At 41, I feel buoyant, free, and full of fire.
Of course, the fear of the Corona Virus seems to be fading from our consciousness, even as the disease refuses to fade. Traffic is back, violent and full on Bangalore roads, the Namma Metro construction continues unabated in my ears thanks to our proximity to two metro lines, and my love affair with the Korean Entertainment Industry (KEI) deepens.
In fact, a carelessly certified counsellor (because anyone in India can do a brief, certificate course and become a therapist) will definitely liken it to an addiction and urge AA and its 12 steps on me.
Fun Fact: In India, literally, anyone can print out an officious certificate on anything from psychiatry, writing courses, to diet and nutrition.
But I am happy and I am coping. With a fair bit, might I add — dad’s dementia, my work, ensuring my mom is not overworked or unhappy or stressed, financial woes, bills, my writing, my anxiety, my arthritic health and its resultant concomitants.
My chosen family and support system rallies around with fun, advice, money, and food.
So I mostly don’t feel lonely, overwhelmed, or overburdened.
And so, I greeted turning 41 on the 23rd of May, singing Epiphany by Jin from BTS (my dearly beloved Bangtan boys, saranghamnida) and realising just how much I am indebted to Korea today. The song is all about loving oneself. Of course, it’s a no-brainer and everyone loves themselves in their own way. But the song speaks about acceptance and celebration, in spite of the warts, including the warts.
It is a good anthem to begin one’s birthday with, and sure enough, I ended up having one of those golden sunshine days (Blondon cooperated; the rains stopped; the cyclone ended) full of love, cake, food, and friends and lovers. Perfection.
But such is life.
Into each shinning day, a little rain must fall, and I woke up to a most bizarre message from a cousin I am not even close to. Readers of this blog will know that I social-distanced from relatives even before it became a necessity with corona, because they are typical Kannadiga Brahmins. We mustn’t typecast, but if the shoe fits…
She was sure that I had tried and failed to lose weight many times in the past. But if I worked with her, I would now be able to not only lose weight but also get rid of all my pills. Would I claim this wonderful opportunity?
The message was very polite. In good English. I would like to think it was well-meaning too.
I mean, of course, which person in this world doesn’t want to actively lose weight?
Subscribe to that undesirable, socially-constructed, present-day beauty standards’ narrative?
I mean, we see that so rampantly in the KEI too.
And what fool wouldn’t want to save thousands of rupees on medicines, and go medicine-free, and live (as my wise mom says) for at least 900 years?
Except, I have been singing Epiphany from the time my new love Jin would have been a babe in his mother’s womb, or a sperm in his dad. And I have no desire for immortality.
It was early in the morning.
I didn’t want to start the day with a ‘OMG, I had no idea you wanted to have sex with me. I’m so sorry that’s not advisable because however much we want to run away from it, we are cousins. It would be incest. Not to mention that I really don’t have sex with women. So sorry. No homophobia implied. You do you. Pride. Rainbow. Salute. I swear I am an ally.’
So I sent out a tame, ‘thank you for the offer but I am not interested’ text.
She replied with a no-problem, and it really should have been that.
But I was perplexed. I also saw this as a teaching moment.
You know what they say about not being able to take the teacher out and all that.
Never in my life had I discussed weight or my health with her. We simply didn’t have that equation.
And I have nothing to discuss about the way I look with anyone, unless it’s to acknowledge compliments.
As far as I knew, she was neither a doctor, nor nutritionist, nor even a physiotherapist. What then was this sales pitch?
I asked my mom. My mom then told me of a similar call from her a while back. And my mom had already told her politely and laughingly that we would not be interested. Apparently, she had subscribed to Herballife or something similar. I immediately recalled her posts that were all about losing 5, 10, and so on kgs in so many days. I had dutifully done my cousinly duty (while cringing about the obvious insecurity, fat-shaming, and lack of body-positivity) and liked them because her pursuits seemed to make her happy and proud.
So I asked her if it was a generic sales pitch.
To which she replied that it wasn’t. In her “nutrition club” they talk about the side effects of medication and she had immediately thought about me. She wanted me to achieve “holistic well-being” while “losing weight” and getting “med free.”
Stop the press.
I am not sorry to say, dear readers, I used my teaching moment, and I told her off.
Extremely strongly, but politely.
After telling me how while she herself might not be a qualified doctor/nutritionist/physiotherapist (that was my sticking point), she would connect me to her certified coaches (refer my certificates discussion from above) and getting told off again for being wholly unsolicited and so extremely unappreciated, to her credit, she did finally apologize.
