As a woman, I was always taught since childhood to cover my nudity. I was taught to be uncomfortable and shy when I took my clothes off, because that is what a woman from a good family would do. I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts till I was 13, till I rebelled against both my parents and tried to own my own body. My attempts were met by scathing remarks of what it meant to be a “suitable woman”. Soon after, they gave up when I made them realise that they couldn’t control what I wore, at least for a while. Wearing shorts made me realise that I had legs and knees too. It’s almost like I had never known that these parts of me even existed.
Watching other girls wear shorts often made me feel ugly because I did not realise that I had legs or knees. I feel strangely unaware and unprepared for my own body. Wearing shorts for the first time made me feel beautiful and it made me look at myself differently. In a way, it made me feel like I owned my body. Had my parents not been against me wearing shorts, I would never have derived the sense of pleasure that I did wearing it. Wearing shorts equated to women empowerment and an independent life to me. Having lived in a patriarchal household since birth, the 13 year old me knew the metaphorical meaning of wearing something as rebellion, to stand up for myself.
At the age of 13, as I was changing my clothes one day, I looked at myself in a full length mirror, realising how beautiful I was. It’s almost like I had not even known what my own body looked like before that. I was awed at how my body curved, and I kept glaring at myself in the mirror. Watching myself naked in the mirror was the start of my empowering journey with my body. Every morning, after I bathed, I’d rush to the full length mirror where I wore my clothes to see myself naked and feel empowered. I felt like a strong and independent woman who was ready to take over the world.
In most parts of India, wearing shorts and showing legs is considered to be a taboo, let alone wearing a bikini openly on a beach or roaming around freely, braless in your own house.
Even though my mother told me often (as many other mothers do, which does not make it okay) that I needed to work on my weight, or look better than other girls around, or cover my face with make-up, it did not make me feel any worse about myself after I started looking at myself naked in the mirror for around 5 minutes while changing everyday. My world had changed and I had learned to stand up for myself, to not believe in what others were trying to make me believe. I had found renewed self confidence in the mirror glaring right back at me, making full eye contact.
It helped me to look at the little scars and stretch marks on my body, and still appreciate myself despite anything anyone else was telling me. Looking at my own stretch marks and scars made me accept them, grow to love them and understand that they were a part of me. Once you accept and own your own vulnerabilities, there is really nothing that someone else can point out to you which will make you see yourself differently.
Original publication 10 September, 2020
Posted on NatCorn 20th September 2020
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