OPINION

My Character Flaw

October 04, 2007
annamma

I have what amounts to a major character flaw. I care very little about my appearance. Note that I did not say that I do not care about my appearance. It's just that I care less than most, or what the heck, less than all my friends. But can I help it if all my friends are narcissitic and superficial?

This flaw is inherited; it came straight through in the genetic package my parents handed me. Unfortunately, the recessive genes they were hiding chose to come out in my other siblings, who are all extremely smart, or rather, superficial and narcissistic.

In childhood, it wasn't my fault if I was a shade scruffy. It could always be cheerfully passed off as my mom's fault. Now that I have kids myself, and a scruffy pair they are, too, I realise how unfair and ridiculous such blame of a mother is; after all, each person, young or old is responsible for themselves.

In college, I managed to pass off with the rest of the crowd because anyway no one expected collegians to wear anything except jeans, and it was at the time fashionable for others to do what was natural to me - manage with one or two pairs of jeans and three or four T-shirts. For the occasional party/ formal day, my mom's sarees were good enough, and she got used to them being returned with rips and tears here and there. I still wonder whether that was why she always gave me her oldest sarees. However, that again was fashionable, like my roommate wearing her grandma's lehenga to her wedding; the older something was the more antique and valuable and blah-blah.

When I began my working life, though, things changed. I like cotton sarees, and wear them sometimes to work. A couple of my nurse friends, however, asked me with the air of having been wanting to ask for a long time "What's wrong with your blouse?" They were Malayalis, and no one wears saris better than Malayali nurses. (I think they can get sarees to do their bidding, much like snake-charmers with their snakes.) Their objection to my blouse was that it was not well fitting enough. Me, I like to breathe, and anyway was in the down phase of my weight yo-yo, and had not bothered to correct my blouses. I displeased the ladies exceedingly.

Since then, that pattern has continued. I may be neat and tidy enough, but never, sigh, never do I reach that level of sartorial elegance that my friends would like. Either my kameez is too simple, or they complain that my dupatta does not bring out the strongest shade in the pattern. They do not like my wearing flat heels with pants, or sarees, insisting that both need high heels. They brush aside my protest that heels are for parties, and flats for better for working days. "You have to be able to bear a little discomfort to look good," says my friend K sternly. When I suggest that my back is more important than looking good, they exchange resigned glances.

Oh, and make-up and accessories! Can I help it if my friends spend most of their monthly income on these trivialities? One of my friends has a cupboard full of junk jewellery, and a roomful of bags, and shoes. I am all admiration for the effort she puts into buying the pretty things (they are really cute, her bags, and ear-rings), keeping them organised and dusting and cleaning that room, but I have not the least desire to buy another bag; this one should do for another year, I think; and I still have another month before I change my ear-rings (I usually change them once in two months or so).

And it is NOT that I do not wear make-up, why i still have that lipstick I bought for the christmas party five years ago. However, I do think that fashion and make-up is rather a sexist thing; why, should only women have to painfully pull out their hair in one place, and painfully attach hair in another? Why do we alone have to colour our lips (and now our hair) to what is seen as an "attractive' colour? Whats wrong with black, anyway? And my lips are a nice brown, why should I colour them red? My friends, of course, are so deceived by the superficial sexist world they inhabit that they do not appreciate the depth of my objections. They roll their eyes, and make rude commecnts about my character flaw, while continuing shrieking as they wax their legs.

I love reading, writing, watching humans and birds ....
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#1
Uma
URL
October 4, 2007
02:47 AM

I can really identify with what you say about the scruffy look. But as far as I'm concerned I don't know where it comes from because both my parents are extremely elegant people. I feel sick with admiration and envy when I see well turned out women and would love to believe that they are superficial (small consolation) but have this nagging doubt that it is not really true! And by the way it is not only women who are bothered with how they look. I've come across many guys who are as vain or even more so, than a woman. Oh well. As they say just accept who you are.

#2
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
03:46 AM

I have to say I see it both ways. you will have to excuse me when I tell you that just because I do care for my appearance greatly, does not make me narcissistic. I am a girl who love my attire. It is chosen lovingly, from all over the world... from accessories down to the matching bra and underwear. I love doing my makeup and had a side business in the US doing bridal makeup because I like it so much.

but do I do all these things to be noticed? no. I do them for me. I like the way *I* feel when my hair is conditioned and my feet are pedicured and the way my clothes, even if just a t-shirt and jeans, fit me perfectly. I also like that when I moved here to India I did a great job of understanding fashion here and and have a nice collection of salwar suits and sarees that look great on me.

I don't think I am a victim of sexism. I like being pretty. I do not say to myself, wow, I am so sorry I have to put on this makeup. I do not feel like I have to... I *want* to! I am not vain about it, I just enjoy taking care of myself. I am the only me I have. Of course, this has taken the back-burner now that I have a small baby. But I tell you, I still care about my appearance.

The difference is that I would not judge you. If you don't want to do these things, it is your prerogative! You should be who you are, but you should probably stop judging people just because they like grooming themselves.

