“I am perfectly alright with being ‘unattractive’ to a majority of boys – love is not some job interview where you try tailor yourself to someone’s needs.”

Sharing an email.

Dear IHM,

Please do publish this on your blog if you see fit – I would like some opinions from your readers.

I’m am a 28 year old woman living in Bangalore. I am built rather small – I’m skinny and flat chested. I have short hair and don’t wear make up or jewellery. At the workplace I wear formal shirts and trousers (minus jewellery) when requires. Otherwise, I’m generally dressed in T shirts and jeans/shorts. At the ocassional wedding that I do attend, I wear ethnic clothes but this rarely happens more than once a year.

I like the way I look – I have no desire to change my appearance. I feel unnatural and uncomfortable in dresses/skirts/salwars/sarees/traditionally female clothes. I identify as female and do not have gender dysphoria. I simply enjoy dressing casual. No personal hygiene issues, my clothes are always clean.

However, I’m perpetually at the receiving end of comments from my female friends /co workers/ acquantainces/ relatives/enemies/ etc regarding my appearance.

Typical examples of comments:
“Why are you like THIS? ” (gesturing at my body)
“When are we going to see you in a dress?”
“Why don’t you try some lipstick at least?”
“You look sleepy” (I do not wear makeup, my eyes look like anyone’s normal, unlined eyes)
” Have you ever had a boyfriend?” (said in patronising tone)
“Maybe guys don’t look at you because of your small breasts” (my own sister, flesh and blood)
“Why don’t you get a push up bra?”
“Do you think anyone will want to marry her?” (obnoxious co worker.When I asked her what she meant she said that I looked too “careless”. When I asked if she meant that I looked like I do not cook or clean, she responded with ” No not that…other things.”)
” Come lets go buy you some good clothes” ( gracious offers by random people who think I need to be “taught” how to dress)
” Grow up sometime, be a woman!”

All these comments are generally thrown at me out of the blue – when I’m talking about something else entirely, when I casually mention that I need a new pair of jeans or sometimes just after I’ve complemented someone on their appearance.
They are not presented as suggestions – if i say something like “I like how I look/ I dont want to wear other clothes” , people act like I’m being unreasonable.

Ironically, I’m always the first person to compliment someone on their new clothes or hair, or reassure them when they are needlessly fretting about their weight. Corny as it sounds, I never think people LOOK ugly.. I only see ugliness in behaviour, actions etc.

I understand having to dress a certain way for the workplace – I think it is an unavoidable evil. However I simply refuse to change the way I look in casual settings.

I am perfectly alright with being “unattractive” to a majority of boys – love is not some job interview where you try tailor yourself to someone’s needs. If this means that I am single forever, then so be it – the thought does not bring me the slightest bit of sadness.

However, what is suffering now are all my female friendships. Talking about clothes and appearances seems to be requisite in these, barring some special, rare few.

I generally respond to such comments with a snarky comeback or tell them to mind their own business, but of late I am getting tired. This has been going on since I was 16. In all these years, I have met a grand total of 2 girls (my best friends) who have never asked me to change my appearance.

I love going out and meeting people, but now I dread talking to anyone because eventually the question of my appearance always comes up. Having to be defensive all the time drains the life out of me. When I’m introduced to a new girl anywhere, I automatically shrink away and stop talking. Being unfriendly seems to be the only way to avoid these comments.

How would you suggest I deal with such situations and the associated emotions?
Also does anyone have similar experiences? Does it get better when you get older?

Thanks

Related Posts:

How would life be different if you never had to give a thought to how you looked?

What makes a woman look beautiful?

Does beauty really lie in the eyes of the beholder?

Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

The way a woman dresses…

“He said my top was not in line with company prescribed code and that it made him very uncomfortable during the meeting.”

Not Just a Pair of Jeans

“So why do we wear clothes again??”

88 thoughts on ““I am perfectly alright with being ‘unattractive’ to a majority of boys – love is not some job interview where you try tailor yourself to someone’s needs.”

  1. For last 5yrs on Sundays if she is at the church DG dresses in her unisex whites, sans makeup and jewelry, women regularly suggest her how she should be dressing. She nods and agrees with them but has never changed a thing about how she dresses for this special occasion. If someone is hell bent on teaching her something she asks them, if she has suggested them to change to her attire? No, then who died and left them incharge of fashion police?

    It was the same thing when she was in college, same outfits like uniform she wore with marching boots to school and then for field work. If you are not paying my rent and bills what you think about me doesn’t matter.

    Grow some thick skin. Just ask the person, “you are friends with me or my looks and attire?”
    Don’t sweat about it, it ain’t worth it. People who matter don’t care about attire and looks and those who care don’t matter. Pick and choose, conserve your energy for better things.

    Don’t deprive yourself of new friendships by being defensive and presumptive. Very rarely one meets a true friend and that happens in oddest of circumstances.

    Yes, it gets better with age, either you grow immune to this or people get use to you.
    Be presentable in your own style, be kind to yourself and let your actions speak louder than your words.
    All the best,
    Peace,

    Desi Girl

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear LW, I think we would look quite like, rather than unlike, going by your self-description. And I can tell you that at 32, I’ve been through most of what you say, knowing well that it’s unlikely this will stop. I can also tell you from experience that of the things that get better in this regard with age are not people’s behaviour toward you but your ability to digest it. I’ve learnt to laugh at it, learnt to center my individuality and be stable in it, and have learnt to laugh at myself. People don’t “act smart” with those who willingly acknowledge their lack of ability to toe the line. Or even if they do, you will end up not caring or even noticing. Usually, if they laugh, they have me to join in the fun. It disarms them and quickens their pace. If there’s anything I could suggest you do, it’s to distance yourself from negative comments not through confrontation but through humour. Because, what’s important at the end of the day is your peace of mind.

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  3. Dear LW, I can very well connect with how you feel. I was never a ‘girly girly’ kind and was constantly being told to dress up ‘femininely’, lose weight etc. People constantly kept undermining my confidence in myself. It was when I broke away from home and went abroad that I met friends who were my friends for my sake, not friends of parents, neighbour’s children etc. for whom I was just so and so’s daughter/sister. It was outside that I met people with whom I found some kind of resonance of ideas. In India, I did not dare to say much and if I did I was always put down. This is our great ‘Indian culture’ where nasty people always have the liberty of putting down the other party either by commenting on their appearance or negating their ideas.

    Have you noticed that when one meets people the first statement is mostly “You are looking so tired” or ‘you have lost so much of weight’ or ‘you have put on so much of weight’? Generally speaking they are negative comments couched under the cloak of concern. What makes people think they are entitled to keep making comments on such personal aspects of others’ lives?

    Am very proud of you for standing up to them. Next time someone makes such a comment, just wither them with a pitying look and change the topic. Nothing else one can do to change the collective mentality.

    Like

    • Though I can’t speak for everybody on this forum, I know for sure that there are two things about people’s physical appearance really stand out for me:
      (a) Do they look the best they can on a given day? (In terms of basic hygiene and essential grooming – armpit hair, body odor, and disheveled clothes are a big turn off.)
      (b) Do they look like they’re trying to stay fit? (And by ‘fit’ I definitely don’t mean skinny!)
      Other than that, nothing bothers me that much. Like the LW said, “ugly” to me has nothing to do with a person’s looks, and everything to do with who they really are as a person.

      Also, I’m really curious to see what other people have to say about this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with you on (a). The only things i care about are hygiene and basic grooming (combing hair, clean clothes). Visible armpit hair (for both men and women) is a non-no for me, but i realize this is a little silly.

        About (b), how can you tell if someone is trying to stay fit? Do you mean by observing their diet?

