I’ve never had a valentine.
Every year on Feb. 14, I’d scroll endlessly through Instagram and Twitter seeing my friends, family, former crushes, teachers and what seemed like everyone else in the world posting pictures of themselves with their significant others.
And every year on Feb. 15, I’d spiral into obsessive thoughts about why I didn’t have a person to post a picture with on Feb. 14.
Was it because I wore glasses? I mean, what other reason could it have been? It just made sense — it’s the recipe for every “successful” Bollywood and Tollywood film; the lead actor doesn’t notice the lead actress when she wears her glasses. Flash forward a few songs later, and the lead actor falls madly in love with the lead actress. The only thing that’s changed? She now wears contacts.
To this day, I still feel extremely self-conscious wearing glasses in front of people, including my best friends.
Was it because my hands were ugly? In retrospect, that was a strange thing to think about, but every time I looked down at my hands, all I would notice was how enormous they were and how my fingers were covered in calluses and blisters from playing the veena and golf. That cued what I call my “henna phase.” For months, I would make sure my hands always had henna on them, in hopes of concealing my giant, calloused, blistered hands.
I no longer constantly smear henna on my hands, but I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about getting back into it.
Was it because of my prominent South-Asian nose? Everyone in my family has extremely pronounced noses, and I always knew I wanted to conceal mine in any way I could. I joked to my mom that I would get a nose job as soon as I had the funds for one, and she suggested I just get it pierced instead.
I definitely made the right decision to get a piercing, but there are days that I still think about rhinoplasty as a valid option.
Was it because of my hair? Maybe I should dye my hair. No, I can’t pick a color. Maybe I should try Kool-Aid dyeing it? That’s temporary right? Should I put henna in my hair? That would make my hair red. Red hair is cute, right?
What if it wasn’t the hair on my head? What if it was the hair on my body? Everyone on the volleyball and golf team seemed to have hairless arms and legs every day. The only option I had was to get up early during volleyball and golf season to make sure I had time to shave my arms and legs. Soon, I realized this wasn’t feasible. I couldn’t keep doing this every morning. So, I decided to book an appointment at our local laser clinic to remove all the hair on my body via laser.
To this day, I still go in for treatments.
Was it my acne? I know everyone gets it, but it felt like my acne was a whole different level of gross. The next thing I knew, I was spending loads of money on makeup, skincare products, facials –– you name it.
To this day, I feel uncomfortable without any makeup on.
Sometimes, I’m left pondering whether it’s because of things I can’t change. Am I not fair enough? Am I not tall enough? Is it because I wear a bindi every day? Is it because of my hobbies?
I spent the majority of my teenage years and young adult life changing things about myself because I figured it would make me more attractive. The more I practiced these habits, the more I felt like I was disguising myself.
I didn’t want to live out my twenties worried about changing every aspect of my true self in hopes of having a valentine. I couldn’t let a single day of the year tear apart the other 364.
I stopped wearing henna as often as I used to. Not a single person has commented on my blisters or calluses.
I started wearing tank tops and shorts, even when I haven’t shaved or gone in for a laser appointment. No one has said anything about the hair on my body.
As soon as I pierced my nose, friends and family commented on how good it looked and how well it suited my face. The face that carries all of my family’s history. The face that carries the stories of my ancestors.
I started wearing glasses for my Zoom meetings and classes. Sometimes, I even forget I’m wearing them.
I stopped trying to change my hair. My friends and family have shown nothing but love for my hair, so maybe dyeing it isn’t something I should worry about anymore.
I started going outside on walks with no makeup on. I was faced with comments like “Good morning! You look lovely today!” Not comments about my acne or hyperpigmentation.
The things I can’t change about myself, like my skin tone or my hobbies, have shaped me into who I am as a person. Why did I ever think negatively about those aspects of myself? All just to have someone to post a picture with for a single day of the year?
To be completely honest, this is all still a work in progress. I still go into my laser appointments, and I still put on makeup and contacts. The truth is, I still want the validation. Beauty standards don’t disappear overnight just because I stop caring for them. It’s unfortunate that they exist, but it’s something that I’m now starting to battle little by little every day. There are still days, like Feb. 14, where all of these insecurities come rushing back. It’ll take time for me to fully embrace myself for who I am, but at least this year, as I scroll endlessly through pictures of couples on my social media, I won’t be left wondering why I’m not posting a picture.
So, cheers to Feb. 15 — when I’ll be chilling with my hair up, bare-faced, wearing glasses, playing the veena with my calloused hands in pajama shorts that show my unshaven legs. Cheers to finally starting to choose me.
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