Thursday, April 07, 2005

Starts with a sample sale, and then I meditate on my nose

What a waste of clothes-browsing time! The clothes at the Billion Dollar Babes sale were nothing like I had thought they would be. No fine examples of LA designer inventiveness, no Dries van Noten wannabes, heck not even the bare minimum of a well crafted garment. Many of the clothes looked like hastily stitched together samples that only the most deranged fashion groupie would buy for the outrageous prices that they were going for. A poorly crafted Prada sample is still a poorly crafted sample, label notwithstanding. No there was no Prada there, otherwise there would have been a riot.

What was very worthwhile and fruitful (thanks Urmi!) was a meeting to volunteer for the very exciting Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. The Festival is the brainchild of a Greek woman who apparently has a great passion for non-mainstream Indian cinema. This is the third year that the Festival is being organized, and it seems like they are pulling in an ever increasing number of people to it. In fact I saw flyers for it at the cafe we went later that day and also at an Indian restaurant yesterday. I've had no experience volunteering for a film festival, though I did volunteer for SPICMACAY eons ago. That was a lot of fun, and this promises to be as well.

So this week S' best friend from childhood has come visiting Los Angeles with his wife. S' friend AV has a Greek father and an Indonesian mother, studied in London and was working in Singapore till he decided to chuck his job and move back to Greece. Talk about leading global lives! His wife's Indonesian, and they married recently. Now Andreas is a tall guy, certainly over six feet tall. When we reached the airport to pick them up, I saw a tiny girl next to him. The rocket mouth that I am, I blurted out "Wow, his wife's really short!". S was not happy.

And then, later at night when we were alone, he asked me what I thought of her. I tried to be honest, and a bit gossipy, and said that I liked her, found her friendly and cute, but she was less good-looking than I had expected her to be. Now, I thought I was just making a casual personal assessment, but S interpreted it as questioning the judgment of his dearest friend. Which was not at all what I had meant, since I don't think there is a problem with AV dating and marrying a girl who was less good looking than I had thought she would be. But S thought I was mean, and even racist, because I said that the reason I found her plain is perhaps I'm conditioned to recognise certain characteristics as beautiful and others less so. And all I was trying to say was that beauty is culturally constructed, what is beautiful to me may not be beautiful to others and vice versa.

I mean, I've been at the receiving end of this all my life. From early childhood, I was constantly made to feel that I was not attractive, that my face did not correspond to the ideals of beauty in India, that somehow I'll have to compensate for being ugly by shining otherwise. I barely acknowledged it to myself then, but I did suffer for it with a demise of confidence, and got into a painful, emotionally draining relationship, simply because I needed some romantic and sexual validation that didn't seem to be forthcoming elsewhere. When I dated other men, it seemed to me that they valued me for intellectual companionship, never for physical attributes. That may have been only partially true, but I was so convinced of my physical unattractiveness, that the possibility of that not being the case did not seem to exist.

And then I left the country to study in LA. And discovers that strange things happen to people's perspectives when they grow up in other nations. They value things differently. All my life, I had hated my nose, and as a child I would stick a clothespin on it in the vain hope of making it bigger and narrower. I was fascinated with drawing profiles, with big, narrow, handsome noses. Noses that leap out of Alexander bust or Botticelli's angels. Noses with character. Mine looked like a doormat. And then Em told me that Iranian women pay enormous sums of money to get rid of their big forceful noses and acquire a nose like mine. A little button nose. I was told that my large round face made me especially attractive to African-American men, and I frequently found proof for it walking down the street, in grocery stores, in clubs ("you are so pretty, are you from India?"). Suddenly my physical appearance was not to be lamented as a freak of nature, but celebrated.

So no I'm not racist, or insensitive, and am usually extremely careful not to make any uncharitable comments about someone's appearance in front of the person. Even in private, I usually indicate if I like how someone looks or not, specifying that it is a personal preference, not an absolute judgment. Maybe I was a bit indiscreet and catty, commenting about a very dear friend's wife in the presence of S. But heck, I'm allowed my indiscretions and bitchy moments, though I wouldn't dream of being intentionally hurtful to someone.

4 Comments:

Blogger vuong said...

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7:59 AM  
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8:04 AM  
Blogger aa said...

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11:29 PM  
Blogger aa said...

As I write this post—longhandOffice 2010in a spiral notebook—I’m 20,000 feet above eastern Washington, having Microsoft Office 2010just crossed above the Cascades on my return flight Microsoft wordto Chicago. I visited Seattle for the weekend to Office 2007and I have known each other for 20 years now. They Microsoft Officehad a lovely ceremony, and the trip in general was fantastic.Microsoft Office 2007In the 13 years since I left Seattle, I’ve Office 2007 keyvisited six or seven times, and I always return to wherever has Office 2007 downloadOffice 2007 Professionalbecome home with mixed feelings about the place. It Outlook 2010both alarms and pleases me to see howMicrosoft outlookthat once-familiar areas seem almost foreign. ForMicrosoft outlook 2010neighborhoods have changed, to the point Windows 7 as have cookie-cutter, here-today-and-gone-tomorrow nightclubs that cater to the shiny shirt crowd.

11:47 PM  

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