Think of a movie you had been looking forward to for months. You had been hearing that it was supposed to be exciting, and you made elaborate plans for the day it would be out. But while watching that movie, regardless of how hard you tried to keep that energy alive, you just couldn't, being disappointed for having the expectations you did. That was how birthdays had always been for me.
On my thirteen birthday, I wanted things to be different. I didn't have friends with whom I could have celebrated the day. Nor there was anything specifically interesting to do. And my birthday comprised of having dinner with my family and some relatives. Yet, I wanted my thirteenth birthday to be more than a pity party, more than a reminder of what I lacked. In that scenario, the only thing that could make me anticipate my birthday and consider being happy was adorning myself with an outfit I loved.
A royal shade of blue covered me until my knees, with a bow of the same colour on one of the sleeves. My naive soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old self thought that that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. After having loathed how I looked for as long as I could remember, feeling beautiful that day made me happy. Or it did until I realised that that wasn't how I was perceived.
I can still picture it vividly. That day was not perfect, far from it. It seemed like a celebration for everyone except me. Mature conversations on the table I couldn't understand. Being too busy hosting people to forget I was there too. But at least...I felt pretty. I walked out of the restaurant, trying to smile as wide I did before entering it. And that's when it happened.
It was a simple, somewhat nonchalant comment from one of my relatives. She looked at my legs and then at my mom. "How could you let her wear this with all those hair being there?" When my mom reasoned with her, she talked about how everyone else will see my outfit as weird. That's when I understood that my body hair was something repulsive. And that regardless of how I felt, how others saw me was more relevant. A few days later, I got my body hair removed, continuing to do so until today, never having the opportunity to even consider whether that was something I wanted.
I don't hold this series of events against that relative. She probably won't remember that that ever happened. I knew there were no malicious intentions. And she didn't expect her remark to affect me the way it continues to do. Maybe, considering the society we live in, I might have been introduced to such connotations at a different time anyway. I see it as unfortunate than blameworthy, for she too might have viewed herself the way I ultimately did. After all, she was merely passing down societal notions she had been introduced to.
The pervasiveness of societal norms, too, is something I often think about in the context of this incident. I had the privilege of being exposed to resources that led me to unlearn, realising that body hair was quite okay. I can see the institutions perpetuating the contrary. Corporations profiting off creating insecurities... Mass media promoting the same... Yet, despite being aware of these, I succumb to them, ensuring to have my body hair removed before every event without pausing to consider what makes me feel the most me.
Go back to visualising that movie again. And your excitement before that. At least the latter, I'm assuming, feels enthralling. Sometimes, the outcomes are terrible. But perhaps, the desire to feel the way you did while expecting them could make you overcome the dread that follows. Who knows, someday I could wear a similar awkward dress while flaunting my hair if only to feel as beautiful as I did when I turned thirteen.