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      • My two cents,
        a. I sometimes don’t have the time to shave my armpit hair but I always wear clean clothes and use deodorant. I don’t always have the time to do up my hair, so I brush it and wear it in a decent looking ponytail unless my daughter tugs on it and decides to rip out my rubber band. I sometimes, unknowingly have my baby’s spit up on my jeans because I don’t wash it each time I wear. I would’ve judged someone for having stains on their clothes previously but now, I understand.
        b. Why is someone else’s attitude towards fitness your business? I’m a full 30 lbs overweight and do not look like I’m trying to stay fit but I’ve lost 15 lbs in the last 3 months. You won’t know that by simply looking at me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Okay – I see why my response would baffle you.
          Let’s break it down to two categories:
          1. People I know and meet on a regular basis – neighbors, friends, colleagues, etc.
          2. Random people on the street

          For category (1), I would absolutely notice efforts to stay fit, regardless of the person’s current weight.
          Category (2) doesn’t warrant much thought.

          So to answer your question, if you’re in category (1), I would know. if you’re in category (2), I wouldn’t care.

          Does that make sense?

          Like

      • ‘Fit’ is a dicey notion, and I believe you do recognize that. Just to add some more grey to the spectrum of it..

        A 28 year old woman in a smart dress, smiles a lot, speaks with an air of confidence and positivity. You need to slow down your pace while walking with her as she seems to be too slow. It is slightly annoying. She keeps taking the elevator even for a single floor. When she does take the staircase, she stops at every landing, if not at every step. You notice that she is definitely underweight.
        You know her on a daily basis, and have heard her mention working out daily. Also, she stays as far away as possible from carbs. Over time, you notice that she falls ill frequently, and is almost always drained of all energy by evening.
        You have noticed her arms shaking when she is stressed.
        Fashionable+young+underweight+’unfit’ = Body image & lifestyle issues typical of this generation, may be?
        It is quite a logical conclusion given the small, completely non-judgemental observations accumulated over time. You don’t think much of it/her as she is just a random colleague, but she is one of the ‘data points’ in your head counting towards all the ‘unfit’ people. Most people, of course, take it upon themselves to give her all sorts of advice, to ‘push her to the right path’. That, when they don’t write her off as lazy and undeserving of their kindness.

        From her point of view though, she is doing her best to stay ‘fit’ – not just in terms of weight, stamina, etc, but in terms of avoiding disability. She has fibromyalgia and chronic pain at levels that are mind-numbing for ‘normal’ people. She has to stick to a regular workout routine and ‘unreasonable’ diet restrictions just to be able to function. On most days, she feels ‘fit’ just being able to move around and stay upright. She dresses extra sharp, and thinks ‘nauseatingly positive’ because she has seen dark days, and never wants to see/feel herself as that chronically miserable patient. She falls ill a lot, misses deadlines, but in her own way, she knows that she is doing her best, and inching forward – though slowly.

        Now, come to the people around her. Most people do not know of her condition, and judge her at random levels. Advice, admonition, and accusations pours in. Even the most liberal and sensitive of people are blissfully unaware, and judge her not so positively. It is too tiring to explain her condition and lifestyle to one and all. Even her closest friends know only the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, she has found the emotional strength to take it all in its stride, and focus just on herself.
        Unfortunately, not many do.. And the point is – they shouldn’t need to!

        I used to be one of the ‘liberal and non-judgemental, but jumping-to-logical-conclusions’ onlookers a few years back. Now, I am her. Though, the awareness about invisible illnesses came from personal experience in my case, it need not.
        We, the liberal and accepting lot of society, have the ability to be a bit more aware and a bit more inclusive. We live in a world of invisible illnesses, more and more of them chronic and debilitating.

        Moral of the long story : Let us please drop the unthinking judgement (negative or even neutral) about fitness. We never know what the other person is going through – even people we know pretty closely, and it is better to err on the more inclusive side. Clothing, body looks, apparent fitness, are all too affected by too many factors, and it is best just to leave them all alone – without exceptions or qualifiers.

        P.S. IHM, sorry about the tangent, a really long one at that. Somethings touch a raw nerve sometimes, and provoke pretty out-of-proportions reactions.🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Invisible chronic illness is something people don’t even put a slightest thought into until and unless they themselves are suffering from it !
          When one is younger we tend to be more judgemental ! Genetic history,illness,allergy of unknown origin,pain because of something generally healthy people don’t think about all this.
          I don’t interfere when someone is not able to do housework/climb stairs in their house,their life but after a certain age most people have small and big health problems so yes if their not pitching in with help because of their ‘health’ at my home especially for long stays will affect me,.especially if I don’t have any other help !
          I have stopped judging on looks too…..because an hour of commute in packed buses leaves hair disheveled and if you don’t put deo you’ll smell like unwashed,sweaty people you have wrestled with in the bus .
          And the makeup is best done after reaching office .

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        • I see the point you’re trying to make, and I agree that judgments based on appearances are not always accurate, despite the observer’s best intentions.

          My point is not that one should be allowed to judge others; we all know and agree that judgment is a bad, bad thing. I just know that as an obviously imperfect human being, I do judge, and it may be because there are far too many people in my social circle (including really close friends, whom I am pretty sure I know well enough to make judgments) who are unhealthy because of their lifestyle choices and not because of illness/disease.

          But I take pride (another of my vices) that I am honest about what my judgments are based on. I don’t judge people by their skin color or what they wear or whether they put on make-up. Also, I don’t go around giving advice unless explicitly asked; in my experience, all advice or “concern” comes from an I-know-better-than-you place, and to me it’s just not ok to do that!

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  4. Letter Writer,
    Can totally empathize with you since I’ve been there, done that🙂 I am in my mid-thirties now and I can remember this type of unsolicited advice/comments/taunts coming my way since my teens… so nearly twenty years now. I too had no clue of style or the vaguest sense of dressing for a long, long time. I had no interest either. The best part was I was blissfully unaware that to most women/girls these things mattered (and I know that there is nothing wrong with that either) and that I was actually different from most of them. Their interest in what I wore and how i looked irked me. Now, with increase in age/exposure through travels/experiences etc. I am learning to appreciate these differences in people but also am learning to be more secure about being different.
    But people like us are still probably rare which is why your average female friend finds you ‘lacking’ in certain departments and offers to ‘help’. Some points worth remembering (learnt from my own experiences)

    a) I have learnt to accept myself the way I am. I know that unless I really want to and set my heart to taking interest in my appearance, I will not change. So there is no point yielding to peer pressure and try and change who you are fundamentally. Just remember that it is ok to not put ‘looking good’ as priority #1
    b) There could be days when you may doubt yourself for your choices. That is ok too. Just follow your heart, it’ll guide you well
    c) I am sure you will find more people out there who appreciate you for who you are and not what you look like. At least I have. And yes, with age, disproportionate interest that people take in your appearance comes down. So wait for those days to come🙂
    d) It probably helps that you stay in a city like Bangalore where you can live your own life without succumbing to constant comments from all and sundry. A smaller town or a well knit community may make it worse.
    e) Continue to ignore or rebut comments directed at you (I still get stray comments on why I dont dress up well etc.) I know it is difficult to handle, but unfortunately these cannot be avoided. You cannot change people.
    f) Look out for more like-minded people. Whenever I am frustrated, I try to remember others like me and remind myself that I am not strange or lonely in this area.

    Hope that helps🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have similar experiences all the time. Tonnes of unsolicited advice. I am 28, living in Bangalore as well, and haven’t yet found a way to deal with it without affecting my mental peace. Even I was hoping that my age would take the edge of such comments. But no luck there!

