Tag Archives: beauty

Not such a hair-raising story

It has been a while since I last updated this rather hesitant journal – going against my earlier resolve to be regular. I wonder who is reading this. But if you are one of those few who have logged on to read I can only apologise profusely. Getting back to life after a long pause sometimes takes more work than I’d imagined.

This time last year I resembled, pretty closely, the grim unsmiling smiley, albeit a brown one, that we use unabashedly in our favourite mode of human interaction – instant messages.

Do you recall that clichéd clumps-of-hair in the shower scene in horror movies of a certain kind? I am willing to bet that a cancer patient came up with that.

The sight of a bald head is possibly one most associated with cancer. The loss of hair, then, isn’t just about losing that symbol of vanity – it is about the fear of being perceived in a certain way by others.

Three weeks or so after the start of her chemotherapy a friend I met online on a cancer support group sent a distraught message – “I don’t want to continue the treatment.”

While she knew about the impending hair loss, and felt she was ready (like most of us), the reality of a scalp permanently in pain, of leaving trails of hair around the house like Hansels bread crumbs, the well-meant advice on how to deal with the loss (shave versus don’t shave camps), were all too much for her. The emotional impact of this cosmetic after-effect is often, unfortunately, ignored.

Going bald – I mean actually taking a razor to my head to shave it all off without waiting for them to go in due course of time, was about asserting some control at a time when nothing else was. The relief from the scalp pain was just an added bonus.

But really, in a way it was liberating. I liked being bald (at least until I lost my eyebrows!). If you think about it it’s a tick on the bad-girl list – such as having a tattoo, getting piercings, et al.

However, of all the agonies of cancer, losing my eyebrows was probably the most heart-wrenching and the only one I still remember clearly. Really, I am quite convinced we underestimate the vast importance of eyebrows.

It’s all that holds our face together and keeps us from looking like a ‘Kree’. Forget eyes as the windows to our soul – it’s the eyebrows that truly matter.  Pictures illustrating  the point will soon be updated, I promise.

If you have a friend or family member about to go through chemo, let them handle it the way they want. If they want to have a ‘bald and beautiful’ party, make sure you get the cake. It is possibly the only way they get to assert some control at a time when one feels like their body has been invaded. Get them a wig if they want. If they don’t, take them out for dinner in their fabulous new no-hair-do.

At the end of it watching them grow back when you are better kind of makes up for it. And if, like me, you are living in a tropical land of sweaty horror sometimes you even miss the feeling of the wind on your gloriously bare scalp.

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Don’t pit depression against cancer

Just now I saw this video on Upworthy about how one would never put down a person with cancer. Never say they were dragging others down. Never call a cancer patient’s problems an unending series of “pity parties”. Then why do people do that with a person suffering depression.

A beautiful, meaningful video dealing with an important subject. Yet, somehow, it left me slightly agitated. You see, I was diagnosed with cancer around this time last year. And I have spent months weighing every word I said, sometimes even actions and gestures, afraid someone would think I was making everything about me.

The fact is anyone suffering any long-term disease probably suffers such anxiety, may be because in some ways or the other our society lacks time and space for such people.

But more than that there is an odd sense of guilt associated with getting cancer.

A well-meaning acquaintance on meeting me during the course of my treatment told me, “When I heard you got cancer I thought it must be lung cancer. After all, you smoked.” Yes, I did. And no I didn’t get lung cancer. Further, my cancer had nothing to do with smoking. It was found to be caused by a genetic mutation.

Another acquaintance, on being told about the mutation, which comes down from my mother, a woman who has led an excruciatingly simple life, said, “Cancer doesn’t work like that. It is not a hereditary disease.” I found myself shrinking a little from the lady’s tone and tenor.

I count myself among one of the most blessed people, given the completely beautiful people who surround me. A boyfriend who stood by me like a rock, made me feel beautiful at a time when I avoided looking at the mirror as much as possible. A mother who pulled herself out of depression to take care of me. Two sisters whose strength I could feel through the miles shortened by Skype. A father who was just there, simply there for anything and everything. Friends who would pop up ‘just because’.

Yet, I know of others who weren’t as fortunate. Whose boyfriends left them in the middle of chemo because ‘it was too stressful’. Whose friends avoided them. Whose husbands and wives left them because ‘they weren’t attracted to them anymore’. Parents who felt they couldn’t live their lives around cancer patients. Siblings who thought they were taking up al; the attention.

There is an unsaid pressure on cancer patients to be “normal”. If anyone could tell me what normal is I would be grateful. I have seen colleagues ho and hum about how ill they were with flu. And here I was trying to make puns about being two-paet (stomach) after the first mid-line surgery gave me a scar right down the centre of my abdomen; about starting my ‘bald chronicles’; about taking stairs like an old person. Laughing about living with cancer seemed to be the only defense mechanism I had. But, by jove, none of should feel the need to be defensive. It is hard enough otherwise.

Depression is real. It is scary. I have seen someone very close suffering and spiraling into that abyss. It was perhaps the most helpless I have ever felt. But don’t compare it to another disease in the misguided idea that ‘one doesn’t talk like that to a cancer patient’. Because they do. Don’t belittle the struggles faced by everyone else, because truth is while most people are just wonderful, the ones who aren’t don’t step down their game for anyone.

Renee Zellweger? Is it possible?

Last night a star re-emerged. Renee  Zellweger. Looking a tad, alright, to be honest way different. “Is it possible?” a friend asked. Unfortunately, his timing was off.

Let’s recap. A few minutes prior to that a link appeared at the bottom of a news article I was reading online — “21 pictures of celebrities with cellulite that you would wish you hadn’t seen.”

