I am a woman.
Shocking, I know. But as a woman, I long struggled with my image… I don’t mean to say that men don’t worry about how good they look, but unfortunately, I still believe to this day that a man can be attractive to women no matter what he looks like, if he is brilliant, has a good sense of humor, and in some cases, if he has money and/or power.
I’d like to say that the same applies to women, and it should. But in general, a woman still has to be beautiful in some way to attract men.
But what does that have to do with your African journey, Cyranny?
I am getting to it.
Coming from North America, and hanging with expat kids coming mainly from the U.S., Canada, France and Belgium, I knew boys prefered slim beautiful girls. I was neither, and I knew my chances of charming any of the few pre-teenage boys I hung around with at school was slim to none.
Oh, I was friends with most of them… But I was the girl they came to when they wanted to know how to get to the cute ones. I was lucky not to get the mockery I probably would have been served if we had stayed in Canada, but there was never that sparkle in boys’ eyes when we spent one on one time.
Thin and lissome never applied to my figure, and I quickly got stuck in the “friend zone”. I remember that by the age of thirteen or fourteen, I was considering becoming a nun. Not that I was particularly religious, but already being the helpless romantic that I still am, I figured the best way not to suffer from boys’ ignorance, was to live away from them all…
I changed my mind, since. Thank God! (LOL)
I soon learnt one mind boggling lesson, Guinea had in store for me.
Every year, we came back to Canada during the summer school break. And to make a long story short (we’ll probably come to it later anyway), food was an issue in Kamsar. We only got two deliveries a month, by boat. One of them coming from the U.S. and the other one from Belgium. Providers knew well that we wouldn’t send stuff back, so it wasn’t unusual to get passed due products. Eating was often a “will we get sick this time?” lottery…
So when we returned to Québec for a couple of weeks, we tended to eat a lot. And, of course, that meant putting on a couple extra pounds. Ok, we probably looked like bears preparing for hibernation!
When the summer was over, back in Kamsar, Mom and I would often get the same comment from locals… “Madame, vous avez grandi!!” (Madam, you’ve grown!!) And they didn’t mean “growing up”. No they were telling us straight forward that we were fatter. But not in a mocking way, or with a blaming tone. No, it was clearly a compliment.
Mom told to me that in Guinea, fat women were considered beautiful. That seemed awkward to me, but she went on explaining how most people there were super slim because they didn’t eat much and worked really hard everyday. A chubby woman figure meant that her family was rich. That she could eat more than the other women, and that she probably didn’t have to work as hard.
For local men, I was the jackpot. Large and white. The perfect personification of wealth! Dad probably looked like a very respectable guy, obviously feeding his wife and daughter better than most of the other expats!
Young (and less than young) men came to our home’s gate from time to time… Some of them would call to our house, hoping to get a chance to “date” me. Dad even discussed trading me for a number of cows once. (bargaining is a game Dad can’t resist, and arranged marriages were still very common in Guinea back then… I know he never would have seriously considered closing the deal, but I bet he had a lot of fun figuring out what I was worth)
I don’t care about my body weight now. Looking around me, I can see how that is a gift, because most women I know will struggle with that until they move to a retiring home… I guess living in a place where double standards applied, it made me realize that weight really didn’t matter. How could it, if I was at the same time, the less attractive and the most desirable girl in town??
Just another lesson Africa taught me.
Thank you, Africa!
Via today’s Word of the Day: Lissome