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Why did I?

By Niti Singhania, Physiotherapist, New Jersey

I don't know where to pick up the thread from my past and weave a story. I dread thinking about the preteen years of my life. As I recall, those were not the happiest times of my life. Having an elder brother whose hobby was to pick on me didn't help either. Yet, I feel compelled to share the loneliness of that twelve year old, even as she was surrounded with all her loved ones on that festive night.

It was early spring, when my cousin was getting married. We were all very excited. I had the goal to be "the most fashionably" dressed twelve year old for the wedding. Everybody should be stunned seeing me. I selected my dress after careful consideration, going through all the fashion magazines I could lay my hands on. I fixed an appointment with a beautician, just across the street. She had just inaugurated the salon and I was waiting to hand myself over to her!

The day finally arrived, bringing with it such bright sunshine, sifting through the trees that I sighed telling myself I couldn't ask for a better day for my transformation. The rosebushes were in full bloom. It was foggy enough in the morning to remind me of the hillside fields, covered with swaying, yellow blanket of sunflowers. There was a jingle in the air, almost as though bells were ringing, welcoming all of us with open arms to begin a new day.

As the afternoon rolled in, the family got dressed and began their journey for the wedding. The plan was for me and my brother to arrive a little later at the wedding ceremony. I had a hearty lunch and prepared myself for the Cinderella transformation.

As I stepped into the world of beauty, the fragrant lotions, perfumes, the rainbow colors welcomed me into their arms. The beautician, Ms G got on task right away. We did a quick facial, followed by hot, steam warming my face. The wonderful cosmetics followed! Ms G worked tirelessly like a professional beautician changing me into the girl of my dreams. Two hours later, it was time. As I stared myself into the mirror I asked, "Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of all?" The transformation from an ordinary looking girl to a girl from a supermodel agency was complete! It was time to reveal myself to the world.

As I walked towards my house I felt gorgeous, confident, and prepared to face the world as a 'new' more beautiful me! However, my happiness was short-lived. As soon as I stepped in my garden, my brother who was looking out from his bedroom window burst into loud rumbles of laughter. His voice turned heads in the street and I found myself become a subject for countless eyes.

He screamed from the window, "You look like a white cake, so comical!" I was livid with anger. I stomped my feet, got in the car and shouted back, "You have no idea about fashion. This is the best dress and makeup. This is style." He was not convinced and was still grinning as we reached the wedding. I got out of the car, hoping, praying my brother was wrong. But, alas, life is harsh! My eyes wandered to find my true friend, my mom. Meanwhile I was aware that I was getting looks from everyone - and no, they didn't seem flattering. In fact, I felt embarrassed and completely out of place. My last hope was my mother.

She spotted me first and her face showed shock and disappointment.As she approached me, I wanted to sink in the sand and disappear. All she said was "Dear, go wash your face of all the layered make up and when you come back all I want is a light color lip gloss glistening on those lips."

All my dreams of looking glamorous were shattered like a lightning striking the Empire State building. I walked to the bathroom, my head drooping like a wilted flower. Splashing the cold water on my face felt like the harsh, cold reality telling me to grow up! I don't think, I remember the rest of the wedding night, everything seemed like a blur.

However, I do remember watching my cousins enjoying the wedding, in their plain Indian dresses. I was the only one who felt awkward, foreign and even ashamed of what I had done. I had learned my lesson by living through the most embarrassing moment of my life.

My thoughts go racing back to that day, making me wonder now, twenty years later, why was this incident so important for me? Why did I feel so mortified on that lovely spring night? As I put my feelings into words on this tear stricken page, soft sobs escape my lips. It's not because I was the worst dressed girl that day, but because I had ruined so many years believing I just wasn't good enough because of that single incident. For nights I had wept believing nothing would ever be okay for me. Was it worth it?

Unfortunately, I can not change the past. I can't go back and hug that twelve year old girl and tell her, it's okay, she's okay. But what I can do is use my experience to guide my boys through the rough passage of being a pre-teen. Finally a small smile tugs at my lips. So, something good did come out of that experience…

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