I study my frame in the mirror. My body has begun giving me the false hope it does every now and then. The first places that deceive me that I may be putting on some weight, are my hips and cheeks — not my derrière as you might imagine, but the cheeks that guard my nose. The scale had said 53kg. Sigh. That was 54kg three years ago.
”Why are you this thin?” She had asked, her face a disarray of disappointment, irritation, anger, pity and three other feelings I cannot yet ascertain. She has not seen me naked — not in the way that I have, and yet she calls me thin.
My eyes move from the darkening sunken lids below my eyes, to my very conspicuous clavicle bones. I press two fingers against it and they sink.
“I am this thin because I have a fast metabolic rate and just maybe I am this thin because I eat like a bird — because I have a gazillion ton of leptin secreted in my blood stream.” I had responded without blinking.
I have decided that there is no point denying what I think is wrong with me. I have always castigated Nigeria for doing the same thing. My mother has scolded me timelessly about my self-diagnosis, “You are not a doctor,” she would say. While I may not be one, no doctor has had to live in my body for 22 years, only me. Then my mother goes around to eat her own words as she puts forth her own diagnosis — you are not happy, she says, “You worry too much.” Hers is right and mine wrong because hers has to do with emotions and mine is more practical — biology. Of course, anything that makes a woman lose weight these days, have to do with emotions; a lost lover, a concern about when and whom to marry maybe. With men, it most often had to do with work. I am not like Nigeria, I like to say things as they are : I am thin because I worry, I worry because I have a fast metabolic rate and just maybe I worry because I eat like a bird, because I have a gazillion ton of leptin secreted in my blood stream enough to serve three humans. Sigh.
Like Rihanna, my breasts are one of the quantifiers of my weight. One moment, they’re a swollen bundle of cells on my chest and the next moment they barely glue on to it. However, when I put my clothes on, it does not make a difference, they remain but a tiny lump underneath even the thinnest fabric. A year or two ago, I would be unbothered by this, I had only noticed how really small they were after Eliza brought it to my notice.
Eliza had just celebrated her birthday — a pool party. There were pictures of almost naked people in every space the camera could capture. I could not be naked like that — and this had absolutely nothing to do with my weight. The most adventurous thing I had done was probably that thing in the tight entrance room to one of the cinemas at GDC.
“Do you not feel shy? Exposing parts of your body and especially when the bikini gets wet — your breast, your nipples. I was shy during my first swim.”
“Shy? You that doesn’t have anything.” She had quipped. I bowed my head in shame. I had asked for it.
I clip both ends of my brazier and strap it on. It is the only piece of clothing I do not bother about having to slim fit the next time I put it on, not even my pants afford me this luxury.
“Have you tried multivitamins? Getting enough sleep? Have you seen a doctor?” The memory of her chippy voice snaps me from my thoughts.
I had wanted to tell her politely that her concern reached the depth of my heart, but then I remembered the very rude agbero who threatened to kick me out of the taxi if I do not pair with a fellow thin person at the front seat, but instead, I told her to shut up and pay attention to her business.
I force on a pair of jeans — the one I just had Salé ‘hold’ the waist. As I wriggle into it, I discover that it is a little tight, but I know it is only temporary. This same jeans was a little tight the last time I wore it, before giving it to him to make amendments. I draw the curtain aside to let in some fresh air. Strong smell of burning waste wafts in with the almost clean air I had expected. I catch a chill as a wave of breeze blows directly at my bare chest, save for my brazier.
“It is quite cold today. Are you cold?” Clarence had asked, wrapping her jacket tighter around her body.
“I am not.”“But you are thin. Even me who has a bit of flesh is cold.” She said, laughing.
“Well, turns out thin people are heat conductors.” I had replied with a laugh. It was my first honest laugh about my weight. It was because she was a friend, one with a good heart, and I knew she meant well.
I force on my sister’s turtle-necked blouse because I know that thin people are not heat conductors. I brush my hair back and the vein appears. I see it, just atop my left eyebrow, a little away from the lining of my hair. Who knew veins could appear at places like that?
“You’re really thin. Look at that vein forcing its way out the skin of your forehead.” He had said the other day, unable to hide his disgust. The jerk. I sigh. I clear my books from the vanity and throw them in my bag. One more second in front of this mirror and I will be late for my interview.
Rumuokoro is as busy as ever. Everything is in a hurry, even me. I rush past a couple of people as I watch the second arm tick away on my wristwatch. A crippled beggar stretches his arm to me. I do not stop, because you do not stop at Rumuokoro, you do not exercise your ability to stop walking in a place that constantly moves. I am going to be late for my meeting — this thing that began four months ago, has become a habit.
“Agbani, come enter my bus. Oyinbo, come enter this one.” The conductor shouts at me, bellowing me to his blue on white bus. Agbani. It has become my nickname among strangers. I wonder idly if they have whispered to one another about the very tall, thin and fair girl. I wonder if Agbani Darego knows that I share her name and that it is now a tag to make me feel insecure. I think they mean well, to call me the name of a beauty queen, but I know that I will mostly take it as a reminder for my weight, because this is what society has conditioned me to do.
I am waiting for my interviewer. He is busy with other things. A tall and obviously comfortably thin girl walks into the reception. She smiles and sits beside me. If I could be thin in this way, it would make a difference.
He comes into the reception and apologizes for his delay. He will be with me in few minutes. His show is supposed to be aired in few seconds. I smile politely as we both share a nod like old friends who understand that he will not be meeting with me in few seconds, or minutes. He notices comfortably-thin-girl. They share a smile. He asks if she has already started working. She nods and moves uncomfortably in her chair. He smiles at me and waves his ring finger at her. “I will not razzle you, I am married.” I like him already. I have a feeling that I will enjoy working with him — when I get this job.
I pull out my notebook and begin to write so that I can pass the time. I come across Tayo’s handwriting in one of the pages. Tayo had complained to me two days ago that she had begun to gain some weight. I had wanted to scold and tell her that she had to be grateful for what she has, but then I knew that she would say the same to me and so I did not give my rotten opinion.
“Bone.” He had said, laughing his crooked ugly smile.
“Thin girls are bones?” I enquired, my eyes almost popping out their sockets.
“Yes. I like meat. I am not a dog.” I looked him over, from toes to head, my mother says that it is the way you look at silly people, because maybe you might understand why their head hangs loose from the way their legs are shaped. His legs are similar to the mop stick I had used that morning. I was satisfied with my discovery. My mother was right.
“But you are really, really thin. Why would you body-shame thin women?” I asked mildly — just enough to have masked my irritation.
“Yes, still doesn’t mean I should eat bones. I like meat.”
I shake my head. I did not see him anymore, instead I had imagined ten broom sticks held together speaking to me. I shamed myself and that clueless guy before society shamed us. I had shamed myself, along with him.
I close my book and decide to head home. Comfortably-thin-girl looks relieved. I read what I imagine is in her head, something I have heard a million times. You will gain baby weight, just wait and see. I sigh as I close the door behind me. Another day to be a thin girl in Nigeria.