    If not about appearance, people want to advice about food. I generally eat really healthy food, but get random comments like, “itna jyaada bhi nahin karna chahiye”. It’s hard for a lot of people to understand that I am actually not compromising, and I really LOVE eating leafy greens, salads, and no, I am not dieting.

    I had a female manager who said I needed to comb my hair properly. wtf! Since she said it jokingly, I jokingly retaliated if she hired me for my brain or my hair style.

    Oh and someone had asked me why I wore such thick-framed glasses. What the hell does that even mean? I said because I liked them, and the girl did a shrill ,”Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?”

    I am not religious, but people will insist on asking me if I celebrate ganesh chaturthi. I say no, I am not religious, the next question usually is, okay then Gouri? I get so frustrated, and like you I have actually started getting scared of talking to women. Men might have the same thoughts as well, but they at least try to mask them in workplace for fear of an HR complaint.

    Oh and of course, I get a tonne of advice on my “misguided” decision to not have children.

    This is of course gross generalization, but we as a culture do not understanding the concept of personal choice, and personal space. That’s the problem. People who pass such comments don’t even realize that there is something deeply disturbing about, 1. having these questions about someone, and 2. actually asking them out loud without a brain to mouth filter. And they question and comment with such confidence, that you tend to doubt yourself. But that confidence comes form lack of exposure and ignorance, more than anything else.

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    • I have had men at the work place come up to me and say ‘Oh yes, NOW you look properly dressed’ and a male cousin once told me the ‘proper way to comb my hair! I mean, like he just met me.We are very VERY distantly related for God’s sake. A female colleague asked me why I wear only light colored cloths and not bright ones. She informed me that in her town in Punjab, only grannies worw light colors. Male friends, on more than one occasion, informed me what they thought of my choice of colors.
      I ignored all of them TOTALLY!
      I spend thousands on books every year, but buy clothes only on a need basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Man! Is there no solution but at all?? Your comment reminds me. I wore a very sporty kind of dress once at work. One colleague had the audacity to look at my legs and tell me that they were dry and that I needed to apply almond oil. I told him to go tell that to someone else who might want to listen. Arrgghhhh

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        • In response to “I sometimes feel sad for these people and wonder if their personal lives are so devoid of anything of interest that the only thing that gives them a kick is lamely observing other people, and their personal lives. And people who are almost totally unrelated to them.”

          To be honest, I don’t care if someone’s judging me. They should just keep their advice to themselves, and we’re good.🙂

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      • Oh the fascination with young people wearing bright (read loud) clothes!

        When I was getting married (the first time), I bought really simple cotton sarees for my trousseau. I remember the look on my ex-MIL’s face when she realized I didn’t have anything “decent” to wear for the welcome ceremony. They asked me to wear someone else’s “appropriate” clothes, which I refused. I wore really light makeup, too. One of the bhabhis kept forcing her vampire-lips-red lipcolor on me, and I kept removing it. After the third or fourth time, she announced I was too “ziddi” and wasn’t going to be easy to handle!

        All of this just because I didn’t have the same taste as the others. Go figure!

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        • My God! That is terrible and vampire lips is such a funny image too! Yeah, people feel very insecure when they are in the company of someone totally different from them, which why the resistance and ridicule. I sometimes feel sad for these people and wonder if their personal lives are so devoid of anything of interest that the only thing that gives them a kick is lamely observing other people, and their personal lives. And people who are almost totally unrelated to them.

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    • Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve also had so much fuss made about my non- religious behaviour (“have you ever gone to the temple”) and my decision to never have kids(“Eiii how can you say that??”) And the endless comments about my hair..

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m younger than the letter writer here, but I’ve been ‘unattractive’ and don’t dress a certain way, got a lot of similar remarks. It stung initially, but it eventually makes you grow a skin thick enough to not give a fuck about who thinks what.

    That becomes part of your self-confidence, and I find life is much easier, and happier, when you don’t worry about *who* you are. That security brings a world of peace.

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  7. Sorry girl, it never gets better. We live in a time when you’re expected to stay young (ever heard ’30 is the new 20′ and ’40 is the new 30′?) and beautiful (think glamorous and delicate). Aging gracefully = not looking like you’re aging at all!

    How do you deal with these people? Well, you shrug and move on. They don’t know any better. They’re basically all in a rat race but what they don’t realize that even if they “win”, they’re still rats. Don’t bother with them, and keep your two friends close. And I’m willing to be the third, should you ever need another friend.

    More power to you for wanting to stay who you are. And I say this with a lot of conviction and a truckload of kohl in my eyes, because that’s who I am.

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  8. dear emailer,
    I empathize with you. I don’t know if this is going to get better with age or not( I’m only 21) but I have something for you. Next time if you ever face a situation like this tell them that you’re not beautiful like them, you’re beautiful like yourself!🙂

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  9. It wouldn’t matter even if you wore “feminine” clothes, people like this would find some other criteria to judge you on.

    People like you, who are self-assured and comfortable in your own skin, regardless of whether you fit in, disturb other people. It makes them feel defensive about their own, more traditional choices, which makes them lash out and be rude.They want to tear you down so they can feel validated. It’s not just clothes, it’s everything, from not getting married, not having children, living alone, not being “ladylike”, everything that is not the norm will get the same reaction.These are not excuses for their behaviour, but reasons. I don’t think it gets better as you get older, just that you meet more people so obviously you’ll have more number of likeminded friends.

    Any woman/person who brings up your appearance as a way to undermine you is not your friend, she’s not worth your mental energy. And you’re better off without them.

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    • Thank you purple prose, that makes a lot of sense. Sometimes it take me a while to realise that certain comments are made with with the sole purpose of bringing someone down. Guess I should work more on reading between the lines.

      Like

    • I agree with the above comment… People are often disturbed when a person is self-assured.
      I will say something – don’t push away people just because they gave you 1-2 wrong comments. Just give them sometime, to see what is their real intention. Few people have your best interest at heart, they will learn to cherish you the way you are. Ignore the rest. Life is short for the drama.

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  10. Big hug, LW. You are doing just fine. To people who bother you too much, just say ‘FO’. Even your sister, if that’s the way she chooses to treat you. Also, 2 is more than enough girlfriends, I’d say! I don’t have any suggestions for you, except, maybe, move to my city/office? I’d be happy to befriend you and help you fend of pesky people who can’t keep their unsolicited advice to themselves.

    Like

  11. Hi,

    Firstly, I believe we need to understand why such comments are being thrown at you. I personally believe that finding a life partner is a high priority item in our part of the world; hence, people assume that because it’s their priority and a societally accepted priority, they assume it’s your priority as well. Considering you’re 28, the whole idea of the ‘right age for marriage’ is passing you by as per them. So, in their eyes, you’re not going to achieve any of that with your attitude.

    Having said all that, of course, girls don’t always dress up/look good just to find a guy; apparently they do it for themselves as well. I’m not a girl, so I don’t really know which thought holds more weight and what other beliefs drives this behavior.

    Secondly, you say that finding a partner isn’t a priority for you, which is fine, that’s your personal choice, then I think you shouldn’t take people’s comments seriously – in one ear and out the other. No need to get defensive either. If the comments really get to you, then ask their logic behind their statements, debate it out – let them know that you see things differently. It may not shut them up forever; but, it may lower the frequency of comments.

    Just my two cents🙂

    Like

    • Hi Omar,
      I definitely think you’re right about the “marriage-able age” part – comments always intensify when people find out how old I am.
      And you’re absolutely right, considering my stance, I shouldn’t take comments about marriage seriously. However what bothers me :
      1. Its still a very personal comment to make. Whatever my choices are, I’m extremely disgusted when people talk about stuff like this (without any provocation on my part)
      2. The tone in which it is generally said implies contempt.I find this outright hostility very jarring, especially when I have to deal with a group of 5 or 6 people all looking down on me, belittling me, just because men may find me unattractive. This kind of bullying has really worn me down.

