Good girl? Bad girl?

Much as I’d like to think my life until now is largely speckled with bouts of bad-girldom (you know, the usual suspects? bad habits, bad turns of events, bad company, bad decisions), the honest truth is it is largely layered by a safe mask of good-girldom. All that stuff I deem bad that happened in the past, is not nearly half as bad as the things I see kids growing up these days get up to. Amongst the worst things I did were probably sneaking off into Pecos and catch a beer on a weekday evening, when I was supposedly at the British Library getting in a few extra hours of research. And then gradually grabbing a smoke or two in the dark alleys behind ‘Ganja Park’ as it was called. Only to discover that I quite disliked the taste of tobacco and most importantly how it made my throat feel hours later. A couple of years later, I did the customary escapade on a couple of nefarious trips with a couple of boys (different boys, at different times, before you get any ideas about how wild I was and where this post might be headed) I dated. Nothing outlandish. Just weekend getaways close by. They had their fair share of, I want to say drugs, sex and rock and roll, but since I was not that cool I’ll settle for: young love, the kind that can make a twenty-something heart swell with joy, illicit intimacy, and alcohol. That’s pretty much it.

Yes, my first taste of pot happened when I was 16. Under the supervision of a friend of my mother’s, in whose care I had been stationed for a whole month. Ha! Fortunately or unfortunately, that habit didn’t stick either. I guess one try for a non-smoker isn’t enough to get addicted. But that was then.

When I was slightly older, working, earning my own money, but still driving around in my mothers car, I had my fair share of sneaking out of home at night, slipping away in a car to visiting places I thought I shouldn’t really be at. But the silly, devious ways of a young girl in love, are twisted. Often too twisted to make sense of. especially in retrospect. So I conveniently dismiss it all on emotion. Yes, I was thinking through my damned heart. While my head might have given me good reason, safety, economics, moral values and all that jazz, my heart was high on love. And so I undertook many a nightly drive. Criss-crossing town, slinking in and out of  one close have after another (of being caught, that is). It was slightly convenient that I had a job in advertising. One that came with the predictable crazy hours. So work and life blurred and I would use one as the excuse for the other and take off. By the end of one year in my first job, it got so tiresome, I began to lose track. And I just wanted to go back to the simple days. Of sneaky beers, the occasional cigarette and late night telephone calls.

It was also then that the husband, then just colleague, dug his heels into my life. After a year of trying to figure me out, he decided he was in for the long run, and knocked a good load of sense into my head, over many, many months.

Exit: Bad-girl phase. More because I’d lost interest and I’d begun to feel settled in life. (Yes, I blame it all on VC!)

Enter: the confused state of limbo; between fighting the waning interest in hitherto crazy, erratic and spontaneous life, peppered with all things bad, and the little voice in my head that just wanted to be a good girl after all those years, and be looked after by a good boy. There was a goo-oohd boy in sight. One who wanted to do the honours, so no prizes for guessing which way I eventually chose to swing.

Just over a year later, when I was at the quintessential meet-the-parents dinner, one of the first questions I was asked was, “So, do you drink?” And unthinkingly the words slipped out of my mouth, faster than I could gather them and shove them back in.

“Yes, I do. Occasionally. Only when I have company,” I said. Not completely lying. But not completely being honest, either. And thus ensued mini volley of questions, which I diplomatically and deftly deflected by engaging in clever conversation that was neither entirely untrue, nor completely true. For fear of painting a pious picture of myself, I found myself choosing the middle path. Firmly walking down the safe path of truth, but never too far form the fire escape, through which could let the momentary guilt slip through.

Four years of being married later, I often think of how much I have to straddle both these worlds. My long gone past, flecked with its healthy share of reminders of the bad girl in me. An unabashed, unflinching, unapologetic bad girl, at that. Because I had only my own parents to answer to, and unfortunately that has always given me a long rope to yank. And then there is the recent past, of living alone and discovering a whole new life, parts of which can be deemed as bad in some eyes. Because suddenly there is a whole new set of pairs of eyes watching you. Judging you. Sometimes silently mocking you, I think.

