My mother once said pictures were like peepholes, if they are wide and clear enough, you’ll be able to see everything you want just from a glance.
I don’t know if that particularly makes sense, but it was especially funny when she tried to fold her six foot four frame into someone smaller. She’d wear flats and stoop, or kneel down behind the good stool so you’d think she was short. I don’t know who she thought she was fooling and I never heard of any other girl in my area who grew up cleaning peepholes and hinges.
I liked that I was tall, I could run, jump, and leap higher than any boy in my school. It felt liberating to me and made me feel like I could actually accomplish something with my life. My mother frowned at it of course.
‘Boys don’t like girls who beat them in arm wrestling. Boys won’t marry girls who can lift them or scurry up a tree in less than a minute. They especially don’t like girls with skinned knees and mangoes.’
My mother could fill a book with all the things that boys don’t want. She had a knack for taking any situation and assessing it’s possible effect on your marriage prospects.
“I have a tummy ache mum.”
“Did you have an extra plate of the egusi soup? You this girl, you know boys don’t want girls who don’t the right amount of melon to eat.”
“I got an A in history mum.”
“That’s all good but I hope all the boys in your class got an A too. You know boys don’t want girls who think they know better than them.”
“Nepa cut our light today.”
“Is that how you’ll deliver bad news to your husband after he comes back home from a tiring day at work? No man wants a woman who will nag him in such affairs.”
It continued on till one fateful day, I just started SS3 and I was made the sports prefect in my school, in cognisance of my athletic feats and abilities. I remember climbing up the stairs of our house in a hurry, pushing past big mummy as she came out of their flat while I ran on to ours which was on the 3rd and highest floor of the building. I shouted a hurried apology and banged on our door with glee and elation. Despite my squeals of excitement, I saw the eyeball of my mother squinting suspiciously through the peephole.
I got in and told my news excitedly adding that I wouldn’t have to pay school fees and WAEC entrance fees because I would be given a sport scholarship. The hiss and look that I got killed my high spirits instantly just like a high wind blowing and snuffing out a raging fire. She started to go on about how this wasn’t important and I just couldn’t take it anymore.
“Pls don’t say another word mum.” I said, interrupting her in the middle of her tirade.
She peered at me in shock and before she recovered herself I continued,
“I don’t know why I thought you’d be happy for me, all you’ve ever done is turn your nose or criticize my sport engagements. Maybe I felt you’d actually consider me a worthy child when I finally achieve something but the truth is no, I’ll never be somebody to you till the day you renege your responsibility to me.”
I went on.
“Just like this rickety two bedroom flat you rented, I am an item you’re keeping in store for any man to come around for. It’s a shame that my only value is dependent on another’s perceived value of me. Let me ask you this, if everything you’ve been teaching me is true, where is your own man? Father left when I was 5 years old. Look at me, I’m all grown up, where are all the men lining up to look into your peephole.”
That day will go on to be one of the most memorable days of my lifetime but so will today. She left the house immediately and didn’t return till late at night but I would later find out that she went to my Aunt Becky’s house and cried for hours on end.
We didn’t speak about it the following day but her attitude towards me changed. She began to take interest in my school work and sports. Supported me and cared for me. She still rolled her eyes or showed slight signs of disapproval when I did things that weren’t so feminine but she was happy and so was I.
As I grew older, I became a successful athlete, representing my country in the Olympics and various other competitions and made a good living. As I neared my thirties an old feeling slowly crept towards me, I was now 6’3, muscular but not heavy set and single. No matter how much I tried, the phenomenon called love eluded me.
A voice began to worm itself into my brain and it grew from a whisper till it became a roar. My mother was right! I was everything boys were not looking for. So I began to change aspects of my life. I started wearing makeup and gowns to look feminine. I still kept my hair cut low but I started wearing wigs too. My mother had been away to the UK visiting Aunt Becky (who relocated there) during my transformation and I was excited to show her my “new and improved” self when she got back.
The ride back from the airport was so tense and silent, that even my driver held his mouth and gripped the steering wheel so hard as he stared right ahead. My mother looked at me just as she looked at me those years ago, she didn’t even have to say a word for me to know that she didn’t like what she saw.
This time though, neither of us left, she took my hand immediately we got down from the car and took me to the bathroom where she washed everything off my face and made me take off my wig and dress. I think that was the day I knew for sure that she accepted me for me and I decided not to listen to the voice and ditched the skirt and wigs. I kept the makeup though because I think I look fierce in Mac.
Along came Max, an athlete like me, he’s 6’10 so he call me a hobbit. I know it’s cliche and all but he treated me like I was a fairytale princess. Swept me off my feet and before long, asked me to marry him and I shall, in about thirty minutes.
This is my first and last diary entry as a single woman, honestly I don’t know what made Aunt Becky think a journal is an appropriate gift for a bridal shower!