Every day brings with it a new realisation, a new lesson, and sometimes, if you are lucky, there are days that bring you nothing but boredom and solitude. Treasure those days, they are hard to come by. Life does not have to be lesson after lesson after all, you are allowed to sit back and relax sometimes. But more to the point of today’s post, I keep wondering what my boundaries are. A certain someone, long ago, told me I didn’t know my boundaries. They were right. I made these rules as and when I wanted. For instance, for the longest time I refused to go to pubs because I was told my age would make it easier to fall into “bad ways”. Of course one drinks when they have an inclination. I never had the inclination. But the thought stuck, bad girls go to pubs. For the longest time I thought talking to boys or watching certain tv shows could make your “character” bad, talking about periods was wrong, hell that period blood was gross till I read how pure the blood is. I read that sex (interchangebale with lust, is one of the cardinal sins, I studied in a missionary school, enough said), that abortion was a sin, well, pretty much anything could be a potential sin. These are not lessons one learns only at home, different places and people “school you” into obedience and acts outside of social norms (not necessarily subversive) are punished. Especially if you are girl or a woman. A man can talk about sex without anyone questioning his character. I am yet to come acorss a woman who discusses orgasms or sex in general. Even in discussions within the university spaces, the talk is rather Victorian, we speak about virginity and morality, sex as violence in the form of rape, molestation as abuse in the form of violating personal space, but not really about sex as pleasure. Or sex as fun. I don’t have friends who do that either, forget university colleagues. Married friends at that. Women who have had kids. Is it important to speak about it? Well, maybe not? I wouldn’t know. I mean it’s not like you decide on one topic and speak about it right? It should happen organically. I mean, I know these women, they have discussed their first kisses and all, but never their sex lives. I never asked them to share their first kiss experience, I am hardly going to ask them about something much more important and possibly private and therefore sacred? I don’t know?
Fortunately, we do discuss periods and our best friend PMS. But not with men. Is it important to talk about it with them? Well no, not really. It’s not a common experience, so if you do speak about it, it’s only to educate them, not because you can exchange stories of bleeding. The topic never comes up organically, like an assignment would, or a recent date would.
There maybe men who don’t mind speaking about these things. But remember this is a new territory for us, women don’t just speak about these things, years of being disciplined in various ways cannot be undone in about a decade of university education. But even if a woman doesn’t want to speak about it, I don’t think she needs to apologise. Why can’t one have the freedom to decide what they want to speak about with another person? Why does it have to do with trusting you or respecting you? Can’t a person trust and respect you and still choose not to talk about certain things? Does being a feminist compel me to talk about things just because? Am I not feminist enough if I have these thoughts in my head? Why does my refusal to talk about something have anything to do with you? Why can’t it just be about me?
There are two parts of me, one that loves the rules I have placed upon myself. I don’t smoke on principle, I don’t drink on principle, I don’t do drugs on principle, and another that refuses to judge another person. I will not look down upon women who do it all, hell no… you go woman, you do you! God knows you have earned the right! So while I am comfortable talking about these things on my blog, I can speak what’s on my mind here, it’s because this isn’t a one to one conversation, this is a one to many conversation. I can talk about the darkest feelings I have, or the most brightest of my ideas, and not feel judged or feel as though I am being put under the scanner. I really can be myself here. I can talk and rant.
While India shudders over what has been the most depressing week of all our lives, I took refuge in Cassandra Claire’s ‘lord of shadows’.
Most people write off young adult fantasy fiction because nothing is to be gained from a genre like that. Of course Harry Potter changed that, and then Twilight destroyed whatever respectability the genre gained. I don’t see why some books are looked down upon. Like fifty shades of grey, or even mills and boon stories, what both do is despite being framed within the partiarchal belt of virginity and purity, at least allow space for female desire and sexuality. Maybe we need someone like Radway to make it clear for people who refer to it as ‘mommy porn’, and consider it low culture that despite all of this, it allows for some expression of desire, vilification of fifty shades and calling it ‘mommy porn’ in itself shows how uncomfortable people are of desire and sexuality of women.
Anywho. The point of this post is what has provided light for me over the past few days of darkness.