      Your solution does make sense , I should be more assertive. While not everyone may listen, some may and I’ll feel better if I voice my thoughts.
      Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand🙂 And honestly, I know that usually my suggestions are easier said than done!

        Anyway, that’s our society for you, personal space/life/choice isn’t an established concept in our part of the world.

        Best of luck🙂

        Like

  12. Dear Letter Writer,

    You should treat all your female friends the same way you care about male attraction. why should your appearance matter to female friends? I know they can be well-meaning and caring for you, but they should also respect your preference and choice.
    I know of a friend who is exactly like you, in appearance. She is much older to you, single, is short and thin, wears only jeans and t-shirts, sports a short hair-do. I never thought I should tell her to dress otherwise and is none of my business. She looks perfectly smart in her looks and her presence. But I know of people around her who advised her to dress otherwise. wear dresses and skirts, look more feminine, etc etc.
    It really doesn’t matter. If you were in a western country, I don’t think you would find so many people advising you. I also know of balanced men who respect women for what they wish to wear and seek companionship more than dressy dolls.
    To deal with emotions, you should really not think of it as a rejection. You should understand that you have a different choice than majority of women, and being different is not taken easily in this society. So, you have made a choice in the way you dress and carry yourself and should not give a damn about what other people think. It is their opinion and ask them to keep it to themselves.
    It doesn’t seem to get any better when you grow older. As in the case of my friend. She is well beyond 35 and people still say the same things to her.
    But the real question is for you to answer yourself. If you are happy with yourself, how does it matter?
    The other day, the same friend asked me, why doesn’t she seem to attract men? she doesn’t get noticed or get attention from men. I didn’t have an answer then, but later I thought it might be her appearance. It might be true that men get attracted to feminine features, I am happy to be corrected here. But then, is that the attention you really need? I mention this case, only because, in this case she was upset of not getting attention. So, Making a choice comes with its consequences. In my friend’s case, she didn’t seem to be happy with the consequence at that point in time. But it doesn’t mean that she should change herself.
    You need to make peace with the consequence of your choice. Then, anybody’s comments really doesn’t matter. does it?
    Good luck to you.

    Cheers.

    Like

    • Hi QV, you’re right, I haven’t fully made peace with the consequences of my choice. I always thought that the only fallout was lack of sexual/romantic partners; I never fully understood that there would be a certain amount of social ostracism/bullying by peers as well. I am comfortable with lack of attention (men treating me like i’m a wall hanging/ girls neatly pushing me out of the frame of photos) but apparently not so much with negative attention, which is something I have to accept. Thanks, your comment really put some things in perspective for me!

      Perhaps you could share this thread with your friend too? While I agree that most men find only a certain style of dressing attractive, this doesn’t hold true for ALL men.

      Like

  13. Yes it does lessen with age and time.
    I am 24 and I don’t wax because bodily hair except for underarms does not bother me. I have had such comments about my appearance and ‘non-girly ness’ thrown at me, though I wear feminine/casual/androgynous all kinds of clothes. One friend told me how I have ruined the look of a very nice shirt by not removing the hair from my arms. Once a cousin and again a beauty parlour aunty told me that “doesn’t it look bad that you don’t wax your legs? But you have skirt as uniform, and there are boys in your class! Boys dekhte honge acha thode na lagta hai!” I could not understand that connection ever!
    But this was when I was 14 to around 21.
    I have seen it decrease in my case. Atleast people don’t say it to me now. I don’t know what they think.
    And also from my experience I think the method of comebacks or changing the topic, or using humour is the best.
    Please don’t shy away from people because of this. It will only decrease your chances at friendships, and you never know if the person is actually averse to your clothing choices or merely parroting what she herself hears all the time.
    As you said, you already have 2 friends who like you as you are. Even my closest friends have been big supports. But it’s not enough. You need to be convinced of your own choice as to why you are like what you are. Your letter makes me feel you already are quite confident of yourself. But not everyone is, and as they have given up their autonomy to societal pressures or fashion industry’s take on feminism, they will find you odd and say it.
    My sincere advice is, Talk to yourself repeatedly (it’s not a sign of being loony! :-p). It will bring up different aspects of your choices, doubts and questions and help you find your position on this matter. That will give you more confidence and the ability to really (instinctively) not be bothered by what people say. It is that space where you really don’t care, not just as a defense mechanism.
    Also it will give you the confidence to change when You want. If you do this, and tomorrow you feel like wearing chiffon sarees to work, then you will not go into a defensive stance. You will not feel like you are falling into the ‘trap’, that you have given up or these nasty people won. You will know that you are changing because You want to. Accepting our choices liberates us from being stuck in an image.
    There will be boys who will like you for yourself. My parents had a love marriage and my mother never in her life waxed her hands or legs. She too removes under arm hair. We both believe it gets dirty and can’t stand it. So we make our own choice on what we remove and what we don’t. Because we know why we are doing this and are ourselves confident of our choice.
    She had a love marriage. I have been proposed to by boys in school and college. So I know for a fact that the entire male human specie is not painted by the same brush. And better to be single then with a man who wants unreal skin.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am terribly impressed by your candidness and self assurance. You are an excellent role model for loving who you are. So don’t stop meeting new people and learning more about them. Understand that what drives most people to make such comments about you is their own need to validate that their choices are “correct” because they satisfy a social norm that makes sense to them. Free thinkers are not appreciated and especially, fearless, independent and vocal free thinkers. Once you understand that people’s comments are coming out of their own fears, you would hopefully feel about them compassionately. Sarkiness is wasted on those without the intelligence to recognize it.
    If you haven’t already, you may wish to socialize in groups where there are other purposes than simply meeting new people – like volunteering at a dog shelter, teaching at a school, craft classes, marathon running, cycling. In such situations the focus is typically the action part, not who/what/where. Try meetup.com to find interest groups.
    And perhaps, if your strategy of being attentive and nice to other people’s appearance is not paying off, then tone down your own comments? Why bother drawing attention to appearance if the person cannot reciprocate nicely?
    Lastly, why do you need female friendships? Why not aspire to friendship – period? If this prejudice persists, no matter what the context, a female encounter is bound to make your uncomfortable. Try not to think that only women have comments. Men probably do too, but don’t share it because they might be deemed sexist. Which the female comments also are BTW. Continue with being self assured and you are bound to attract people, of either sex, who are on your wavelength.

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  15. This whole things can be because of 2 problems:
    – Do you actively reject looking feminine because you associate it with light headed-ness, stupidity and being weak and therefore do not want to “do girly things like dressing up because brains are better than beauty” (or)
    – You take care of yourself and just prefer a certain style of dressing and the no make up look?

    If it is the former, you would need to examine your beliefs and understand that both your body and your mind are important things and they both need to be taken care of equally.

    If it is the latter and people keep bugging you:
    – I would just avoid certain topics with people
    – Politely refuse to discuss when they comment
    – you are a free agent and you are allowed to dress the way you want
    – people are always uncomfortable when you do not fit into the mould and will try to make you fit in
    -It’s okay. Relax and enjoy your life. Our styles and clothes evolve and change with time.

    If it is of any comfort to you:
    – I avoided dressing up in a too girly fashion for a long while because I associated paying attention to dressing up as too shallow = girly = inferior sex = weaker sex = girls have it worse. Better focus on brains right?
    – I am 28 and still do not use any make up at all while everybody I know wears a lot. I do not not see it as a shame but rather confident to be in my own skin. I do not have to worry about a guy one day after months of dating will have to see me without make up and get a shock.
    – Most east Asians have small breasts and I do not really see that stopping anybody from dating or getting married. So many are married to foreigners as well.
    – That small breasts thing – oh I have had people pass comments on me as well.

