“Beti, why are you posting pictures of yourself on the internet?” recently asked one of my 842 aunties. Her question meant well but she had that sort of defeated tone to her voice – the kind that translates to “girls nowadays and their nonsense behavior”.
I had been expecting this question ever since I started RWAC, so I offered up my best pre-rehearsed answers:
“I’m trying to start a conversation about changing norms!”
“The clash between traditional viewpoints and modern lifestyles!”
“I’m so lazy that anytime I achieve the ability to put together an outfit, I think it deserves to be documented for the world to see!”
I thought I had summed it up pretty well, and was sure she would tell all her auntie friends who would tell all their auntie friends while other nosy aunties eavesdropping on the conversation would run home and tell their daughters who would then tell all their friends about this revolutionary website, its corresponding Facebook page, and its Instagram presence. Talk about free publicity courtesy of the Indian society gossip machine!
However, my dreams of making a social media mark quickly dissipated because she was still dubious; as expected, she said: “Girls nowadays and their nonsense behavior” and proceeded to back it up with the favorite Indian horror story about how Ruby hasn’t found a husband yet because of how she acts/talks/dresses/breathes.
Well, I’m not one to accept defeat! Maybe I couldn’t convince her with a few words, but I would show her something that was worth a 1,000 of them:
“See, Auntie-ji, I just use a picture to tell a story. For example, this outfit shows one way to layer clothes during the summer. This linen blazer helps elevate what would have just been a basic denim romper, and the colorful wedges makes the look more playful. So I’m kinda offering advice to people too, not just parading my pictures all over the internet for no reason!”
I thought that would be that, but I should know better than to think that would ever be that when that is never really that. Instead of applauding my efforts and handing over an envelope full of money to enable me to buy more clothes, her only comment was…
“Arey, why do you look so dark in that picture! Your skin is so tan, put some yogurt on your face every night before you bathe to get rid of that color! It’s not nice to look like that, what will people think!”
I tried to reason, “Auntie, photo lighting aside, that’s not the point! I like being tan in general! I layer on bronzer because I like the glow. I use sunscreen but I like to sunbathe too. I know there are still misguided misconceptions all over the world about dark skin – heck, you’re lucky to find a beauty product in Asia that doesn’t have those silly whitening properties. But you can’t really judge someone on the basis of their complexion color or their (in)ability to edit a photo properly!”
Of course, new-age logic doesn’t really stand up to old-school thinking, and fairness is still the beauty standard for some. Not so fair, is it?
Oh, but she wasn’t done:
“Beti, while you’re at it, you shouldn’t be showing your legs like that either.”
Touche, auntie, touche.