Monday, June 19, 2006

Plus sizes, dark circles and rudeness

I walked into the 'Health and glow' store, dreaming of a flirtation with the foreign brands, face creams and body washes. Unfortunately, the staff of the place had other plans.
"Excuse me ma'am, may I help you?"
"Just looking around," I used my customary reply which I had used so many times before in the hundreds of shopping malls.
"Madam, for you we have something here," the enthusiastic sales girl moved forward with officious zeal and steered me to a shelf. "Madam this is a new product in the market, it removes dark circles in just 2 weeks, they are claiming that otherwise they will give money back madam. And with this we have..."
I had to butt in to dampen her enthusiasm, and I did not mind doing so. Years of hearing such comments have now made me formulate a defensive-cum-offensive approach, to be customized according to the situation. "I am not looking for under-eye creams." My tone was firm and (I hope) polite.
Her smile vanished. "But madam, this will be good for you..." she persisted, albeit with one-fourth of her previous energy.
I instinctively looked at the large mirror on the wall in front of me. "I don't want an under-eye cream." My tone meant, 'Get lost'
"Ok madam, but this was good..."
It was time to get offensive. "Listen, in future, don't try this with anyone else. I am ok with my dark circles and I think they look great. I don't like it that you came to me and pointed them out, just because you need to sell your creams." It could have been more sophisticated, I know, but sometimes you need less tact and more force to get your point across.
There was the usual crowd of other salespeople coming forward to rescue the girl and I stepped out, hoping that they will not curse me too much to the girl and the girl will remember what I told her.

What gives someone, a perfect stranger, the right to point out your physical defficiencies? How would it feel, if someone pushes a fairnes cream towards a dark girl, or a weight reduction pill to a fat one? Though the offender will never understand it as anything else than 'being helpful', this simply makes me feel that the person is implying: 'you are an eyesore, so please improve your appearance so that my eyes can have something better to see.'

A week back, my colleague and friend was approached by our company's security manager at the gym. Hitherto, their interactions were limited to the gym, when she had asked his help to operate the treadmill, or to know if a machine which he had been using, was free for her to use. This day, however, he had a different agenda.
"How many working days does our company have in a week?"
My friend was taken aback. "Five," came her puzzled reply.
"And how many days do you come to the gym?"
My friend blushed. "Well, about three days a week."
Then followed some advice on how it was absolutely essentital to be regular, to attain your fitness objectives. Beats me, I always knew from the web and newspapers, that 3-4 days a week was enough to keep fit, except if you need to reduce weight and my friend was slightly on the heavy side.
I was pretty angry when she told me all this and added, "I am taking it positively."
Well, her approach was fine with me, his was not. In her place, I would have simply asked what prompted him to give me unwanted advice. Was it my size, and if not, then since when had his duties shifted from security to fitness?

How can people take liberties with someone else's dignity? What gives anyone a right to hurt a person's ego?

Last Friday, another friend of mine, who was again a regular patron of the Gia brand of plus size dresses at Westside, accompanied me to a supermarket. When I was weighing 3 dussheri mangoes, there was an old lady who was directly opposite to us, who smiled at her. She smiled back, obviously puzzled, and then I found her eyes fixed onto something, and her face registered disbelief. Moving behind her, I noticed the old lady waving a leaflet towards her with the following words on them:
'If I can lose weight, so can you.'

I suppose all those advice on being well-behaved with elders, drilled into her since her childhood, held my friend back. Or maybe, she was too shocked to speak.

I came away, very disgusted.
Well, these incidents are best forgotten as they will only tend to lower the self esteem. But who will tell a major part of Indian people that certain questions are rude, certain choices are personal and not everyone agrees with you about what is wrong with their nose?
Why don't people understand the difference between being helpful and being rude? Are we so de-sensitized to others?

17 Comments:

Blogger Mita said...

Aparna..as usual that was a nice one.

Mon Jun 19, 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Mita said...

I loved the way you put it dow,, True it happens with everyone- one time or the other.

Mon Jun 19, 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tanushree said...

Beautifully written. And I really like it that I star in your blogposts so much ;)

I suppose this phenomenon can be blamed on our open market capitalism. While the same advertisement on TV or in a magazine would be welcome, it gets uncomfortable when someone targets you personally. Sometimes it is nice that someone pays attention to your requirements, e.g., when we have a salesperson in a garment store say "Yes ma'am we have that in your size too!"

But to try and push a solution to rectify whatever percieved problem you may have, that is not a liberty most would allow even their friends, let alone perfect strangers.

Tue Jun 20, 04:33:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@Mita : Thanks so much, am so happy you read and comment on my blogs

@Tanu:
'Open market capitalism' - a very different angle of seeing things, yes, I agree. Maybe the difference between the TV and the salesperson is: the TV says, 'If you are dark/fat/short/etc.', and the salesperson says 'definitely you are dark/fat/short/etc.' :)
You do feaure in my blogs because I usually interact and go out with you the most...you have sort of become my sounding board in some cases. :D

Tue Jun 20, 05:11:00 AM  
Blogger Bald Monkey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Jun 22, 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger Bald Monkey said...

