I remember having just finished JSS 2 and attending holiday lessons in preparation for junior WAEC. I would go with this friend of mine whose family was also friends with mine. She was very beautiful, light skinned, and with well sculptured nose. She looked like she could have been born out of a relationship between a very fine Nigerian man and a very beautiful Indian actress.
We would go everywhere together, and where ever we went, people only looked at her. But that didn’t mean anything until one day, we stopped to buy something (I can’t recall what) at a shop near home. One woman was just passing and sighted us. She stopped abruptly to ask with a rather exclamatory tone “whose child is this?”
Shocked by the exclamation, we both managed to stammer our greetings. This woman did not even look at me, let alone return my greeting. She went ahead to pick up my friends face in her palms and asked again, “nne, onye mulu gi?” (who gave birth to you?) before she began to tell the shop owner that nwa nke a amaka (this child is beautiful).
That day and for the many years that followed it, I became more and more conscious of myself. Of my round puffy face that I would have preferred to have oval; of my wide and rounded eyeballs that I would have loved to have stretched a bit to form cat eyes. Of my big nose that I would have gladly exchanged for a pointed one. It didn’t help that the long vacation after our Junior WAEC left me with flabby arms and a jelly belly, so that when I returned to school after the break, my classmates made a scene off my entrance. They were literally telling one another “have you seen Emmanuella (my baptismal name)? She’s so fat now!”
But it didn’t get so bad until I started getting attracted to boys after my senior WAEC. It was only then it began to matter what men thought of me. I was grateful to have lost half my body weight at this time, but my undesirable facial features stayed intact. I would listen to an older guy ask me out and say “it’s not because you are that beautiful o, there are girls way finer than you” then they’d try to compensate me with: “it’s just that there’s something about you, something in your personality, that is rare”. Once, one of them was saying these exact words and staring at another girl that was passing in that moment.
I won’t deny that those compensating words did make me feel like I had a little edge over the fine girls. Isn’t that what it was meant to do anyway? But I had already bought the idea that beauty was far from me.
One day during my final year in UNN, I had gone to submit my course registration forms at the departmental General office. A man that worked there who I had always seen but never engaged in conversations with stopped to take a look at my passport. I can’t tell whether his utterance was conscious or unconscious, but he said: “if only you were as beautiful in person as you are in this passport…” Then he stopped. I smiled at him and said: “this is how I was made”. I went back to the room I shared with three other girls and met it empty. So I took out a mirror from my makeup bag that now followed me everywhere because I felt the need to at least fill in my eyebrows every time I was about stepping out of the room, and took a good look at my face. Tears began to come so I let them run. That day, I cried to my fill while repeating to myself that “this is how I was made”.
I don’t know where those words came from, but they stuck with me since 2015. I came to realise that I needed to accept myself for everything that I am. I did not choose in what form to enter this plane. I just saw myself here. So nobody has the right to blame me for looking the way I do or being the way I am. Nor do I need to feel any lesser if someone else is being admired beside me. Because in no way would these undermine my being. I’ve come to love my round puffy face because round is the shape of my beauty. I’ve come to adore my round eyes because it is the only eye that sees me as I truly am. I’ve come to respect my big nose because mehn, e dey pack air give me well well. Imagine if I had that pointed nose with tiny nostrils.
Today, I look at my mirror and see a strong confident woman who knows her worth and need not be shown it. I’m comfortable in my own brown skin. And I no longer need anyone, male or female, to approve of my person or my beauty because I have accepted myself inside and out.
If anyone says beauty does not live here, I will let them search for it the rest of their lives.
DISCLAIMER: this yellow face is not my own. The camera forced it on me…
Author : Ifunanya Adannaya Anih