How my daughter taught me to love my body by Peju Akande

How my daughter taught me to love my body by Peju Akande

I like walking around naked in the house and my family complains all the time. Yes, ke. I’ve since found out many women are like this. I just have this feeling and need to air my bits and it’s all thanks to my days at FGGC Bida.

Being an all-girls school, strutting about naked was common.

silhouette of mother kissing her daughter
silhouette of mother kissing her daughter

It also made me aware of my insecurities about my body; I had plenty, growing up. I felt my boobs were too small and made me look like a boy most of my growing up years, I wanted breasts like Tara’s, my friend. My nose was too flat and it didn’t help that I was always pinching it, I wanted to have an aquiline nose like my friend, Ugonma. I would have loved to have a butt like one of my senior’s. Her name was Henrietta. Mine just managed to get me seated without me falling off the chair.  I would also have gladly traded my black gums for pink, like one of my classmates because I felt it made her face radiate. And skin, oh my, a skin like Laide’s would have been awesome, I always fantasized.

My legs were the worst of it. I had (and still have) calves that would make Usain Bolt jealous yet they made me mad especially when my family laughed me to scorn over them. So, I never wore any short dress or skirts growing up.

My insecurities defined me for years and I recognize it in others; those of us with agbalumo sized boobs had a secret desire to have rich melon sized ones; forget the mango, melons are awesome under tee shirts. They make eyes bulge!

I remember at school how some idiot told me I could increase my bust size. She said just stand in front of the mirror, flap your arms like a bird and chant: “I must increase my bust size, I must increase my bust size, I must increase my bust size. ”

I can’t remember the number of times I did that. Nothing happened. My bust size didn’t increase, even though I had gone ahead to buy bras with bigger cup sizes; you know, anticipating a bombshell look. Nothing happened. I was crushed.

When I didn’t seem to ‘grow’ into these bra sizes, I decided to buy costee bras; the types that thrust your boobs up into your face. Costee bras make ‘em look bigger than Bombay while leaving you looking stupid and desperate.  You’ll have to tip over to see what’s in front of you but after one outing in that devil bra; the harassment and attention they got me scared me so much I flung them far behind my wardrobe. I never saw them again until we had to move house.

People have recognized these insecurities women suffer from and are making billions from it, at our expense, too. We have padded bras, for those of us who eye D cup sizes but will never have them, there are false lashes, for those of us who will never be satisfied with mascaras, Peruvian/Indian/ Brazilian whatever hair for the bald amongst us;  there are butt pads, for those of us who think we should have come as South Africans ( the trade mark butt that drags behind long after the person has left), false nails for the perpetual nail-biters and for those of us with ginormous calves, 6inch heels that gives us that svelte look we desire!

I didn’t get over my insecurities until my daughter came into the picture. She is 12years old now. She was born big, weighed almost 4kg and ate like a horse from the get go. So when people saw her, they called her orobo. I didn’t like that name calling but was too timid to stop it and my weak: ‘my daughter is not orobo,’ always fell on deaf ears.

Thankfully, when my daughter grew up to discover the name was derogatory, she was about 4years old then, she began to respond to such calls with- My name is not orobo, my name is kunmi. She said it to both adults and kids alike and after a while the name calling stopped! You see, she wouldn’t even respond to you if you called her otherwise.

Then “blackie’ took over from ‘orobo’. And my bold and beautiful big girl responded with, ‘If you saw black, you won’t even know it!”

This confused the callers. Confused me too, until she explained, ‘I can’t be black, it’s the colour of the blackboard, I’m very dark brown, so when they call me black, they don’t know the colour.’ That’s my girl!

To the term, ‘biggie ben’ because of her size, her response, ‘Who starved you?’ after a while, these too stopped, until some idiot finds something else to say.

I wish I had been smart enough to deflect names I garnered over the years, too; names that made me go seeking for ways to get an accepted look.

Yes, there have been some days the words hurt, but most of the time, she triumphs with smarter remarks. She told me once, “What people say about you does not define you; it’s what you say and know of yourself that defines you and if you don’t know it, dammit!

Now, young lady, there’s no swearing in this house!


photo credit


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