I knew when I was reading the mortal instruments that I was reading a very well thought out political piece to get young adults to understand that difference isn’t bad, diversity isn’t a curse. Of course, since Cassandra Claire (her pen name) gained fame as a Harry Potter fan fic writer, it is to be expected that she’d write like JKR, looking to impress upon young kids that love is the only way forward. Politics based on hatred will always end in more hatred.
On gender, sexuality (who can forget Magnus Bane?), and prejudice that always borders on fanaticism, I loved the Mortal instruments, but I love ‘lord of Shadows’ for dealing with the spectrum of disabilities, whether physical or mental, and of course the power of language. For instance, she writes, in the lord of Shadows (second installment in the dark artifices)
“When a decision like that is made by a government, it emboldens those who are already prejudiced to speak their deepest thoughts of hate. They assume they are simply brave enough to say what everyone really thinks.”
“And she talked to me. She gave me words, which I’d never had, as a gift. It was the first time I heard the word ‘transgender’. I broke into tears. I had never realized before how much you can take from someone by not allowing them the words they need to describe themselves. How can you know there are other people like you, when you’ve never had a name to call yourself?”
Thank you, CC. Reading comments like not all men, even men are raped, Hindu girls are also raped, feminists hate men, beware of feminists, savarna feminists don’t care, Sri Reddy, derogatory remarks over her mode of protest, all of this would pushed me to a sense of complete loss and self-hatred, but you came in with lord of Shadows. I love that you exist. I love that where JKR let me down, you won me over. I love that you exist, and are trying to tell young adults everywhere (the books are very very popular) that movements based on hate will never work, and that love is the only way to move forward. The future is theirs. I hope they are aware of the burden of the past, but are also hopeful about the infinite possibilities the future offers.
No one has asked me or pressurised me to get married in my family. I am lucky that way. I have said this before elsewhere, marriage isn’t one of my goals. It’s not my ambition. But lately, I have been thinking about it… do I want to get married? Am I ready for marriage? Is marriage important?
The question of “marriage”
For starters, I have trust issues. How do people know whom to trust? How do people know what someone can do for you? How do you know, for sure, this is the one? How do you know for sure they aren’t doing it for their own amusement? For the thrill of the chase. I have heard and seen enough men be complete jackasses. Husbands, in general, are creatures of comfort who don’t give a fuck about their wives, as long as their needs are met, they are fine. Of course, a piece of advice one of my friends has to give everyone is: ignore everything a person *says* (people can really up their word game) and to focus instead on their actions (actions do speak louder than words). What they do do for you can tell you better about their feelings than their words and promises (often empty).
But the real question is if I want to get married, for all my feministing, am I radical enough?
As a feminist I don’t really think the system of marriage is equitable or fair. It’s a patriarchal institution (refer to a previous post on why this is so). I don’t need a partner (partner, not husband— to be partners is to share, to be a husband is to be a prick), I want a partner. I am happy with not getting married at all also.
I don’t think my partner must belong to my caste, should be as educated as I am etc etc. As a feminist, all of that goes against my value system. But there must be a hook, you know? Something to connect people— ideology, spiritual goals, shared moral landscape. About finances—I don’t think my partner must earn more than I do, but you see, we must earn a hell lot of money to live in this world. Is money important? Well, yes. If I earn one or two lakhs a month, I wouldn’t care if my partner didn’t earn so much, we can afford luxuries. He could even stay at home if he wants to. But since I don’t earn so much at the moment, is it wrong to hope that both of us earn enough money to raise a family?
But the question is of choice, right? How do you know? Loving someone is a choice you make. It doesn’t happen in a moment. I am discovering that as a feminist, I must think about these things. I must make choices, take decisions. Is similarity of ideology more important than a person’s socio-economic-cultural background? Can you compromise on a person’s mentality for security (financial and otherwise)? Is it so impossible to find someone who fulfills all the requirements? But isn’t that thought unfair?