Marriage is quite the inflection point. Of letting go of some of the past, of embracing some of the new, of making changes big and small. Sometimes of discovering a you, you didn’t know existed. And wondering which part of your life this new you would fall into. The old bad? The good new? The normal in-between, with a balanced mix of both? Neither? Somewhere in between?

The truth is, I am not quite sure. It is mostly about a pleasant see-saw. Of wearing skivvies when we’re by ourselves and track pants when my in-laws visit. Of vehement, strong opinions about having babies, lashing out behind the scenes, but cowering under the pressure in public and seething with suppressed profanities when confronted with intrusive questions. Of spontaneity and youth, at the risk of being misunderstood as unsettled. Of choosing a life of discovery, even at the risk of being deemed wayward and aimless.

The see-saw continues. And I make peace with the fact that what I am just might be a good-bad girl, and thankfully, I don’t have to choose.


26 thoughts on “Good girl? Bad girl?

  1. neerajnarayanan

    It’s so well worded , the way you have described these phases. Very well written, err haathi. Dunno why your parents named you that, though ;)


  2. I don’t bother anymore….just to breathe with freedom for a girl is enough to send the society in a frenzy. I am me…..I decide what is good or bad. ;). plus I want access to the password protected post :/


    1. I think most of us straddle both worlds effortlessly. Frankly I think I have it really good..not something girls in smaller remote parts of our country have the luxury of. Sadly, it gives me the time and luxury to ponder of what I actually many live without even this and dont ever get to wonder or ask why..

      Also, will mail you password :)


  3. Reminded me of the good old “bad” days. Alas, marriage at 23 ensured I didn’t do much more than sneak off to meet a few unsavory boys and flagrantly break curfew. The good news, though, DH lets me as “bad” as I want. He even makes sure that I’m no danger to self or others, albeit from a distance.


      1. No, I was just baffled why you labelled yourself as “bad girl” when what you write is just part of coming of age. Bad is when you do irreparable damage to your (or someone else’s for that matter) life and even then nothing is as bad as you think it is. The fact that you are evaluating yourself implies you are aware of your actions.


        1. You do realise the post is written with a healthy dose of sarcasm right :D
          I was not bad in the real sense of the word. Just up to no good once in a while, in a manner that every normal person growing up does I suppose..


  4. Single, living by myself, traveling with friends or by myself… I’m bad according to all stds set by Indian society. So I stopped bothering to please anyone. (of course, I don’t have in laws to contend with :P)


  5. My bad girl phase was somehow encouraged as it was made compulsory by mom dad, of course my brought up made them not so immune to silence :D Bad phase of my life only has ‘Pranks played by me’ stories and nothing else. :/


  6. I was nodding so hard, I was in danger of losing my head of through this post. :-) I think I still didn’t give full reign to the bad girl in me, so I tend to go really wild and over-the-top even now some days. But it’s a more measured wildness, you know….which comes with knowing the consequences of your action and caring about them.


  7. Aah! Unfortunately my bad girl phase never took off and I sometimes regret the lack of any adventurous past. As always loved your post, so relatedable. I’m a staunch feminist at heart, but have to tone down my way of expressing myself for the fear of coming across as too aggressive. Especially with the extended in-laws.


    1. I totally get what you mean. Bad girl phase or not, I think there are always some things in us that some part of society or group of people will deem “bad”. Even if it really isnt. Like wearing shorts for chrissakes. I know it isnt bad, but I behave like it is, when Im in the midst of extended inlaws. And Im not even a stanch feminist, and I still have to tone down my views and behaviour, more out of courtesy than anything else. Its a see-saw I tell you! And theres always a boy behind it.. gah! so much for being a moredn bharatiya nari!


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