MOTHERING IN THE TIME OF HOMOPHOBIA

The other day, I was out shoe-shopping. Don’t ask why. You may as well ask why I’d taken Pookie along. Fine. I’ll tell you. It’s because I’m trying minimalism and it’s going badly. Happy? Moving on.

Anyway, we were in this shoe store in an uppity Mumbai suburb. I was trying on flats because ever since the slipped disc, the merest thought of wearing heels makes my spine whimper. Also because walking in heels comes as naturally to me as it would to a penguin. Really, the resemblance is uncanny. So there we were, mother and daughter and Pookie, bless her, was telling me how I looked like a pretty princess in the golden flats I was stomping about it. You gotta love kids. I think that’s why people have them, for all the uncalled for validation and love.

I was trying to make up my mind between the flats and a pair of extremely low heels, when a boy walked into the store. Pants, tshirt, close-cropped hair, a nose-piercing in the septum. He asked the store assistant for the highest heels they had. He had an effeminate way of talking and my first thought was, stylist. My second thought was, probably gay. I’m not jumping the gun here. After a dozen years in advertising, I’ve met my share of edgily dressed gay boys who work as make-up artistes and stylists. There’s a Look. And a Way of Talking. This guy had both. My next thought was, I pity the woman who has to wear those heels at a shoot, because honestly, don’t these people think for a second how uncomfortable it must be for models to prance around in those skyscrapers?

While I tried on a few more flats – because what’s life without adventure – the assistant brought out a pair of black booties with heels you could stab someone with. Gay Stylist then proved I was totally wrong, by putting them on and sashaying up and down the store, in a way that would make a supermodel make a voodoo doll of him there and then. I kid you not. The boy was killin’ it in those heels.

All this while, Pookie was eyeing him warily, as if she had seen a unicorn, or some creature equally impossible to encounter in real life. A boy wearing heels? I could see her processing this information, a hundred questions whizzing in her head. So I did the only thing I could possibly do. I turned to the boy and said, “Excuse me? You walked beautifully in those heels. I’m totally jealous.” Not a word of that was untrue.

He laughed and thanked me. We paid for our respective purchases – him for the sexy booties, me for the comfortable Greek Aunty flats – and left. Later that night, Pookie asked me, “Why did that boy look different from us?” I told her it’s because all people are different from each other and that’s okay. Then I asked her, “But didn’t he look nice in those shoes?” She nodded enthusiastically and I went to bed happy. Because parenting is a shit storm and there are days when you know you botched it up good. This wasn’t one of those days.

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