When I was a teenager, I was often bullied and called names for being fat. For as far as I can remember, this was the biggest topic of concern, even when I was as young as 6-7 years. At school, well we don’t need to go there at all.
When I was a teenager, I often wore baggy men’s clothes to feel more powerful and be heard. I would do crazy hairstyles so people would notice me, went redhead once and had braided my complete hair another time. I wasn’t like the other girls – pretty, thin and tall. I never had doe eyes and pink lips with silky hair and porcelain skin, and I felt powerless.
When I was a teenager, I regularly had anger issues. There were things I wouldn’t understand, the new feeling, the new changes in my body, the confusion of being an adult or a kid, not knowing how to respond to certain things, failing to make myself understood because I hadn’t yet developed my communication skills. All I knew was to break things and vent out, mostly because I never had anyone whom I trusted enough to talk to.
When I was a teenager, I often looked at myself in the bathroom mirror during my showers and cried, making sure not to make any noise. I cried because men wouldn’t like me. Well, particularly that one boy who was my teenage love, and I always blamed it on my looks, because that is what we have been taught to hate since we are little girls.We have always been taught in multiple subtle ways to take the blame on oneself for being rejected, in love, at sports or in any activity team. We have been always taught that we ‘lack’ something.
When I was a teenager, I didn’t know of terms like depression and anxiety. To me, there were words that described the mentally disturbed, the ones we would see on the roads in rags and stinking of alcohol. We never had adequate information on mental health awareness, the term ‘psychology’ meant ‘pagla manu’, and ‘going for therapy’ meant ‘pagla thana’. There was no help for teenage mental breakdowns, talks on how to handle failures,or the encouragement to talk about how we feel without being judged. When I was a teenager, there were a lot of whispers of ‘did-you-hear-what-she-did’ and no coming forward to ask ‘how-are-you-doing’?
When I was a teenager, friendships were more of competition than a trusted relationship. The closer the friends, the more competitive. Groupism as well as hate-spewing existed on the sole criteria of similarities, no in between. But real friends, none. People kept close to you to keep a check on you and your growth, not to encourage you. You could say, when I was a teenager, I had spies in the form of ‘close’ friends.
When I was a teenager, I didn’t realise the ones I thought were my enemies and could never get me, were actually the only ones who cared. Parents, not family, but parents. When I was a teenager, I didn’t realise that being 35 years or 40 years, what we call adults, isn’t an easy life. That they are not superhumans but made of flesh and blood. I didn’t realise that my parents were just like any other human beings trying their hardest to get to know me, but I blocked them out thinking they ‘wouldn’t understand the lives of a younger generation’. How could I forget they had gone through all that I was going through?
However, when I was a teenager, there were little angels around me who made life good too. A classmate back when I was a 13-14 year old left me a letter in my farewell basket saying – ‘Your curly hair is beautiful and one day you will love it more than anyone. Don’t ever get it straightened’. I may or may not have the letter, but the words are still etched deep and the feeling I had then still brings a smile to my face. Thank you Rebecca (I hope you see it someday), we need more people like you in this world. You were so considerate even at 14 years of age. Then, there was a friend who took me on a weekend outing with her family because that one month my dad couldn’t make it, making me feel a part of her family throughout the outing. Thank you Vitsino, I know we will meet again soon though it’s been 5 years almost since we last met in Mumbai.
I wish I could recall more instances like the above, but the bad memories are a lot more (stronger) than the good, and the only good one that stuck to me was this.
To the girls who are in their teens, this was my turmoil, my story, just like a lot of yours now. And trust me you are more than your weight or grades or number of friends or popularity amongst guys. The world today is a fairer one than my time, but you will still go through a lot of self-doubt. I do not want to snatch away your chance of self-learnt lessons from you, but if you ever feel like you are a nobody, remember that every 30 year old was in your place one day, and we are doing fine, very very fine.