I always have wanted to attend a pajama party. I have not been able to do so because of sexual discrimination because we all know that when the invitations for these mega-events are handed out, the men are completely ignored. I have therefore in my impudent nature decided to crash this particular one. So there !
Having de-fogged that bit I would now like to deplane by inconsequential opinion. So, here is the deal -- The inablility to understand colour combinations of bed sheets and pillow slips are our dark circles. The inablity to discern and unleash the sensitive answer from a collection of complicated choices are our extra pounds. We are aware of them and so please do not mock or point them out to us. You know how it feels ! So there again !

PS: Nice post 22 !

Thu Jun 22, 05:42:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

Thanks Bashuman.
And this was not a girls-only pajama party, it was by sheer coincidence that the people who commented before you were all girsl...come to think of it...is it because we girls face such situations more often which dampen our sagging vanity, or is it because we think too much about all these inconsequential incidents?

Thu Jun 22, 10:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think of it that it really doesnt count when u are in love cause love meas to accept unconditionally.

Your so called "flaws" become a part of your individuality and uniqueness.

That really makes me wonder ultimately for whom do we need to be "artificial" and stand "corrected(?)".

Fri Jun 23, 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And to think of it that it really doesnt count when u are in love cause love meas to accept unconditionally.

Your so called "flaws" become a part of your individuality and uniqueness.

That really makes me wonder ultimately for whom do we need to be "artificial" and stand "corrected(?)".

Fri Jun 23, 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

So the rule is, irrespective of whether someone intends good or not, suggestions are meant to be shot down with a TU-72 bomber?

Tue Jun 27, 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous gk said...

Well I think your security manager is thinking of having an affair with anyone available if those are the words he said... Coming more frequently was only excuse he'll have to see your friend more.

About salesgirl I'll say she was trying to make sales rather than letting you chose. May be she was pushing, may be she got defensive when she realized her mistake...anything...

Indian people always took extra efforts to look into other's life... You and I are new generation of indians who want to be left to do things our way and not be bothered. But then we must be ready to pay price when our community and social commitments are so low. With more pressure on leave me with myself attitude we'll only alienate people from helping even when there is literal bloodshed...

I'm coming straight from Tamilpunskter's blog where your comment is about arguing with GK, that is me... You know nothing about her and mine past transitions and you want to have fun and arguing with me...??? Pathetic indian meddling attitude and cheap gossip mentality I'll say. Learn to draw lines and think logically, you are poor at that...

Wed Jun 28, 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Anshuman Ghosh said...

well well what do we have here - people butting in with their advice on how to run the world, and the way it irks some of us ;)

psst - Mr/Mrs "GK" is real mad at you ;-D

Wed Jun 28, 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous gk said...

@Anshuman

I'm not mad at her. It'll serve no purpose. I'm just discussing assertively.

Wed Jun 28, 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Raindrop41(Mycogen sector) said...

So this saleswoman at Health and Glow once tried to sell me products manufactured in 2004. They were good until 2007, but thanks, I'd rather buy newer products. She argued with me, and said they were still good for a WHOLE YEAR, and insisted I should buy them. She got VERY pushy.

Health and Glow needs to teach its employees a thing or two about customer service.

Wed Jun 28, 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@ tanu:
Forgot to mention before, you were lucky with the salesperson in a garment store...for me...I have heard comments like - 'Ma'am, Pepe jeans or any other company don't manufacture jeans for women above size 30...they are all unisex if you want them!', aided by his eyes travelling to my butt and waist.

@anon: To let people be themselves....is something we don't like to do...apparently. We are always proferring unwanted advice about how something will make someone else 'look' better.
I agree with your observation.

@VK: Not at all. In fact, I am all for suggestions. What I am against is anyone and everyone on the road butting into my private life, and giving me a dose of what is 'good for me'.
Don't shoot them down, not yet, they make for entertaining gossip,and subjects of a few more blog posts :)
Btw, thanks for visting my blog.

@GK : Thanks for suggesting that my security manager is trying 'to pick up' my friend....shd warn her...on second thoughts, let her enjoy the attention....as long as she doesn't lose her confidence.

Pathetic indian meddling attitude and cheap gossip mentality
Too strong...not good to form a long relationship of a blogger and a commenter...shdn't you say ? :)

@Angshuman: :) yeah it irks some of us.

And I never thought my blog post was good enough to be even commented on...I am starting to feel better with the increase in comments...bad habit.

@raindrop: Yeah, especially when they are handling 'beauty' business which is a pretty sensitive issue for people.

Thu Jun 29, 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Apoorv said...

Read this quote in Sunday Times couple of weeks ago ,Dont remember the exact words ,it conveyed this meaning though.
Advise others only in two cicumstances : when you are asked for it or when when your friend is in really deep trouble.

Neat post :)

Thu Jun 29, 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger Aparna said...

@apoorv: thanks :)

Thu Jun 29, 03:11:00 AM  

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