    I believe you are doing fine as long as you take care of your body and mind. Dressing up in a feminine way does not mean that you take care of your body. You may not.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Boiling,
      The thing is, I believe that I AM feminine. I am feminine, even if I’m wearing a garbage bag. I don’t understand why only wearing make up or dressy clothes makes me feminine – it’s such an intrinsic part of my identity. Why do fashion trends have to dictate what is feminine and what is not? There was a time when men wore make up, shirts with puff sleeves and high heels. Why should I be regarded as unfeminine just because I have smaller breasts?
      If you look at other animals, in fact it’s the male of the species which tends to dress up/preen to attract a mate- peacocks, fish etc. The females look quite plain.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m with you on this one, LW. Nobody (not even the guy/girl you marry eventually) has the right to dictate how you should dress/act/walk/talk or how many babies you make in order for you to look “feminine”.

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      • To me, being true to me is above masculine or feminine. If you feel you are feminine and being in a way that is true to you, then you can freely ignore what other’s say.

        I, too, call out on the double standards of society – it is unimaginable how many blogs I have read which claim women without makeup are unprofessional, not wearing heels is unprofessional and all of these come from western women nonetheless. So, a man in his skin is profession but a woman is not. A short man can be professional but a short woman can’t be.

        At the same time, we cannot live in denial that beauty is important (for both sexes) and brains is all that matters. That is the other extreme of the same thing which claims women’s brains don’t matter and only beauty does. We have both a body and a brain. We can’t really think one side doesn’t matter.

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        • “At the same time, we cannot live in denial that beauty is important (for both sexes) and brains is all that matters. That is the other extreme of the same thing which claims women’s brains don’t matter and only beauty does. We have both a body and a brain. We can’t really think one side doesn’t matter.”

          Um again, I think I look beautiful, especially in my no make-up, casuals look. This doesn’t live up to the conventional notion of “beauty” as defined by society, but that doesn’t make me (or anyone, who dresses differently) ugly.

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        • As long as one is okay and comfortable the way one is, I would live the way I like because it is my life not theirs. Even if the society says otherwise.

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    • I have been told that I look unseemly in tight T-shirts because my breasts are “too large”. I have been told, on the same day, (by different people though), that I am “too thin” and “overweight and chubby”. Decide please, people. Which is it? Too fat or too thin?🙂

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  16. Dear LW,

    When we were teenagers it was a thing to obsess over clothes and be part of the crowd. So when you say does it get better for you when you get older it does. You’re 28, it should have happened for you already! People your age shouldn’t get stressed as much.

    You say that all the girls you know do is obsess about clothes and makeup. I’d like to know what you’re interests are? What do you like doing? Can you find people that like doing the same things as you. Or maybe find a new activity? I don’t know much about Bangalore, being from the UK sorry.

    Don’t worry about the appearance to get a man. I hate all these magazine articles that say what you should be wearing to get a man. You are doing right thing by dressing for yourself, and in turn someone will appreciate you for doing so.

    I myself like to wear makeup and feminine clothes, but it wasn’t always so. I also enjoy not having to put on makeup everyday. I am only wearing sunblock today.

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  17. Disclaimer – i am not Indian, so maybe what I will write cannot apply to the society you live in, or maybe I do not understand Indian society as much as Indians would.
    When I read your email, I remembered a friend of mine. To me this girl was utterly cool. To begin with, her parents had given her a very old fashionned name (like your great grand-mother’s name). And she had peticular tastes, she didn’t like mainstream music, but old classics deemed “uncool”. But she embrassed her “uncoolness”. her name was her name, and so what? It meant something for her parents, it was her ideantity, and she was never ashamed of it. She would warn new people that she loved old music, and “be careful because I listen only to that, so if you want to discuss any other kind of music, it won’t be with me!” wink wink😉
    So like you, she didn’t fit in, but she embrassed her difference and was unappologetic about being different.
    I guess that what I am trying to say is that if you are comfortable with who you are inside AND outside, then these differences will fade. Or you will attract people like-minded. Why suffer with people who are so shallow anyway? Can you really call these friends?
    I am friend with many different kinds of people. Some girls love make up and appearance is super important to them. I learn about that with them, even if it is not my priority. But we connect on other levels as well: litterature, movies, outings, etc… and these are the girls I asked to take me shopping when I needed to find my wedding dress, because I knew they would be of good advice.
    I have friends with whom I share an interest about philosophy and meditation. Etc… All of these friendships are deep, because we have a unique relationship.
    Re-small breast, I have been asked the same question. My answer has always been that I love my body and don’t feel the need to cheat. That shuts people up, because I imply that if THEY are wearing pushup bras, then they have self-acceptance problems.
    Maybe try to meet people in circles based on something that you truly enjoy – a book club, a movie club, a hiking club, that kind of stuff – so that you are sure to share a common passion and to connect on something else than appearance.
    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. People think you are dressing for THEM. You cannot do much to change that impression, so stop being bothered by them. THEY have an issue, not you. I have not owned a skirt or heels and have had very short hair for over 20 years. I have never had one comment to my face about it in Europe or the U.S., but people in India – “well-meaning” relatives to random strangers – will not stop commenting about my hair and how short it is, plus why I urgently need to pop out babies ‘cos I have been married for donkeys’ years. I learnt from my husband to nod and say: “Thank you”, when someone is being nasty.

    Funny thing is I met him when I dressed the way I always do. He’s one of the most secure people I have met, and he has been told how he should be careful of being “dominated” ‘cos I am too independent and westernised. He is also ridiculed in India ‘cos he will walk with my handbag when I need my hands free for something. Does he care? Not one bit. Incidentally, he has a military buzz cut, shorter than mine, but no one comments on how short his hair is. Once an uncle commented on how short my hair is in front of my husband and I called him on it. I asked him why my hubby’s hair did not elicit a comment. He went silent and stopped commenting on my appearance after that.

    So either smile and say “thank you”, or throw them off balance with “A very Happy Diwali to you too”, no matter what time of year it is. Or shrug and change the topic. Don’t change yourself. The problem is not with you. As for impressing guys, if a guy is fixated on how you dress, he is not worth impressing, in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Indian Warrior. Sometimes I’ve thought of forming a “short-haired-women” association, just to deal with the idiotic comments on the subject.

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  19. First I would like to congratulate you for holding your own amidst the peer pressure who take it upon themselves to bombard you with unsolicited advice. I know it can be draining but harsh reality is that:

    a. If its not clothes/appearance the unsolicited advice will keep pouring in for something else ranging from which side of the bed to get up from to the number and gender of kids you should produce.

    b. There is nothing we can do to stop people from shoving their advice. (maybe reallocation to a place where people respect boundaries could be a solution).

    However here are some pointers that have helped me to deal with unsolicited advice. You may pick the ones you think might be helpful.

    1. Every time someone debases your choice of dressing up just mentally remind yourself that you love yourself. Though you don’t seem to have any self esteem issues affirming yourself that you love yourself will help stop any negativity to seep in.

    2. Do not stop meeting new people. Its also an opportunity to connect with like minded people.

    3. While you meet more people be picky about your friends. Be mindful of the people you spend time with.

    4. Try to make your own group of like minded people. Include people who have something in common and expand it as and when you meet people.

    5. Join some group according to your interest like a language class, guitar lessons or trekking.

    Hope that helps

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    • Thank you purple sheep. I really think I should find more like minded friends and watch out for judgemental people. Often there are clues early on, but I tend to gloss over them.