#3
annamma
October 4, 2007
04:10 AM

Actually, ss, uma, most of my article was just hyperbole and tongue-in-cheek, at me and my friends, but mostly at myself!! Certainly not very seriously meant. Do read it again, with that in mind. Try putting in an exclamation mark after the "superficial and narcissitic"... :-)

#4
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
05:11 AM

the tongue in cheek did not come thru for me at all. sorry! you say it is sexist, so that leads one to believe you are making an honest point. the superficial part you could have got me on, but honestly, this piece reads 100% like you meant it. and if you did that is fine! stand by it!

#5
annamma
October 4, 2007
05:29 AM

Lol...well I certainly don't mean it 100%.

Its exagerrated and a joke; I had classified it under satire...of course there are germs of truth in there, somewhere; for instance i do feel there is some sexism in the expectation of women going to any lengths to be beautiful...but for the most part i was just laughing both at myself and my friends at the sheer effort they take in being beautifully turned out, and the effort I take to find excuses for why i am not so... ;-)

#6
Uma
URL
October 4, 2007
05:49 AM

Annamma sure. I realised that the piece was tongue in cheek. My comment wasn't rrrreally a "serious" one either. Actually I feel closely allied to other scruffy people, and I guess laughing at ourselves is one of the best things to do.

#7
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
06:05 AM

good enough~! :)
(maybe I lost my funny bone somewhere in a pile of dirty nappies toady.... hee)

#8
Deepti Lamba
URL
October 4, 2007
10:30 AM

There are a number of ways 'scruffy' or rather those who put comfort before fashion can actually look good without stressing their knees or putting on a lick of make up.

Soles has very comfortable shoes with spunky heels. But yes, one should never wear pants with flats, it makes the person look short and unprofessional. Block Heels are actually very comfortable and go well with pants

I could go on and may do in another post point is - one should strike a balance. At work places I have seen shabby people and it doesn't leave a good impression about them or the company they work for.

In places like US and Japan there are strict clothing codes and Indian companies too should enforce them- sarees or pants with closed shoes. I have seen so many women looking frumpy in shabby salwar kameez as if they just got up from bed and came to work.

What people do after hours is their business but at work one should look their best.

#9
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
10:42 AM

dee... as a bit of a shoe maven, I must disagree with your no flats/shoe rule. depends on the cut of the pants and the kind of flats. a nice pair of wide-leg linen pants can be complemented by a lovely pair of flats, as can some jeans.

no flats with pants is not a hard and fast rule.

however, NO WHITE DRESS SHOES, except on a bride is a hard and fast shoe rule. ugh, white dress shoes. so ugly!

another good one would be that your shoes should never be a lighter color than your outfit (like wearing beige shoes with a black outfit)

#10
Aaman
URL
October 4, 2007
10:44 AM

Will one of you please start a shoes thread so we get lots of hits from all the shoe-fetishists out there?:)

#11
temporal
URL
October 4, 2007
10:56 AM

annamma:

tongue in cheek certainly!

that is how i read it...and more...as that curmudgeon mark twain rep(u/or)tedly said once 'self sacrifice enables us to sacrifice others without blushing'

digression: we have a common friend here whose sartorial obsession verges on the ridiculous...and M made her sartorial rebuff to her in her own inimitable way;) ...by wearing the same outfit when visiting them thrice over a period of 20 months!

agree with dee: at work one must adhere to the dress code



#12
Deepti Lamba
URL
October 4, 2007
10:59 AM

SS, white shoes- eeyaaa...we call that Jatinder Style;) But 'Hawaii Chappals' with pants are a no no and with open shoes well pedicured feet are a must.

Aaman, if SS promises to share her pearls of wisdom about I promise to pitch in.

BTW, in Kolkata there is a guy who makes personal shoes and from what I hear they are softer than baby's bottom.

#13
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
11:16 AM

hunh... a shoe thread! could be! let me find an angle

#14
Ledzius
October 4, 2007
11:23 AM

Can someone discuss the usage (or rather non-usage) of deodorants by Indian women? Guys who stink are bad enough, but what does anyone have to say on women who stay away from deos? And in Bangalore, they are not as rare as one would wish for.

#15
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
11:28 AM

ledzius... I have found the prevalence of BO to be high here in India, among both men and women alike. and it's not just the blue collar folks who are humming (as we say in the US)... but why is it more offensive to you if a girl smells rather than a man? I just find BO offensive, period, because I have a very acute sense of smell.

India has a crappy selection of deo and no anti-perspirants... at home we have solids, not just sprays. here the deo just covers up the funk, it doesn't STOP the bacteria from multiplying in the first place, which is what is needed.

#16
Ledzius
October 4, 2007
11:36 AM

SS, I don't condone a man's BO, if you reread my comment. But (being my chauvinist self), I expect women to have better grooming than men in general.

Plus, a woman's BO becomes even more significant from a point of romantic inclinations (for a man, that is).

In India, it is a combo of BO, and clothes that take too long to dry (because we don't have clothes dryers) and wearing them too many times between washes.

#17
smallsquirrel
October 4, 2007
12:06 PM

ledzius... sorry but I do not think that good grooming habits are gender specific. and if you want a person to smell good what makes you think that women are any different. no one wants a stinky partner! gross!

my husband tells me that some people just have BO no matter how clean they or their clothes are. and that can also be the case.... some people breed commencile bacteria that is stinky even if they wash and use deo.

