It’s me. And no, it’s not the first time we are meeting. We have met before, except you didn’t quite notice I was here. I’ve always been right here, but you only saw me through your questionable, skewed perspective.
I am the daughter who you have pushed through school and tormented. I was told that I was too stupid, too lazy. And when I finally became a doctor or engineer or lawyer, you were not happy till I was married and had grandchildren. And here I am looking after my children, when you cry and said I have wasted all my talents – if only I had also given my career a shot.
I am the person you grab on the streets, on the buses. I am scared to go out without being surrounded by a horde of friends. And even then, protection is not guaranteed. I see your glances, hear you discussing my dimensions. No, it’s not attractive. It’s not funny when I take the long route home to avoid you. It’s not funny that I dig my fingernails into my hands. It’s not funny that I pray silently that I am not raped.
I am the friend who did your school notes, sat with you through all-nighters, proof-read your essays when you were dead tired. I am the person you’ve called when you were down. I am the girl you spoke to about your crushes and the times when she broke your heart and walked off. And then, as soon as I got to caring, you thought I became too needy, too desperate. That you never saw me that way. You tell me that I am only a friend, not womanly enough to be a girlfriend, a wife. And then you shun me, ignored me till you needed your ego boosted again.
I have been bullied about my weight since before I hit puberty. I have developed eating disorders, lost sleep over how I look in my navy blue and white school uniform. If I am fat or have short hair, I am a questionable tomboy. If I am slim and have long plaited hair, I am a sleaze. If I don’t wear makeup, you don’t take a second look at me. If I do, you leer at me, wondering whether you have a shot. Of course you do, because, let’s be honest, who can resist you?
If I am too intelligent, you don’t notice much beauty in my face. If I am too beautiful, you don’t think I am very brainy. If I disagree with you, (never mind that you are wrong, which you incidentally never are), I am not thoughtful, not analytical enough. If I don’t understand your brand of humour, it’s somehow my fault. The joke was not degrading, hurtful and downright disgusting – it’s simply that I am not open or smart enough to understand it.
If I am career-oriented, it’s just a farce. I can, of course, never be as good as you. If I am as successful, it’s because I was lucky, slept around, or am cold and ruthless. But not as capable as you, no. As your soulmate, my title and salary should always strategically be below yours – useful, but not threatening.
I am the person that has to be perfect at homekeeping. Cooking, cleaning and raising a family. If the floor is not clean, it’s my failure. If dinner is not on the table right after you come down from your warm shower – wait, is there ever a good reason that dinner is not on the table? It’s only reasonable that you come home and sit in front of the television sipping scotch – after all, you had as long a working day as I did. And since I’m the mother, if the kids go bad, it’s my fault. A poor mark on a test. A lie. A fight. All the values are imbibed from the mother. Somehow your responsibility ends with cuddling the child.
If we can afford that big screen TV, the car and the golfing, perhaps you don’t have taunt and tease me every time about that new dress or pair of shoes that I got for myself.
Oh and by the way, it’s okay if you’re short, fat and not very attractive. At fifty, after two kids, you tell me to lose weight. All the while balancing that glass of scotch on your stomach. I am not allowed to think about, let alone look, at other men – that makes me loose. But you can compare me to the film star half my age and with plastic surgery and tell me to take better care of myself.
It’s not amusing to say I am PMS-ing, no, truly it’s not. It’s not fine to say that I am insecure, when all I get from you is complaining and criticism. It’s not acceptable that your problems are our problems, and that mine are just a figment of my imagination or stress. I have down times, I get burnt out, I age too. I accept your inadequacies, your frailties – why do I have to continuously prove myself?
And when I threaten to leave or walk out, you say I am overreacting. That you love me, that I’m breaking your heart. Don’t I care? If you truly want to know, I did care. A lot. But I gave while you only took. Quite frankly, I am tired. All my life, I strive to be perfect, to make everybody happy and it drains me. I am never thanked, but rather as the days go by, I am taken more and more for granted. I am exhausted.
And one day I realise that you only ever loved yourself. It’s the one thing I have learnt from you and that I take from here. Maybe it’s time to love and live for myself for a bit. Maybe being selfish isn’t such a bad thing after all.
By Riddhi Sen
2013 Blog Writer for Change Tomorrow’s World & The Wonders of Womanhood
Edited by Wonders of Womanhood Team