At Home in My Panties


At Home in My Panties

Illustration: Akshita Monga/ Arré

There was this one time my neighbour “caught me” without pants. I had just moved out of my family home, and my top-floor apartment had a huge terrace which, unfortunately, housed the building’s water tank and everybody’s dish antennae. My neighbour, a perfectly nice woman who rarely interfered with me, had come up to ask if she could get a cable guy to the terrace to fix her dish.

I, having just woken up, sleepily threw open the door wearing a long T-shirt and a scowl. Her sunny face froze slightly, before she leaned forward and hissed, “Go put something on.”

It’s a line I’ve heard several times. When I lived with family, I remember the gardener would come and tend to the plants every week, including the ones in my balcony. I was usually asleep in my shorts when he came and before he came in, a maid would rush in to ensure a sheet or blanket was covering me entirely.

I didn’t move out with the express intent of losing my pants anytime I felt like, but it was one of the top five reasons. This inevitably happened when I had a thong wedgie and was looking for a corner where I could extricate and scratch in peace. I figured, if I had my own place, I could have any damn corner I chose. Hell, I could scratch myself in the middle of the living room in broad daylight!

Bodily independence, along with the financial and psychological, plays a large role in people occupying their own spaces than is often apparent. Women, especially, I’ve found, can be single, working, independent, etc, but the physical self still bows to deep-seated constraints, even at home.

Like my space, I don’t need my body to be pretty or decorative unless I’m feeling it. Let it be draped over furniture and floors, fluid, skin and bone and bulges.

It starts with how you sit, what you wear (or don’t wear), how you should conduct yourself physically when other people are around, and how much you should smile. There’s a specificity attached to all these acts and the quantities must be restricted.

I didn’t agree. So I moved out into my own pad and a lot of people chipped in, telling me it was “good practice for marriage”. But because I wasn’t just Female Moving Out of Home, I was Female Moving Out Alone, the questions became more pressing. What would I do all by myself? Wouldn’t it be lonely? Did I just want to party more?

To them I wanted to say, “No, I didn’t want to party.” I just wanted to watch Romedy Now and eat chips in my underwear. I wanted a space where I didn’t have to worry about being under someone’s constant gaze, sleep as late as I want, smoke in my living room, leave my jeans and bras on the couch for a whole night if necessary, have sex anywhere in the house. A space where I could be as lazy/hairy/sexual/asexual/zoned out as I chose. Where my body has its own safe space.

There’s a reason behind all those memes that show the comfort of a woman who removes her bra after a long day. It is liberating in more ways than merely physical, but even the physical symbols of being at home in a space are important, whether sitting with your legs splayed, your skirt or dress riding up, uncaring of whether you’re even clothed… these are things worth fighting for.

Unfortunately, you’re still answering the door to security guards and dhobis and delivery people, who are nearly always male. And, while there are times I’ve marched to the door in a single, tattered piece of clothing, there are many more times where I’ve pulled on my track pants.

I moved out, not to learn how to create a home for a husband, or make the perfect space to be admired by others. I’m asocial and I tend to love coming home to my own space. I take entire days off from work where I do nothing but lie on my couch in socially inappropriate positions. Where I don’t brush my hair or smile or talk to anyone. I’m terribly particular about cleanliness, but I like the clutter of 10,000 books and 25 spare towels, just because they’re colourful.

Like my space, I don’t need my body to be pretty or decorative unless I’m feeling it. Let it be draped over furniture and floors, fluid, skin and bone and bulges. Let the follicles and the unpainted toenails be visible. Let there be space for us, to show as much or as little as we want.

I have a strong feeling the main reason women don’t live alone, apart from economic disparity, is that people are afraid we’ll get too comfortable with ourselves, our bodies, with walking around in our underwear, and knowing we’re strong.

My house has never been a people-pleaser on purpose. My body has, on occasion. And that’s okay. As long as I can be silent and messy and alone and unclothed whenever I want.

Mi casa es mi casa.