Saturday, 13 December 2014

Of Enlightenment And Body Hair (AKA How I Got An Epiphany During A Wax Job)

Choti Mata’s Notes : Body hair is not exactly an appetizing choice of topic for anything, least of all a blog post. But hey, Choti Mata has recently been subjected to a particularly tormenting session at the local salon that threatened serious emotional damage lest she vent out her fury. Since, a hands on scuffle on the adjacent road was out of question, she has taken this less damaging (and less dangerous) method of keeping her sanity (or whatever is left of it anyway) intact. 

Disclaimer: The next 1000 or so words might contain stuff that a certain section of population may deem gross. It also contains radioactive traces of that substance called feminism. Don’t like. Don’t Read. And if you haven’t yet mastered the delicate art of navigating away from a page on your browser, feel free to close your eyes and wish it all away. It might just work.

“Arey! I can still see small hair on this finger. Do a thorough job”

It was the 10th time this statement had been repeated in a span of less than 5 minutes. It was also the 10th time I had reminded myself that I needed to work on my timing and stop bumping into finicky females during my salon visits. The female in question, who shall henceforth be referred to as ‘pretty woman’ (I am not being sarcastic. She really was pretty) meanwhile seemed totally unfazed and focused on her quest for perfection.

The harrowed salon girl bent further, squinting really hard to see the alleged hairs. They were evidently working very hard to remain unseen. After a few seconds, she conceded defeat in this game of hide and seek and just went on doing what she was expected to do, presumably praying that those hairs would have mercy on her and at least stop being visible in whatever hyper sensitive lens the pretty woman was using to find them.

It was several harrowing minutes later that the pretty woman was marginally satisfied and the poor salon hand could extricate herself from her clutches.  By the time she made it to my side, offering me a tired smile, I was already having a massive empathy attack and was on the verge of walking out, if only to spare her of any further torture.

I did not walk out. I could not. Because I had to be seen in public the next day and even though I had no penchant for the perfection that the pretty lady sought with admirable dedication, I still did not want to go out there looking like I could use a lawn mower.  But I was totally unable to shake off the guilt that seared me every time I told her that I could see hair on my whole goddamn arm.

I hate salon visits. I really do. They tend to make me feel strangely violated. And guilty of being a slave driver. Usually, both at the same time. It is about as disturbing a combination of emotions as it sounds.

But before I delve any further into the meat (or the follicle) of this matter, let me clarify my stand on the elephant in this post.

The body hair.

As a huge fan of body autonomy arguments, I have nothing against individuals, including women, who actively choose to not get their body hair removed.

Yay! to the hairy leg I say, as long as it is a matter of personal choice and makes the individual in question happy. I also expect the same courtesy to be extended to the individuals who choose to get their body hair removed, again strictly as a matter of personal choice.

I have been on both sides of that fence. Because, by the time I had discovered and ventured into the masochistic world of body wax, it was alarmingly late (by teenage esteem standards anyway) and I had already, albeit unintentionally militated against the convention for several years.  

However, after I did cross that fence, the choice to stay there was pretty much deliberate and intentional. Convenient as it was, I realized I just I did not subscribe to the idea of preservation of body hair—mine or anyone else’s. (Loose translation: Hairy individuals=big turn off) But as I said, I respect personal choices. Including the extreme ones—like the choice to prance around like a baboon. I am cool—as long they are not making mating calls in my vicinity.

So, I don’t like body hair. Which against the background of my absolute aversion to salon visits is a preference that ends up being a massive pain.

Still, prudence tends to score over petulance and most times, I am able to make it to a salon before things get out of hands. However, as I mentioned before, I totally lack the penchant for perfection that the pretty lady exhibited and tend to prefer my stay in the salon confines to be as short as possible. It is hence rare for me to get anything beyond the obvious out of my salon visits—least of all, a food for thought topped with an epiphany.

This time, it was different. Different because, sitting there, watching the pretty woman getting all worked up over five stray hair on her finger--it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about the sad world that the pretty woman seemed to belong to. The world where people managed to tear their eyes off her undeniably attractive face and focus on a bunch of invisible hair on her arm.

Then, a terrifying realization came crashing down on me. The realization that perhaps we belong to the same world. The world where the possibility of me being judged by the quality of my wax job was much higher than me being judged for anything remotely more substantial—what I have to say for example.

There is enough evidence around to support that particular conclusion. A thriving cosmetics industry,;an even more thriving advertisement industry that seems to find the core of all its creativity around women’s body; body image issues that seem more like an endemic and the pages of the Hindi daily that were lying open in front of me and telling me how turmeric was the only treasure that I needed in my life because it would keep my skin glowing.  

It was a terrible realization. It made me want to throw up.

I left the salon within next 15 minutes. The bright light day made me see things a little more clearly.

Then I had that epiphany.

I did not spend any more time in the salon than I had to. The pretty woman did not spend any less time in there than she wanted to.  And we were both off on our merry ways, none less or more in worth than the other.

Perhaps, my horrifying realization was true. Perhaps, our world is indeed very shallow. Perhaps, they are out there—judging us within their shallow understanding of an individual’s (especially when the individual is referred to as ‘she’) worth.

And yet, just like the body hair, this too is a matter of personal choice. My personal choice of the extent to which I allow myself to be judged. Or be judged at all. And just like body hair, neither side of the fence is wrong. Not really. Not as long as the so called choice is actually personal and not a product of external conditioning.

There shall always be judgments. It is inevitable. But, subscribing to those judgments is a choice. Being governed by those judgments is a choice.

Being judged is always a choice. Please feel free to say no!   

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