Many people argue that routines are boring and often numb the soul; in addition to raise a person’s potential to inch closer to making an extremely inexpensive version of ‘A Clockwork Orange‘, on a startlingly daily basis — I do get this argument. This is the reason ‘self-help’ books like ‘The Secret’ and ‘The Alchemist’ work right? At the same time, many people also detest change and often go to great lengths to avoid facing it; maybe the afore-mentioned people go as far as to make-believe that change doesn’t exist at all till it smacks them right in the face. Not that I‘d know anything about it. Please. I’m the most UnstablyStable person I know. Also, the most humble, as you might have caught on by now.
To further this pathological need to keep everything as similar as always, we do a lot of BatPoop crazy things. What never fails to amaze me is just how many people stereotype and ‘box’ people (including myself sometimes) in convenient labels. I suppose it saves them the effort to think or somehow use their GrayMatter a little above the barest of bare minimum. See a girl walking on the street dressed in pink from head to toe, she’s suddenly ‘HumanBarbie’, see someone write or stare into space (often confused with existential magnitude) and the person is a ‘philosopher’ or at least ‘an artsy type’, see a boy walk with a sashay and he is ‘gay’, see a mother and daughter fighting in public and they are ‘The daily entertainment troupé’, see someone walk with a scowl and you’ve remembered that misanthropist quote “Sell your children to the rich as food“*. A rather large part of the population engages in such ‘boxing’, there is no point in pretending otherwise. Except if you’re Dalai Lama, only then you’re excused of this particular faux pas. At least, I’d like to believe that (Note to self : Recovering Optimists meeting tomorrow).
I never realised just how horrible this ‘labeling’ can be to the human psyche, until a few days ago. Three days ago, in class I made a presentation on Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication Of The Rights of Woman’ without drooling all over the paper or mumbling anything as intelligible as “She’s just awesome. Really“. For the most part anyway. Important to note that my paper was long and it often used words like “Post-Jacobian era femininity” and harked backed at Puritanical definitions of womanhood (a little bit of SelfPromotion is always healthy with a teaspoon of pride, I say). What I mean is, I really hadn’t expected people to pay attention. Generally when I talk, people tend to focus on the words ‘Feminism’, ‘Anti-Woman’ or ‘Really nincompoop-y of patriarchy to do so and so” and soon my fellow feminists and I are heralded with chants of “Man-Hater!”, “Baby-Burner” from many directions. You can imagine my surprise at the fact that I didn’t have to use my Medusa look on my classmates at all. And these are the same people who thought ‘A Farewell To Arms’ was a diet book! Can you completely blame me for thinking most of them were shallow airheads? Maybe you can, I’d agree with you, if it were any other day. These are the same people who think ‘Sense and Sensibility’ is a philosophy book. Before you’d start calling me a privileged arsehole, let me draw attention to the fact that we’re a Literature Major class. One cannot go around thinking ‘Pygmalion’ was written by Sophocles just because it draws the name from a Greek myth anymore.
I wish I’d remembered sooner what my grandmum said about scatterbrained airheads one time, “These are the people who will always surprise you so much by doing anything even remotely sensible that you’ll end up being the fool“. Had I remembered this, I wouldn’t have been so taken aback by the fact that people took notes and even asked for explanations after I was done talking. And while I was answering them, all I could think to myself was how big an arse I was being. So what if some of my classmates thought Amitav Ghosh writes literary pornography just because there are a few to many ‘stroke my boner now‘ references in the book? Who did I think I was to think of them like that? The privately funded cynic to bray at everything that displeased me? Or the re-incarnation of Marie Corelli? Certainly not. Besides, my French isn’t that good yet.
Needless to say, I felt horrible for being so petty and Tina Fey-y in ‘boxing’ everyone to a type. The person who laughed at “What women did back then can be simplified into saying they provided womb-services. Till they hit menopause that is” line wasn’t necessarily who guffawed at “she was called a hyena in petticoats“, I scolded myself. Believe me when I say, I didn’t expect to hear loud laughs for quoting ‘The neglected wife often makes the best mother’ or see scowls at being snarky at Pat Robertson’s definition of feminism — Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.
The whole time I was talking, I could see the judgmental conga-line going back and forth in my LadyBrain. Dorothy Parker would have been so proud of me just then; I could almost see my grandmum again, laughing at me. At that moment, I decided to completely let go of my Darwinian instinct to ‘box’ people. Everyone deserves a benefit of the doubt. I’d completely break ‘the box’ all of us are so prone to carry around in our heads, I wouldn’t EVER again treat scatterbrained airheads like I was Judi Dench ever again, was my strong conviction. There are just so many ways a girl can be a complete swot and I didn’t want to have either of it.
After class, when I asked my friend just why were people laughing so much, she said my bra was showing AND my hair was sticking up the wrong way. Drat! My grandmum had been right all along, “Too much thinking rots the brain” she used to tell me. She was such an ‘abstract thinker’ too.
* Really. Jonathan Swift did say that. I’m not that good at making stuff up. Not yet anyway.
P.S. So how big an arsehole you think I was being?