“Look at you Chinagorom! You look great. I am so happy for you,” her uncle, Nkemdirim said exuberantly. She had been...
Just before they converged in the living room for the speeches, Chinagorom had been on the phone with her best friend Nneamaka, who had not fared as well in WAEC. Nneamaka flunked Mathematics and Chemistry, leaving her with no chance of being accepted anywhere to study medicine. “I am so devastated. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I have failed my parents. I am so ashamed of myself. How could I fail Maths and Chemistry…?” She bemoaned her fate. “I know you studied so hard for the exams Nne. Don’t beat yourself up so hard. You will make it next time, trust me,” Chinagorom encouraged her friend. “I was so flustered on the day of Chemistry, I recall now but I thought I had done enough to scale through.” ‘I remember that Nne. You know your stuff, it was just nerves that got the better of you. Ebezila akwa, nnu? (Stop crying, okay?). It will be alright.”
The previous night, it had been Nkolika. She did well in WAEC, passing every subject that was a prerequisite to studying Engineering, her first choice of study at university. Nevertheless, her father was not overly impressed. “You failed to make an A in Chemistry and Physics. I am not too impressed. This is a weak pass,” he had said in response to her Bs in Chemistry and Physics. “You will encounter much tougher challenges at University and if you could not make As in WAEC, how can you cope?” He added, throwing a gallon of petrol on the fire he had already started. “I am so afraid. I am not even sure I will pass JAMB, how much more cope at university,” Nkolika had complained over the phone. “You don’t have to let your father’s words scare you into losing confidence in yourself,” Chinagorom offered. “If you work as hard as I know you can, you will be fine. You will exceed expectations,” she continued.
A few weeks earlier, it had been another friend, Ogechukwu. She was crying profusely. “I am not sure I can handle this Chiichii. What hurts the most is not that he jilted me, but the way he did it. All of a sudden, he said he did not love me any more. he said I have gained a lot of weight since we left secondary school. He is now into some other girl he considers sexier than myself, and he had the effrontery to tell me that. He has crushed my confidence completely. I hate him, but even beyond that, I look at myself as an inferior stock right now. My confidence has dropped below zero. It is in the minus region now, Chiichii,” Ogechukwu poured out her pains.
Chinagorom responded intelligently with what came to her mind on the spot. “Do you still remember what Meghan Trainor said in her hit song, ‘All about the bass’? ‘Yea, it’s pretty clear, you ain’t no size two; but you can shake it like you are supposed to do. Because you got the boom boom that all the boys chase. And all the right junk in all the right places. Because he knows you are all about the bass, about the bass, no treble….You are all about the bass no treble. Baby, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top. If he is into skinny girls, let him walk my friend...don’t worry about your size,” Chinagorom replied half-talking and half-singing as she tweaked the lyrics to her friend’s situation.
Somehow, Ogechukwu managed a smile on her face. “That’s my girl. Let that smile come back to you face. The person who will adore you from hair to toe will come, and when that happens, you will not remember anything that Ikedi said to you. You are beautiful my friend...very beautiful.” “Thanks Chiichii. What would I do without you?” “Don’t let that guy put you down. You are so beautiful that your beauty burns the eyes.” They both laughed and hugged.
As Chinagorom’s extended family made beautiful speeches about life and accomplishments, she could not help but feel heavily burdened by expectations. Then, her dad asked proudly, “honey, what would you like to do with your life? Tell them your aspirations,” he urged her. Tears drizzled down her eyes as she gaped at the crowd. The pressure had finally gotten to her. “What is it sweetheart?” Her father asked. “I just want to be a normal person daddy,” she answered through tears. “I can’t handle all these expectations any more. I just want to be a normal person; taking life one day at a time,” she repeated. Her mother and favorite aunt, Ngozika walked over to her and gave her a hug. “It is okay honey. You have the right to do what you want - just being a normal person leading a normal, simple life,” they replied to her as they led her away from the crowd to her room.