Curious about what this horrid cellulite was I clicked on the link. You know what it is? Maybe not? Well, I have been informed. It is a disease. It is not just ‘A’ disease, it is the worst disease a person woman could ever have.

You see, while we were growing up there were a few make or break beauty factors. Fat or thin? Thin? You got that one right. Good skin, bad skin (with acne, possibly scars and some uneven skin colour). Good skin? Well done. And oh yes, good hair. The rest was moot.

But turns out you can never have enough wrong with the human female body. You can’t  be too short. Tall. That’s what you have to go for. But, hey, not too tall…you won’t find a guy who’d want to date you.

You have to be thin but again not too thin, you need curves see? But hey, hey, hey that thing in the middle? Your belly? That isn’t a curve, God damn it! That is fat. Get that flat. NOW. You hear me? And now you have done it! It is too flat, woman!! Now it looks ripped! Look, some of the muscles show. Make that feminine right this instant! Same goes for your back. we don’t want to see any of those soft layers of adipose tissues! Toned, get them toned! But no knotted muscles! Na ah…that’s not feminine.

And, oh, those bums. Nice melons, girl. Now let’s see if they are firm too! Which melons, you ask? Oh, both the top and bottom. *snigger* Uh huh. We like them perky and firm, not saggy and ummm wobbly(?) Gravity shouldn’t have any meaning for you. Physics? Don’t bother about that. You are God’s best creation. Beat physics already. Good girl.

Let’s move down, now shall we? Ah. Those legs. Now that you’re the right height (not too short not too tall, remember?) let’s get those lovely long (not too long) legs fixed, shall we? Those legs they are supposed to touch and not touch just at the right places. Let’s have a gap at the top of those delicious thighs, where the legs meet. Then let them fill out. Hey! Wait alright? Go easy on the pizza already! It is supposed to thin down again. and leave a gap just above the point where the knees meet and then below them too!

Calves…nice and firm. Not too tight like sportsmen…very good. And…further down…na ah! Those cankles just won’t do. (Cankles being the term where your ankles are simply not adequately and acceptably bony and thin.)

Feet pedicured. Nail paints freshly done today and those hands nicely manicured. Even coloured skin all over the body. Very good.

You think that’s the end? You forgot cellulite, didn’t you? Ah, now cellulite.  That is the mystery I stepped out to solve today. You see cellulite is apparently the little dimples you sometimes see in your skin. Look  at your thighs maybe? Can’t see them? Stand in front of the mirror, turn around, lift that skirt high over the now firm bums and look again at the back of your thighs? Still don’t see it? Adjust the light in your room (this is so exasperating. Sigh.). Ah…see that? Yup. That’s  the latest criminal in your body. Dimples for the cheeks, not your thighs or stomach. Yuck! That’s disgusting, really. Get that sorted, will you?

Now going back north. Clear skin, check. Even colour, check. But what about those cheek bones? Get them higher! Do it! You know you can. Those lips don’t pout enough. How on earth are you going to get your boyfriend to give you that diamond necklace you want? Pout, pout, pout. All  the time. Yes. Pout. That chin is too big, yours eyes too narrow…no no…for you…the other lady…yes, you in the black shirt… Your eyes are just way too droopy. Also, pull those eyebrows up. Make that nose smaller. Get that skin stretched. Lose that flesh. Where you ask? Everywhere! But no, no, no. Not in your lips! Pout, remember? Fill those cheekbones out. No, your cheeks are way too round, girl, lose some of that flesh. Also, look like you are constantly sucking a really really sour lemon. Or that you are so hungry you need to constantly bite the inner flesh of your bottom lip.

And what the hell are you…yes, you in the white top, doing here? You are over 30 and have at least 5 of these points unchecked…just in your face. GET OUT! No. You aren’t  allowed to age. Nope. Nope. You get to age, when I tell you you get to age. Capiche?

Change yourself, look different. Change till I can’t tell the difference between you and the person next to you. That’s when you would have achieved perfect beauty.

And, now I am slightly out of breath. Maybe we’ll continue this lesson another day.

But, for now, what do you think? Is it possible? Renee Zellweger?

PS: I was asked which criteria I have checked. Ummm…well, I kinda lost the battle at tall.

Fair world

When you are five feet nothing, gifted with small eyes, a button nose and a dad whose bank balance does not lose its balance under its own weight, then you could only sigh and dream on.

But then my TV tells me I can be a traffic stopper and a head-turner if and only if I have dazzlingly fair skin! Reality check — I don’t!

I am what you’d call dark,or as the more politically correct term goes — dusky. Darn my Bengali genes — looks like I have no hope! No hopes of getting that neighbourhood hunk’s attention, no hopes of bagging that promotion at work and certainly no chance of strutting down the ramp.

But then, lo and behold, the idiot box gives me a solution — fairness creams!

They are a dime a dozen, so options are really not the problem. They are available everywhere and even when you try to ignore them the sales attendants thrust them under your dark nose, whether you like it or not.

So what if regular use could make my skin so thin it could split and result in photo-sensitivity? Who needs the sun anyway? At least I would get married! Did you roll your eyes and say ‘really!’? Well, the ads promise marital bliss if only one would  use the creams.

But if you’re shallow enough to think that it’s only about physical beauty, think again.They also promise you success and power that feminists may be proud of. Or not.

That’s not the end of it either. The conventional idea of male beauty seems to have been white-washed too. The tall, dark and handsome of the world need steroids and bleach-laden creams as well!

So boys and girls it’s in that genie’s bottle — the reins of the fair world.