#18
annamma
October 4, 2007
03:20 PM

I can see a lot of you are QUITE like my friends. heehe...Kidding...

#19
A. S. Mathew
October 4, 2007
06:54 PM

While I was attending college, I had the least
interest in wearing good clothing. I was a careless person ( both of my parents gave that
reminder) and I thought that getting overboard
in dress is a pride of life ( I was wrong).

When I came to the U.S., as a student, I kept the
same pattern of dressing, but when I got into
marketing, I showed interest in dressing certain
way and I got compliments from many people '"you are always dressed great in causual dress".

Some people are born with a great passion for
dress, and some will be forced to change the
way of dressing due to the job and based on
surroundings, and yet for some people, nothing
can change their way of dressing.

#20
Chandra
October 5, 2007
01:24 AM


There is no choice in today's world to dress as you like. The way your friends dress is the only way :-)

#21
Sirius
October 5, 2007
12:20 PM

Women in cotton Sarees look so elegant, wow. Great to know you wear cotton sarees!My mother was always fond of them, and especially bengali cotton sarees.

#22
Ravi Kulkarni
URL
October 5, 2007
06:34 PM

Dressing well is all and good, but to judge a person by just how they dress is superficial.

Some women may dress to feel good about themselves, but there is definitely a evolutionary reason for dressing well. Why it is even seen in animals and plants to appear attractive so that they find suitors. Many times dressing is used to compete with other women (and among men with other men) and it can go to ridiculous lengths (or lack thereof). Very well written article Annamma.

Regards,

Ravi Kulkarni

#23
annamma
October 5, 2007
10:56 PM

chandra, ravi: true! thats what i complain of...:-)
Sirius: Ah, kids are so good for us. Maybe i could pass off as elegant to my kids, too... must make sure I don't let my friends near them!

#24
Anjali Bhardwaj
URL
October 8, 2007
03:11 AM

Quote - "But can I help it if all my friends are narcissitic and superficial?"

Thats a very wrong assumption to make. People who care about their looks are not necessarily narcissistic.

Quote - "However, I do think that fashion and make-up is rather a sexist thing; why, should only women have to painfully pull out their hair in one place"

I don't think women care about their looks because men expect that. Its a choice not a compulsion, nor any pressure to do so. I care about my looks for myself, because I like to be well groomed, not for anybody else's expectations.

Plus, most women would agree with me, that makeup or too much fashion doesn't look good on a guy.

You don't like makeup, fine, its your own choice and free will. But please don't go about giving names to people who are different from you.

#25
Deepti Lamba
URL
October 8, 2007
03:46 AM

I tend to agree with Ravi over here - some women tend to judge others by the way they dress. They narrow their eyes and in one sweeping glance they take in the clothes, the shoes, the hand bag and the jewelry. Those women can be brutal!

And if the standards ain't meant expect a polite chiding or brutal snubbing!

#26
annamma
October 8, 2007
04:57 AM

Anjali...ouch!! To repeat myself, the piece is NOT meant to be serious ... Its a joke, and as much at myself as at my friends, who I get along with very well...please read it imagining a laugh on my lips, or imagine an exclamation mark after "narcissitic and superficial"...okay?

If any more people write rebuking me for calling my friends names, I'm going to go to the garden and eat worms.... ;-(

#27
Uma
URL
October 8, 2007
08:56 AM

Hee hee hee. Annamma, I bet you didn't quite bargain for all that you got with this piece. Isn't it funny how an article you've written gets hijacked sometimes, in quite a different direction from the one you thought you were going in?

#28
Deepti Lamba
URL
October 8, 2007
11:47 AM

Uma, I am concerned about the earth worms as it is we rarely get to see them in the city......er... you saying something about threads getting hijacked?;)

#29
Uma
URL
October 8, 2007
12:21 PM

Deepti the earth worms are chilling in my stomach and probably Annamma's as well. Who was getting hijacked? Excusez moi I have ze bad memory. (Ageing has its advantages, you can get away with anything).

#30
annamma
October 8, 2007
01:00 PM

yeah, i didn't quite expect this reaction....but i can't blame people, obviously several of them took me seriously, so maybe my writing was at fault...

Oh well, care to join me for worms a la annamma?

#31
smallsquirrel
October 8, 2007
01:46 PM

what, the early bird catches the worm? :P

#32
annamma
October 9, 2007
01:28 AM

You and Uma as first commenters (commentators?) will get a double helping, I promise!

#33
Anjali Bhardwaj
URL
October 9, 2007
03:39 AM

Oops, then I misunderstood you. Maybe they should have a humor section on this site.

#34
Aaman
URL
October 9, 2007
05:35 AM

We do, but the 'humor' subcategory was not chosen by the author for this article:)

#35
Deepa Krishnan
URL
October 9, 2007
10:14 AM

Oh what a fun article this was, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

#36
annamma
October 9, 2007
02:03 PM

I chose "satire", I thought - oh well, we had a lot of fun, so it was okay.

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