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  20. I am a man and people advise me every now and then to try to look attractive. (At home, at office, at places where I meet old/new friends, and functions, if ever I go there).
    viz “Why don’t you shave regularly?” “Gain some muscles man!” “You would look better when you tuck your shirt in.” “Don’t use soap, use shampoo on your hair.” “I guess you don’t have enough money to buy shoes, that’s why you always wear those same old floaters” (As if floaters are as freely available as air) “You need to get your teeth a little aligned.”
    I have said this to most of them: “It is an asset to be unattractive. Then only those people are with/around you , who are capable of seeing inner beauty.” Keep this in mind, and you will feel better about yourself.

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  21. I understand what you are getting at . In an ideal world it ‘d be easy for you to continue like this.But we all have certain expectations from other people .And we act like mirrors to each other consciously and unconsciously .
    However,nothing is enough ! If I like makeup and apply everyday still people have problem…….too much makeup .
    Too small breasts are problem for some even if one has too big breasts they also become topic of discussion .
    Only you can decide !
    Maybe you can start slow , do a bit here and there and try to fit in a bit so people can stop talking about your clothes and no makeup and well they will talk about something else then .
    I dress in cotton clothes but love red color lipsticks ! I don’t like bling but gold jewellery I like .I use foundation and skincare regularly yet I go bare faced for days on end even in weddings when I am not in mood for it .
    Yet,I get to hear that I don’t do enough,don’t color enough,don’t shine enough and where appropriate .But its OK,I don’t care.

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    • Hi cosettez, you’re absolutely right, there will be comments no matter what. Nothing is good enough for some people. The problem with trying to fit in a bit is that there is no end to it. For example, I am an aetheist, no religious rituals. I got sick of people pointing it out and now nod along when people ask me if I went to the temple. I’m single with no real intention of getting into a relationship/getting married – but in order to fit in and avoid questions, I’ve started joining the “ya, my parents are looking for a guy for me” and “ooh I cannot wait to get married” brigade. Infact, a few weeks ago, I remember thinking that I might have to fake marriage + childbirth as I get older to “fit in” with office cliques – I’ve noticed that most single older women are humiliated/pitied/treated with contempt. And now with the appearance comments, I’m supposed to grow my hair, stuff my bra, wear sarees… Basically my whole identity has to be a lie.

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  22. You have received a lot of good advice about tuning judgmental comments out. I do not agree that you need to grow a thicker skin; your reaction to intrusive coments are valid. Practice viewing these commenters as people who are tying their self-worth to how closely they follow gender norms in society. You might be able to gain enough detachment to meet these comments with the pity they deserve.

    People who push you should be pushed back. If you are confident enough, you could return the favor and reply, in a tone that suggests you are conducting research, “Why is it important to you that I fit your notion of what a woman should look like?” You will either disconcert them, make them apologetic, or prompt them to think about why that matters enough to say this to someone. You might educate them, one person at a time, to not be judgemental. You would be doing their future children a favor if nothing else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi expatriarchy, you make an excellent point about assertiveness. I realise now that an assertive comment may work much better than a snarky comment. While I used to practice this when I was younger, (for the exact reason you mentioned – educating them, preventing them from doing it to others) I’ve grown tired and jaded over the past couple of years because I believe no one will listen. Obviously, this attitude is not helping me much. Thanks for wording this so precisely,..I get so lost in the emotional drain that I forget to look at things in a rational way.

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  23. LW, I’m in the same boat! I’m a little younger than you, and SOMETIMES will wear dresses/skirts. But, like you, I feel uncomfortable and not ‘me’ in them. I’ve also received much unsolicited advice about what I should do to change my appearance so that I would attract guys. My response? I could pretend for a day, wear ‘girly’ clothes and make-up, and maybe some guy would be attracted to me. But, what about the rest of the time? I have no interest whatsoever in continuing to do those things to keep him interested. I would eventually go back to jeans and tees and no make-up. So, if those are the things that attract him, I wish him luck in finding another girl. I’m certainly not what he is looking for.

    I’m also with you on the ‘I rarely think people LOOK ugly’. It’s SO much more about how they act. When I was younger, I had trouble making female friends for the same reasons you mentioned. They were all too interested in dressing up and make-up and boys. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But those were just things that didn’t matter to me. Not then, and not now. And so it was really tiring fighting off their ‘suggestions’ and ‘advice’ about what I could do to look ‘prettier’. But, I’m happy to report, that did change with age. Now I finally have female friends who don’t care at all about my appearance. Or, if they do, they never say anything. So, I sincerely hope you find friends like that some day too.

    I’m not sure if I am in any position to give you advice, but I can certainly empathize, and I can tell you to keep your chin up. Be you. Always. Don’t let their words/actions/behaviour get you down. You don’t owe it to anybody to dress a certain way. Wear what you like. Do what you like. BE who you like. It’s the only way you’ll be really happy with your life.

    P.S. I don’t wear make-up AND have a genetic predisposition for really, really dark under eye circles. If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘you look tired’ or ‘sick’, I’d probably be a millionaire.😛

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  24. Dear LW,
    I really appreciate the fact that you have written about this. I am just like you are and am also 28 years old. The difference being that I am married and you are not.
    All my life I was told by society that I am not beautiful because I am dark and short. Though my family never said anything hurtful and in fact encouraged me to always stand up, the society I grew up in had a tremendous effect on me. I still remember when I was 14 years old, my dad’s friend who was visiting us openly told me that I looked horrible and that no boy would even want to look at me. I was so shocked and hurt and then a lot of people tole me the same thing-some in fact pitied me and showed sympathy saying I should not feel bad if all my friends and cousins get married and I don’t. Because of all this negativity I ended up getting into a relationship with the first boy who remotely showed any interest in me and that turned out to be an abusive one as well because he never let a single day go by without telling me how “I am really lucky that he was my bf”… Finally my dad decided to take matters in to his hand and at the ripe old age of 22 he drove sense into my head and I started developing confidence about myself and started believing more in myself and my family rather than society.
    Things are no different today even after I am married. My husband is very fair and extremely good looking and he is a doctor and now I live in US. But things are still the same even here in the USA. Skin color is given so much importance that it baffles me. Till date when people meet me and then I introduce my husband 40-50% of them tell me on my face that they don’t understand why my husband married me. Generous white women have told me how I must use more make up and go to gym and dress up in a sexy feminine manner so that my husband does not leave me for another girl. At Indian parties every aunty and even young girls have told me about latest make up, whitening creams, and what not? At a party there were these group of white women and I was sitting with them, casually the conversation moved to waxing and when I told them I don’t do a bikini wax they were horrified and one woman actually asked me if our sex life is good…
    And all this after we have been married for 5 years and are extremely happy with each other.
    So you see, it does not matter whether it is India or USA, the concept of female beauty is screwed all over the world. And no things do not change, they did not for me at least.
    I just ignore them and laugh it off and depending on my mood and how rude the person was I respond. I let all these generous advising type people go because I have realized that they are too rigid in their head and so I really have no patience to explain to them.
    Be who you are and stay happy!!!!Go out and interact with people because not everyone is like that.

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    • This is so true. India, US or anywhere else, women are judged for their appearance. Only the standards of beauty change.

      I’m like you, I have been called “kali” and asked to wash my face (because it’s so dirty it’s black you see) many times while growing up. The only difference now is that I have become more confident and have met sensible,like-minded people.

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      • When people talk like this, we learn to devalue their comments. My relative was called ‘flour’ because she is ‘fair and plump’, I was called a ‘rat’ because I am ‘fair and thin’, another person I know was called a ‘brinjal’ because she is ‘dark and plump’

        It hurts – the first time and many times more. And we don’t forget these comments mostly. But by saying such things, those people become distant from us. Funnily, they sometimes can’t understand why !

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  25. I so hear you.

