Sunday, April 22

Dressing To Impressing

To paraphrase:

"We're gonna leave in a bit; don't you want to get ready?"

"Uh. I am ready."

"You're going like that? Wear something nice, Shak. Perhaps trousers and a shirt...?"

"What's wrong with what I'm wearing now?"

"You look.. scruffy. Just get changed. If you insist on wearing a shalwar kameez, then wear a nice one."

"This is a nice one. Or at least it's as nice as anything else I have. Hey, wait. Do you just want me to wear trousers?"

"No, 'course not. You should, uh, wear what you'll be most comfortable in."

"Do you want me to wear trousers?"

"No. Well, if you want."

"Do you want me to wear trousers?"



Those who know me on a more personal level would have seen me wearing more traditional clothing. In fact, when I picture myself I'm wearing a shalwar kameez; it's my most natural dress and what I feel most at home in. Whether I'm going to a friend's, or relatives' or even friends of family's it's likely that I'd go in one. Even on those rare occasions I'm taken to see a girl I find it more appropriate than my western garb, and so I've always gone wearing that. Until today, that is.

As my family and I travel further down this potential rishta lark, it seems that the need for any kind of positive result becomes more and more powerful and with it the pressure to "play the game" becomes heavier. I guess the implication is that we're doing something wrong, giving the wrong vibe or something and from now on need to focus on getting our foot in the door before really testing any water there might be to test.

As alone as I am in this opinion I do think that if at any time you need to be completely honest it's when meeting a prospective partner. I'm not saying that there's no need to make an effort, or that you may possibly need to mute the extremities of your personality; that much is a given. But there should be no misrepresentation either, no false statements made about yourself, and in my opinion dressing as you wouldn't normally falls under exactly that.

Yes, there is an argument about appropriateness, and no, I would not wear a shalwar kameez to a work interview. But as much as I love inappropriate analogies, this isn't a work interview. I guess the difference is that there is no precedent of what to wear when meeting a prospective and their family; I mean it's possible that they would like a guy even more if he was wearing traditional clothes - it may even be a factor in tipping the balance in his favour. The point is that if you don't know how a family will react then there's no benefit in second guessing them.

And even worse is to do so at the expense of your principles. Imagine a parent telling their daughter to take off her hijab for a meeting, "you know, 'cos some guys are turned off by that kinda thing". Then again maybe some do, wrapping it up as a suggestion in order to avoid facing the fact of the compromise they're asking of their children.

I like to think that I have enough social awareness to know how to increase my odds of getting a positive answer from most families in this kind of situation. Anyone can creep with skill and say the all the right things at the right time in order to seem more of a candidate than they might actually be. The question is whether it's actually a good idea or not to do so.

I guess what may make me different is that I really don't mind being turned down by a potential family, as long as I'm being turned down for being me. If a family really detests traditional clothes enough to decline a prospective 'cos of it, who am I to argue? I'd rather find out sooner rather than later. And in exchange, I'd like to see what a girl is really like, not what she can be like for an evening if she's on her best behaviour. In fact, it's a rare meeting that I don't come away thinking how redundant the whole thing was in it's blatant scripting and playing-through-the-motions.

That said, I'm continually told how my ideals don't really fit in this world we all live in. Call it a kind of "principled naivety" if you will; maybe there is a middle ground we're supposed to tread with these kinda things. And so for that reason I relented a bit today. I'll have to ensure that it's not the thin edge of a wedge: dressing up is one thing but changing my opinions or intentionally concealing my less desirable features (you know, like denying I pray five times a day or something) or playing some kinda of role is another.

After all, it must be possible to be yourself in this kind of situation without totally shooting down your chances, right?