I first heard the term “thick-skinned” when I was in school. As a gawky 12 year old, hearing a lanky senior (one with braces I think) look at us and yell, “How thick are you”, elicited more smirks than fear. And, then of course, I’d be up standing, punished, with two or three other girls for the “audacity to smirk” while we were being spoken to.
I wish smirks came more easily to me now.
The thing is, when you start working, when you pack your bags and leave the comfort of bed-tea and “Baby khana laga liya hai” (Dinner is ready) for “Dude, it was your turn to get the milk” and “muesli for breakfast- lunch-dinner”, you change too.
I don’t know. Maybe the food you eat determines your skin thickness. Maybe having domestic help and a “bawarchi” who can bake cookies and cakes and make fantastic grilled chicken, thickens your skin to immense proportions. Maybe, it’s boarding school and 30 other girls who smirk and giggle with you at annoying seniors and turn their noses with you over “dumb bimbos” (yeah, no one told you, even you’d go through the “bimbo” phase) makes you invincible in your mind.
Hell, yeah. What could be worse than being boycotted in school. Right?
I don’t know whether life is indeed much tougher now, or my skin’s just lost its thickness (I think it’s the latter), but a lot of it stems from the mind.
Somehow in our heads, we all have this perfect impression of how life after school is supposed to be. You know. Like you walk into college. And you meet the best friends. You go on an open jeep to Goa and sing songs. You date a few losers but it’s cool. And then you graduate. Everybody is happy. You are nervous about finding a job. You think if you find something good, your “life is set”. So once you find your dream job, you think nothing can go wrong. People at work will just accept you to submit work like you did your assignments. And soon, they shall realise what a shining star you are with your dedication and your hard-work and your brilliant ass from which you shit stars and rainbows…
Before you walk into the corporate world, you’d better make sure you’re skin’s as thick as an elephant’s hide. Yes, you heard me.
Because, girl, people are going to talk. And talk they will of your clothes, your skin, your social-ness and your anti-socialness. Of your secret affairs, your not-so-secret-affairs and of course, the worst, your work. The work you pride yourself on, the work, that teachers in school praised you for. The work that won you contests and awards. And the work, that the corporate world will reduce to a snigger, a jibe, an-offhand remark over the lunch table that’ll cause everyone listening to snigger and roll their eyes, a certain pride in them not being on the other end.
Yes. that’ll happen.
And no, work won’t always be like school. It won’t always be go to school, come back, read, chill enjoy. You will stress about promotions. You will stress about a bitchy boss, a competitive colleague and most of all, about how you think you are perceived by others. Which is why, GET THICKER SKIN GIRLS.
And, you will see your school friends on TV, you will see them buying a house, shopping at Louis Vuitton, travelling around the world, having the dream wedding, being featured in newspapers, eating out at the fanciest restaurants in the city, their skin like porcelain and bodies like figurines… their daddies like ATMs and husbands like Mr. Greys.
And your parents shall look at you expecting more.
Their one look saying the dreaded, “What did we make you study so much for, if you’re still going to ask us for money?”
So you don’t ask them for money. You don’t get your increment in time. And your maid wants you to pay her more because well, maid problems.
And nobody told you, you’ll have to deal with this.
Yes. Nobody said you’ll go to work and come back so tired that even though the travel websites and the BuzzFeeds of the world yell at you to “quit your job” and “do what you always wanted to do” and other surrealist-inspired nonsense (that you partially followed), you will end up slouched on your bed, passing out in between an episode of House of Cards hugging a bowl of oats lying half-eaten by your pillow.
And bills. Yes. Everybody always seems to forget the bills when they are dishing out “aspirational” advice through movies and websites. Go, join a “water-yoga”class, go “travel someplace to get lost”. Yeah. Right. Who’s going to pay for this? My Daddy?
Or me on my creative person’s meagre salary, a profession, that you advocated because guess what, “Follow your dream and forget the money and do what makes you happy.”
All of life, one big oxymoron.
The example of a handful who’ve “made it” setting unrealistic goals and expectations on those of us who haven’t. And selective revelation of just the candy-flossiness of other people’s lives lead us to find gaping holes in our own.
So, what if, we just did away with all this nonsense? What if we trained ourselves to get thicker skin, and woke up in the morning as though preparing for battle? What if we armed ourselves up with the hottest clothes, the toughest jewellery and an unshakeable mind?
Cause this isn’t life, girls. This is war.
And, you don’t need to walk around town with a silly grin plastered on your face, as the “Be positive” rants online tell you to do. “Smile, come what may”, “expect good and good shall happen”… No, you need to be realistic, cause “shit is going to go down.” Might as well prepare for war, and if you get roses in return, you’ll truly appreciate it as you weren’t expecting it from the start. Know what I mean?
So, tomorrow when you wake up, walk to your wardrobe and pick your fanciest armour for the day. High heels or boots, little dresses or distressed denims, spaghetti straps or silk stockings. Pick your armour, wear it like a boss, and step out of your house, skin thickened, body dressed and mind ready for battle.
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I am sure a lot of people may have contrasting points of view to this opinion feature. Feel free to start a discussion. I look forwards to hearing what you all have got to say.