Monday, 5 January 2009

An ode to superficiality (or why Cosmo can be a lifesaver)

Forgive me for I shall now rant and sound a tad self-congratulatory. This is based on snatches of conversations, some amount of brooding and an incident that happened fourteen years ago.

If it cared, a chameleon could really shoot up on the popularity scale. At an age when people start exhibiting behaviour and preferences that go on to define their personalities, I did not fit into any easily identifiable mould. A love for serious literature jostled with a penchant for Bollywood. I longed to be able to play the piano (a cousin who played Fur Elise at 5 made me green with envy) even as I fretted over how to dance in a "disc" should I ever get asked out. I did not have too many close friends back then, but the ones I did had the following things in common - they valued loyalty, were kind, generous, and slightly nutty in their own way. And that suited me fine.

Then one day, someone asked me, rather exasperated, what was I really like? She could not figure me out, she said. At some level, I appeared to be extremely unlike the average teenager besotted with boys - career focused, image conscious, ambitious. And yet, I was known to avoid the quiet, serious people in class and hang out with great pleasure with friends who would consider reading if only someone recommended the activity as a cure for insomnia. She had her own rather unkind explanation for this behavior of course - I was eager to please and desperate to be popular.

I was quite surprised to discover then, that I did not exactly fit in. I know now, I will never quite fit in.

Over time, I have met diverse people and stayed in touch with all the ones I have liked. While one is a journalist who owns less cosmetics than my (extremely un-metrosexual) boyfriend, the other is a banker who knows enough about fashion and styling on a budget to give Gok Wan a run for his money.

It makes life all the more interesting for me. When I feel like going shopping, I know who to ask. And when I want to discuss politics, I know who to call. Of course, it is not always perfectly compartmentalised. In moments of excitement, everyone gets an earful. But they are usually tolerant enough to sidestep such incidents and then we go back to discussing something of common interest.

My takeaway from my chameleonness has been an open mind and an interesting adulthood. Not flaming popularity, as anyone who knows me shall attest. So, more a decade after I first asked myself the question, I still remain clueless about my real self. When asked, what are you like, I mentally tick off things about my nature I could reveal with a degree of confidence. They seem hopelessly inadequate and rather random a list. So I stay quiet. And go buy the FT. And a Cosmo while I am at it.

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