|Me at almost 75kg.
Image: Tunde Raphael.
So recently, I put on a lot of weight; or better put, I have become quite fat! I know this because most of my clothes are so small now that I have to get a new wardrobe. When I say most, I mean my pants (trousers; get your mind out of the gutter), skirts and certain dresses. I have always bought bigger clothes because I don’t like clingy clothes and I am the type of girl who would wear something I like for years and years until it becomes threadbare and begs to be thrown away. When I am slim, and by slim I mean my lowest weight of 62kg, my clothes are like baggy dresses (which I am happy with) and when I am at my full weight of 70kg, they are a bit snug but not so tight that all my curves (real and imagined) are out there for all to see…well, until recently; I weigh 72kg now.
My new weight is centered around my derriere (*blushing to my roots) and thighs. Though I am never one who is bothered (much) by my weight, I am ecstatic about my new body! Growing up, I used to be straight as a ruler. I have always wanted to be curvy, hoping that one day I would wake up with Toolz’s body. My best friend is this curvy mama and I dare say that is the only point on which I am jealous of her. Anyway, when I put on this weight, the first thing I noticed was that I had problems getting my pants (trousers again, focus!) over my derriere to my waist. After more than 25 years, God finally gave me the body I wanted! I am curvy baby! I am now a budding pear! *Dancing the Konga!
For the past few weeks, I have been enjoying how my new curves fit into my clothes, though I need new stuff; emphasis on ‘need’! What I haven’t been enjoying are the stares! Though I am a confident woman, I am not comfortable with men staring at me. Okay, I will stop lying; I HATE MEN STARING AT ME! It gets me annoyed when men stare, especially when I can see the lascivious or leering looks in their eyes. I guess people will stare anyway so when I see anyone staring, I put on my mean mug which, 99% of the time, gets the man to look away. I may be all fire inside but with my mean mug, I become the evil ice queen…and I have realized that no one wants to mess with her! Buhahaha!
Anyway, worse than the ‘starers’ are the people who constantly feel the need to tell me that I am fat. I get this EVERYDAY! Some people are subtle and would just go, ‘Ramat, you have put on weight. Your trip home must have been very good’ to which I would reply that I had gone back to my original weight. Others would see me from afar and shout, ‘OH MY GOD! RAMAT, YOU ARE SO FAT!’ In my head I go, ‘AND YOU ARE SO DUMB!’ but outwardly, I would smile and tell them, ‘Yes, I am. And I am happy with MY body.’ They have this reaction because they have only seen a slim me; again, I must say that I am big boned and can never be Dija slim. Since I came to Yola, my weight always hovered between 62 and 65kg. So the extra 10kg is freaking them out.
The people I mentioned above are not the ones this article is for. There is a special class that walks up to me and says, ‘Ramat, you are too fat! You BETTER start doing some exercise and stop eating TOO MUCH food.’ When I hear something like that, my ratchet side begs me to take off my earrings and pull up my sleeves. I am no fighter but I have been tempted so many times that my mind needs anger management! I BETTER do exercise?! I MUST STOP EATING too much food?! I am like ‘Nigga, is you cra’y?! You done lost your mind?! Smoked some cheap weed?!’ I usually smile and tell them that their opinion about my body is of no importance to me. Somehow, that riles them up and they start huffing and puffing. Imagine the nerve!
I got into it one day with a guy who was angry that I told him I love MY body the way it is. He went ham! ‘Ramat, this is not good oh. You are finer when you are slimmer. You BETTER go and lose that weight…and fast! In fact, I will come to your house so that we can start jogging! Ha ahn! You are too fat now!’ Before I proceed, I want to explain my relationship with this guy. He is a colleague whom I just say ‘Hello, Hi’ to. We are not friends, we don’t work in the same unit, he knows nothing about me and vice versa. So, to continue, I smiled and said, ‘Hmmm….first, I love MY body the way it is. Second, MY weight is in no way YOUR concern and finally, I may be finer when I am slim but you are wiser when you are quiet. Maybe you should shut up more.’ I smiled and batted my eyes. The guy was quiet for some seconds…and then he walked away. Only my close friends would have known that I was red hot mad! How dare he?!
It reminded me of a time when a corps member also assigned to my place of primary assignment had a problem with my eyebrows. I always say that my eyebrows are perfect and I would never shave/shape them. This girl wanted me to shape them. I said no. She pressed. I said no again. She kept pressing for weeks. I remained adamant. One day, we were in a tricycle and she was seating directly opposite me. When I couldn’t stand the scrutiny anymore, I asked her why she was staring at me. The scrutiny was so intense that I thought she wanted to make a move and ask me to be her lover or something. She frowned and said, ‘Ramat, I have been asking you to shape your eyebrows and you have refused. Can’t you see how bushy it is?! In fact let me tell you, I am very irritated with them and I cannot stand them! Mtchewww! You are a fine girl but with those eyebrows, you look irritating.’ I was shocked! I was so shocked my sarcastic mask didn’t come up for a few seconds. When it finally did, it was too late to make a worthwhile rebuttal. I looked away and had tears come to my eyes. I am not a crying person but I was so hurt that day. True to her word, she stopped speaking to me until we finished our service. And all because I wouldn’t shape my eyebrows!
