Courtesy is overrated.

I have made a lot of declarations in my lifetime, but none so morbid and potentially controversial. And even as I use the word morbid, I cannot help but think of how contextual it is. If you ask me, the very survival of the human race depends on things being in context.  We seem to need things to be said and done by the right people at the right time.  We need condolences when a loved one dies, we need hugs when we are feeling sad, we need food when we are hungry. If say, someone offers us food when we are full, it is considered useless. The timeliness of things has become such an essential part of human interaction, I for one, cannot fathom of a world without it. But it has also branded some things awkward and abnormal. And that in a sense, may be my premise for this absurd declaration. Before I go on, I feel it would be in order for me to mention that I may make a lot of out of place declarations and segues. Getting back to the start; for something to be considered morbid, it has to be out of place; an unheard of thought, an inappropriate gesture, a misplaced human being. It has always puzzled me that as a people, we’ve always been so obsessed by this need for things to fit in. 
My history teacher used to say that the need for acceptance is the fourth basic human want. This utterance always confused me; it simultaneously elicited disagreement and acceptance in me. My brain disagreed vehemently, but somewhere within the pits of my stomach, I felt warmth, an agreement of sorts. It is almost as if my intestinal walls were saluting the return of an old friend presumed to be lost in the war that is always raging in my mind. I have learnt to not fight the things that affect the feel of my stomach because more often than not, these things have turned out to be the things that make my life worthwhile. This however, doesn’t make my disagreement less valid. For one, there are only three basic human needs. To declare a want for belonging a basic human need would not only be pretentiously philosophical but also a tad too simple. I do not say this out of disrespect, but only as a candid expression of a firm opinion. Also, the mere fact that I have a disclaimer of sorts when expressing my opinion, is a further proof of my point. We have become too engrossed in courtesy and keeping things in context, we have forgotten to have opinions and speak our minds, wholly, honestly.

So when I say courtesy is overrated, I am in no way championing for a disorderly, disrespectful populous. I am only stating that perhaps being on our best behaviour every damned time isn’t at all that necessary. I am suggesting that it wouldn’t hurt to find out how the world would feel with a little more honesty, a little more rawness, if we didn’t have to walk on egg shells attempting to cater to the feelings of everyone that could be offended by any possible combination of the words out of our mouths. 

I have been told on numerous occasions that I am bluntly honest and on more than one occasion that it is rude and annoying. I do see their point. I am unable to keep disdain off my face when someone says or does something I consider vilely stupid, I am unable to fake pleasure at meeting someone I do not like, I am unable to hold a polite conversation with someone I do not know. I could blame a bit of it on my introversion, but lately it stems more out of a purposeful refusal to indulge a dishonest culture. Also, it comes rather easy to me because I have never much cared for my likeability. I have never thought of myself as a nice person. And quite frankly, I find it mildly aggravating when people think of me as a nice person. So while I do endorse humane characteristics like kindness and sympathy and generosity and I will till the day I die, and even in my next life, endeavour to be as humane and as good a person as I could be, what I will never try to be, is hold my tongue or pretend to be pleased by something that isn’t so just so that I can be liked. I may hold my tongue to spare a loved one’s feelings, hell, I would even lie to them for the same reason (but that would depend on how much I love you) but there is only so much compromising I am willing to do.  And if that makes me an oddity, then so be it.

And that may be the reason why I write. It could be because I am very opinionated and my lack of social skills doesn’t allow me to fully express them. It could be because I spend so much time in my mind and I need an outlet or it could even be because some of the things I say and believe hold a bit of wisdom or maybe even some truth.  It could any number of these things, or none of these things at all. I don’t know. What I do know is that I write not to lay claim to the conceptions of my mind as righteous or even absolutely true, but as the unapologetic, honest opinion of a misunderstood child trying to understand a vastly complex universe and vaguer still, the occupants of the aforementioned universe. It is not in my desire for the opinions expressed in my writing to be used as a threshold by which judgement can be passed or counter-opinions dismissed. I only document the changes my mind (and sometimes body) goes through. My writing is solely for myself; an attempt to clutch on to the quarters of my being that are most honest and free; an unwillingness to give up on the bit of madness that I was bestowed; if anything, to make sure this insanity runs it’s full course. I only share it for like-minded people to relate to and more than that, offer insight to help me grow. The contents of my writing may not always be true. But they will always be honest. Besides, there is no such thing as absolute truth. Even the declaration itself may not be absolutely true. 

