I never walked without a sweater in high school, even when the weather was a sweltering 30 degrees Celsius I couldn’t. I was tiny, flat chested, flat bummed, tallish and my school shirt would always slide out of my waist which was punishable at my high school. Standing at 5’4 that is just standard height but I always felt weird because everyone was always gasping at how slender I was. At 16 I weighed 38kgs, I’ve gained a few kgs but people still talk about my weight.
A few weeks ago I read an article where Njoki Chege was shaming fat women. I cannot begin to say how mean that was, social media did all that. As a slender woman I will tell you there is thin shaming, I don’t know who Njoki hangs out with but they are all deluded. Everyone has their own preference when it comes to body size. In my office last week I was warming my lunch -I eat like my life depends on it, because it does- a colleague was talking to a heavier woman and he said, “I will tell you this for free African men prefer a meaty species, let no one lie to you we don’t like bony figures we want meat in all the right places. I am still warming up my food, so I turn and give him that look of “you did not just go there”. He then tells me, Kendi sio wewe, wewe tunaelewa . I smiled and walk away.
Beginning of January I was at a party and an old woman in her seventies walked up to me to ask for the washroom. After her bathroom break she walks back to me and asks me if I’m sick. For a moment I was very confused about why she would think that. Then voila a light bulb goes off in my brain I am slender. She rumbles on, unakaa hapo huli ndio unafiria unakaa mrembo? Unakaa nikama una ukimwi, HIV/AIDS. Huwezi pata bwana ukifanana hivyo!
On Saturday I was at a conference and as I was picking my coffee and pastries –I told you I eat – I could hear people at the back whispering and mumbling. Then the mumbles fizzled and one of the ladies asked me directly, “Doesn’t your boyfriend get afraid of breaking you?” What we would be doing to break me? I wondered. “Is he white?” Does this woman think I will tell her about my love life, the nerve? Does this mean black men don’t find me attractive?
Body shaming is as hard on us slender people as much as it is on bigger people because on the one side some people think you won the lottery by being your size while others think you are starving yourself. Let me walk you through some of my personal struggles . Whenever I go shopping I struggle to find clothes my size , they don’t make clothes size zero that’s why I buy mtumba (flea market) clothes when I can. So I always buy and adjust to fit. When I go to the tailor he/she always gasps “oh my gosh, your waist is a 23 inch, don’t you eat?” My brothers’ kids have grown now so whenever they call me ‘Aunt Kendi’ people just assume it’s a joke –its true world. When I go to upcountry everyone assumes I am starving myself. When I’m about to lift a heavy bag around my grandma she goes, wacha nikubebee tu sitaki upunguze kilo. Do you know the lists of diets and diet supplements I have to help me gain weight from “concerned friends”, verbal and written? Someone told me the other day Kendi you must stop running because you have no weight to loose. Running is cardio exercise in case you did not know it keeps you fit. I have been asked if I’m a model. I like this one though I’m not. Crowds aren’t my portion but wow that’s actually cool. People tell me, Kendi utanona tu, ngoja uzae .
Why is it that people feel the need to give me tips on weight gain, when I will gain weight or how I should be happy I’m slender but I should add a few more kilos? I have struggled with self-esteem issues for over 10 years. Looking at me you would think I was born this confident. I wasn’t it’s something I work at every day. I would never walk without a sweater because it was used to hide the size of my waist and that was a perfect decoy.I never wore dresses because I felt that my legs were fat –gasp, I know, I know-so I lived in jeans.I now own only knee length dresses and 4 trousers. I could never wear a belt to accentuate my waist/outfit because my waist was wasp thin, I don’t really care for belts even now but I would rock one to eternity. I never hugged tight since the huggie – I’m the hugger-would clasp me into them and then try to feel my size, now I don’t really care even if you want to lift me into the air in fact I will shrill with excitement. If you ask me how much I weigh I will tell you with so much gusto you will think it’s the perfect weight. Don’t tell me about all that BMI crap I have tried and now I live each day at a time.
I don’t have it all but my self-esteem is something I don’t let anyone rain on. I am in the business of loving myself on a daily. I always make fun for my lack of bigger hips and a round bum because I just love messing with people and they will try to advise me on how to achieve them anyway so why not preempt. I have a long way to go to achieve the Oriego Rogo Manduli type of confidence but I will not let anyone chip at me while I walk this path. I walk with my head high trying to enjoy this thing called life because what else is there to do?
All this thanks to one Rosemary Marangu. This lady has the ability to make all the walkers from walking dead feel like they have life. I was chatting her last night and I made the mistake of telling her I am “Just fine”. You don’t tell this girl you are “just fine” you just don’t she will send you shocked emoji’s from here to Kazakhstan and back. You cannot be “just fine” it’s either you are fine or you aren’t. It has to start with “I”.