Another memory that comes to mind is how people call my hair ‘bushy’ because I decided that I want to carry my natural hair the way it is. If I had N1,000 for every time I was told to retouch/relax my hair, I would be a millionaire now! This has happened in church, in the office and even with my hair stylist! The other day, my hair stylist hired a new help. When I got to the salon and released my hair, the new girl kept complaining about how she wouldn’t wash ‘this bush’! I was so mad that I reminded her that my money paid her salary. I know; it was a low blow but I felt so bad. I didn’t see the reason why a hair stylist felt she also had a right to complain about something on my body. I got up to leave the shop when my stylist apologized and told the girl to leave the shop. You can rest your mind; she was not fired…though that would have been appropriate!
There is a plus size girl in my office who gets all sorts of flak when she is eating. People ask her questions like, ‘Are you not tired of eating?’ ‘Are you not too fat to be eating that plate of rice? Or drinking that fura da nono?’, ‘How many yards did they use to sew that shirt?’. She keeps breaking down and crying and I keep going to bat for her. I called her one day and told her to woman up, to stop crying, to eat her meals, to wear her clothes and to look good! There is also another colleague who is slim but spends almost all his pay on food. He is quite frankly a glutton but no one brings him to book because he is slim. They want my girl to stop eating because she is plus sized. No one bothers to find out that she has such a warm personality, or that she is orphaned and already taking care of her sister when she is barely a child herself. No one cares that she is a direct victim of the Boko Haram insurgency, having watched her father killed by the insurgents, or that she is only doing the job to send herself to school. All they see is a fat girl!
In school, everyone felt it was okay to call my best friend, ‘That black Yoruba girl’. It started when we were in SS1 and our Mathematics teacher called her that in class. I remember that day clearly, I remember the uproar of mocking laughter when he said that, the way she hung her head, the fierce angry look on my face and the muffled laughter when the teacher brought the class back to order. I didn’t see a dark skinned girl; I saw my friend! My best friend! Many people wanted her to bleach her skin so that she could be more acceptable to them. Many people even bought her the creams! If she isn’t such a confident person, she would have caved! Today, she is a pilot, the first female pilot from her state and right now, the only female pilot with her airline. Even at that, when I share posts about her, people still say, ‘Oh! Isn’t she that black Yoruba girl?’ Recently, an old school mate saw an ode I gave to her and asked me to ‘get him the contact of the dark one’. I was livid! He couldn’t remember her name yet he wanted her contact. MTCHEWWW! Please!
Few years ago when I was serving, an older corps member came out of our lodge and I said ‘Bro James, you look so good! Wow!’ He told me to stop mocking him. I was thrown off balance. What was that all about? I told him I was serious. He responded thus; ‘I have always been told I am ugly. So ugly me can look good?’ I wanted to cry! He went further to tell me that he didn’t smile a lot unless he was comfortable with people. This is because he had been told that smiling made him uglier and the less he smiled the better for the people who had to look at his face. Imagine a man in his 30s so ashamed of his smile because of what people said that he never smiled in public! People forced him to stop smiling since it was not palatable to them!
People spend so much time attaching labels to other people’s bodies. The labels could be a slight prick or feel like an arm forcefully pulled out of you. ‘Fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘tar, charcoal or dirty black’, ‘albino’, ‘short’, ‘poor’, ‘lower class’ and many such derogatory terms are commonly thrown out with no regard for the person. I am not worried about that. I become mad when you want to force a person to fit into YOUR description of what they should look like! Again I ask, WHO THE FLYING HELL ARE YOU?! HOW DARE YOU?!
This then is my conclusion; anyone who fixates on the physical attributes of a person so much so that they want to change them is shallow, jobless, has a low IQ and is unable to reason! I stand unapologetic on that conclusion! Most times, a person’s physical attributes cannot be changed (though cosmetic surgery may render that statement void). So forcing a person to lose confidence in their perceived flaws is evil and wicked. I may not be bothered by people’s opinions but many people are. This has left lots of people with little or no confidence and self-worth, leading them to make decisions that go further to affirm their lack of these qualities.
If you are one of such people, I will say this directly to you; MY BODY is not YOUR PROBLEM! The way I look is NOT YOUR issue; MY weight is not YOUR business; MY skin color has NOTHING to do with YOUR ideals and quite frankly, YOUR perception of MY beauty is DEFINITELY NOT MY PROBLEM! The sooner you get that through your head, the better it will be for you! Thank you!
And to my friends who have been brought down by other people’s ideals of what you ought to look like, I want to tell you to be you! You are beautiful, awesome, desirable, glorious and important just the way you are! If no one has told you, hear this today; I AM PROUD OF YOU! If you must change anything about your life, make yourself more refined, more intelligent, more giving, more eager to help others, more willing to solve society’s and life’s problems and better still, learn how to be more pleasing to your Creator; the only ONE whose opinion really matters!
So ‘Roar’ as Katy Perry sang and when Kendrick Lamar says you don’t need ‘No Makeup’, or in your case, no bleaching cream, no cosmetic surgery, no high heels, no clinging dresses, no flat tummy, you best believe him!
I urge you to listen to J. Cole’s ‘Crooked Smile’ over and over again and jump start your confidence. You rock…just the way you are!