Dear dad, my rash is actually a hickey and you know it
Yesterday, you saw a mark on my neck, it looked like a glaring blue rash. You asked me what it was despite knowing the truth, because you were unwilling to deal with the truth. The truth that I own my body, I am free to do with it whatever I please. After you asked me what it was, I simply said it’s a rash and changed the topic. You played along, not because you thought it was the truth, but because despite knowing what the truth was, I was unwilling to assert it on you. I was afraid of the consequences.
Though I am aware that these are the burdens which society has laid upon you, to raise a woman who is “pure”, saved up for her future husband and is designed for an ideal patriarchal marriage. I still blame you for listening to society instead of standing up for your own daughter and teaching her to claim her own body. Who will empower me if not my own parents? I am aware that this is India and this is not how the majority of the people function, I am still willing to bear the consequences of leading life on my own terms, even if it means people gossiping about me, and looking at me like I don’t belong.
Dad, I need you to know that I will have boyfriends and it’s okay. You don’t need to threaten every man I’m dating and look at them with fear.
I’m not an object which you need to protect or an object whose value will deteriorate if I am dating. In humans, there’s nothing like “second hand”, our value does not depend on the way others see us. I’m aware that most Indians are taught to look at women like me differently. But does it really matter what other people think? Others did not sacrifice their lives to raise me, you did. But sometimes I wonder, am I really even human to you, or am I just an object which needs to be protected? Don’t get me wrong, I know that you love me. But I think you misunderstand the true nature of my being and that is the point I am trying to raise here.
There was a time when you stopped me from wearing shorts and said that “I feel scared that someone will do something to you”. It was a subtle way to refer to “rape” and I knew it, but I did not have an answer then.
I was stunned at your mentality, and you had made it clear that you thought that I didn’t own my body. You acted like my body was a public property, open to public scrutiny, and decisions regarding “my body” could be made by other people based on what I wore. Not once did I feel empowered around you when I wore shorts. You never told me that “There are bad men out there, but that shouldn’t stop you from living your life”. My life depended on bad patriarchal men and their decisions around me. With all due respect, I am not an object which needs to be protected from patriarchal men, I am a living, breathing human being with a private life and my own desires.
Dad, I neither want to lie to you or let you live in denial. My rash is actually a hickey and you know it. There’s nothing to be shy of here. It would be more healthy if you or mom had a conversation with me about sex-ed, which is a conversation we have never had though I’m 21. In India, even among married couples, lack of consent is very rampant, and I have only learned these things from the internet. Mom and you should have educated me about these things first hand so that I was more comfortable with the topic. You should have also empowered me and taught me what I can do in case I’m ever in an uncomfortable situation with someone I’m seeing.
Creating an environment where I don’t feel comfortable talking about anything sexual with you or mom, even a kiss, is toxic.
Blame is something that I feel when I bring up any man in a conversation about dating. It’s not something I’m supposed to do and it’s forbidden to me, according to you. This overlooking discomfort about my private life means that I will potentially never be able to share with you if there’s anything toxic in my relationship. I will always blame myself for the toxic situation, because I’ll expect you to say “We asked you not to date, to not do anything with a man, all men are jerks.” If all men are really jerks, do you expect me to be marrying one? How will I ever be equipped to deal with any relationship if I do not have your support and only toxicity from your end?
I agree that there are situations where I will need to be protected, but it only has to be where I tell you that there’s danger. Please don’t create an environment for me where I cannot share anything with you at the risk of feeling like I will be blamed despite the situation. With all due respect, I’m not a diamond you keep in the locker and protect, unwilling to show to the world. I’m the woman you show to the world with your head held high, and stand by my side through all my decisions. Dad, it’s high time you start acknowledging the hickies you sometimes see on me.
Views expressed are the author’s own. Vidhi is a contributor at SheThePeople. You have an opinion and want to share it? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org