As someone self-diagnosed with a predilection towards living an obsessively ‘examined life’, six months before each birthday, I begin the conscious process of dwelling on who and what I want to be when I finally turn a year older. This contemplative act obviously results in many curious epiphanies. Last year, a few weeks before I turned 30 I was at a gig at The Toddy Shop, a restaurant in Hauz Khas Village owned and run by very dear friends that has become one of those places where everyone knows your name. It was one of their monthly Poetry at Toddy nights that concluded in January this year, conceived of and curated by Jeet Thayil.
If you’re a woman reading this and you’re game, find your own infallible system of self-reward. Every evening, make a note of the day’s biggest personal success. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Halfway through the evening, after at least two plates of spicy Kerala buff fry and three mugs of Bira, I decided to head to the loo to pee. On my way I happened to spot this guy who’d hit on me quite persistently but who I just wasn’t into. I wasn’t sure what it was about him that I found unappealing, probably his lack of imagination when I finally conceded to spending an hour or two talking to him, provided he could come up with a mildly exciting plan.
I manoeuvred my movements such that I could arrive at the loo without him spotting me, thus relieving myself of the awkwardness of having to exchange pleasantries. Once in, I looked at the mirror and smiled at my reflection. It hadn’t occurred to me before that I ought to thank myself for the good decisions I had intuitively made. I returned to the bar, ordered another Bira, and secretly raised a toast to all the roads I chose not to take because I could sense from afar they were potholed and cliff-ridden and simply not worth the schlep.
I know many women, however, who have put themselves out there and chosen to overlook the unattractive terrain, not because they have a blind spot but because they genuinely believe in giving men the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, when things turn sour, these women, all uniquely wonderful and otherwise strong-willed, tend to blame their judgment. Only after the pity fest is over do they come to their senses and realise they were not at fault for taking a chance on someone. Given the really miserable pool of eligible men currently on offer for women of my generation, we shouldn’t chide ourselves for choosing to go along with a moment, even if it ends in tears.
As women, I often feel this capacity to guilt-trip ourselves over what we believe are ‘self-inflicted’ and, therefore, well-deserved ‘wrongs’, stems from the fact that we do not sufficiently celebrate our many successes. These include minor achievements at work, little triumphs at home, and even the good decisions that are responsible for our relative peace of mind. I’m not suggesting we should condemn ourselves for the bad decisions and the failures; I’m proposing that we celebrate with more unabashed sincerity all the amazing things that happen to us as a result of our perseverance.
A few years ago, I instated a policy among my women friends that we would celebrate every minor and major success. I remember kicking it off by hosting drinks at home when I finally submitted my manuscript to my agent, and once again when I had sent off the final draft to my publisher. We opened a bottle of red wine when my upstairs neighbour got a letter from an American university inviting her to do her Post Doctorate degree. When my temporary flatmate moved into a barsati round the block from me, we inaugurated a bottle of Oban.
It’s become a ritual among us; the raising of our glass and the citing of a recent accomplishment. Sometimes, I wonder if I have always surrounded myself with overachieving women or if the ritual has made me more cognizant of our collective successes. Of course, we have many moments of despair and self-doubt, but they seem negligible in comparison to the highs.
But no potentially curative method can be declared side-effect-free unless it is more expansively tested. So if you’re a woman reading this and you’re game, find your own infallible system of self-reward. Every evening, make a note of the day’s biggest personal success. Write to me in seven days with your report.
Excuse me now while I go celebrate two wonderful girlfriends who co-wrote a must-read cover story for the March issue of a political and cultural magazine.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D’Mello is a reputed art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org