People-pleasing: where do you draw the line?

If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Henry Thoreau

My parents in their mid 30’s

My mom (Oma) was a natural beauty. Scrubbed face, no makeup – not even lipstick. All she wore were a few dabs of sandalwood lotion on her skin. Once her English friend presented her a with a lipstick and begged her to wear it to the cocktail party they were going to that evening. Oma reluctantly put it on only to please her friend. According to my dad (he had a wicked sense of humor!) Oma had her mouth pursed like a goldfish that whole evening. She was too uncomfortable to talk, smile, eat or drink. Finally, half way through the party, she had had enough and the lipstick came right off.

“You can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” 

Ricky Nelson

Oma in her 50’s

As she was getting older, Oma’s hair started turning grey. One day sis and I decide to spiff her up. We took her to the beauty parlor and got her hair colored. Oma dropped fifteen years, right then and there. Even she was surprised. Then she glanced at the bill she let out a loud wail. “Eeeesh! How much? 450 rupees! Daylight robbery!”. (450 rupees if you must know, is the equivalent of 10 bucks. It was more back in the 80’s– maybe 25.)

Several weeks later the hair color started to fade but Oma was too cheap to spend that kind of money again. Not that she could not afford it.  It just irked her to pay someone to put dabs of paint on her head.

“What’s there to it?” she said. “Why can’t I do it myself? I will buy the hair dye from New Market and paint my own head.”  (FYI  back in the 80’s there were no imported color rinses available in India: hair coloring was a tedious and messy job that wrecked your bathroom.)

“Please Oma, “ we begged. “Just get it done professionally. We’ll pay for it.”

Oma glared at us. “No need to show off your money,” she said tartly. “It’s is not about your money or my money. This is daylight robbery. I can buy 4 kilo mangoes with 450 rupees!”

There was no arguing with her, so Oma went and bought the hair dye from New Market and spent a half a morning in the bathroom coloring her hair. She was very pleased with the results.

“How do I look?” she said, “ Quite professional, no? Just like the beauty parlor.”

We were surprised. It actually did look pretty good. Then she turned around …

“OMA!” we shrieked, “You did not do the back! It’s still completely grey!”

“Where?” said Oma twisting around to look at the mirror. “Where? Where? I can’t see it.”

“But we can can see –other people can see it. Oh Oma, It looks completely crazy!”

“Well, then it’s your problem and other people’s problem,” said Oma. “As long as I don’t see it, I’m fine. That’s all I care.”

And that ended the argument.


If Oma was alive she’s kill me for sharing this. There is a lot I learned from her. Oma was fiercely individualistic and a feminist well ahead of her time. She was also adventurous, inventive and a barrel of laughs. Funny stories about her abound in the family. Here another post about Oma from my KARMA CHEF cooking blog.

Please share your thoughts: How much do you compromise to please others? Who are your role models? What made you who you are? Cheers!


Layla, the protagonist in my debut novel Teatime for the Firefly is a fictional character but embodies many traits of my mother, Oma. You can read the synopsis and first chapter HERE. Teatime for the Fireflywill be published by MIRA BOOKS. Release date will be announced soon!


  1. I think it’s nice to do things to please others, but not if you feel you’re betraying yourself by doing so.

    My role models include many different people, some of whom have passed in and out of my life, and some of whom have been with me for many years, even all my life in the case of my parents. I believe it’s important to have role models, people you can admire and learn from. I think who we are has a lot to do with the people who’ve been a part of our lives, both directly and indirectly. I can think of several people who’ve had an enormous positive influence on me, and I’m very grateful for that. What do you think? Who are your role models?


    1. I agree it’s nice to make people happy but not at the cost to yourself. My mom was a deep influence on me. She encouraged me to be independent and showed me a world without boundaries. She was a role model for many others. I had no idea she affected so many lives.


  2. what a fun post shona! 4 kilos of mangoes…yeah that’s what i’d go for anyday!! Of late I have been considering purchasing those anti-wrinkle- anti aging potions…… LOL


    1. Ooooo I’m suddenly dying for a good mango! They must be in season now in India. Do you get good mangoes where you are? We get crappy Mexican ones here in Arizona! Nothing like Indian mangoes! I’d consider eating a mango (or drinking tea) before the anti-aging stuff. Both mango and tea will make you happy – then you will look naturally young!


      1. yeah mangoes do come before the anti-aging stuff!! Last week I got some Indian mangoes in my local desi-grocery store….. They were selling out like hot-cake….I could get my hand on only 4 pieces …but totally worth braving the minor stampede it caused. I got alphonso mango puree in the store too …which was close to the original ! Try looking for indonesian/malaysian markets in your city …you might get good ones there!


        1. Oh believe me I check out every Asian store. They come in – but rarely and the stampede happens here too. The alphonso puree we get. Oh well, let me go drink some tea instead! Enjoy your mangoes. Cheers!


  3. I’m like your mom, Shona. I was made up once for some catalogue my university was putting together. They wanted one of the international students…When i saw myself in the bathroom mirror…What was that Kurtz said in The Heart of Darkness? “The horror! The horror!”

    Your mom sounds like she was something special. A great example, but also a true character 🙂


    1. Hahaha! “The horror! The horror!” I felt like that once when Mary Kay did a makeover on me. It was EXTREME. Hubby almost fainted. Yeah, Oma was a little quirky but she had true grit, for sure. Have a good weekend!


  4. What a lovely woman your mother was, Shona. She obviously passed on her good looks, independent spirit and cooking skills to her daughters. She reminds me a bit of the Queen inasmuch as both have beautiful skins that complement the laughter and character lines.

    They remind me of a beautiful photo I saw years ago captioned —- ‘Needs not the foreign aid of ornament, for is when unadorned, adorned the most.’

    Some of today’s ‘Botoxed beauties’ look like Australia’s Ned Kelly ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’,


    1. You would have liked Oma, Davey. I am not a patch on my mother. Sis got Oma’s looks and baking skills. Both of us inherited her free spirit and quirky way of looking at life, though. Just as well we are not botoxed because it is hard to laugh with a tight face. Sis and me laugh ourselves silly all the time 🙂


  5. Your mother sounds strong and self-sufficient. What a joy! Cannot wait to read more of your writing – your book! Congrats on your book deal. You will entertain the hearts and minds of book clubs for years to come!


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