Making love to myself

Everyday and at my will. Slowly and gently… but not always. Some days I pump it up.

No one told me how powerful making love to yourself could be. No one told me that it would awaken nerve endings I never knew existed.

Why wasn’t I taught to do so when I was in school? When I hit puberty and saw only a struggle in the mirror? Why didn’t I realise it when I was old enough to let someone else make love to me? Why didn’t I realise that that’s what one of my favourite writers was talking about…

To treat every morsel I place on my tongue as a caress and not a curse.

To throw my shoulders back and own what I hid behind clutched books and bags, or an ugly stoop.

To make my overbite part of my laugh.

That’s just the beginning… you truly start making love to yourself when every action of yours checks back with what you truly want.

As I look deeper into the mirror, taking in the shape of my lips and eyes; the way my skin changes in colour and texture depending on exposure; how my hair curls and greys; how my jaw goes awry as I smile. I spend time seeing myself. I feel my skin. I touch myself. The smoothness and the bumps. Some days I start making love to myself by feeling who I am on the surface.

Somedays it is by immersing myself in a job well done. I let my brain feel passionately loved. And when it is not a job well done – because that happens too – I don’t lick my wound, but kiss it better. I love it back to well-being.

I make love to myself in a myriad different ways, every single day…

As I pump weights or do a cardio routine, sweat dripping and pulse raising.

As I buy the largest waffle cone at Cold Stone and sit in the middle of a mall slowly savouring every lick, even as my embarrassed daughter looks on.

As I stand at the sink chopping a stack of vegetables, feeling the juices stain my fingers, smelling the chicken on roast.

As I politely turn down jobs because it doesn’t woo my soul.

As I kick my longterm tenant Mr Guilt out.

As I make time for my tears and fears and listen to it without judgement.

Just as importantly, as I make time for all that makes me laugh and gives me joy.

As I binge-watch Scott and Bailey.

As I stand under the shower, with no thought of what next.

As I lie in bed, woolgathering.

As I make fearless plans, without hedging my happiness on its realisation.

As I walk into a crowded cinema alone, because I don’t need company to enjoy myself.

As I look people in the eye, ready to embrace their criticism or praise, making neither about me.

Thing is, I was making love to myself for months before I knew what I was doing. Realisation crept in when I stood in front of the mirror, and saw myself as ‘beautiful’. And finally saw that the best day of my life could only be TODAY.

Bad hair day? So what!

A sudden panic attack? I will do what good friends do . Listen and be kinder to myself.

Skin breaking out? Will just smile wider.

Big breasts? Yes, thank you.

A roll of fat for paunch? Nothing a good jeans won’t forgive.

Too broke for a massage? Well, that’s a little hard to fix…

A bit of heartbreak? I will just love myself more intensely.

This making love to yourself business is not a one-off investment. It’s not easy either. It’s undoing years of doing the opposite. It’s a daily practice of falling in love again and again. One that I am learning from celibate monks.

How do you make love?

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Satya Nadella is right. That’s how we think. We are wrong, we ought not to.

Hey, let’s all bash up Satya Nadella… but first, how many of you women demand equal pay or a well-deserved pay rise? How many of us speak about money and scales with our employers?

I work in a country where I pay a double penalty… first as an Asian passport holder, then as female professional. And truth be told I’ve never negotiated.

If it felt too low, I would just not take it; but didn’t try to argue or sell myself.

I would ask if there was disparity based on nationality. To this I’ve received all kinds of odd answers; from how a cup of coffee costs more in London than it does in Mumbai, hence salary would differ (hey, guess what, but we are paying bills in Doha!) to how Western education was more expensive that what I paid for.

This to an extent I would protest and speak against.

But I was and am too conscious about pulling out the gender-card. Should I draw attention to my sex and be seen as being overly sensitive? Should I remind them that I am a woman…? Should I just quietly take the deal before a man outspeaks me at the negotiation table and walks away with a few bucks more?

Ironically, I continue to feel that a good employer will be fair (karma?) and recognise what I bring to the table… And every time I signed on the dotted line, I did believe that it was so. This rationalisation ringing in my head: When they see my work they will give me more.

And it has happened. It also hasn’t.

My male colleagues were different. They asked, and they got. During appraisals, between appraisals, with a second offer in hand, without a second offer in hand… They continued asking even when they didn’t get it.

I rarely saw this amongst women. Not my peers, not the ones who reported to me.

So when Satya Nadella put his geeky feet in his mouth, was he merely describing the best of us? Maybe the best of his female staff didn’t ask, and were slavishly grateful for the ‘recognition’ that came their way, all the same. So he thinks, that’s the way it should be.

Butt out of my skirt and my blouse, please

What’s with women’s clothing? Everyone has an opinion on it. No one judged Steve Jobs on his ill-fitting jeans and boring black turtlenecks.

