“I don’t remember the first time I was shamed for being flat-chested but a searing memory from when I was 14 continues to make me want to shrink (not literally though, hehehe, as some would say, aur kitna, gayab ho jaogi!)
At the outset let me declare that I do not consider myself desirable at all. I am usually surprised when another person finds me attractive almost wondering if they are lying to me. I feel incomplete, half of a person, constantly feeling that something is sorely missing from my body.
So, back to the incident, at 14, I remember this one particularly guy who was apparently head over heels in love with me, calling me to tell me exactly that and later telling me – but listen, the guys in our class have jokes about you being flat chested. They even wonder if you’re a woman at all. Have you considered getting a surgery done when you’re older, you know?” I was shocked and bewildered at the earlier declaration of his love which hinged on this condition to change my body which till then, I had loved well.
Suddenly, as a growing teen, I was made aware of my undesirability. A boy from a boy’s school told me that his friends (who knew me) used to sit together in a group and mocked my flat-chestedness and even pestered him but you know, unlike others, he still liked me despite of it.
After that, there are numerous painful memories of men insulting me for my flat-chestedness (calling me a flatscreen, lakdi, dandi, I lost count of the objects women are compared to), me tugging my bare breasts in pokey under-wired padded bras, trying to feel complete but sighing every time I had to get them off, feeling my 15-year-old chest hurt and stifled because of them. I started feeling ashamed of my body.
I yelled at my mother for having bought those bras for me only to be told that these were suggested by my sister who had gone through flat chest shaming herself and probably wanted to guard me against it.
After escaping from the hellhole school in which I studied, I went to a so called feminist institution for my graduation only to make a friend who yelled, “she is a boy,” when she saw me in my tank top.
I was later told that I was too sensitive in taking her seriously. I have had serious trouble trying to undress in front of lovers (I have had a grand total of 2 of them). I still don’t look at my body in the mirror much (I did it just after a day I clicked this picture, thanks to you and thanks to the German inclination towards having numerous long mirrors in their houses, I just can’t escape looking at my body) and I am trying to get over that.
To top it all, I lost 9 kgs when I was clinically depressed and was told later by another guy friend that I was looking like a hanger in the saree on my Convocation (who could have asked why I had skipped meals for 2 weeks instead).I learnt to tackle mocking smiles asking weight, measuring arms, fake ‘concerns’ with unabashed sarcasm and wit but there are times when I want to tell people, “Stop, you are hurting me.”
I can now anticipate when a conversation is turning towards body shaming and start preparing comebacks but I want to shed all the rage and anger and beg them to stop.fucking.hurting.me. But I don’t, for the fear of being called too sensitive, too weak.
On a more hopeful note though, I left wearing padded underwired bras long time back. I roam around braless in winters and a lot of time in summers too.
Of course there are some fleeting moments of intense dislike towards my body but I decided some time back not to stifle it, to let it breathe. I am slowly slowly trying to be okay in my skin.”
They wanted to be drawn among lots of people. “Just trying to symbolise that one day, I will not have to think about how I look or how others see me when I walk into a place full of people.”
Background inspiration: Mario Miranda