest targets when it comes to feeding that habit. What we forget is that whatever we know of these trappings is borne out of our own conditioning, not by any rule of the universe. Somewhere while growing up, we acquired the knowledge that since a majority of guys and girls in this world walk or talk a certain way, that’s how we, or those around us, are supposed to.
Now imagine for a moment that a new, inhabited country is discovered somewhere in the world. When our explorers reach there, they realise that all women in that country sport a short crop and all men have long, flowing hair. Suddenly all your beliefs would be turned upside down by the realisation that it’s all conditioning, and nothing else.
While I would like to reserve my right of holding an opinion on whether I like a girl who dresses up as a ‘tomboy’ (whatever silly origin that term has), I’ll have to accord the right to that girl to have the freedom of deciding what she wants to look like. If I need to tease a feminine guy or a masculine girl to get the laughter in my life, it’s my sense of humour that needs an overhaul, not their appearance.
And while on this point, this is what I want to tell all the Ambikas and Ankurs of this world. People are going to judge you or talk about you for as long as you live. They mostly don’t have anything better to do with their lives. But you do. And that’s achieving the high of being able to give them a royal ignore. You know, there’s a reason why the middle finger of my hand is my most favourite. Lest your so called ‘friends’ accuse me of obscenity, let me clarify that it’s only because God made it half an inch longer than the others. But you do get the point, don’t you? Embrace the way you are, the way you look. Go mad trying out whatever your heart desires, as long as you are not harming yourself or others in the process.
Ek hi life hai yaar, that too pretty short. Either spend it their way, or yours. Something tells me that yours is so much more fun.
Sonal Kalra realised that both guys and girls feel, equally strongly, that their lives are tougher. No one is cakewalking. We’re all just trying to have our cake, and eat it too! Mail your thoughts at email@example.com, facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra