An Immaculate Misconception

Published in South Asian Parent magazine

There are a few white hairs prominently sticking out the top of my head. They stand straight and proud, and in a stubbornness that matches mine, refuse to hide safely under the rest of my dark mane. They see no reason to be ignored.

But I’m getting married next week, and I’m told they have to dye.

I don’t do it begrudgingly, but a part of me wants to keep those white hairs there, as reminders of my imperfection.

Despite having been engaged for 11 months, I haven’t written a word about it because I find myself quite stupefied by the process. In actuality, the daunting organisational tasks are easiest. More difficult to digest are the finer nuances of familial, cultural, and social expectations.

One in particular: that you have to look immaculate.

Losing weight seems to be a given, but beyond that are so many other factors: hair length, hair colour, nail length, nail colour, eyebrow shape, eyebrow colour, skin type, skin colour. A tan is frowned upon, and all clothes have to fit exactly to body shape.

I get what the fuss is about, and I do like to play the part in much of it. I won’t pretend that I don’t want to look pretty.

But sometimes, that particular insistence on the flawlessness of a bride’s appearance irks me. Like those stubborn white hairs, I, too, want people to see me undisguised – exactly as I am.

We put our wedding day on a pedestal, rightly so, because it holds so much significance.

But if I were to stand on that pedestal, on the day I promise myself to the person I love, my conscience would beg me to reveal myself with complete honesty. With all my faults, freckles, fears, and rapidly reducing rate of metabolism.

And then what I would celebrate, instead of my reflection in the mirror, would be the fact that he was still standing there, accepting with open arms a person he knows will always fit a little differently within them, changing in both shape and sentiment as the years go by.

Respect, they call it. A word derived from the Latin respicere, which translates as ‘to gaze at’. It suggests you can actually see the person you love, without the mists of delusion or the transitory nature of outward appearance.

I like the thought that when my to-be husband looks at me in the mandap, he will recognise me. Rather than see an exaggerated version of my ‘best qualities’, he will find in front of him the girl who showed up in a hoodie on their first date.

I don’t want to undermine the way I look; I’m perfectly happy with what I see. But if I were to truly define myself, the words that describe my physical attributes would show up last on the list.

As the days inch closer, I find my heart racing at the thought of so many people I adore being in one space, sharing in our heightened happiness. Luckily, most of them know that how I appear to them in person pales in comparison to what they mean to me at heart. And for those who don’t yet, I hope it’s something they discover with delight.

I find it hard to believe that anyone should take offence if one of my nails is chipped, or if the tone of red in the skirt is slightly different than the one in my shoe. So I’ve done myself the favour of removing the pressure of those expectations.

Instead, I will find a happy medium, revelling in the joy of looking my best for the person who loves me at my worst, without holding myself up to ridiculous ideals of beauty.

And I will try and soften the blow to my beloved white hairs. Though I will cloak the old strands in a younger shade of brown, I hope one feisty one survives to tell the tale.