    I’m in between tomboy and feminine. Last week I was visting a relative at the hospital. I was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt because it was cold and brought my gray purse with me. My mom reprimanded saying that I need to be more fashionable and get new clothes because people will “judge” me. Then she said I need a new bag because it is dirty and no one brings a gray purse to the hospital and I need a fashionable bag. It’s not dirty and is just fine and she just gave examples of another relative’s daughter on how she dresses and how I need to be like her. I could have told her off, but didn’t say anything. One, we are two different people, and two, nobody obviously cared what I wore, and it’s not like they were “fashionable” either. It’s a hospital, not a fashion show and the patient’s condition is priority than what a visitor wears! I am modest in my selection. It’s not as if I were dressing unappropriately showing parts that people don’t want to see. For special occasions and certain days (depends on my mood on) I do like to dress up in saris, salwar kameez..etc, or if I go out to a club/party, then all the nail polish and stuff comes with it. Other days I’d go in jeans and a shirt, that’s it. I have an established identity. I don’t need to be 100% femenine to attract boys. It’s my attitude, nature and personality that counts more than acting so materialistic.I feel like matieralism and competition to be on top is wrecking this world as moral values and respect for each human being is being diminished.

    And yes, don’t give a damn what others say or think. You’re fine LW. As long as you have a good heart and treat everyone respectfully, you are good🙂

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    • It’s more than just sad that a mother judges her daughter on looks. And I don’t understand why anything flowy, chiffon-y, light weight, light colored, colourful, pink, fragile and the same gets termed ‘feminine’. :-p

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  26. Personally, to me comments about my body (fat, tall, skinny, big breasted, small breasted) are different to comments about my clothing/ personal appearance. I would be a lot harsher with comments about my body than my appearance.
    While I really don’t wish to make you feel bad or make you feel like how you dress is not okay, I really do not understand your stand that you like to dress casual and will only wear jeans/shorts and tees.
    Either you have decided to go for a look and you are just going rock it and not change it and make it clear to people around you. Because you think and feel you look attractive to yourself. And that is all there is to it.
    Or your choices are driven by other factors. While I accept that my appearance sends messages about me, I am really not interested in monitoring what that is. I don’t care. I have no interest in fashion/jewellery/makeup – part of it was because my mother had no inclination for such things, part of it is because I derive very little self worth from what I look, general approval of people does not matter to much to me and I would rather spend my money/time/energy on other things.
    But if it helps me fit in with people and that makes my life easy, and the changes are not life changing, personally I would not mind considering making small changes. Example of this in my case is – I have big breasts and I get comments when I wear clothes most women wear – I tend to buy clothes that minimise how big they appear. I am okay with this because the attention is not worth it for me.

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  27. Personally, to me comments about my body (fat, tall, skinny, big breasted, small breasted) are different to comments about my clothing/ personal appearance. I would be a lot harsher with comments about my body than my appearance.
    While I really don’t wish to make you feel bad or make you feel like how you dress is not okay, I really do not understand your stand that you like to dress casual and will only wear jeans/shorts and tees.
    Either you have decided to go for a look and you are just going rock it and not change it and make it clear to people around you. Because you think and feel you look attractive to yourself. And that is all there is to it.
    Or your choices are driven by other factors. While I accept that my appearance sends messages about me, I am really not interested in monitoring what that is. I don’t care. I have no interest in fashion/jewellery/makeup – part of it was because my mother had no inclination for such things, part of it is because I derive very little self worth from what I look, general approval of people does not matter to much to me and I would rather spend my money/time/energy on other things.
    But if it helps me fit in with people and that makes my life easy, and the changes are not life changing, personally I would not mind considering making small changes. Example of this in my case is – I have big breasts and I get comments when I wear clothes most women wear – I tend to buy clothes that minimise how big they appear. I am okay with this because the attention is not worth it for me.

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    • “While I really don’t wish to make you feel bad or make you feel like how you dress is not okay, I really do not understand your stand that you like to dress casual and will only wear jeans/shorts and tees.”

      I like these clothes, and I love the way I look in them. You say you changed the way you dress to avoid attention, but I have to ask: If you were a vegetarian would you start eating meat just to fit in? If you were a non smoker/drinker, would you start drinking just to fit in? Would you be happy to turn against what you believe in just to fit in?
      I understand the need to avoid undue attention, but just because “fitting in” works for you doesn’t mean that it works for everyone.

      My confusion/distress arises from the fact that I know what I like , but feel increasingly isolated in a world that seems to look down on all my choices.
      The answer to this is to not simply change and dress the way others deem appropriate, but to find a way to make peace with people’s reactions. I’ve found that a lot of people on this blog understand the concept of having to deal with social disapproval (sometimes through personal experience), which is why I posted this to get some insight.

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  28. I can relate to this except that I am much older and live in a different city. No, it does not get better with age. At 35, I still meet and interact with such people on a regular basis – family, colleagues and friends. I have nothing new to add, but this is what has helped me.

    1. Humor: I agree with Zalakwrites that humor helps. It has helped me to a great extent.

    2. Thick skin: Many here have mentioned this. This happens with age, we learn to nod and smile and laugh and move on.

    3. Confidence in personal choices: With experience, I have learned that if I am ready to face the consequences of my actions, I should only do what I think is correct as no one in the world (no matter how close they are) is exactly in my position. Therefore, I do not trust or bank on other people’s opinions for personal choices, even when I am not sure of my opinion! .With time, I figure out what I want but I can never figure out what they want and why.

    The strangest part is that even if you succumb to this and change your clothing style (as an example), they will always find something else about you that they want to modify. It could be choice of career, hobbies, your relationships with parents, children, spouse, colleagues, neighbor, domestic help or even your handwriting or the ringtone of your phone. I think it is okay to have opinions about others; its just that we do not know when to keep shut and how much to express.

    It is so much easier to make yourself happy than make others happy. I think you are doing great. There will be moments of vulnerability, phases of uncertainty but there will also be immense happiness at being able to live your life the way you want to. Good going. Stay strong.

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  29. Grow a thick skin. live your life. dont care what people think. It didnt bother me much when i was younger and now its’s not even on my radar. i do what i when wheni want, how i want .. if you don’t pay my bills your opinion is just that – an opinion. in one ear out the other.

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  30. Something to lighten the mood.

    My mom is the typical middle-class housewife whose social life is limited to kitty parties. She judges me for being too “modern” (I am really comfortable with my body and can carry just about anything I like – skirts, shorts, backless stuff, sarees, suit).
    My sister, on the other hand, is a Muslim by choice, and wears the hijaab. My mom thinks she’s too conservative. We have a distant cousin who wears only salwar kameez and is the typical shareef bahu. My mom also judges her for being too gharelu.

    Moral of the story: People will always find a way to judge you, so why bother?

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  31. At one point in time I had acne. At another time I lost weight and was svelte except for the fact that my behind became flat. At both these times, in all other aspects I looked normal. But some women would come to me and make some comment about my acne or flat behind. As if I didn’t know about this. I take care of myself and I don’t hear comments about appearance now, but there are certain areas of my life I am struggling with. And I can usually expect a woman to bring that up in conversation. It’s like I meet someone for the first time, on the surface everything looks good, and they have this urge to find out if something is wrong/not as good as what they have, so that they can compare and feel better about themselves. And thus the barrage of personal questions begin. Once I was out with a group, two guys complimented me about something, and the lady present jumped in and made a comment about something that was not working well for me. I don’t know what’s up with these people. Does someone else’s confidence threaten them? It’s sick that they get some sort of fulfillment from knowing other people’s problems, and pointing out their real or perceived shortcomings.

