Friday, 1 July 2016

The Person I Judge the Most...

It took a while to admit to myself that I didn’t loathe the idea of love—when you grow up in a space as academic and judgmental as I have, you’re wont to pretend like the lesser emotions of human existence ricochet off you, for you are Saran-wrapped in higher, intellectual ideas. You can’t allow yourself to feel or ponder things as base and plebeian as 'romance' and 'love' (two things that sparsely have anything to do with one another), because you need to be busy contemplating the noise in silence or writing a paper on how pointless the writing of papers is.

Working with this life-brief, I often found it hard to admit to myself that I liked certain things, or felt a certain way—I would categorize and box them up under the labels ‘liking ironically’ ‘pop culture research’ and ‘silly, vapid thoughts’ and cart them off far back into the deepest recesses of my mind. I felt thoroughly disappointed by myself if I made it through a romantic comedy without a snarky comment or seven. If I didn’t dismember the tepid plot-points and overflowing nausea-prodding romance at regular intervals, I was just like ‘all those other girls’, watching and hoping for the Obviously-Going-To-End-Up-Together couple to overcome their quirky little non-obstacles and end up together.

I found myself constantly measuring myself up to some invisible benchmark that had been set by myself, for myself, when I hadn’t been looking. I was terribly pleased with myself for not taking to ‘trashy’ cinema like Transformers or The Terminator (though it’s a minus five in most relationships, I’ll attest to that—boys like girls who like watching cars turning into clunky metal stragglers that disrupt the town’s lifestyle). I smiled to myself at being able to call out various TV show and film plot devices well before they happened, fancying myself an auteur. I would revel in little things like working in a see-and-be-seen profession and never doing my eyebrows, or not owning any designer clothes. Those were things that didn’t matter—they were tantamount to vapid and superficial, and it was something I was fiercely intent not to be.

I found myself being grateful that I organically enjoyed French cinema, that I could devour boundless Capote novels (I still think he wrote too few), and that I could taste the difference between cinnamon and nutmeg in a dark chocolate soufflé. I was glad that I vehemently hated Chetan Bhagat of my own accord, subscribed to feminism in it’s purest, most non-negotiable form and thought the Kardashians were essentially spray-tanned tubesocks with an attitude problem and anatomically incorrect arses (except Kendall, she seems less heinous a crime against humanity than the others).

At the same time, I was deeply embarrassed about certain aspects of my personality—there was this constant fog of uncertainty that clouded my judgment about them—should the veil lift, how will the world see me? Will I be less intelligent, less interesting, more common, more ‘basic’? Was it okay for someone with a Masters in film to watch bad, Bollywood dramas without hiding behind the smokescreen of ‘doing it for a paper’? Was it problematic that I had a Justin Bieber song on my phone, and I panicked at the thought that someone might hear it filtering through my earphones? Was it normal to be so afraid that someone might find out that for the brief period of 12-14 years of age, I read a fair few Mills and Boons (which even in this burst of honesty I will insist are formulaic, derivative and a goopy enough puddle of glub to drown a small cat) and actually didn’t mind them at the time?

The average person reading this may either not understand what the fuck I’m on about—or relate completely. My heart goes out to the latter (which I can only hope are a scarce few in number), because we’ve been living a lie our whole lives. And the strangest part is, the one thing that causes unease with lying in normal circumstances—the all-pervading fear of getting caught by someone—isn’t in play. Suddenly, there’s an aspect to this elaborate life-ruse you hadn’t quite counted on; being found out by yourself.

If you tell a lie often enough, a part of you starts to believe it—it becomes as organic as the truth because the two are such routine guest stars in your narrative. In much the same fashion, when I tried to convince myself certain things were ‘acceptable’ while others were ‘not’, I did a reasonably good job. I began to indulge the ‘intellectually dissident’ aspects of my life in secret—I would watch a rom-com like a God-fearing teenager would watch girl-on-girl; with shame, guilt and a healthy serving of self-loathing.