Without exaggeration, I am quite sure my very first memory is of someone telling one of the many women in my family what was appropriate clothing.

This when the men roamed around bare-chested, and an ugly lungi (sarong) tied well below their belly and folded above the knee, for good measure.

But goodness forbid if a woman had the freedom to dress as she pleases. The skirt was too short, the tee shirt too revealing, the sari blouse too deep, the sari too transparent, the kurta too tight, the dupatta not modest enough… it never ends.

And if by some gentleman’s (I use the term loosely) standard your dress is not appropriate enough, then he had the right to treat you in an unladylike fashion.

 

Here, in Doha, I swing between two extremes.

Publicly, it’s considered modest to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Which is not an issue for me, I am usually in jeans and tops. But I do like to show a little cleavage. I think it’s pretty. But that’s a no-no too.

The nature of my work is such that I have to meet and work with ‘fashionistas’ (The ones who know 2 cms below the knees is fashionable but 3 cms is dowdy?)

I don’t get this obsession. Why are women constantly under pressure to conform to moral/cultural/fashion standards of dressing?

 

There is this whole argument and discussion around a public park that has enforced a dress code. Clothing that covers wrists and ankles (why don’t they just distribute a spacesuit to all female park users?).

This has, as expected, resulted in several frayed nerves–some for, some against this dress code.

Which doesn’t really bother me.

What does is that some argue because a few women chose to dress ‘immodestly’ all women were being subjected to this rule.

Have you heard of ‘she asked for it’ argument by rapists? This is just a variation of it. Seriously? When women are once again being subjected to crazy rules, you choose to blame women for it?

Why isn’t it just about what we like and are comfortable wearing?

When did it become a cause for politics? And Why?

Why is it the French government’s business to interfere with a woman’s right to cover her hair?

Why is it anyone’s business to mind my hems or my necklines?

Would you please butt out of my skirt and my blouse and mind your own bleeding business?

 

Women’s Reservation — what do you think?

I know the intentions are right, this probably is long overdue; yet, I am sceptical of the bill. Who will benefit?

I had a ringside view of the local body elections in the late 90s, in which the quota was implemented.

Unfortunately, most of those filling the quotas were wives/daughters/sisters/kin of party members. They were not even equipped to answer simple questions. In the council meetings, after being elected, they were dressed for a carnival and sat around wide-eyed (hopefully, this has changed).

The other women who contested/won were doing so on merit; and would have done so, regardless of quota.

I am well-versed with all the arguments supporting gender-based reservation. In theory and principle I agree with everything. But, I’ve seen that true empowerment of women happens only with education. AND only when the men in the family are groomed to accept the importance of productive women (as against reproductive).

It is a great move, indeed, that the RS has passed the bill. But what sense does it make, if the elected member ends up being the CM’s daughter or the some petty official’s wife? Or worse still, someone like a Mayawati – what has she done for Dalits or women?

 What’s your take?

Below is the note I wrote for my mag on Women’s Day – my thoughts on the reservation are only marginally different from those on IWD.

I’ve always had mixed views on Women’s Day. I not only enjoy my ‘for women’ privileges, I often expect it. I like to be treated special because I am a woman; BUT, if I am being discriminated against based on  my sex, I would just as quickly grab a musket.
The whole idea of women’s liberation and feminism finding a platform in a Women’s Day is what makes me uncomfortable. I demand and will work towards equal pay and opportunities, that doesn’t mean I am unappreciative of a door being held open for me.
Yes, there are women around the world – the majority of us in fact – who do not have half our opportunities or chances; Women who will settle for one day in a year without spousal-abuse or bone-breaking labour, and maybe a ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ for all their hardships.
But the problem with these ‘days’, hijacked by global organisations with limitless funding, is that those that need to be celebrated and helped are the least affected by all this rhetoric.
Just like most of you reading this, I can fight my battles in society and at home – because we have been empowered by education. How many girl children have that empowerment? Are they being groomed to be women who can pick their battles, fight their wars?
Millions of dollars are invested in portals and brochures; five star lodgings and first class travel of bureaucrats;  media campaigns and publicity stunts. I’d rather that those millions go into building schools, training teachers, paying families to keep their little girls out of the labour force… UN-led (or any other such toothless organisation) bureaucratic jamboree doesn’t make women’s day for me.
Woman Today writers and contributors however think differently. We have some strong advocacy inside. I agree with all the points raised, but the women who broke down barriers, climbed greater heights, and turned the world on its head didn’t do it because of a day dedicated to them. They only did it because they dedicated everyday to EDUCATION.
Pay for the education of one girl child – there is no better way to celebrate our sex! Happy Women’s Day.