Thursday, October 12, 2017

A jeans and t-shirt kind of girl

I was home for Pujo this year, after six long years. Leaving the pandal after Anandamela, I saw a young girl entering with her family. She must have been 6 or 7 years old, and was wearing one of those really shiny frocks that continue to popular with girls that age. And I couldn't help but exclaim at her:
Such a lovely dress! I always wanted one of those, but was never given one.
She grinned shyly, and the mother just rolled her eyes.

It's true, I did always want one of those dresses. I don't know why I did - they're nothing like me, or what I usually like (or liked!) to wear. As an adult, I didn't start wearing skirts and dresses regularly till just a couple of years ago. I've always been a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl - except for when I was in a salwar kameez and a fabulous dupatta.

A large part of it was I very much dislike the idea of giving up comfort for looking good, but some of it was I think because of how the mother dressed me. She tended to dress me in jeans most of the time when I was a kid, because she thought I looked smart, and I had no problem with this state of affairs because it meant I could run around and play Crystal Maze and G.I. Joe to my heart's content.

This article came my way this afternoon, and broke my heart a little. A nine-year-old girl was denied Communion by her school because her fashion-loving sense said she should wear a snazzy suit for the occasion, and the powers that be at the school wanted her to wear a skirt or a dress.

There are two incidents from my childhood that are seared into my memory. The first, from when I was 7 or 8 years old, was a little more innocent, I think. I was playing with a friend, and I think it was Ghar-Ghar, and we were deciding who would be the wife and who would be the husband. She insisted I should be the husband, because "you always dress in pants anyway." I remember feeling startled and wondering why that mattered.

The other occasion has bothered me for far longer. I was four or five years old, and it was our school's annual Song Day, or whatever it was called, where we all lined up in rows and made to sing some song. My mother had bought me this lovely woolen jumpsuit for the occasion, which was white with a colourful pattern, and was the most comfortable thing ever. I reached school, and went to the area where my classmates were collecting. The teacher's help for our class looked at me and exclaimed irritatedly, "Uff, why are you wearing this? Couldn't you have worn a dress like a normal girl?"

I don't think I had even noticed till that moment that I was the only girl who wasn't wearing a dress that day. I do know I hate every single photo of myself in that outfit.

It's possible that incident is why I always wanted a nice and pretty flowery dress to wear. I do know I hated wearing frocks, so it's entirely possible that if I had been given one of those, I would have worn it exactly once. Kind of like what I do with saris today.

That incident didn't change how I dressed. It didn't make me care more about clothes, or worry about whether I'm dressed up enough. I continue to be the person who dresses a lot more simply than most people around me - to the point where my outfits for weddings and other social events are almost always criticized for being too simple.

But that incident did stay with me for far longer than it should have. And I hope that doesn't happen to this girl.