Dear Modern Bride,
When you and I met, it wasn’t love at first sight.
On Sunday, I saw you enter and make your way to the store, a little unsure of your steps, accompanied by your mother. Years of experience has taught me how to spot the brides-to-be and their cajoling mothers.
This letter is for you and for the brides of today’s day and age.
Here’s the thing, not everyone is as non-judgemental as myself. In the lingerie circles at you were already marked as a certain ‘type’ of woman: the unrelenting expression on your face and the badges on your bag revealing bits of your personality.
“A supporter of Free the Nipple campaign? She’s here to shut our business!” said one sequined number known for daily drama. “I am so done with these bra-burning feminist types,” said an orange two-piece.
While they were at it, I saw your eyes wander over the counter of over-stacked make-up, trying to delay the inevitable, till your mother nudged you, while simultaneously asking the old bra-seller, “Bhaiya Ji, kuchh shaadi appropriate dikhaiye na!” (Brother, please show us something appropriate for the wedding!).
You did not hide your surprise at your mother’s upfront request. I know the same mommy must have irritated you with a steady stream of “Haaye haaye”, “Tauba tauba”, and “Aaj kal ke ladke-ladkiyan!” not so long ago.
I know of mothers who vehemently shy away from the ‘holy trinity’ of ‘sex’, ‘breasts’, and ‘vagina’. Acting as fierce protectors of their daughters’ ‘purity’, they make it a point to keep a careful check on the length of their skirts, the breadth of their blouse collars, the height of their heels, and the volume of text messages received post 9pm.
But not when their daughters are getting married! It is then that they open their treasure trove of wisdom relating to the woman’s body and the ways of decking it. Can you really blame them? Years of social conditioning has worked its magic.
The bra-seller, on your mother’s cue, began opening his bags of surprises. In the lingerie circles, Manoj Bhaiya is regarded as the Bra Man, whose superpower lies in narrating, in one breath, the many varieties of bras, panties, and nighties, from the made-in-India to the Chinese imports to the Bangkok specials.
Though, to be honest, he is just a man who has been carefully conditioned by social rules. He inherited the lingerie business from his father at a young age and he wishes to hand it over to his son. His son, who is still in high school, has started frequenting the store in order to learn the tricks of the trade.
The bra-seller picked me up with a gentleness, separating me carefully from the lot, kept me in front of you and said, “Lijiye madam, humari sabse zyada bikne wali variety” (Here madam, this is our bestseller).
There have been days when I have felt proud of this title. I have imagined myself, maybe like you have, to be Hermia from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dreamwho is little (also in the sense of being, presumably, of small significance) but fierce. Time and again, onlookers have eyed me and praised me for my fierce individuality.
But you and I are both trapped in lace, catering to the male gaze, recoiling with disgust at the thought that ‘sexy’ can easily mean ‘sexually available’. What you and I also know is that you do not need me to validate your sexuality, your ‘woman-ness’, or your individuality.
On a lighter and more practical note, in all probability, you will already be in your pyjamas — tired of fake-smiling at relatives that you’ve barely ever spoken to and rolling your eyes every time the Panditji speaks of your sworn obedience to your husband — by the time your groom makes an appearance for the suhag raat.
Also, in all probability, the dude would either be too tired to notice the frills on your first-night bra or too used to seeing fancy bras to consider it a novelty. By the time your honeymoon ends, trust me, you’ll have worse hickies from my pokey trimmings than from your sleepless nights.
To end with an admission, in all these years, the brides-to-be that I have met have had such wonderfully dynamic personalities that all the colours, patterns, sizes, and shapes of bras sold in this little corner of the world cannot possibly encompass. I hate to see these women sweating to find ‘the one’ — the world of bra-shopping being no less than a trek through the world of dating.
Fortunately, when you and I met it wasn’t love at first sight, yet if we have to make this work, I’d say pick me up when you want me for yourself, and not to appease society at large.