S***

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“They… they’re saying you’re such a slut…”

I was thirteen, and the above line was murmured to me by my then-best friend, whom I’ve rather lost touch with and I hope is doing well. At thirteen, I wasn’t very shocked; not because I’d heard worse, but because I didn’t know what it meant.

“Papa, what’s a slut?”

“It’s a sexually promiscuous woman.”

Well, I didn’t know what ‘promiscuous’ meant either, but rather than talk more during a tense CSK match, I sought out the next best source- a dictionary.

In the columns of the gigantic, moth-eaten Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary Of The English Language, I found that I’d been termed someone who has sex with any man who asked. Please don’t run for the dictionary; that’s not how it’s phrased, but my copy’s halfway around the world.

Which, I reasoned, was rather ridiculous, because we were thirteen; who wanted to have sex anyway? It sounded like an uncomfortable business.

(It had been the late Khushwant Singh who had contributed greatly to my sexual education. I don’t recommend it)

That’s not to say it didn’t sting, of course; which teenager doesn’t dread being gossiped about? On the other hand, a whole new world of insults now opened up before my slightly-shocked eyes, although it took three years for me to actually use any. When I did, though, it was to a boy: with the air of someone delivering her coup de grace, I informed one of my classmates that he was, in fact, a man-whore.

“You should say gigolo.” He replied. I was late to the party, it seemed, and not fashionably.

You might wonder why I’m writing this now. And yes, while there’s a part of me that’s gleefully typing up words like sex, whore, gigolo, for all and sundry, I still feel something like a bee-sting when I type the word slut.

There it is again.

That’s one word I try not to use. It may have slipped out at some point over the years, but I try. There’s something particularly filthy about it- and even, I feel, something maliciously female. I can now easily call a man a whore without tacking the ‘man’ to it, but slut always seems so pointedly female.

Slut-shaming. I hate the term. I hate the practice. I hate the casualness of it, how easy it is when the target is a ‘she’.

A sexually promiscuous woman. But a man is just a playboy. A Man.

This isn’t a rant against slut-shaming; honestly, I don’t quite know what this is, even. I don’t often dislike words in and of themselves- even stuff I’ve made my peace with. But slut is one thing I’ve never been able to find middle-ground with. Maybe it’s personal. Maybe society’s ease with it. I don’t really know.

At any rate, it’s a good word to dislike.

Stop That Right Now!

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In a hostel, you might have to take a lot of bullshit, put up with a lot things that you normally wouldn’t. I mean, how else do you survive in a community, right? Wrong! Do. Not. Bend. Backwards. If you don’t like something, make it clear. Play Hitler. Play the Shrew. Drive the point home again and again until those blockheads get that you do not like this, and stop doing it. They’ll bitch and mutter, but they’re going to do that anyway. So, you might as well give them a reason.

There are a few things that absolutely tick me off. No, really. I have no patience with people who do these things.

  1. Banging doors: I had all the girls in my hostel trained not to bang doors when I was within earshot. Seriously, are you really in such a hurry that you can’t pause as you leave the room and close the door gently? Girl, it only takes an extra two seconds! And I live in the same campus as you do, and I’m in the same grade, and I have nearly the same workload, and the same exams, so you are not in an impressive hurry, you just don’t care!
    I hate the sound. I just simply hate it. You can imagine the shock, and subsequent anger, that one feels when you’re studying, absorbed in a good book, sleeping, or just simply enjoying a quiet moment .by yourself (which comes pretty rarely in a hostel, let me tell you), and someone lets the door shut with a resounding BANG! It just ruins everything, shatters the peace and composure of the moment. When I’m closest to what the Japanese call wa, a state of transcendent harmony born of deep tranquility, and some idiot slams the door in her haste or temper or whatever, what immediately flashes across my mind is, “This is it, I’m going to need a damn good manslaughter lawyer!”
    And you slammed the door because you’re angry, did you? Bitch please. Being angry doesn’t authorise you to become a public nuisance. And angry? Do that again and I’ll show you angry.
  2. Reading over my shoulder: When I’m writing, or reading a book, do not, I repeat, do NOT stand behind me and smilingly read along. I will eviscerate you. Painfully. Reading while I’m writing my own stories or poems is like breaking and entering:ย I did not let you in. My writing is personal, deeply so, and attempting to read it without my permission is a violation of my privacy. I’d probably take it a degree less seriously than if you tried to take a video of me giving birth. Yeah.
    Scene: I’m curled up with a lovely novel- Tolkien or Rowling or Adichie. I’m lost in it, feeling it, breathing it. You walk up behind me, curious as to what’s soooo arresting about the book. You crane your neck to read the words better. I notice, turn, and break your nose. Cut.
    I detest it when you’re reading and someone tries to read along over your shoulder. I’ll react as though you tried to hit on my boyfriend while I was right beside him. Don’t look at me like that. It’s the same principle: this one is mine, you like it, go get your own. I don’t share.

This list could go on and on- taking my stuff without asking me first (I’m not going to say no, it’s just common courtesy), insulting my friends (the whole ‘this one is mine’ philosophy thing again), dismissing others’ opinions out of hand (who died and made you God?), putting words in my mouth (if you can’t read my mind then let me finish, damn you!). What about you? What ticks you off? And what doesn’t? Yeah, there’s the whole ‘twenty reasons to frown but twenty thousand reasons to smile’ philosophy that I subscribe to. I may come across as a shrew in this post, but I’m really not. I promise.

One last thing- my big, red, do-not-push button: Don’t do XYZ. Because you’re a girl.