“Well done, sir. Mr talker, ekú isé.
Mr wetin-no-concern-me reporter, that’s right!”
Background track for this piece: Mind your business by Simi ft Falz.
“Lamide, ṣe o ni cancer ni?”
I could have sworn I heard my heart break, honestly. Madam, what did we carry? What did you throw? (Kilagbe? Kileju?) Of course, I’ll tell you the whole story. It was sometime in January 2019; one of my mum’s close friends had come to spend some time with her. I had just returned home from my friend’s office and wanted to say hi to my mum before locking myself in my room till the following day. I just heard, “Ah! Testimony! Kí ló dé bá ẹ?” (Translation: Ah! Testimony, what’s wrong with you?) If you grew up in a Nigerian home, you’d probably understand why I did what I did next. I apologized for not greeting her (my mum’s friend) earlier as I had to drop my sandals on the rack first. I sincerely thought I was being scolded for not greeting her. Hehe.
She patted the seat beside her, indicating that I should sit down so she could talk to me. She then started a lecture on proper eating and gaining weight. She said that people like me usually have complications during childbirth and that it may even be hard for me to find someone to marry me because “who wants to marry a tiny girl?” She went on and on before asking if something was actually wrong with me and why I looked that way. She then asked, “Lamide, ṣe o ni cancer ni?” (Translation: Lamide, do you have cancer?) No comment about my weight before or after hers has ever made me feel the way I did at that moment. I felt horrible. What she didn’t know was that I had just recovered from an illness, one that made me lose so much weight. I had plans to regain my lost weight, but you know, it’s easier for us skinny girls to lose weight than add weight. So that comment struck a chord in a way that hurt so much. I couldn’t look into the mirror without getting teary, so I removed it.
Being a skinny girl is tiring on most days. Of course, there’s the fun part too: being able to pass through small spaces and spaces between parked cars, people saying how much they love my stomach, and even the few that say they love my body. There’s the “omg, can you model for my brand?” and all of that stuff, but the fun part is probably just one-eighth of the other part, at least for me.
Your slippers cut, and you’ll fall, but people will say it’s because you’re small. Did you say you can’t ‘drag’ the generator? It’s because you don’t eat. You’ll hear those elderly women in church say, “look at Doyin; her bumbum and breasts are bigger than yours. You are older o. Be eating, Lamide.” When you enter the fashion store, the attendant will direct you to the children’s section without even asking. You’ll ‘mistakenly’ enter a yellow bus (danfo), and they’ll tell you to shift even when you’re only occupying one-third of the space you should. “Sister, shift na, you no too get body.” So I don’t deserve comfort because I’m small? And it’s not like you’ll let me pay less o.
How dare you experience cramps? How dare you fall sick? You’ll start hearing them say it’s because you don’t eat. The other day, my ‘friend’ spent several minutes ‘roasting’ my body with my mum. She even had the guts to ask me why I was quiet after the whole thing; lmao, it’s the audacity for me. You can’t even wear what you want because of comments you know you’ll get. I recently read a tweet that said skinny girls (girls with flat asses) shouldn’t wear jumpsuits because it’s not meant for them. Tell me, what is your business with what people decide to wear? Some of my mother’s relatives must not see me wearing off-shoulder dresses or blouses (and I love off-shoulder so much). The last time one of them did, she said she could conveniently empty a bottle of coke in the pit of my neck (read in Yoruba), and it wouldn’t spill. Whenever they’re around, I wear cardigans, turtleneck wears, or corporate shirts. Yes, let heat finish me. Heat rashes will go; who knows if the effect of the hurtful comments will? “Olamide, why do you wear baggy skirts? Why don’t you wear trousers?” Should I wear trousers so you can laugh about how tiny my legs are? No, thank you.
Did I mention the people that tell me I’m skinny because I’m too lazy to cook? My gosh! I literally cook for the whole family, so what’s your point? How do I explain that my stomach can barely take anything? This morning, I tried to go beyond my one pack of noodles and cooked one and a half. The more I ate, the more my stomach hurt. Did I stop? No! I don’t want to go to school next semester and hear those lines or have people wrap their hands around my wrists to show me the amount of space left. Anyway, I couldn’t move for sixty-seven (67) minutes after I finished eating. And even when I try to eat small portions multiple times, I still don’t add weight. In the first month of the lockdown, I planned to gain a minimum of 3kg. Guess what? I lost 6kg in one month, and I was eating more than I ever had. I didn’t check my weight since then; what you don’t know won’t kill you, right?
I’ve always been that girl — the tiniest girl. The one everyone describes as ‘skinny’ or ‘the girl that looks sick.’ I’ve always been that child that had multivitamins forced down her throat so that she could eat more. I got treated for ulcer even when that wasn’t what was wrong because ‘she doesn’t eat and has given herself ulcer.’
It’s even more annoying that these people say all of these to my face! I mean, if those nasty comments come to your head, keep them there! I do not care what you think; I really don’t. However, I can only pretend that your words don’t hurt when you’re there. When you leave, they hurt even deeper, and it’s so unfair. You’d probably say that I shouldn’t let people’s words get to me and blah blah, but how easy is it?
Of course, some sensible people actually care. People like Ifeoluwa, Tobs, Christy, and Grace check up on me regularly and even send me food to eat quickly without even being asked. People who understand that this underweight stuff is a journey I’m struggling with and one that frustrates me regularly. I know you may say that the people I mentioned in previous paragraphs may have just done or said what they did out of care. Do I care right now? No. If I can vividly remember many of their words months or years later in a bad way, it’s evident that their ‘care’ did more harm than good.
Dear partner-in-skinniness, you are beautiful just the way you are. I know how much of a struggle it is to accept, but trust me. If you’re like me, who’s hoping to gain weight, I pray you do soon. If you want to remain how you are, but you’re wondering how you’d survive the nasty comments, I’m sending you hugs and wishing you loads of strength — sending you love and light, partner.
And you, the one who never minds his/her business, the one who won’t be able to sleep properly if he/she doesn’t say that hurtful thing about someone’s weight, change. It’s not too late to change and make amends, lol. Maybe you can begin by apologizing and letting her know you love her regardless of how she looks. When next you’re tempted to drop that jab about her body, think twice. Either be kind to people or mind your business and stay away from them, period. Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. Promise me you’ll be kinder to skinny people henceforth. Thank you. Bye.
Originally published here.