This is a classic reflection of the burdens of womanhood in modern society. Of course men carry their own weights, but here we reflect on the expectations that society places on women at present. Millions of images fly around the internet today with each carrying a message on the new definitions of beauty, intelligence and accomplishment. The interesting thing is that the boundaries are constantly re-drawn and shifted without your consent. With everyone vying to get their voice heard, people are shouting as loudly as they can and as boldly and clearly as their voices can handle. From a young age, a woman understands that she has to look beautiful. It is an innate desire in a woman to be attractive. As she grows, just like men a woman relies on their immediate family and close friends for validation, but as puberty sets in, she is exposed to a whole new world of BEAUTY. Peers, mainly at school begin to poke at her personal brand of beauty. Some will even attempt to tear down the walls of her concept of beauty so that only theirs will stand.
Soon, she begins to look to men around her age for validation. The more men that recognize her presence, the more beautiful she is likely to feel. The compliments she gets adds to her confidence and personality. When she falls in love, her castle is finally completed. Her world revolves around him...the man in her life. If he leaves her or says unpleasant things about her physical appearance, her castle comes crashing from its very foundations. When she sees him with another girl, even one that may not be as beautiful as she is, she is left with an emotional tug of war that could set her on an entirely different course in life. Along the line, television, the internet and city billboards continue to bombard her with new trends in the world of beauty. It is a never-ending quest for PERFECTION; an absolute bombardment.
In addition to beauty, she is tested on other fronts. She has to be and/or act intelligent up to a certain level as defined by different people who never seem to have a common voice. Speak like this; smile like that, they say. If you studied this or that, of you had this sort of job or the other one, then society looks at you as a powerful and important person...woman. “Did she study at Ife? Or UNN? Or Unilag? Or Ibadan? They ask. Of late, such status symbols come into play in the marriage terrain, heaping even more pressure on women if they are to stand a chance at snagging a decent man in matrimony. Some families wait patiently or impatiently in some cases, for a wealthy man to come and free them from the ugly, painful hands of wretchedness by marrying their daughter or sister...in some cases cousins or anything remotely related to their lineage. As she walks the streets, she could be bearing the burdens of an entire kindred on her lean shoulders.
In marriage, the battle continues. She has to keep up with new trends; else, her husband could end up with a younger, more attractive girl. She has to keep the home running, cater for the children, quite often work, and look smashing, physically. An Igbo adage says, “Onye ala welu oyi (Even a madman has a friend).” Indeed, everyone has their own path in life. No matter how you look, there is someone out there dying to be with you...someone looking for your exact prototype. If only you could steer yourself away from the trappings of societal trends and blaze your own trail. It is important as a woman to recognize this...to know that you are beautiful beyond measure; because molded you specially and placed you here. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful...in fact it is your inalienable right. Make sure that you are not pushed around from pillar to post in your quest for beauty. Define beauty for yourself and stick to your own definition, tweaking and shaping it as you go through life without the pressures of sleek-looking models on TV or on the internet.
Sometimes, you may not be sure of what you want out of life...that is okay. Everyone goes through it. Nonetheless, search your heart for your own place in life; seek it diligently and when you find it, live it out to the fullest. Don’t let the world tell you that you have to go to some university or study one course or the other to be valuable...you are already valuable. Whether you went to Cambridge, Ibadan, ESUT, IMT, or ABSU, you can still be anything you want to be and if a man is destined to fall in love with you, he still will, unless he is not the one. There is no need to go through the extreme pressure of tailoring your life for a certain type of man...unless that is your own calling in life. Some people spend so much time planning a perfect life without realizing that life is passing them by every day. Live one full day at a time and enjoy every moment of it. Plan what you need to plan; be proactive and prepare for the future, but there is no need to be overly obsessive about it. Enjoy the ride...that way, your true beauty shines like the glow of the sun! Remember, ‘if you got beauty, just raise them up; because every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top! According to Meghan Trainor.
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