This seeped into everything I did—I found myself growing overtly defensive of my life choices when people would say ‘you’re too good for this’, and I’d smile and try to make my choices sound feasible and worthwhile, all the while wondering ‘am I really too good for this?’ I didn’t know which reality was more terrifying—that people disapproved of my decisions because they believed I deserved better (and inherently was better), or that, one day, the façade would unravel in one fell swoop and they’d realize I wasn’t, in fact,  better at all.

I got so wrapped up in the idea of myself, the lines started to blur. I had been a different girl in school, at Christ, during my masters and in my work life—and it was hard to decide which version of myself was most like me. What could be termed 'evolution' was something I kept thinking of as trying on new skins. At some point, I wasn’t sure what I liked, and what I aspired to like.

It was in the little things—I felt like wearing a pencil skirt was a betrayal to the version of myself that wore sneakers and carried a backpack. When I started going to the gym, I felt like a hypocrite—in my glory days as a pseudo-Marxist in college (too frightened to let my inner capitalist monster rear it’s ugly head), I had called the gym a ‘corporate cesspool of sweat for worker drones’. Now, years later, working in a glass temple that reeked of corporate smarminess, drops of my perspiration were adding to said cesspool, and I hung my head in shame about it to myself, hoping this drastic change would go unnoticed by spill-over counterparts from That part of my life to This part of my life.

I’d like to believe this phenomenon was fresh, but the day I dared to let myself really examine it, I realized I’d been a fraud for quite some time. Cloaking myself in the veneer of a certain charade, of the kind of person I had, for some set of reasons, started to respect, I had begin to enact the role I had cast myself in. I respected the idea of a woman that liked poetry, that wasn’t hurt by men, that found simplicity abhorrent. I respected certain tenets of an atheist ideology, I respected women who understood and stood the principles of feminism, I respected women who chose career over having a family. 

There was no right or wrong, but over time, I had waywardly grown up with this cast-iron mould of an ‘ideal person’ and, instead of acknowledging that there were some qualities I possessed and some I didn’t, I feigned ignorance enough to convince myself I was all the things I thought highly of. When it came naturally to me (the works of Dorothy Parker, reading the New Yorker), I almost felt like patting myself on the back for ‘getting there’ without trying. In other cases (watching Splitsvilla on the down-low in the gym I once spoke such ill of), I felt cripplingly let down by myself, almost as though I were cheating on someone.

Even now, after acknowledging the faux skin I’m living in, I feel like all I have done is figure out it’s there—shedding it could take years...maybe it’s not even possible. But I keep trying to trace back my own roots–what do I really know about myself, I often wonder? What do I really care about? What would I do with my life if fear of judgment weren’t cock-blocking me? Do I really like/dislike something, or do I feel like I need to?

It seems a bit self-indulgent, sometimes, in world that keeps on spinning with more ‘pressing’ problems, to even give this idea thought—and then, I can’t help but muse if it's actually self-indulgent, or seems it because of the construct I’ve created? It’s scary to get out the shovel and start digging because I don’t know what bones of my personality I’ll find—questioning what the hell you really are is possibly the most destructive thing a human being can do; the one thing most people cling onto for dear life is their sense of self, and to give yourself the third degree about if you ever had one unearths some frightening revelations—and even more frightening mysteries.

What things about myself do I know for sure? Am I the same as I was three years ago? Have I changed? Have I changed because I wanted to, or out of pressure? Where is this pressure coming from? Who is this girl I’m trying to be? What the hell makes her so special?

I feel like I’ve opened a can of worms that was gasping for air, and I’ve never been so pleased with the insect-riddled mess around me. Everything is in shambles, because at a point where I thought I knew everything, I realize I might know nothing and that cripples and delights me in equal parts. 

And maybe, this time, when I rebuild from scratch, I’ll come to terms with who I am even if she doesn't measure up to what I thought I'd be

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