I grew up with boys; cousins, stepbrothers, neighbours, extended family, church members, there were just too many boys in my life back then and while there are good aspects to being so joined at the hip with boys, it was not the best for my feminine psyche.
I grew up learning to play rough, because that was how the boys played. Then I hit puberty, and all of a sudden, I and everyone else realised that I was a girl after all. It was a rude shock that made me almost mute. Although our relationship had changed, as expected, I was still able to hang out with the boys and that was when my baptism into the world of inequality started. It took a long time for me to understand the fact that my friends who were boys were given a carte blanche to do somethings which would have sent my mother in to a meltdown.
I soon became a lone ranger and later found my own “village”, when I discovered that these boys I had grown up with had little to no regard for the woman, or her body. I can remember clearly one time, while we were talking and the conversation had shifted to women and as I found out by then, the woman’s body was the next topic of discussion.
One of the boys had started to compare my sisters and I and then my friends. I was labelled straight up and down; no bumbum, no boobs. Some of my friends, who were more well-endowed than I went with “hour-glass shape, but she’s short.” “That one just has boobs, there is no bumbum” “She is too tall and no breasts.” My attempts to shut them up only added fuel to their conversation.
For a long time, I believed that label myself and when the ladies come to my mind, I inevitably think back to that afternoon, when they re-christened them according to their body shape. But all of these ladies were more than their body shapes.
Most of those boys are now married and we no longer have discussions of ladies’ body shapes and honestly, I would prefer not to know if they still have such conversations. I would rather like to think that they have outgrown such boyish tendencies, seeing that their own bodies have also changed with the years.
I will admit that sometimes it hurts, when people talk about your body in derogatory terms. Last year, when we had a wedding in the family on my husband’s side, I had gladly dolled up, got the kids ready and went for the wedding. It’s not all the time I get to see my in-laws.
You should have seen how deflated I was, when I later heard that my husband was asked if I was fine health-wise, considering how slim I was. I felt like a worm put under a microscope, as I tried to fatten myself with loads of chocolate and such. But I guess it didn’t work, as I’m still rocking my slim self. I don’t know if I will be strong enough when someone talks about my body next time, but I know that I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.
And that is the only way my childhood friend, Jane, could have survived all the terrible people who had opinions about her body. She had gotten married a slim girl but by the time she had her first baby, she had ballooned and everyone got on her case to go back to her pre-pregnancy body…as if it was that easy to do.
It wasn’t easy to do and soon, she got pregnant again. Sometimes, I think that for like five years, every time I saw her, she was pregnant or just had a baby, and that did nothing to help her weight issues and the body watchers stayed on her business.
Every one told her she needed to lose weight…from friends to family. Jane soon joined the chorus and tried all sorts to lose the baby weight. I pitied her last child the most, because as soon as she had him, she was back to gym and that did not help her milk supply in any way, as she was working out and trying out some fancy diet after the other.
Thank God for the boy’s grandma, who made sure he did not starve. With that one, she insisted that Jane not do exclusive breastfeeding, because of her craze with losing weight. So, while she jogged, ran, skipped, took to the gym twice a week, her baby got formula-fed and everyone was happy.
Jane thought she had done good, as she lost a few kilos, going from 93 to 86kg in weeks, until she went to the market and everywhere she turned. They called her “Iya Beji.” Well, you too can imagine how that would feel like. After weeks of gruelling routine, losing weight and mentally patting herself on the back, only to be called “Iya Beji” in reference to the fact that she was still pregnant.
She didn’t have the nerve to tell them that she had actually just given birth. She just wanted to go home, binge on food and sleep and that was what happened the next few days. Eat and sleep, with grandma on the grind and nanny watching over the older kids, Jane had plenty of time to do so. When asked what happened, she said nothing until she told the story of how her market run the other day went.
It took a while for Jane to recover. In fact, she returned to the gym only this year and already there are visible results, but this time, she isn’t doing it because of what people would say. She is doing it for herself alone and that makes a lot of difference.
Sometimes, people don’t mean to hurt others with their crass statements about their bodies, but sometimes they actually do. Whatever be the case, a woman’s body shouldn’t an object of discussion, unless you are talking about the powerful machine it is.
One that creates and incubates babies for an average of 40 weeks; humanity should be grateful for the gift of that body, not denigrate it.
Whatever your body shape or size, momma, you are beautiful.
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