It was already too late.
I politely thanked her and the entire absurd, unnecessary discussion ended amicably enough with her wishing me a good day. I continued to be cold and clipped. My acknowledgement just to be gracious, was a thumbs-up emoji. I didn’t even change the skin tone.
But, now that I am a wizened 41 (at least that’s my excuse this time), I am going to also tell other people who might be reading, what’s what:
- We are in 2022, in the middle of a global fucking pandemic still, can we all quit obsessing about other people’s weight, height, hair, age, and health, unless we are their caregivers or partners? And can we, please the Goddess, keep that private?
If you have nothing good to say about something, say nothing.
- Be accepting of your bodies.
I have always loved the way I looked, but being severely immuno-compromised, even disabled occasionally, really taught me the beauty and magic of my own body. If I nurture it, I am well-looked after in return. I obviously do all that works for me to keep it moving and stable, in spite of my severe health issues. It is the nature of the body to constantly give and allow one to do all that one does. Every body is a miracle. Respect that.
- If you are not going to have consensual sex with a particular body, you have no right to comment on it.
- Have consensual sex with a body that appeals to you. It saves everyone much heartache.
Nearly all the good lovers I have had, have loved, nay, worshipped my body. Which is how it’s supposed to be. And, let me assure any doubting readers that they are all men the world would call respectable, clever, tall, well-built, and handsome. So give up on the losers who make you feel insecure about the way you look. It’s a way to control you and play you. You don’t need that.
- For the love of the Goddess, don’t presume to advise people on their health if you are not qualified. If you are qualified beyond sales pitches and WhatsApp forwards, please refrain from advising anyway, unless they ask you for it.
No point in squandering your knowledge for free and not earning your worth.
- Health, especially ill health, is very distinctive and individual, and covid has taught us that there’s no one-size fits all. We all had very different symptoms and reactions to the virus and the vaccine, if you recall. It should tell you something, even if you are a half-wit.
- Be mindful, especially, when you want to do good. Don’t presume that people don’t know or do what’s good for them already. Unless they explicitly say so and ask you for help.
By all means, talk about how losing weight feels great to you because it’s your desire and you blindly subscribe to toxic normative belief systems. Don’t assume that desire for others.
I can tell you that in the past year, the KEI saved my life, even so far as acting as a deterrent to depression and anxiety, and if you ask me for recommendations, I can give that to you, but what sense does it make for me to buy you Rakuten or Dramacool or Netflix subscriptions without even checking with you first? Or inviting you to BTS and Song Kang’s Live Meets saying it will change your life?
- Lastly, and this is a communication rule I am dispersing for free, and so I am not following my own advice (in Point 5): Know your fucking audience before trying to fuck with them.
Bitches like me are blissfully immersed in our K-Drama and K-Pop world, but disturb us with any of the above, and know that we are on a mission to set you right and educate you.
I mean, it’s my tag line; I have to.
If we are polite and icy when we do it, trust me, it stings more.
Naturally, I recognise that these very practical, learnt-the-hard-way suggestions (because I am no righteous, blameless, all-knowing saint) are meaningless, and people will continue their onward marches on the road to hell, with their questionable good intentions, undeterred.
So be it.
It’s people like my cousin with her kids who have to deal with the fucked-up-ness of the world, ad nauseum, because of said kids and pill-free, weight-lost immortality.
I have no progeny who will inherit this world, so my advice to create a brighter, happier, egalitarian world, is really only charity from me at this point.
You are welcome.
But for those of you with an open mind, please, think about what I am saying.
Think about what you mindlessly say to others and how that makes you sound.
Respect personal boundaries.
Listen to Jin. Love yourself. That’s the answer. Start with kindness for yourself.
What good comes from messing about with other people? Hollow entertainment? Shallow satisfaction?
The world has more to offer you than that. Claim it.
Life is so very short, uncertain, and largely unhappy.
Be free. Be kind. Be loved.
My birthday is a testimony to how wonderful it is to be loved and respected by so many people.
If I sound smug or righteous, forgive me. I only mean to be grateful and acknowledge how little I have done for these good people in my life, but how much I have received from them. It inspires me to try mindfulness, love, kindness, and grace, above all else.
So, as I turn older, I pledge to look after myself more and do more with my life and my work.
Hence, this post too.
I will be happy, full of fun and fire, and continue to love myself like crazy.
Because, that, really, is all it is.
Because, that, really, is all it is.