“Nne imaka, you are beautiful”
The first time a man said that to me, i was unimpressed. It was that time of the month, with the cramps attempting to sever my lower body from the upper one, and me looking like what’s left of Taylor Swift’s reputation. So i did not feel beautiful, not for a sec. And the fact that it came from a foul-mouthed conductor did not help. I did not even stop to offer him a “go to hell” glance or a wretched hiss, i just continued my zombie walk of shame.
And today when another man, not a conductor this time, but someone still in that echelon called me beautiful, i remembered the incident that happened years ago.
Growing up i did not particularly feel beautiful, i believed ‘beautiful’ should be associated with women who can’t help but be flawlessly feminine, women whose plaids and braids always fell in place, and i knew i was none of those. But a part of me wanted to feel beautiful, to be called beautiful, for the right reasons though. At that time it seemed like some sort of validation from the male folks, sort of them “okaying” your feminine grace. This validation was supposed to make you swing your hips harder than to used to, their attention was meant to boost your self-confidence, and their acceptance of you was supposed to herald your acceptance of yourself.
Caught between the sudden appearance of the embarrassing molds of flesh on my chest, and the pressure to appear more appealing to the opposite sex, i carved a new identity for myself, an identity that demystified the word ‘beautiful’, made it just a word. A new me who didn’t need the attention and validation to feel beautiful emerged, i became anti-beautiful. It stopped being just about the facial appearance, or even the endowed body parts. Beauty became a dream achieved and dumped in a corner, in pursuit of other higher dreams. In world-speak, i made “beautiful” my bitch.
It stopped being the whole package, and the dose of self-confidence I gave myself each time I looked in the mirror became all i needed. And when that change finally came and people suddenly started calling me beautiful, i was no longer interested. The word seemed to have lost its value, it felt so ordinary, like the word “lavatory”.
It’s actually very funny how people load certain words with valuation and validation, and how people see these things as points of reference they should aspire to. Words are words, words lose the power they hold in your eyes once you begin to see them as ordinary words. Little wonder why stereotypes are so powerful.
Some folks don’t know how dangerously close they are to tragedy when they limit their entire existence and worth to a string of words dished out by a few stingy individuals, and in mostly cases unworthy individuals.
So lift your spirits, words should not determine your worth.