This is precisely the problem I have with arranged marriages, that the concept is based on finding the ‘best of all’. I find it inhuman that anyone would do that, as in, weigh in and settle for the best of all. I am not saying it is not practical, it is, but there is a deep sense of unease when I think about it. I cannot ignore that material wealth plays a huge role, especially if a commitment to raise a family is involved. And I also know it doesn’t do well to ignore it, it is a huge part of one’s life, but isn’t it inhuman to have a weighing scale and compare people? It’s just unfair, rejection is unfair, comparing people feels just wrong. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself with such nonsense, and perhaps this is why I would prefer to leave it to my family to do the screening. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did that to another human being. I am a terrible judge of character anyway, and I have said this before as well. I must not be allowed to choose a partner for myself. My taste sucks. I am sure they wouldn’t mind if I choose one for myself, but I have seen the guys I like, the pattern has been God-awful.
Someone asked me about my expectations, well, I think that expectations change as I grow as an individual. But I have always imagined the guy I would end up with would be someone who does not belong to my caste or region or race. Someone from a different place (in fact, I wouldn’t mind if he wasn’t an Indian. Indian men can be very privileged and more often than not, expect their partners to take on the role of their mother). Someone who would be an authority in his own right, knowledge wise, you know? Someone who is damn good at what they do, whatever it is that they do, a self-made man. Someone I could have a meaningful conversation with, someone who really is a partner, partner in truest sense. Someone to grow old with and read books with. For me a partnership like that would mean respect and loyalty, sharing duties and responsibilities and interests. Someone with whom I can sit in the front yard of our home (filled with trees, obviously) and read a book, solve a puzzle… sit in companionable silence… attend cultural events… and travel, travel a lot, because after the nest is empty, you will hopefully have each other and your conversations of a life well lived. Someone who is decisive and assertive. Some one who knows exactly what they want out of their life.
Quite honestly, I am a scaredy cat. I don’t want to commit mistakes in life. I don’t want to see my parents put in a position where they’ve to explain themselves or me/my behaviour to another person. Small mistakes I don’t mind, but big ones, no way (I don’t think marriage should be anyone’s goal in life, but you and I both know that it is a huge part of your life, you are deciding to share a lifetime (hopefully) with someone). So I am not going to take that decision so lightly. The decision to marry someone should happen organically, when both the parties have stopped trying to impress each other. You are not going to live with the best version of someone, you know?
Thankfully, my mother agrees with me that marriage shouldn’t be anyone’s ambition in life— we have both seen too many women and their problems to last us a lifetime. And I think both of us would be happy even if I didn’t get married, like I said, I don’t need a partner. I want one. But I don’t need one to live my life. I am pretty good on my own. My dad also shares the same sentiment, actually my dad would pretty much do anything for me. My brother thinks no one is worthy of me. He is funny like that. And I love him to bits. I’d really hate to disappoint my family, they have been through thick and thin with me, and it would be a poor repayment if I disappointed them.
I think I now know what I want in my life.
If there is one thing I hated about being a girl and now a woman, it is the biology of it. Why in the name of lord should anyone have to bleed from 11/15-50/55/60 years, if one has to give birth only post 30, what if they don’t want to have children at all? Why is biology so deterministic? Okay, fine, so it’s there now, but why does it have to be so damn painful? And if you are lucky, Aunty flo will decide to sync her calendar to your travel dates/ events (including celebrations and presentations).
Oh, and I hate PMSing. So it’s not just “those days”.
Forget tenderness in parts of the body you didn’t know existed (okay I am exaggerating, I am allowed to), the constant feeling like you are going to empty the contents of your stomach, the feeling that your uterine wall is in a battle as grand as Kurkshetra, the feeling that you might faint, the constant stomach and back ache, headache if you are lucky, how irritated you get, how angry you feel, or want to sit and cry, when all the problems in the world seem so huge, you feel small and incapable of anything. I am clearly vexed. It’s not like you can keep popping pills.
So, maybe if these things happen to you too, please try heating pads, cranberry juice (helps with UTI sure, but I don’t know why I feel like they reduce my cramps, there’s no scientific evidence to this, it maybe placebo effect, but I swear I felt okayish, after drinking it, I think?) Oh and water! Water definitely helps, especially lukewarm water if you hate hot water, hot water is much better, but lukewarm may work just as well.
Also, no coffee, no tea, caffeine is bad, a better choice would be green/herbal tea. Dark chocolate also helps, apparently, I tried it this time, 75% cocoa— think it’s an acquired taste because that rich a chocolate is both bitter and sour and I don’t know when that natural taste crosses over to being bitter and rancid because the product is simply past it ‘best before’ date.
