“I am sorry, but you cannot have a sleepover at their house”, I told my 13 year old daughter, playing the villain. I further explained that I was uncomfortable about her having a sleepover at strangers’ houses. I needed to know their ancestry, horoscope and it has to be a muhurat day for me to say ‘Yes’. If looks from a teenager could kill, I would be dead by now as my daughter threw me one before she sulked away to her room grumbling ” It’s not fair”. My husband made me feel better by saying ” Parenting is not a popularity contest”.
Villainy comes easy to me. As a high schooler, I had a few friends who would ask me my opinion on an outfit because they knew I would not mince words. If the shoe was ugly, I told them. I did not sugar coat it. I did not try to be diplomatic. I had the arrogance of ” I don’t care what you think of me”. My acerbic tongue was finely honed by the time I was a fully grown adult ready to unleash it on the world. Sarcasm was second nature and in hindsight, yes, I was a royal B. My come-backs were scorching and I was almost feared. Almost. It was only tempered by my clowning around and wise-cracking. Now I wonder how my friends had put up with my obnoxiousness.
Somewhere between 18 and 23, I can’t remember how, but life taught me that it is stupid to be honest to the point of cruelty. What is one trying to achieve? So slowly I learned the art of diplomacy. Learnt to Shut up. I started internalizing the saying ” if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But there are limits to my mastery over this. And the limits are usually dropped at my doorstep. The minute I enter the threshold of my house, my family is exposed to the raw deal. No diplomacy. No sugar coating. Nothing. What you see is what you get. I am not proud of it sometimes. I let slip something and regret later. A lot. I make up with apologies, flowers, or chocolate.
But even today, my teenage daughter who is an adult, will come to me for my opinion, because she knows I will be honest with her. Yes, this outfit looks ugly. Yes, you look like you need a shower. Yes your hair looks unwashed, so wear it as a ponytail. I am not going to say ” You always look like a princess darling”. She knows I will not bullshit her so that the world can laugh at her behind her back. That is not my idea of unconditional love. I call a spade a spade and even if she may not love that moment and it is her call to take my advice or leave it, she respects me a smidgeon because of it.
Are there moments when I am not proud of it? Yes. Certainly. I wish I wasn’t such a boor. Have I improved my abilities in sugar-coating my obnoxiousness and delivering it in a better manner? Definitely. Indeed , I have made some real progress. Today, I try to utilize this over-critiquing ‘talent’ optimally by inserting a pause before I comment. Will this comment be of ANY USE to the receiver. If yes, proceed, preferably using some Shashi Tharooric skills to make it sound better. If it is too late to be of any use to the receiver, smile and say ‘Lovely’ or ‘Nice’ or any of the other dozen banalities that are found in abundance on social media. But at the end of the day, the people who are close to me, know that they can count on me if they want a dollop of honesty and a straightforward opinion or in other words, a slice of Villainy.. bwahahahaha.