 

What do we want? Control over our own bodies. When do we want it? Now!

My favourite things about people is that we are such paradoxes, or lazy and unmotivated, depending on how you look at it. We say we want to be happy, but stay in unfulfilling jobs and relationships. We say we want to be successful, but do nothing about that idea we had. We want to be respected and appreciated, but do not stand up for ourselves in the face of an injustice. But more than that, we have this immense capacity for compassion, even at the expense of self. There is very little we wouldn’t do for the people we love. This, is simultaneously my favourite and least favourite thing about myself. I don’t like it, because sometimes it gives me an excuse for my laziness and failures. You take a word as ugly as procrastination, over-indulgence, recklessness and you wrap it up in a beautiful word such paradox or a difficult word, say, complex, and just like that, our less proactive moments become palatable. But it also beautiful that I can be mean and kind, I can be selfish and generous, I can be good and bad. I like that my human nature allows me to be everything I want to be, that it doesn’t box me. I believe an understanding of this makes it a lot easier to live in a world that endeavours so much to make extremes out of us. A world that doesn’t seem to place tolerance, understanding and equality as the foundation for all human interactions. A society that has decided that there are certain aspects of femininity that girls and women should be ashamed of.

The hardest thing I have had to do in my life (apart from being a semi-normal human at social interactions) is unlearn the sexist, subjugating ideals I internalised as a child. Even now, I cannot completely say that my outlook on these things is purely based on my understating and appreciation for their necessity and not the vague memory of the careless, misinformed opinion of an ignorant acquaintance, an agreeable parent or a well-meaning grandparent. I cannot tell you how many times my mother remarks about my dressing and it takes all of me to not weep.

Here’s the thing, I generally do not like long clothes. I don’t even know why. I just don’t look at a long skirt and think, “hey, I would like to wear that.” That only happens I see shorts and above the knee dresses and skirts. I think my mother has nightmares about this. So I do her a favour and stick to pants and keep my less than “modest” clothes to when she can’t see me. The problem occurs when I’m home and I do not intend to leave the house and I’m in shorts and a vest. Even when she doesn’t say anything, it says everything. And I know I am not the only girl who goes through this with their mothers and aunts and grandmothers.  I cannot count how many times girls are told to not dress like prostitutes, or wear a longer skirt because short skirts make boys uncomfortable and they might just get this urge to rape you (I hope you guys can hear the sarcasm in my voice because my eyes are rolled all the way to the back of my head) While they do mean well and all they want is an assurance, as feeble as it may be, that we will be safe, the language they use to express this concern is counter-productive and just serves in perpetuating the implication that a woman’s dressing and largely, her body is not under her control. 

See, when you tell a little girl to not dress like a prostitute, you are implying that dressing is an assessment of morality. Which is absurd. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that makes you immoral is doing immoral things; like killing people. And the only thing that makes you a prostitute is getting paid to have sex. And even then, that is a personal choice and it’s none of my business. Even if there was a correlation between dressing and morality, a certain way of dressing does not cause immorality. Correlation is not causation.  As I see it, dressing is about comfort and expression and attractiveness and presentability. Would it not make more sense to tell a girl, “Wear a longer dress because it is chilly outside. Or because you look more attractive or more presentable in that.” And when I say attractive, I do not mean for the sexual gratification of men, I simply looking your best self. And when I say presentable, I mean appropriate; not subject to the judgement of others. Because dressing is never about other people, especially men. Which makes it even more absurd when we make girls feel like their dressing should take men’s comfort into consideration. Not only is it an appropriation of the rape culture of victim shaming, it is also dehumanising and sexually objectifying. As Chimamanda Ngozi put it, we are teaching our girls that they are mere props in managing men’s sexual appetites.  We are teaching them that they are only avenues of blame should the said management of men’s appetites not work and we end up with a rape victim.  We are teaching them to value themselves less; to put a man’s comfort above their own.

