We all know that one girl who has roamed her college corridors in her sneakers or sports shoes. Whose hair was almost always pulled back in a ponytail and who would rather sit at home reading a book or sleeping than going shopping. Been there, done that. I am that girl - rather, I was that girl. I remained pretty much the non-cutesy and non-rainbowy girl throughout my first job, and that is when I met my better half for the first time.
Within a few months it was quite clear that we had fallen for each other - and we made no effort to fight the feeling. We didn’t make our relationship overly public, but as people started getting the news, there were many gasps of disbelief and even more raised eyebrows.
He was cute, and the idea of him falling in love with me somehow seemed strange because of how “un-girly” I was. “What does he see in her?” was a question I heard a lot of people mutter behind half-closed doors and in their gossip groups. There were times I felt that I needed to work on how I looked in order to match up to him. So, I tried to buy better clothes, style my hair and put on some makeup - but I just ended up looking uncomfortable and so not myself.
Many times beautiful girls would approach him, flirt with him casually or ask him out to coffee. Although he would humbly refuse, that did not stop the green demon inside me from firing up. I felt insecure and threatened. Deep down in my heart, I felt he was settling for less than he deserved. One of those girls with their perfect looks and dainty manners would probably make a better partner for him.
He would always tell me “You’re beautiful”, and I would either laugh or smile, disagreeing with him. I knew I wasn’t how an “ideal” girl should be - I couldn’t walk a single step in stilettos, I didn’t wear dresses to dates and outings, I didn’t do cute things for him. I was romantic, but not mushy. I would write poetry for him, but heart-shaped red gifts were just not my thing. I would constantly think that one of these days he would friend-zone me because of the way I was.
Last year in November, one of his friends came to visit him. They planned to meet for dinner and he wanted me to come along. “What should I wear?” I asked him. He laughed and said “I was going to tell Ankit today that my girlfriend never asks me this question.”
“Come on. Be serious. I want to look good today” I said.
“Hey, you always look good, wear whatever you are comfortable in,” was his answer.
I smiled at him and put on my jeans and a dressier-than-usual top. When we reached the restaurant, a surprise awaited us. Ankit was accompanied by Sonika, his girlfriend. What started out as a catch-up session suddenly became a double date. Sonika looked splendid. She had the most perfect hair, sophisticated makeup and a flawless dress. I felt really really, small. My boyfriend introduced me to the both of them and I shakily greeted them. As Ankit proudly introduced Sonika to us, my eyes welled up with tears and I excused myself to go to the washroom.
My boyfriend caught up with me halfway, “Hey wait! Are you okay? What happened?” I didn’t reply. He slipped his fingers through mine and held my hand firmly, waiting patiently for me to say something. I couldn’t take it any longer and I burst into tears. I told him how I felt about myself, about all those girls who flirted with him and about feeling like an embarrassment for him that day.
He wiped my tears and gave me a long tight silent hug. Then he held me by my shoulders, gently lifted my chin up and said, “Never again, do you have to think or feel like this. I fell in love with you for who you are. I don’t care if you are not like other girls. In fact, that is why I love you so much. You are beautiful, I keep telling you that. You have to believe me and hold your head high. And I am proud of you, there is nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I just feel sometimes that you deserve better,” I said with tears still running down my cheeks.
“Really? I don’t have to wait for two hours for you to get ready, you watch cricket matches with me and that is why we never have remote fights! You make the most awesome shikanji and I don’t have to be worried about spoiling your makeup when I feel like kissing you… Like now.” And he leaned in and gave me a short but the most beautiful kiss.
“What can be better than this?” he asked. I stood there looking at him, smiling through my tears.
In that moment I realized, that it doesn’t matter if you are girly or not, all that matters is you walk tall and love yourself the way you are. Every person is different and that is what makes each one of us unique and awesome. A person who truly loves you will never fret about things like these. I realized all I needed to do was to hold my head high and be a little more confident about myself. Here was a man who knew me in and out, all my good and bad and crazy sides, and still told me all the time that I was beautiful - but I never believed him just because I felt I was not “girly” enough. Now it suddenly sounded so stupid to me.
That night, before we left the restaurant, I took a napkin and wrote down the following lines for him:
You made me see the light I had You made me smile through glassy eyes You knew where to heal my soul You knew enough to see beyond my guise…