Monday, 28 May 2012

Desi Barbie

As the child grows up, I finally have time to sort of step back and think. About her. Me. Her as a child. Me as a parent. About choices we have made. About thought I have paid to choices I have made. About rules, and opinions, and objectivity and most recently, about this whole boy-girl stereotype business.

The trigger was simple. The child needed a haircut. Her hair had grown out in ungainly manner and even the father was starting to complain about it! She swam for eons and then her hair was wet and it was impossible to dry it out. Plus with all the chlorine and ick it looked in bad shape.

So I resolved to take her and, as I have been saying the past few sessions or so, said, I am going to get it cut short. NO. She said. Okayy... She wanted it to be cut REALLY SHORT like a boy. I tried various tactics to dissuade her. But I was outnumbered. So I caved in and now she looks completely like a boy wearing gold rings in his ear.

I was reading some of my old posts and also glancing through photos and remembering the pink phase. It really didn't last long, but that was bothering me as well, I find, as I read myself. In that phase, she was the opposite of me, wanting to wear pink and purple, and bangles, and occasionally, sporting lots of colourful clips in her hair.

I did knuckle down and enjoy that phase though, on hind-sight. I made all those hair things for her - something I have never allowed myself to do. I selected bangles and sorted them and packed them when we went on trips. Again, something I have never done for myself. Suddenly, I found, I was enjoying this stuff!

Through my own childhood, I resisted the pulls of what I thought of as 'frippancies.' No make-up. No jewelry. No flouncy frocks with frills and so on. No fancy footwear. I dressed in simple cottons, wore brown Bata sandals, kept my hair short. I wore running shorts under my school uniform skirt, all the time, and even went through a phase where I smothered my hair in oil with the explicit intention of looking nasty.

And no, I wasn't a teenager necessarily through all that. Y'know. When your body is changing and you don't know how to deal with it. I was like that through that period as well, but also before and after. Even in grad school, heck, even recently. I don't even look at my face in the mirror, really. I don't really think I am hideous, just that I don't allow myself to do 'all that fashion stuff' (whatever that entails).

So on the other hand, here I am, as a parent. Trying to tell the child that its awesome to be a girl. And that, we, as women, can really do anything we damn well please. Hopefully, considering my abject faith in role-model parenting, I am not just saying that to her. Not just empty words.

Then I have a child who insists she 'wants to look  like a boy.' I thought it was a phase. That its that damned Georgina. Surely she influenced me as a child as well. But it is a long phase. She says she genuinely dislikes 'fussy clothes' as she calls them. Things she cannot play comfortably in (even if she doesn't play so much, sitting around reading piles of books). Hates hair-clips. Likes bangles and bindis but for about 10 minutes at a time, only. Loves to play with colourful beads and buttons and bells and so on, but not to wear them. Favourite colour? Blue. Most hated colour? Pink. Poisonous pink, she calls it. Vomit-inducing, she says.

And...it bothers me. I resist it. I fight it. I work on her from various angles about this. I react by finally, FINALLY, embracing my gender a little more (in a manner). I wear pink now. I line my eyes, and like how they look when I do that. I wear long ear-rings (only the wooden Fab-India kinds), and love them. I wear my saris often. I am wearing my hair long. I am even considering if I should pin back stray strands of hair (this is something I have never done, if you can believe it!).

I still won't go so far as to colour my hair. I don't paint my nails or wear lipstick or touch anything other than Oil of Olay/Pure Vaseline to my face. But the reasons for some of those at least are related to how sensitive my skin is in general, and my dislike of chemicals (despite day job). The worst part though is? I am enjoying it. I am even feeling occasional pangs of regret that I didn't learn stuff about clothes and fit and hair and accessorising when I was younger...

So, as I was saying vaguely on facebook... I think I am rebelling against my child. Who knows? Next I might purchase that thing called 'Desi Barbie' in the wedding finery or something and start playing with it. Oh wait. That would be totally weird... :)


13 comments:

Unknown said...

I know exactly what you mean. May be it is a (south) indian thing, but I grew up thinking that if you dressed well, then it meant you had no brains. I have changed a lot though and I hope to teach my daughter that you can (attempt to) look good and be smart at the same time! btw, I have been following your blog for a while, and recently learnt your real identity. I was super excited, as I also graduated from UMass and am now a postdoc (and I have a daughter)! I resisted commenting before since I didnt want to link my google account, but what the heck!

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Hello new person and fellow Umass-ite! Welcome!

the mad momma said...

:) I want to see the new you. I think I understand what the other commenter says. I was brought up to believe the same - that if you had any brains, you wouldn't waste that time dressing up. But I ended up pretty girly anyway.

Choxbox said...

I think I have done a fairly balanced job with the older kid. She was for the longest time not particularly bothered about what she wore etc. I did doll her up at times - but not so much in pinks and spangly stuff. Mostly emphasis was on comfort rather than how it looked. Of late however she does show an interest of sorts and gives me 'fashion/style advice' too - like no Mamma you cannot wear that with this dress, it clashes etc - which I am quite happy about actually :)
Little one - more interested in playing that anything else in the world right now.

And yours would look totally cute with short hair :)

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

MM- :-). Obviously its not really working because someone recently said 'You are a total tomboy'and I was taken aback! I mean. I am forty (nearly). A mommy. I am not supposed to be a tomboy!! Chox - Ssh. your kids are awesome. Remember that drawing you told me about? Two faces. One with lots of jewelry etc. etc. It didn't work immediately but boy. Has worked TOO WELL!

Choxbox said...

Babe, with all respect to thyself, you'll look like you are Prof.Aghalayam's student, and not the lady herself, no matter what.

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Chox - yes, there is that. I need to look older. Half the time thats my motivation (to wear saris, grow my hair out etc.) ! & I have lots of theories on why thats so. starting with the fact that we tend to stereotype profs

Artnavy said...

this post inspired me to think about where i stand on all this and i wrote my version too at my blog

and u look incredibly young and delicate !! though u r a tough one with your marathons and all

Choxbox said...

Okay you are someone I'd show as a role model for my girls - no matter what you look like :)

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Art- thank you! I look delicate ah? Ayyo! I am just small-built, I guess!

Preeti Aghalayam aka kbpm said...

Chox - Oh no! Not good. I am feeling shy now.

Sands said...

This post I could so relate to. I grew up not caring a bit about dressing up and how I looked. When my daughter didn't care about dressing up, I found myself switching sides and taking the time to groom myself. Once the daughter hit teenage, she totally went the other way and now gives me advice on the rigt eye liner etc. :) Fortunately she knows the right balance :)

Shiuli Ganguly said...

I may have another angle to this discussion. Much like you I absolutely idolized my father who frowned upon lipsticks and eye liners. My mother on the other hand liked hairdos and Bollywood blouses, most notorious of them was Hema Malini's knotted blouse. When my mother designed my clothes I absolutely hated them. Cut my hair short as I had "thin" hair, no make-up or hair pins. But once I got older I began to appreciate fashion, style, color coordination. Much to my surprise my father approved which was important to me. But he did say wear makeup occasionally, you won't need it till your 40's.