Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Living up to the image

My friend and I are dining at an upscale restaurant in Park Street, Kolkata. We have a lot to catch up on, but neither or us are ravenous hungry. So we order soups, appetizers, and drinks. Hours later, the person attending to us, polite and well-dressed and so far attentive to our needs, asks us if we are ready to order the main course. As we are very full, we politely decline, asking for the check/bill instead. At this point, our man laughs loudly and asks us, "Oh, are you dieting?"

A seemingly lame attempt to make small talk although an innocuous question, right? Wrong. Context is always important. Would he ever ask this to his male guests? Not only it is none of his business, questions about food, dieting, clothes, etc. are deeply tied to body image. I am tired of every friend and relative in Kolkata, male and female, commenting on how I look, how much better I used to look in the past, and how I must do certain things to make sure I go back to looking my older self again. These people are no brand ambassadors of good looks and fit lifestyles themselves, although I see them as people and not as balding people, pot-bellied people, smoking people, unfit people, or obese people. These people have no curiosity about my life other than my looks- nothing about where I work, what I do for a living, what I think of some of the pressing issues in the country, and so on. And now, this comment about dieting comes from a complete stranger, a person whose job was to serve us food. Because women are supposed to diet and look pretty and deck up and please others according to set societal norms. And women are either too thin or too fat or too dark or too bold.

Inadvertently or otherwise, stop reinforcing gender stereotypes, or any stereotype for that matter. It is not cool!


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