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coming out
coming out anthology 2006




“mammaaaaaaa—nahiiiiiiiiiiin!!! Nahin chahiye—!”
“shape ayega. Tere eyebrohs saaf hai, thoda shape achha lagega...”
“mamma – mujhe nahin karna hai. Agar main ek martaba karoongi, phir baar baar karna padega!”
“haan toh koi baat nahin. Main bhi karti hoon. Shabana bhi karti hai. Bas. Do minute ka kaam hai. Abhi tu badi ho gayi hai, tu yeh cheezein karna seekh!”

.... yeh cheezein... what cheezein?!?!?!
.... “Shabana to karti hai”....  Shabi doesn’t ‘do’ anything ... the threading lady at the ‘beauty salon’ karke de ti hai. “Oi!” “Aieeeeee—Nakooo!” “Oufff! Huh!” “Sha get me water please!” Shabi can’t move through one threading area without water breaks and some Bollywood diva action. Water, hand holding, verbal encouragement – like a boxers coach – except we’re PAYING for the blows to our faces.

Of course the Aunties and the Apas in the parlor simultaneously laugh and sigh.  You have an exceptional show. The overlapping “schikkk!” of wax strips and under-the-breath gossip, all become backdrops to Shabana’s show. Even the song in the background sounds like theme music!

We’ve discussed her talents and Bollywood potential. But she’s only 5 feet with no boobs. I say all that can be fixed. Plus her mum’s in fashion; and my friend knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody famous.

On the other hand, Aunties and Apas, other victims – soon-to-be models – of beauty, and myself clearly shake heads and pass glares about how unnecessary this all is. How young she is – we are. Little do we know of what lies ahead. What else has to be removed.... abhi tak shaadi nahin hui hai ....

Maybe shaadi for Shabi, but definitely not for me. I’ve been saying that since before waxing and threading. Before shaving and tweezing. It’s not just about rebellion, but a desire to live differently. I don’t need to get divorced to live single.
My single/divorced aunt – the oldest of three sisters – is the talk of envy. No one tells her who to talk to, how long to talk, what to say, what to do, where to go... I always wanted to live free...

“Mere life kitni acchi hai. Jab bhi chahoon, ghadi leke nikal jaoon. Koi kuch bolne wala nahin hai. Main subse azaad...”

But that’s only when life is good. Whenever, the “ups and downs” of life land on the lower part of the trajectory, the dialogue shifts. Then her problems are inextricably linked to being divorced/single. And only she can understand – cause only she is divorced. But her two sisters carry on:

“Kya kharaab? Araam se bheti hui hai. Problems to subke pas hai. Life meh ups and downs to hote hai.”

But when it comes to convincing me that marriage is the way to go, and living without a man “isn’t easy Shaheen,” my mother switches gears. All of a sudden all of my aunts “ups and downs” become problems of “single” women. Those problems, and much more, will be mine if I don’t change.

That’s a tangent. Lets comb back the hair. Every part of my body where hair grows in groups has been removed or altered—except my eyebrows. There was even a point when a woman waxed my hands and I don’t even see any hair on them (but I did on the strip)!

So how were the eyebrows saved? Is this where the resistance started? Is this where I decided: no shaadi? Did the thoughts of my brain squeeze through my hair pores and cover my eyebrows with a protective shield? Or do they remain because they conform: they already live up to the standard of beauty? Not many call attention to my eyebrows. But my legs for example, are always a point of discussion. My thirteen-year old brother – who’s had hair on his legs since he was born! – points to my lower left leg peering out from my pant cuffs, and asks “what’s that?!”
“what’s what?”
“WHAT Adam?”
He bravely rubs his index finger up and down over an inch of my leg with hair.
“Adam it’s hair”
“Well why don’t you take it off. It looks nasty. Girls don’t have that.

Aside from my mother trying to shape them, my eyebrows have never offended anyone. Boys from my straight days pointed to my upper lip, or stayed away from feeling up my leg if they had hair growing back. But they never said anything about my eyebrows. Perhaps my brows neutrality is what my mother was trying to ‘fix’. They never turned anyone off, nor did anyone ever look twice.

As I write this I keep feeling on my eyebrows and remembering my upper lip. When did I forget about threading it? I don’t remember. Really. And I’m not sure what my eyebrows actually look like. But my hairy legs are permanent imprints in my brain, like a painful scar from a forced surgery. I can never forget about my legs. I remember their hair everyday, and negotiate every moment, how I will behave.

I keep looking around for a mirror to review the points on my body this mini reflection reminds me of; to see my hair and stare into my choices. But I can’t seem to find one. I think it’s a sign. I think we’re better off that way. I think I’m better off this way. Because imperfections are easy to find – but ask someone to say what is perfect... and they will say nothing is.

Needless to say, the aunties and apas haven’t seen me for a while. I wonder how they are. If they see Shabs. I know she hasn’t learnt to thread, so some aunty somewhere must see her. I don’t know my mums threading drama anymore. I’m never around enough or concerned about our collective female beauty to navigate through the private moments of hair removal. But I know she’s still threading, because ‘ek martaba karo, phir baar baar karna parega’... that’s the caution I’ve been given about sex. Since marriage and virginity aren’t part of my plan, I applied the advice to hair instead ;-)


- Sha ‘06



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