… is a term I picked up from this useless woman who got me hooked on her blog and then petered off. And she was right. All my life I thought of myself as slender and delicate because that is what I was taught. I was miserably skinny, no doubt, but I had this fiery spirit inside that could never be mistaken for delicate. I kept fooling myself and then broke free one day and there was no going back.
My grandmother would dress me in velvet dresses with Peter Pan collars. My hair was short with a fringe and I wore matching Alice bands. My socks were knee high and I was only given Mary Janes to wear. At 15 I slipped seamlessly into sarees for partywear and skipped the salwar suit phase till I went to college. I still don’t really like them although they’re convenient as work wear. But the biggest mental block were my nails. We’re all dusky – from my Tam side as well as my Bong side. The apple cheeked Garhwali genes made a token protest and gave up the fight.
And without realising it we all wore shades that were pastel and didn’t clash with our skin tone. Whites, pale pinks, peaches. And we all painted our nails a pale silvery pink. I’m sure you’ve all used that shade at some point. We’d see people with red nails and nod remorsefully. Those were not for us. We were doomed to spend our lives patting our peach sarees down with pale silver nails. They were elegant, easy to touch up, chips went unnoticed and most importantly they didn’t draw attention to one. Something we all grew up learning. Don’t draw attention to your snub nose, don’t draw attention to cleavage, wear a longer shirt and don’t draw attention to your waist. Don’t walk into a room wearing red – it is attention seeking.
And then something triggered a change. I have to admit it was the OA. He’d insist on me wearing oranges, bright blues, purple and red. My grey tees and white shirts lay languishing in a corner and I realised I look lovely in them. They are bright and cheerful and so me. From there it affected my make up choices and I was soon trying on a bright red nail polish and I have to say it looked better on me than any other colour.
And then I thought of Ma. I remember her telling me about her growing years. Darker than her mother, she was always told to wear ‘champagne colour shoes’ because anything else made her feet look dark. And so the poor girl wore them until she left college. Done with college she flung them out of the window and wore every colour under the sun with a vengeance. Even now if we go out shopping she is the one who will buy the wild purple stilettoes, the jute wedges with the checked bow, the multicoloured beaded slingbacks, the chunky red sneakers, she wears them all. As though making up for lost time.
But the one thing she stuck to were her pearly nails in delicate shades. And her simple brown and bronze lipsticks. And her big maroon bindi. And I’ve been working on breaking them down one by one. Each of her defences goes down with a bang.
To begin with, she deals with me going from pale pink to a neon orange (one of the staff at my parents’ office told me it was like having radium stickers on my fingers and would be helpful if I got lost at night!). A few days ago Ma sent me a picture taken on her phone – she’d given herself a French manicure! We’re making progress, baby steps is what it’s about.
And finally, I decided I was going to start wearing red lipstick. Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu, Malaika Arora – all darker than me and wearing it with great success. This one was even more deep seated a taboo. I had always been told it was too tarty and here I was, hunting for the perfect shade of red to go with my complexion. And as I experimented, I realised that warm shades of red really suit me. They are less of a contrast on my face than a silvery gloss and complement my skin tone. And so I hunted online and came up with the colours I wanted at the site I’ve begun to shop at. Strawberry Net.
It is cheaper than shopping at a multibrand outlet, I spend hours browsing and making up my mind and I hate the damn women commenting on my spotty skin and asking me if I want to buy something to conceal it. They have three promotions running right now, in case you are interested.
I bought a lovely Nina Ricci (Pourpre Volupte) that I gave to Ma and an Elizabeth Arden (Perfect Rosegold) for myself. The colours look lovely on both of us and I am feeling rather pleased with my new self. I’ve always been the dark kohl, light lipper person. And now I skip the kohl and go with the dark lips. Am rather pleased with myself.
Other changes have been dropping my regular handbags and for the last 6-8 months carrying a sling bag across my body. I got the a very smart jute and leather one from Fabindia and Ma got me a Mexican handmade, patchwork leather bag and a deep blue non-leather one. I’ve been alternating them. They’re easy on my back and shoulder ache, they make me look less official and they’re more suited to my personality than I realised.
What have you always thought you are and when did you realise that you were utterly wrong? What changes have the years wrought? *settles down to admire her neatly painted red mouth and listen to you*.