And I think walking is a must, this is a time when all the gases will want to be where they are, oh and no salty food. Water retention and bloated feet are not nice. So yeah no salty stuff, no spicy stuff, basically liquids (water or juices) and fruits and very very mild food. Hospital type food.
I am surprised I have never written about this before now. But to be honest, this time seems better than the last two, especially the one before last when I thought I was dying, no kidding. So, I feel like I am not too far gone to be able to write this, this time. For people who trust homeopathy to work, cimcifuga snd ipecac were prescribed for me, but know that different conditions are given different medicines in homeopathy, for instance a person who bleeds quite heavily, and has back ache and wants to be in bed with a heating pad is given a different medicine when compared to a woman who bleeds in clots ( so sorry, that can get quite painful) but also wants to wail and shout to feel better. This is the reason why homeopathy doctors sit and talk to you, observe you, homeopathy is not just for the physical ailment, it’s also for the mental symptoms, which is perfect for something like periods. Although I know Western science disapproves of hemeopathy, it works for me.
To girls who are reading this,
I didn’t really hate being a girl btw, it’s the frustration at the highly complicated biological functions our bodies have to do, speaking. Please don’t hate your bodies, we have to learn to be friends with aunty flo, because you know she is going to be a regular visitor for most of our lives, and apparently, people miss them after they are done with them, yes, actually miss them. Yes, even I have difficulty believing that. Maybe the lack of estrogen addles their brains? Can’t say. But it is important to note that not every girl or woman has cramps. I have plenty of friends and relatives who feel nothing (oh how I envy them).
To the guys who are reading this,
Surprised you are reading this, but of course men must be educated on ‘women’s issues’ too. Also try being nice to your mothers, sisters, aunts, wife, friends, whatever, please. It’s not such a happy time also despite what the ads suggest.
Till next time,
There are spaces in the mind, for thoughts, not yet thought, partially formed, and even those hazily dancing about waiting for that one beat, one rhythm to match it’s steps to and reveal themselves as fully formed out thoughts. There are also thoughts that don’t dance or prance about happily, then there are thoughts that threaten the fabric of your being.
I dont think that’s a bad analogy for our body and being, right? We are like fabric, so many threads weaving in and out, in and out, a steady hand stitching us, quarks, atoms, molecules, cells, organs and systems, anything in excess or less than optimum upsetting the Holon (to borrow from Koestler).
The environment, socio-cultural conditions do have a part to play in determining how we might think, react, our ways of seeing and being. But some might be unlearned? As a social scientist I don’t want to say apriori, I find it difficult to think that something is outside the realm of experience. So I think Holon (that some things are autonomous, even while following some kind of a hierarchy) is more appropriate, so thoughts that come to you floating from one firing neuron to another may be autonomous to the extent that they are thought, but how and when it reveals itself, is that dependent on a chain of command? If hierarchy is such an intrinsic part of nature and biology, how would we argue with those who think, caste and gender and multiple ways of being ‘other’ are also natural? I think in circles and I maybe confusing a lot of concepts, but I really do think connections can be made when different ideas can be connected or when enough space is allotted/allowed for those connections to be made.
Similarly, patterns of experiences can be mapped out if one takes enough time to sit, sift through the multitude of experiences, and let patterns emerge, after all the fabric of our being is bursting at the seams for us to make those connections, connect those dots, for better worldliness.
When I say fabric of our being, I also include the mind, I am, like most other social scientists and especially feminists, very critical of Descartes’s mind/body dualism. I would never valorise one over the other, which is why the word fabric makes so much to describe us. Just as holon also makes sense (not as much as fabric does). But let’s allow some space, otherwise we would never break the chain of command.
Oh, I heard
The ways of the heart
Are mighty strong
Don’t give in to it.
There’s nothing there.
We live in this world
With expectations laden
Ours, theirs, everybody’s
On fragile sets of shoulders.
Can you mourn
For something that
Or are you to rejoice it
As ordained by divine purpose.
A sliver of grief, perhaps
A tiny ray of hope
Both nestled in divine providence
When everything is your Grace,
whence came the thought
Cannot be a question
The thought perhaps
an answer, a grand unveiling?