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    • I have faced this as well Anna. If you tell some people that you are happy, you’re doing well in life, it makes them unhappy. For example, I am 35, mostly happy, never been married – there is pity, concern, curiosity among people (strangers and acquaintances) about this. They think I should be feeling miserable. Being an introvert, my expressions of happiness are not very overt but even then I think it threatens them like you have rightly pointed out. I understood this the day a very close friend going through difficulties in relationships told me that she is jealous of me for having the life she wanted. That was about 7 years ago but I still remember this conversation because from then on, these comments don’t bother me as much. Sometimes it makes me pity them and sometimes it makes me laugh.

      On another note, I don’t think we ever achieve a 100% sense of emotional security because life is so unpredictable. One can have financial security or job security but there are events like accidents and illnesses that can strike anytime. So basically some insecurity is perhaps inevitable. However we only tend to focus consciously and/or unconsciously on our insecurities/failures and other people’s strengths/achievements. That causes such unpleasant reactions. If we could accept that we will have good days and bad days just like everyone else does, we would not feel so threatened.

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      • Loved your answer, thanks for writing it. As a divorced woman, I encountered a lot of people who seemed to derive perverse pleasure in my misfortune; I think there’s a term for this — schadenfreude. A lot of married women also seemed to feel uncomfortable around me; though the primary sentiment was one of smug superiority. It would baffle me and hurt me, but this discussion is enlightening. Now I understand why some people were unsettled by my divorce. Thanks again.

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        • Thank you very much for sharing Neha. It makes me want to add something to this. You say your divorce unsettled people, I used to see them bothered with my single status. And now, I see them reacting in the same way to my mother who was recently widowed.
          My mother stays alone in a 2 BHK apartment, is in her early sixties, health wise doing well, is very independent with her day to day activities both at home and outside. I am an only child and reside in another city. I visit her at least once and sometimes twice a month. But people have been so unkind. She does not complain about her life to acquaintances, replies that she is fine when people ask her how she is. People have suggested that she should move in with me or into an old age home. Some have questioned if I have “abandoned” her like “today’s children” do. Its still early to say that she has “adjusted” to the loss of a spouse but I can see that despite being an emotional person, she is trying her best in trying to accept the new circumstances in her life. I cannot understand why this is all so difficult for others to see and acknowledge that she is making some effort in moving ahead. It makes me so sad.

          Single, divorced or widowed – some people will treat us well only when they are convinced that we are miserable as compared to them.

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  32. This is something i read a long time ago and saved it for posterity.

    You don’t have to be pretty.
    You don’t owe prettiness to anyone.
    Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner,
    Not to your coworkers especially
    Not to random men on the street.
    You don’t owe it to your mother,
    You don’t owe it to your children,
    You don’t owe it to civilization in general.
    Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
    – Rationalhub.com

    I’m 33 now, and believe me, it hasn’t stopped or even diminished in frequency. All that has happened is that i’ve grown a thick skin to it. It doesn’t at all matter now.
    And so true for me, corny as it sounds, i don’t think physical appearance matters at all. I don’t think people LOOK ugly, they can be so in behavior/thought/..

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  33. Thank you, IHM for posting.
    I’m really grateful to everyone for writing such detailed, patient replies and for sharing their personal perspectives. It really helps, especially when you read them in one go.
    I have a lot of takeaways from all of your points:

    1. Growing a thick skin – I totally agree, being oversensitive is not the way to go. There will always be people to pick on me, and I can’t really keep paying attention to what they’re saying.

    2. Being assertive – Some where along the way, I ‘ve lost the ability to tell people what i think. When people make personal comments, I end up being shocked and then just plain disgusted with the world. I’m a natural introvert and tend to listen more than speak. I should try to communicate my thoughts more.

    3. The wierd focus on female friendships – I’ve never had close interactions with men. All my male friendships exist on a sort of superficial level where we have common interests but not much emotional bonding. I don’t have brothers/cousins and my relatives are well..my relatives (openly bitchy, I keep my distance). I haven’t had any romantic relationships that went on to the full boyfriend stage- so even those are just flirtatious and very temporary. Whereas with girls, I’ve had so many strong friendships with whom I’ve shared a lot. While some of them continue to pick on my appearance, they’re always there anytime I need help. I guess this has created a bias in my head – I expect rude behaviour from men, but I don’t expect it from women (which is silly, because they’re both capable of being good/bad) so I’m often distressed when I see it.

    4. Being picky about friends – I realise this is super good advice for me. I tend to get so lost in trying to connect with someone that I forget to note their basic behaviour towards me. Also, I realise that to be friends, there HAS to be an effort from both sides.

    5. Accepting that I may be different from some people – I’ve always been very caught up with this whole idea of finding common ground, that sometimes I cant see that my views differ too strongly from that of others. I feel uncomfortable to be singled out that way – which I shouldn’t be, because I simply can’t help it.

    Thanks again everyone, this really helped clear my head. And kudos IHM for managing to create a community of so many diverse, thoughtful and intelligent people.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. This is such an important post. LW, you raise a very good point. How important is one’s appearance? If the world valued intelligence, kindness, creativity, and warmth – in such a world, appearance would be irrelevant. Such a world, I feel, is not idealistic or non-existent, but exists in small islands – you have to look for them and find them. Look for people who focus on a passion or hobby – reading, photography, riding motorbikes, or volunteering – doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it and can share it with others. In such groups, what you bring to the group – your shared love of something, your ideas and experiences – those are the only things that will matter.

    Other readers have given great advice. And you’re doing great, just being yourself. Thank you for writing this letter – it is an important reminder to all women to understand that this is the first step to happiness – to stop valuing society’s expectations, to stop trying to fit into impossible (and irrelevant) physical standards, to stop defining one’s self-worth based on some random male poet’s whims.

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  35. I really liked this post and all the comments! I also belong to this tribe of not putting that much importance on physical appearance. Or at least meeting the ‘correct’ criteria as per society. My ‘flaws’ are my curly hair (that I leave curly), my bad skin and refusal to wear jewelry. I also dress casually although I like to dress up on occasion. So many rude comments! Some people you can reason with but the majority just will not listen. With those I just agree (Yeah, my ears look bare, I should wear earrings, maybe next time) then continue as before. I still get irritated and hurt sometimes but it saves me the aggravation of trying to convince someone. You cannot and need not have everyone’s approval anyway!

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  36. Dear LW

    Do whatever makes you comfortable and boost up your confidence. Even if it means trying different set of clothes or get a new swanky hairdo. Confidence is what matters the most and makes you look sexy. If you feel confident in simple jeans and tees, then no comment from others should bother you. But if those comments bother you as much as you have mentioned that you have stopped making friends or talking to new people, then its time to look beyond your current situation and work on it.
    Boost up your confidence either by learning to be unaffected by what others think of you or go for makeover. This world is superficial , if you wanna go with the world and not be a target of others opinions, then get on the showbiz train. It’ll only boost up your confidence more. Choice is yours. Rigidity in how you perceive yourself might not be always wise. f

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  37. Hi LW, I’m late to the comment party but I liked your post a lot. What really annoys me is how people assume it’s perfectly appropriate to comment on one’s clothing, weight or looks. I have packed on some weight in the last year in a noticeable way and I’m so fed up of every person feeling the need to comment on it. “You’ve put on” is probably the worst phrasing of the lot, and there’s always a look of sympathy, and then a pause as they wait for you to explain why. I used to find myself either sounding defensive or floundering and saying “Oh god I knowwww!” which is pretty silly.

    Now I’m trying not to care. I like wearing sleeveless clothes and haven’t for so long because I worry about my weight. I’m very tall, and even before I put on weight this time, I would worry about looking large because people freely gave me their opinion on it. Now I think fuck you, I don’t need to pander to people.

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  38. Pingback: Judging someone’s looks | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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