I know it was your birthday, like almost everyone else in the showroom did, because of the umpteen times you mentioned it to the guy accompanying you. I also know you turned 20 that day, like everyone else did, because of the umpteen minus one times you asked him if it was “appropriate for a girl who has just turned 20”.
You are very pretty and a tad insecure about your own prettiness. And when I say pretty I mean the way you behaved beautifully in that showroom. You are that rare pretty. You said polite thank yous everytime someone handed you something, apologised profusely when you had to ask for a change in size yet again. So yes, you are really pretty. Please thank your parents on my behalf for such wonderful upbringing.
You looked good in all the red, green, blue dresses you tried. You know why? Because YOU thought they looked good. You were radiant and happy and these, my experience tells me, are the best shades available in all colours. But then, what happened? Why did you choose a gloomy beige which you had earlier rejected saying it was "too dull for a 20-year-old”? You were clear till you asked your boyfriend for his choice. It is good to ask and sometimes even listen to others, but getting our own views swept by the disapprovals of our loved ones is a dangerous habit. It can kill you. Literally.
I don’t know you personally but because I am mostly surrounded by my students who are almost your age, I know you. I know how you roll your eyes in someone’s company and how you giggle and play coy because you have read, heard and seen that this is what girls do when they fall in love. I don’t know this boy you were there with. But when he went out of his way to rudely tell you how fat your legs look or how that pink makes you look a little darker, I felt like I knew him. He reminded me of all the guys who look at girls as arm candies they can flaunt and who take the term “fairer sex” too literally.
Let me tell you something today. That criticism you meekly accepted and went to change into something else, is the first step to a life lived with dead desires and unspoken wishes. That moment when you nodded and picked a grey was the beginning of unfair acceptances and give-ins of a lifetime. Learn to say Yes to yourself. No, I felt, is hard for you to go for right now.
I am all for women's liberation and feminism but the world feels a nicer place when there are chivalrous men around. May be opening the door for a girl is passé but making sure you don’t shut the door while the next person is stepping in is still a welcome relief.
So when he occupied that lone chair by the bill counter and gave you his card rather arrogantly, I was aghast. You eventually did not let him pay but the fact that he kept sitting there fiddling with his phone did not bother you, made me sad for you and all those girls who have mistaken love for insults. Trust me, it bothered a lot of us who were standing in the queue there.
Falling in love is a temporary phase and I hope all this submissive, whatever-you-say attitude you were up with is temporary too. I have been in love and married (to the same guy thankfully!) for almost 15 years and the one thing I have understood is that the key to our happiness is “my happiness and his happiness”. In our quest to please the other one, we should not crush ourselves beyond repair because when we do that, we die too and in case we want to revive, the partner complains that we changed when the truth is we are trying to undo that change. Love should free you and not stifle you or change you into a person you never wanted to be or could be.
I don’t know if you will ever read this but I hope you do. I don’t know if this guy will stay in your life till next birthday or forever, but my guess is, he will be there for long. Why wouldn’t he when he has a partner who listens to him, adores him, and is becoming what he wants her to be? But I really wonder if you will be able to last that long, trying to be this someone you clearly aren’t. Good luck girl.
Disclaimer: This letter might look like gender-biased but it is not. It could have been addressed to the boy-in-pink-shirt too and I would have still said the same things.