There were about a hundred answer scripts to correct, two articles to write, one that had been due for two years (bless the editors) and the for-ever-pending thesis. Therefore, as all rational and highly intellectual professionals must also be doing, instead of getting down to work, Medusa took up a hobby.
And like everything else that Medusa takes up (only when there are other much much more pressing things to be done), the first step is usually to buy stuff, i.e., go shopping. So at the end of a long walk from somewhere she should not have gone to (digression here: Medusa likes the whole ‘woman in big city’ sort of exploratory walks that Hollywood films, especially chick flicks often have; makes her feel chick-y, and thin) anyway, she stopped at a shop that seemed to stock paint supplies, and asked for a box of poster paint. And a set of paintbrushes.
The shop had two kinds, one expensive and the other inexpensive, and since Medusa has no illusions regarding her painting prowess, she insisted that the shopkeeper hands over the cheapest set. Instead of doing as he was told, like other nosy middle aged men, he asked, “How well does she paint?” (Well, he was speaking in Bengali and did not use a gendered pronoun, simply asking kyamon aanke, but how on earth does one translate that into English, without resorting to the somewhat incongruous “they”?)
Medusa went dumb for a couple of seconds, not knowing who he was referring to. And then it registered.
This considerate/ alternately nosy man was asking medusa how well does her son or daughter, the one she must be buying paint and brushes for, draw/ paint. It did not occur to him that Medusa might be buying this stuff for herself. And it did not occur to Medusa that someone might mistake her to be someone’s mother.
And it was incredibly stupid of Medusa. Why didn’t she remember that incident at the shoe store a year ago, when in order to feed her insatiable desire for a pair of ballerinas (you know, the black shoes that Bengali girls wear to school), she walked into a store and asked for them. The attendant asked her, “How old is she?” Medusa should have said that the shoes are for herself, but then she played along. She said, “Oh, her feet are the same size as mine, so just show me shoes that’ll fit me.”
So you see, Medusa should not be taken aback when people assume she has a child, it keeps on happening. It’s disconcerting at the beginning because the idea of having a child, of being someone’s mother, is NEVER present in Medusa’s mind, is hardly ever alluded to by her friends, at least to her; no longer expected by her mother and is now not a concern of her gynaecologist. The gynaecologist has now written on top of Medusa’s prescription, in bold letters, DOES NOT WANT CHILD. Thereby relieving herself as well as Medusa from the routine litany of “when do you want to get married, when do you plan to have a child.”
But how did Medusa assume that she can conveniently bypass the dominant figurations, as if forgetting about normative womanhood is as good as it ceasing to exist? The world is not inside your head, dear medusa, it’s out there: where women your age are usually married to men, have children, and barely have time to indulge into arty fancies. And just because Medusa does not engage with these facts every day, it does not mean that others do not.
A more interesting question is the following: why didn’t Medusa correct the misconceptions of these men? After all, there is no law against the purchase of seemingly children’s stuff by adults. Thin people often proudly talk about how they bought their t shirt from the kids’ section. Medusa knows a lot of adults, often with progeny of their own, whose entire grown up reading consists of what is designated as teen literature. When they go shopping and someone asks the age of the child, do they make up fictitious daughters like Medusa does?
An interesting conundrum, this.
Medusa explains her behaviour to self thus: attempting to explain would have required more effort and may have generated snide comments. Hence, taking the path of least resistance was not necessarily a bad idea.
There may be couple of other ways out, which won’t make people assume that Medusa may have a child. One: lose tonnes of weight like Medusa’s friend PP did, so that people usually assume that she’s in school and hence unlikely to have a child. Two: cut hair short like before and wear oversized shirts, so that people mistake her to be a fat young boy and hence no one’s mother.
Now, which one’s easier?