Dear Victoria- We have an uphill battle

Do men still gift condoms to the groom before his wedding? Do you still hold your arms down just because you missed your underarms session? Do would-be brides still get a full body wax before their wedding? Do friends and co-sisters still engage in raillery and repartee about the golden night? Does Victoria's secret remain a bride's( also the groom's) treasure safely tucked in her suitcase when flying for honeymoon? 
Unbeknownst, well, two days ago, my besties gifted me The Forever Robe in sheer black lace and tulle, with feminine ruffles, airy balloon sleeves, and pretty ribbon details. This works like magic, they chirped. The only difference, at 45, magic is neither desired nor required. With stretch marks covering my entire abdomen and varicose veins on my calf and inner thighs, the robe is no panacea for my body with blemishes. So here I am, coaxed to celebrate my 20th  anniversary in a so-called exciting way. What's special about it? Nothing. There is nothing special about either 20 or 25. Trends dictate our life, and many of us find ourselves trapped by the dictums that don't suit us, yet we succumb to them under fancy hashtags of -milestones, celebrating togetherness, YOLO, etc. 

My husband is a nice man and likes black lingerie. Early on in our marriage ( read between engagement and wedding), much to my indignation, I had discovered that there are three kinds of men- the ones who obsess over candle lights, soft music, the essential oil in the bathtub, fragrance in the room, and not to forget the woman's intimate apparel aka lacy lingerie, and most importantly, the hair on her body, the odor around her lady garden and the armpits. For them, it's the experience of the trail before hitting the mountain top. The second kind is moderate in their expectations and contends with cotton bras and panties, and the hair is not a deal-breaker. Given a choice, they prefer black-  a black bra and panty or deep red irrespective of the woman's skin tone. The third kind cares a damn. They are more physiological than ornamental. My husband falls in the second category though the black specification vexed me when he first brought it up. I like white, and I don't think it's my job to indulge him, keep his fantasy erect, and embellish my body to suit him. That is just not me. Yet, surprisingly, I have done it all. From ingrown hairs to the agony of Brazilian wax, I have worked hard to keep the flame burning. So, what's the big deal here? It's a case easy to dismiss. It's part of the marriage ball dance, more so to do with the gender we did not create, the sexuality we are born with, and the planets we come from. Yet, I think these are easy explanations, and we need to look beyond them.  I am hairy as a bear and have spent time and money on keeping myself hair-free. The razor and the epilator have not met with as much success as the wax, and the parlor's waxing lady is my favorite; she is oh-so replete with secrets unknown to even Victoria. 

In the United States, in-home shaving wasn't popular until the 1910s when Gillette debuted the first women's razor, and after that, there has been no looking back. Author Rebecca Herzig writes that such emerging ideas were a form of “gendered social control,” accomplished by convincing women that they had to be hairless to stand a chance. Huh! Talk of the misogynistic rhetoric that transcends cultures and percolates through the different strata of society. Do we need statistics here?  The decorative presence of Disha Patani in skimpy outfits to ensure the movie Radhe( 2021 release)  is endowed with a reasonable glamour quotient is just one small example of why there is something more than what meets the eye: our mindset of stereotyping women, stereotyping, fetishizing, and oppressing women in blatant and subtle ways all behind various tags and labels- Adjustment, compromise, sacrifice, commitment, marriage, etc. Let me remind you, I am a die heart fan of these tags, provided they come from both sides, both genders. It's the mindset I have a problem with. 

Black is sexy. Victoria's secret is sexier, and the woman carries a big part to look sexy enough to keep the man hooked or for her to stand a chance. Victoria's secret in that way has remained the coveted brand for women to perform the magic men want, crave, and feel entitled to.


We now follow the standard blindly; a section of millennials are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of “going natural,” today’s girls feel compelled to remove their body hair at alarmingly young ages. I have students age nine and ten who throw tantrums when their mothers disapprove of waxing at such a young get. A teenager prefers full pants/jeans and full-sleeve tops primarily to hide her body hair which she complainingly attributes to her father's genes and is not particularly proud of.  
At 45 now, as I pack for the trip where I am supposed to rekindle some kind of fire, my eyes waver to the morning newspaper, and I pause longer than required. The Barbie body brand is undergoing a makeover, and the word sexy shall be redefined. The very word that they stand for. However, what sexy actually means is a matter of personhood rather than just the body. The ones who stereotyped feminity are now unabashedly and in an extreme measure looking at the brighter side- women empowerment through their lingerie collection. Now that is big. You change the face behind the brand, and the mass takes note. This lingerie store( founded in 1977 and in 1982, it was bought by retail billionaire Leslie H. Wexner)  redefined female sexuality and beauty ideals. A clear distinction existed then in the company as to what is sexy and what is not- young is sexy, postpartum is not, the curve is sexy, mastectomy is not, and so on. The myopia in the company's vision soon reached the mass, and beauty standards were carved in stone, leaving women scrambling for that perfection. In 1955, the company introduced the Victoria fashion show as a cross-over pole dance and a runaway show. The G-string and stilletoes marketing now have proved to be dated as they scurry to be more inclusive and diverse in 2021.  The company's secret is no more just about action in the boudoir, and it even has Mother's Day nursing bras as its product offerings. They have now roped in seven women famous for their achievements and not their proportions. They include Megan Rapinoe, the 35-year-old pink-haired soccer star and gender equity campaigner; Eileen Gu, a 17-year-old Chinese American freestyle skier, and soon-to-be Olympian; the 29-year-old biracial model and inclusivity advocate Paloma Elsesser, who was the rare size 14 woman on the cover of Vogue; and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, a 38-year-old Indian actor, and tech investor. I look at the pictures of the achievers and feel proud. A small part of me shrinks. Seeing their peerless, porcelain skin in lily-white, ivory, amber, and espresso, without a single strand of hair except on their head, makes me cringe and wonder simultaneously- we have a long way to go. When did my natural self become so displeasing? Isn't it a ridiculous notion that my natural self is not enough?


I keep the newspaper back on the table and glance at my teenage daughter, Instagramming her way into the world of external beauty and what meets the eye. Keeping the secret gift back in the cupboard, I pack my usual white and beige set for the trip. I have nothing against my husband and his preference; I have something going on with myself. I want to be comfortable with the choices I am making for myself. I couldn't do it at 25 or 35. At 45, I want to take that step.  And who said 45 is not sexy. Jessica Rabbit can take a long nap, for I am sexy too.  My husband shall soon find out without the black. If not, he can choose black underwear for himself. I like black on him. Also, going by what the traditionalists claim, body hair is about hygiene, then I would like my man to be hairless too- top to bottom, leaving the head.

Please note- The author of this article -

  • Has honey skin tone with blemishes here and there. She does not use foundation to hide pigmentation spots, the scar earned while learning how to ride, and pimples that continue to visit around ovulation. 
  • Does not shape her eyebrows or upper lips.
  • Shaved her hair(head hair) to denounce the whole notion of beauty.
  • Is currently struggling with hairy legs, especially on a beach day
  • Tries to control her hands and arms motion when her armpits are not shaven.
  • Maintains her body weight for fitness and not to look appealing. 
  • Never stopped wearing glasses.
  • Prefers complimenting people on who they are rather than how they look.
  • She uses homemade scrubs to keep her skin clean of grime and dust, and a body wash to keep her body clean. 
  • Has pledged not to dye her greying hair( and she has lots)
  • ...AND DOES NOT JUDGE PEOPLE FOR THEIR CHOICES. 


 


Click on Dear Victoria to read the creative nonfiction piece.


Image courtesy-Pixabay

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