I am all for decency. But decency should never be used as a justification to undervalue others. To shame them for the things that they love. We cannot want to control how women view and treat their bodies and hide under the guise of decency, at the very same time shaming victims of rape and sexual assault and blaming it on a supposed indecency. A case example, a guy who sags doesn’t get little more than a few scornful looks but a girl who wears a short dress gets a myriad of things, starting from insults to rape threats. Why do we treat women’s bodies as some sort of abomination? Why do we shame them for letting someone see them? More importantly, why do people who are not the women themselves even get to have a say? We make our girls think that their naked bodies is something that should make them uncomfortable, something they should be ashamed of. Is it not enough that women already have to try to attain these impossible standards of beauty imposed upon us? I understand and support the concept of healthy living and having a body that doesn’t weigh you down. What I do not support is that the toned thighs and flat stomach and clear face should only be for the guy(s) you are intimate with. It’s everywhere; from status updates on Facebook to anecdotes on WhatsApp groups. Women are constantly told to cover up, that there are some parts of their bodies are only meant to be seen by certain men. So we are telling women to do the hard work and get a nice body, but not allowing them to flaunt it? I’m not saying that people should walk around naked, I’m saying that the decision to not walk around naked, should be left to the women to make. My point is, women looking good naked shouldn’t be about the guy she’s having sex with. It should be about promoting a healthy perception of self, about women loving their bodies; loving their reflection in the mirror. It should be about women feeling beautiful, for themselves.  Also, if we are going to treat naked bodies as taboo, let’s do it for all genders.  Let’s raise hell when men are shirtless all over the place as they always are. 

But above all else, women are sexual human beings. There shouldn’t be shame in this. We need to  be open and honest about sex. I’ve always thought of it as a pity, that I have never been able to tell at what point exactly I developed a healthy opinion about sex. It means, I don’t remember an authority figure being open and honest with me about sex. For most of my pre-teen years, I thought talking to a boy would get me pregnant. I remember when I was ten, my social studies teacher decided to talk to us about sex. Actually it wasn’t so much a talk as it was a reprimand after he asked the girls who are not virgins to raise up their hands and everyone was too confused to raise up their hands. I have never understood why a teacher would find it appropriate to ask ten year old girls in a mixed classroom about their virgin status. I remember feeling attacked and exposed and later on swearing to never have sex until I was married. 

While waiting till marriage to have sex is a beautiful decision, it is not a decision that should be made after a tirade. It should be based on information and experience. Choosing to not wait, is also a valid decision. It is not right that we tell girls shit like, “being a virgin is the best gift you can give your husband on your wedding night.” It is not right that we make girls feel like losing their virginity before marriage is a failure on their part.  It is not fair that the same standards and embarrassments are not imposed on men. What we should teach girls is that sex is beautiful and sacred it should be between consenting people. We should tell them that it would be easier if they were adults and are better equipped to deal with its consequences. But more than that we should make them understand that losing your virginity doesn’t define them. It doesn’t make them whores. It doesn’t strip them off their dignity and make them less worthy of respect.  But they should know it matters because it’s fucking personal and as my roommate says, “it should be with a friend. Someone you are comfortable with. Someone you aren’t scared to say no to.”

Can we just let women issues be decided by women? Can we not make it about men? And can we not shame women for being women?    

    

A little forwardness, that’s all I ask. 

I have this admiration for people, especially women, who are forward.  I mean forward about sex.  I guess it is because I struggle so much with social interactions, to be able to walk up to someone and go, “hey, I wanna have sex with you” feels like a stunt out of a super hero movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying random people should walk up to random people and request a dalliance. Depending on who and how you do it, it could be sexual harassment. And that’s not my brand. I’m all for people respecting each other, I’m all for consent if anything sexual is to happen. What I am saying is, if in this lifetime, or the next, but preferably this one, I am able to comfortably express my sexual needs to a man, without hearing society’s voice and judgement in my head labelling me a slut and a freak, it won’t matter much if I achieve little else,I will definitely go down in my books as the most phenomenal woman to ever traverse this planet. And just so you know, that book has the likes of Maya Angelou and Audrey Hepburn in it, so it’s no small feat.  

