A blog post I read a while back, got me thinking about my own teenage years.
I was overweight and not good-looking. I was also rather hirsute! In those days, at least here in India, not that many youngsters got their eyebrows done or facial hair removed, more so because, as I remember, bodily hair was only either shaved off or tweezed off.
I studied in a girls' school--a convent and none of my classmates would come out and say that I was fat or ugly or anything. But then I had a younger brother who had no such scruples and hummed 'Baby Elephant's Walk' whenever he wanted to annoy me.
Those were the days of shift dresses and tight skirts (so tight that you were forced to take mincing steps) and my mother flatly refused to let me get anything stitched like that because she thought I was too fat for those kinds of fashions (I was kind of bosomy and my mother felt that Western style clothes just attracted unwanted, negative attention ). I remember that, after much pleading from me and from one of my best friends, she finally allowed me to get one shift dress made, which I personally thought made me look slimmer, but which my mother wasn't too happy about. From the time I was 12, for most formal occasions my mother got me to wear saris. For school of course we had uniforms.
But when I got into the 9th standard and the class got split into sections, depending on the classes/subjects we elected to do, I found I was much more comfortable with my classmates. We were all science students and therefore considered more career-oriented and so being upto-the-minute fashionable was not given that much importance.
Even so, there were social occasions we occasionally attended, more so because of the work my father did, where there might be girls about my age, from the upper crust of Calcutta society and how I hated going because I felt fat, ugly and so unsophisticated, next to these smart svelte young women. In that sense wearing a sari was good because although I might be considered old-fashioned, at least there wouldn't be any unfavourable comparisons, as there might have been if I was dressed fashionably! That was when I began telling myself--'Packaging may count, but that's not everything; what counts is what's within the package and you have brains and you can build substance. There will be people you will come across who will appreciate the substance as long as the package is cleanly and neatly wrapped'. [:-)]
There was a kind of safety in the fact that well-behaved girls from good families did not have boyfriends as in going steady. So that kind of competition was never there. In that sense I think that the not needing to have a sweetheart at that age, took away a great part of the pressure--for both boys and girls--of having to be good-looking or attractive in an accepted mould.