Your head is a living forest
full of song birds.
e. e. cummings
If you wear western clothes, you are a slut.
If you speak too much, too abrasively, too feminist-ly, you are a cantankerous shrew.
If you smoke, you are a bad, fallen woman.
If you smoke AND drink, you are a shame to your family.
If you do all this publicly, you deserve to be raped.
Please feel free to add to the list. Because, we may not label our merchandise but we label our women with enthusiasm and ease.
Mixed media 2: Sharpies, brushpen, watercolor and digital.
Mixed media project- 1:Watercolor, beads, sharpies and gold foil on paper.
“I am keeping these aside for your wedding”, Ma said, as she looked down at all her gold jewelry. Some of these were from her own wedding and had never been worn since. I was in high school at the time, but I remember thinking of the day when I would be rewarded with these jewels for finding a queer, composite creature who is successful yet humble, rich yet down-to-earth, modern yet traditionally Bengali. A man who our entire extended family and social circle would approve and who in turn, would recognize my true value – augmented by my mother’s gold, of course.
Despite all the gold, I worried about the off chance that I might fail to be fetching enough to achieve this. And why wouldn’t I worry? Some of my older girl cousins who were doing “too well” academically, caused our families to panic about how this might pose a challenge in “getting them married”. One of my cousins grew too tall and big, and every family dinner was open call to discuss how difficult it might be to find a suitably large man for her.
Marriage was inevitable and aspirational at the same time. My cousins and I, we all knew and were even vaguely excited by what would start a few years later — a test of our true worth. A hunt for the perfect groom. An army of uncles and aunts would go forth, armed with a horoscope, a postcard-sized glamor shot and the one other thing more precious than all the family jewels – our virginity.
P.S. I want to hear your stories, experiences or thoughts about growing up female in Asia – a crowd sourcing of ideas, if you will. You can leave it in the comments section or email me if you want to keep it private. Without your stories, I don’t think I will be able to finish what I have started!
Have you noticed how women are always apologizing for being a mess? We are continually providing explanations to near strangers about the condition of our hearts and bodies. New moms about their bad hair and chipped nails; busy women for their sloppy Saturday outfits; a recent divorcee for her puffy face and lack of self love; a forty-something mother of a special child for her untidy home and dirty dishes; an unemployed woman trying so hard to make up for her lack of “work”. Always with a half smile, dismissing our own condition with the usual and causal, “Oh I am such a mess today”
You are tired or emotionally drained or insecure or depressed but it doesn’t mean you have unraveled into some kind of gooey, pulpy, gloop of nothingness. It’s easy to forget that reality doesn’t look like a page out of Better Homes and Gardens. That no matter what society says, other women are not holding you to some ideal image while you do your best with the cards fate has dealt you.
“You are not a mess. You are an abstract work of art, splattered with the intensity of all things beautiful.” Remember that.
Previously, whenever I wanted to say the word(s) “seriously?!(bitch)”, I would. These days I just have a look (illustrated above). Mostly because in the last two years I have been trying to be more adult, and adulthood sucks balls.
You can see this look happen in varying degrees of fierceness when I hear the following:
I also have a “Bitch you’re dead to me ” face but that one’s hard to illustrate.
You Learn by Jorge Luis Borges
After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.