As a child, I unfortunately internalised the prettiness of a woman’s silence. We are taught from a young age as women that we are supposed to be seen, not heard. We are to do our hair, smile and look pretty. We are supposed to evoke desire, but not express it. Men are to find us attractive by the broadness of our hips, our inviting smiles, the glow of our skin and not by the contents of our brains or the words out our mouths. We are taught to let men hit on us, and only encourage the ones that actually do. Don’t flirt too much, don’t show too much skin, don’t laugh too loud. It’s desperate and it turns off men. We are not allowed to be picky, or even go out of our way to attract the kind of men we want. All we have to do is keep the man that wants us. So we have to cook and manage the house and raise the children, but more than that, make sure our men don’t stray. Because a man cheating on a woman, is somehow a reflection on her; the blandness of her food or her unwillingness to try certain positions in bed. Which is ironic, because we live in a society that deems it perfectly okay for people (read men) to use phrases like, “good dick will hypnotise a woman” but an abomination for women to applaud their sex game. It is understandable for a woman to stick by a less than average guy, because he gives her good dick, but incomprehensible for a man to stay with a woman because of the sex. She has to be a slut, if sex is the best thing she brings to the table.

So while, this is not the 1950’s and I cannot deny that men understand the essence of a modern-day woman. The woman who won’t do your chores and suck your dick (metaphorically speaking), but will give you great conversation and pay half the bills. Society still struggles with the concept of a woman being able to express her sexuality. We still tell little girls, to let the boy text you first, let him kiss you first, let him ask for sex. And even then, don’t put out on the first date, play hard to get, don’t make him think you are available, he might mistake you for a whore. We teach our boys to categorise the women in their lives. The kind they’ll just have fun with and the kind they’ll marry. We make our girls feel like they have to choose, will you be the fun girl or the wife? Will you be the booty call or the mother of his children? Why can’t girls have it all? Because I want it all. I don’t mean the booty calls and giving lap dances to strangers at a party. I don’t do that. But that decision doesn’t come out of judgement for people who do, it is out of an understanding of the mechanics of my soul. I am not a casual sex kind of person. I am not saying we have to be in a relationship, I am saying I want to have an emotional understanding of my sexual partner. And that is the only place that kind of decision should come from. It should be from an awareness of self and not because people told you that you have be a certain way, that you can’t do certain things because of your gender.

Because beneath my cynicism, I still believe in fairy tales. Well, sort of. I believe in finding the love of your life and marrying them and not getting divorced. I believe in making relationships work and not giving up on people. I believe in marrying your best friend (or at the very least a friend) and being there till death do you part. It could be the dumbest of my dreams, but it is the greatest of my hopes. I just want someone I’ll make puns with. I just want a friend I’ll be sexually attracted to for a really long time, eternity if I had it my way. But in the meantime, I also want to have fun. I want intimate dinners and poetry by a fireplace. I want Coldplay concerts and bitter-sweet goodbye kisses from an exotic man I just met on a trip; the inevitability of the end of an affair and the relief that my sins will stay with him. I want star-crossed love and blurred lines with a friend.  I want sexual innuendo and geek talk. I want to be able to wear sweatpants and mini-skirts just because I feel like it. I don’t want to be asked if I am not worried that sweatpants dull of my femininity. I want to be able to wear a short dress without being asked who I am trynna look good for. I want to be able to wear shorts to class and not have to worry about the lecturer misjudging the content of my character.  I just want to be able to be comfortable in my sexuality. I just want people to understand that I own my sexuality and whatever I do with it, or how I choose to express it is not a statement on my morality or intelligence or humanity.  And if I can get at least one person to see things this way, then my work will be done. Because to me, there’s more to feminism than ending rape and equal pay for women. My favourite bits are the ones that make women comfortable in their skin, the parts that allow women to stand tall and unapologetic for wearing their skin as they see fit. The kind that makes us realise that the quality of our lives should never be determined by society’s willingness to allow it. 

​On Death and Humanity. 

