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When Did I Grow Up?

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I was very comfortable in my spaghetti-strapped tops and bloomers when suddenly I had to change to v-shaped panties in order to use sanitary napkins when I started to menstruate. It all happened too quickly for me to understand but slowly enough for me to adjust.

So I adjusted, not only to the 24-hour blood flowing from my vagina for the worst five days of the month, but also to the doltish myths. I wondered if the treatment of an untouchable would have been better than mine. It wasn't just physical unease, my menstruation limited me from visiting temples and touching pickles. Maybe when I started menstruating, I grew up.

Suddenly in school, staying hungry became cooler than carry carrying a tiffin box. I still remember how after every period, I rushed to the bathroom to tuck my skirt a little higher. When I started spending maximum time in front of the mirror, I think that's when I grew up.

Or was it when I met him for the first time and could foresee a house with white and blue curtains the moment he said "I love you"? Mistaking him as my forever, was that when I grew up? Or was it when I no longer missed him when he was gone? I still don't know what was more mature. Loving him or letting him go, or maybe now I have grown up because I am able to see my past self as a fool. I wonder, was I a fool when I saw this relationship as the most clever thing to do? Or am I now clever to see us as fools? I don't know.

I don't know when it happened, when suddenly my body started looking more enticing to those lascivious eyes which fell directly on my breasts. When I started feeling unsafe everywhere, from roads to parks, from buses to temples - even my own house wasn't safe in the presence of some unwanted guests. When the only warning we had to follow was, "do not take toffee from a stranger" shifted to "do not wear cut sleeves or shorts out of home, wear a dupatta while traveling in public transport, and beware of a sexual touch from the other gender in a crowded place," was that when I grew up?

My family's list of expectations of "don't dirty your frock while having food" and "greet elders when you meet them" extended to "don't bunk tuitions, score well in boards, get admission in a good college, and the worst of all, maintain decorum in the society which itself lacks accord." Did I grow up when every step I took was examined?

Did I grow up when I started deleting the Internet history from my dad's laptop? Masturbation became a hotly discussed topic among my so-called girlfriends; I had to know about it to be a part of the conversation. The feeling almost similar to dissecting a frog wasn't gross anymore. Because come'on, it gave me a feeling I had never felt before. Sexual pleasures are hard to contempt.

Did I grow up when I started hiding things from mom? Or did all this happen when suddenly waxing didn't pain much, homework wasn't a task to be done anymore, or push-up bras became my favorite? Or maybe when I lifted my eyes with judgement at everyone I saw? Maybe when I lost my innocence, that's when I grew up.

Did I grow up when I started making new friendship bonds or was it when I lost them? Does maturity come when you are ready to love? Or does it happen when you measure love and serve it in fragments according to your needs and based on people whom you are feeding? When I started weighing the quantity of emotions on a steelyard of my consciousness, was that when I grew up?

I have lost people; I have had heartbreaks. I have had love problems and family trust issues, but now I can see myself painting a beautiful picture with the right amount of black being used. Did all those complications help me in choosing the right paint colors for my painting today? I know not, but I am sure my painting today is colorful. Should I thank the ones who've come and gone for handing over new colors?

But I see myself evolving even now - what I was yesterday, I don't wish to be right now. I would like to be better than this in the future. When we are so dynamic, how can growth be constant? Maybe I can never know when I grew up, because I just never stop growing.

What strikes me strangely is that most of the time it's not me who grew, it was society that made me reform, change, develop and evolve into something BETTER.

(Cambio Col[lab] is a lab for young creators to showcase their passion and develop their voice. Like what you're seeing? Share it to support their effort!)

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