Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
Our society generally associates manhood with people who are all rugged and messy, and call them “Real Men”. Hence, men like me, who like shopping and salon or who invest time in scrubbing and blow drying are either called women or “homosexual”. When I was a child, I was taught by my elders that people want to be near those who keep themselves clean. But when I started to follow them, even they told me to keep myself within bounds. It is a shame that even in this day and age when we talk about the terms like “gender equality” and “feminism”, both men and women can’t express their inner self truly.
When I quit being a couch potato and decided to work out and be healthy, my whole life changed. I started taking my appearance and the inner feelings more seriously, but when I made this change in my life, my closed ones were the first to criticize me and laugh at me. I was utterly shocked to see this behaviour of my loved ones who have loved me all my life. I introspect my life and its altitude, and I found that my people are not at fault! It is their mindset that is at fault and the false notions of society in which they have grown up—a society where any change is frowned upon.
In our society, showing public affection to our loved ones is a taboo. We are so much obsessed with the stereotypes that we forget who we are. Sometimes this society includes our friends, our life partners and even our parents, and it is not easy to fight them for what we believe in. How can a menstruating woman fight this taboo when her mother is the one telling her that it is something to be ashamed of?
A friend of mine is obsessed with losing weight because she thinks her arms are chubbier than the rest of her body. Now, I am all for losing weight, working out, eating right and being healthy. It is your duty towards your body. But don’t take it to the extent that you start to body shame yourself. You are beautiful and alive. Thank God for that and start working to make yourself better. Sometimes it is our closed ones who body shame us, and we might feel like giving in, but remember, no battle is won without fighting.
Being a man in this society comes with its ebb and flow, and I deal with it every day. I like shopping, visiting salons, scrubbing my face, styling my hair, but that doesn’t mean I am gay! It means I just want to look good. I like engaging in a friendly conversation with women rather than looking at their breasts. I get emotional, and I cry as well big deal! And yes, I do feel the pain because “mard ko dard hota hai”.
Sexuality is an extensive term; perhaps a book won’t be enough to describe it, let alone one article. But sexuality, I would say, is who you are! And don’t take it as a set definition—because it changes with time. But what doesn’t change is that you are beautiful, pleasing and lovely. So start taking care of yourself mentally and physically, and don’t let other’s opinion define who you are. Because in the end, people will bury or cremate you anyway.