A vocal feminist, a rebel with a cause, someone who thinks for herself (or is stubborn as an arse depending on who you ask) are some of the tags I've always worn with pride.
With these ideals in mind, I tucked in my hypothetical pallu when I stood over the "dehleez" or threshold of my marital life. All of my beliefs just got stronger after marriage, and I was I was always in military mode regarding my new marital responsibilities, much to the consternation of my husband, in-laws and even my own parents.
After becoming a mom, it became my mission to rear my daughter strictly by the principles of "gender neutral parenting" or at the very least "progressive parenting" which allows children to follow their own path. I stocked up on clothes in neutral colours and unisex styles, and with the caution usually reserved for four-letter words, avoided epithets such as "angel", "princess" and "beautiful". Her toys for the first year of her life included blocks, books, train sets and cars so that she could also have her pick of playthings usually reserved for boys.
I stocked up on clothes in neutral colours, and with the caution usually reserved for four-letter words, avoided epithets such as "angel", "princess" and "beautiful".
Yes, the stereotypical little girl hidden in me twirled with delight at the sight of her in adorable little frilly frocks, but I was going to be a cool, modern, progressive mom come what may. Why should the kitchen be only for girls? Why should the house responsibilities be only for women? Why should pink be only for girls and blue for boys? Why should I pierce (or mutilate) my daughter's ears? Why should girls be called pretty and beautiful? Why not tough and strong and tanned with scraped knees?
Sounds great, right? Giving the choice to my girl to be whatever she wants to be in life, rather than just a pretty face. I pat my back as I see my daughter's near future. A strong, tough little girl who will not take any nonsense which is thrown her way. Who beams through her mud-stained face, after playing through the evening hours, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, short hair framing her happy and sweaty face.
Such an amazing picture.
Until my daughter decided to institute her own little rebellion against her rebellious mommy. It started the day she picked up her first set of pinky pink shoes.
[M]y daughter decided to institute her own little rebellion against her rebellious mommy. It started the day she picked up her first set of pinky pink shoes.
Things soon snowballed, as she determinedly chose frilly pink dresses and cute glittery shoes, and began to voice a strident desire to put on make-up (don't look at me, have barely touched the stuff in 25 years!) and drape saris (mine are packed up and rotting in the loft). She wanted to try on jewellery and wear a bindi too (an eternal cause of dispute between her mommy and daddy).
In all this wishful dreaming about how I wanted my daughter to grow up, I had forgotten the most important aspect of "progressive parenting", the minuscule little detail about giving a choice to the child. Letting them choose their own path. Oh how I hate this concept now.
I cringe as she plays "house" so cutely with her soft toys. I moan as she puts on the DIY "lip gel" made of organic beetroot. I hate myself and society as she looks at all her clothes in the cupboard before deciding to put on the frilliest little frock. I despair when she twirls around in that frock looking as cute as a button. I cry softly to myself when I realize she owns four more pairs of shoes than I do. I just shake my head while karma manifests in front of me in the adorable form of a two-year-old, rolling on the floor, laughing and giving me the middle finger.
Both my husband and mother have this smug smile on their faces when my daughter expresses her girliness, remembering the million arguments I have had with them about how humans should not be stereotyped based on their genitals. Oh lord, kill me now.
I cry softly to myself when I realize she owns four more pairs of shoes than I do.
Yet, a part of me enjoys it all. My inner little girl -- the one who was well trained by society and upbringing -- can't help but delight in the pink frocks and shiny shoes. At times I think, did that little girl in me really have to be shoved so aggressively into my innermost recesses quite so aggressively, sometimes just for the sake of argument? With my daughter, she dreams of being called to the surface.
Right now, my daughter is busy holding on to her pink dress with all her might as I try to goad her into wearing her night clothes. She wants to sleep in the twirly little thing, maybe dream about princesses and castles and unicorns.
Uugghh, maybe it's just a phase. Maybe she will grow out of this. Maybe when she grows up she will realize how all these adornments were indeed made to "objectify women" and put them in their place.
My inner little girl - the one who was well trained by society and upbringing -can't help but delight in the pink frocks and shiny shoes.
Or maybe she will just be a stereotypical girly girl. Oh I know she is strong and tough. Trust me when I say this. Just try making her do something that she does not want to do, and you will know what hell is like. Yet, when it comes to appearance, maybe she won't be so averse to resorting to some cosmetic aids to enhance what nature has given her. I don't know.
For now, I just sit back and enjoy her twirls, as she looks at me, the happiest smile on her face, her face framed by the cutest little bunny hair band and her lips coated with beet juice.