A large number of things make me irrationally angry. Pretentious food photos. Aunties and uncles who declare which parent the baby looks like 30 seconds after it has exited the vagina. Sima aunty, Pradyuman and that weird appetizer thing with dry ice and foxnuts. That buff TV actor who married and then dumped several women before marrying Bipasha Basu. People on the internet who wear blazers on bras and call it an office look. People on the internet who post selfies with long, emotional captions about poverty, the patriarchy or the government. People on the internet.
What makes me angriest, though, is that I simply cannot bring myself to look in the mirror with pleasure. The last time I checked - and I check every day - the woman in there has unsightly bulges, a large, crooked nose, short, masculine legs and an odd torso that is too broad at the shoulders and disproportionately thin at the hips. I know that I have value. I have a close-knit family, and friends who are ride or die. I feel loved and cherished around them. I am a well-paid professional with committed, high-achieving colleagues in a great workplace. I feel accomplished and successful at the office. I have a lunatic cat who uses my legs as his scratching posts. I feel useful and appealing around him. But when I look in the mirror, I feel only ugly, and nothing else.
The path to self-acceptance is arduous, and it reeks of unnecessary self-indulgence. I am an able-bodied, healthy, average sized adult woman who has received a reasonable degree of (welcome) romantic attention from men and women. I have access to nice clothes, make-up, gyms, fitness trainers and salon visits, should I desire any of those things. It is kind of ridiculous, my whining about not being “pretty enough”. And yet, I catch myself wistfully thinking about how much a nose-job would cost and how much it would “fix”, not just on my face, but in my life. I look for validation constantly, sighing with relief if somebody – anybody - tells me I look good, deflating completely at even the tiniest joke about any aspect of my appearance, however funny it may be. I agonise over every meal and weigh myself at least twice a day, every day. I pluck and wax and tweeze and thread and put my poor hairy face through seven kinds of hell, just so I can cover most of it up with a mask when I leave the house to buy wine and chips.
On good days, I can appreciate the wonderous nature of this body, which puts up with the continuous abuse I inflict on her without the slightest complaint. She continues to process a shocking amount of alcohol and potatoes, even though college is now a distant memory and most other bodies her age get to ingest green vegetables and protein shakes. She quietly tolerates penises of all shapes and sizes, the owners of which are permitted to fumble around with her with varying degrees of competence, because their interest makes me feel less hideous. She wakes up every morning and swings her legs out of bed, even though her foggy, sleep-deprived brain is riddled with depression and dysmorphia. She sings in tune. She responds beautifully to my trusty old vibrator, the greatest invention of the 19th century, even when I have it on the highest setting (#yolo) and all her bits go numb.
The path to self-acceptance is arduous, and it requires some degree of self-indulgence. I try to eat an apple every once in a while, but I shake off any guilt that comes with eating some fries later on. I do a few rounds of surya namaskar in the morning, but I stop if my back begins to protest. And when the shrill voice of self-hatred makes itself heard, I look hard in the mirror and try to think about the good days.