My roommate thinks I have a casual attitude towards death. I’d like to think that isn’t true. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. On the surface, it might be true. I will admit that I do not avoid thinking about death. A lot of times, the thought of people dying doesn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn’t make me sad, it doesn’t affect my current mood. Generally, death doesn’t fill me with dread as it does most people.  Is this something I’m proud of? No. Am I ashamed of it? Honestly, no. it just is.  I think over time, I have managed to convince myself to be indifferent to things that are beyond my control. So maybe that may be interpreted as having a casual attitude towards death. But that doesn’t mean I do not care about death. I just seem to not care. I think I care way more than I will ever be to fully grasp, let alone admit. So maybe that manifests as a casual attitude, or horrifying indifference and misplaced laughter. Maybe. Or maybe I’m just a horrible person. Or maybe it is both.  I don’t know and to be honest, I do not know where I am going with this. So hang on, or don’t, I don’t think I care much. 

I have this belief, that all human beings are potential killers. We all have a breaking point, a button that can be pushed and make us kill. I also believe that how we are raised and how we are conditioned over time is what makes the difference between guys who kill and those who don’t. I will admit, I have no psychological evidence to support this theory and I am open to corrections. As a matter fact, I hope to all that is moral and sacred, that I am grossly wrong about this. I want to believe that killers are born that way. I know, it doesn’t make the world any safer, but hey, a few serial killers is contextually better than a potential seven billion serial killers. Again, I’m hoping serial killers is a Hollywood fiction. I mean, I understand that serial killers do exist in real life, I just don’t want to believe that they are as prolific and scheming and clever as television shows make it seem.  Even so, I haven’t been able to get this theory out of my mind these last few days. Particularly, I haven’t been able to stop myself from worrying about my seemingly casual attitude towards death. A statement that was said in passing has managed to lodge itself into my brain and make me question everything about my humanity. 

Just how human am I? And while we are at it, on what scale is humanity measured? But even more importantly, how human do I want to be? Am I comfortable with the cliché standards of humanity? You know, is it enough for me to just be bothered by wars and hunger and excruciating poverty levels? Is it enough that every once in a while I donate my old clothes to orphans and drop a coin or two to the beggar on the street? Why do I even do it? Is it because I actually care? Or is it because I don’t have much use for my old clothes or the few extra coins? Am I kind? Am I empathetic? Why do I have a morbid sense of humour? Why does death not rattle me as much as it does others? Can I take a life? Would it be a leap to think that if I have managed to convince myself to not be somewhat indifferent towards death, then it is only a matter of time before I convince myself it is okay to cause it? Is it a valid worry? Why am I seemingly indifferent towards death? Is it because I can’t deal with it, so I just brush it off? Or is it because I actually don’t care? And if the most permanent form of loss, doesn’t scare me much, then how can I tell that my humane emotions are genuine? Do I feel because I have been conditioned to feel or because I am actually human? Have my emotions become routine? Is that what my humanity has become? Some sort of garment that I wear every morning? When I am descent, or even nice, is it because I am kind, or am I only acting on ingrained tendencies? Is my humanity on some sort of auto-pilot or is it a conscious decision? Is it all just a game? Am I aware that I am playing it?

Is our humanity supposed to be a conscious decision? Are we supposed to be aware of it when we are being human? Do we get accustomed to pain and cruelty over time? Do we stop to care about injustice? Do we resign ourselves to the fact that the world is rotten and there isn’t much we can do to save it? And when that happens, have we lost a bit of our humanity? Do we lose our humanity every single time we are not as human as we could be? Is it possible for our humanity to be completely corroded? Is that all we’ve become? Shells masquerading as human beings, slowly dying? Really, why am I so worried about this? Is it an overreaction to a less than accurate observation? Or is it because deep down I know I have lost a bit of my humanity. Because not so long ago, I fiercely wanted to help people. Street children and natural disasters upset me to the point of tears. Right now? I think television shows about serial killers are funny. I would like to think it is because I have grown up and somehow managed to handle my emotions. And maybe that is partly true. But I am also still emotional as ever, albeit most of it is rage and irritability. Maybe that is why I feel so lost. I have lost a bit of myself. And maybe I just miss caring about other people. Random people on the street. People that I don’t have to care about. People that aren’t my family and friends. People who don’t have to reciprocate that care. Maybe I just miss who I was, and I gotta say, it is a little scary and embarrassing and rage inducing, that I don’t really care to do the work to get her back.