The Cambridge Dictionary defines undesirable as “not wanted, approved of, or popular”. When it comes to our bodies, not having a popular body type seems to be a misplaced idea. Can there be a popular body type? And if you don’t have one, do you embody an undesirable body? Troubled by the weight gain and weight loss stories of various people amidst COVID-19 lockdown, I was reminded of my own struggles of hating and accepting my body.
Spurred by this thought, I decided to talk to my friends and peers about the Body, conversations about which I thought were missing in the popular discourses. What followed under the name of “Project Andekha” launched with the Youth-n-Democracy initiative of PRIA brought out stories of hating/loving your body, struggles of adjusting and accepting it.
While Rohan was mocked since childhood for having a dark complexion, changes due to puberty only made things worse for him as he would often be called a ‘gorilla’ for having ‘excessive’ body hair. On the other hand, frequent face-washing and putting fair-n-lovely cream were among the few efforts Tanya took to get rid of her wheatish complexion.
Not just the skin color, but also the body type has remained the topic of mockery for many of us. Of all the stresses and anxieties, the root seems to be in our childhood socialites. In childhood, we become conscious of the body when we are made to feel the way we look, and the way we carry ourselves.
These early notions of beauty and desirability often marred with mocking and body shaming shaped the way most of my friends came to feel and sense their bodies. So, the body is not given yet it is made to feel in different ways through which communicate with others.
The life of Tanya in a small town of Bengal was always full of aunties giving her advice to put on some weight as being skinny is not a desirable body type there. She thinks of big cities like Delhi as spaces of emancipation where being skinny is acceptable and she felt in her skin once she shifted here. Rohan has been dealing with the anxieties of intense hair fall and wearing a cap seems to be the only option to hide it.
I remember when I first shifted to Delhi, one of the few aspirations I had was to achieve a body with bulging biceps and a toned chest. Such a body would have not only given me the required desirability but I thought that I would also belong to the city a little more with that kind of body.
The body seemed intrinsically intertwined with the belongingness to the city. As we grew older, most of us realised that the ‘body’ is not one. No matter how desirable the perception of a certain body type is enforced upon you, it is made and felt differently for each of us.
The image of the body ideal which most of us are made to run after is an ideal that changes across societies and cultures.
The struggle to achieve the desirable body has been a difficult and a different one for each one of us. Some of us suppressed the emotions as a coping mechanism while others made efforts to feel comfortable in their body.
The body that is desirable might be the body that is popular, but the kind of stress one feels for not having a popular body is unimaginable. One is made to hate the body which they embody and it results in various other issues such as low self-worth and low confidence.
I believe it is time that we recognise each one of us owns a body and none of us have to work towards a normal desirable body. Each body is normal in its own sense.