By Sonali Kokra Jan. 02, 2019
Years ago, I’d decided to stop giving a rat’s ass about people’s expectations from my body and love it for what it was. But I noticed something recently: I loved the high-angle shot which hid my second chin. I was clearly a fraud. So my only New Year's resolution is to love myself some more.
hate New Year resolutions. Mostly because I am yet to have a year when I have actually followed through on mine. And so, like any self-respecting adult, I decided to cloak my failure to keep my word to myself as the waging of a post-resolution rebellion. It worked too, and I felt rather liberated. Down with the capitalist agenda to make us buy and buy and hoard and hoard in our shoebox-sized homes things we don’t need and likely won’t use! Gym memberships, self-help books, classes to spend quality time with the partner/ parents/kids/siblings instead of, you know, just spending quality time with them.
The only thing I hated more than resolutions, especially circa the 12th month of the year, are selfies. While tiptoeing around people pouting and twisting their necks at awkward angles to avoid guest appearances in their photographs is odious to behold any time of the year, they take on an especially irritating quality before New Year’s Eve. Because every mindless documentation of the self seems like a desperate attempt to squeeze a drop of meaning out of another wasted year. Did I mention what a delight I am, around the holiday season?
Which is why, it’s weird, and humbling, to admit that after almost a decade of avoiding the black hole of resolutions — I faltered just once, and that was only so I could wax lyrical about profound promises to myself on Facebook for the benefit of an ex — I finally have one. And the reason for it is selfies.
I might be too cool for selfies and resolutions, but I’m not too cool for cleaning and reorganising: Chats get deleted. Unfinished writing gets hidden in a maze of folders. Photo galleries and albums are expunged.
I noticed something as I was scrubbing my photos: I was a certified resident of the land of the high-angle shot. You know, the one where the camera looks down on you like some kind of God-like creature and you look back at it with smitten eyes, eyebrows perpetually raised in faintly delighted surprise. Eww. Every photograph had me tilting my face slightly downward while looking up at the camera in mute adoration. How had I missed this? As someone whose favourite expression is distaste mixed with sarcasm, this display of coquettishness, fake as it might be, was personally troubling. And for what? So I could hide the little extra layer of fat that hinted at a second chin? So much for my commitment to loving all my chins equally. I was a fraud.
The thing is, a few years ago, after a lifetime of being told that I’d look really pretty (and significantly improve my chances of snagging a rich IIT-IIM husband) “if I lost a little weight”; a lifetime of being “chubby” before “intelligent”, “articulate” or “witty”; and years of cursing my body for stubbornly looking a certain way and not allowing my real – thin – life to finally begin, I had decided to stop giving a rat’s ass about people’s expectations from my body and what it should look like and love it for what it was, not what I hoped it would be.
The only thing I hated more than resolutions, especially circa the 12th month of the year, are selfies.
Obviously, it wasn’t an overnight change. I couldn’t just make a little foam spiral on my cheek before sleeping and wake up scarless in the morning. When you’ve spent the better part of three decades internalising the message that your body’s proportions determine your worth, loving it is not a decision you make once, it is something you repeat every day – just like the thousands of times you bitched and moaned about it while standing in front of the mirror. And sometimes, even though you try really, really hard not to, you fail. It’s painful and exhausting to pick yourself back up again and say loving things to your body while surrounded by messages urging you to snub it.
But then you fail a little less, or you fail better, and the failures are fewer and farther apart.
I thought I was there, until I saw undeniable proof that I was still subtly, persistently, and insidiously rejecting my body every time I found myself in front of a camera. It was almost worse than admitting I hated my body, because hateful exclusion can be dissected, the irrationality of it can be empathised with and worked upon, but what is to be done with quietly loving rejection?
According to a study, people born after 1980 will, on an average, take 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, while another one found that millennials spend about one hour each week on selfies, and seven minutes per selfie – taking, retaking, editing, posting, storing, etc. Even if my number was nowhere close to the precise average of millennial misery, that’s still a lot of time to spend silently telling your body it’s not good enough to be seen in its true form.
So this year, amid all the gym memberships and weight loss programmes being shoved down my throat, while flailing against the tsunami of weight loss resolutions that will litter conversations for at least one more month, my resolution this year is to lose the remnants of my weight bias, and to do it by taking lots and lots of real, self-loving, and indulgent selfies.
Sonali Kokra is a journalist, writer, editor and media consultant from Mumbai. She writes on feminism, gender rights, sexuality, relationships, and lifestyle. In her 12-year-long career, she has written for national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. She was last seen as the lifestyle editor of NDTV, and HuffPost.com, and has published a coffee table book on Shah Rukh Khan.