It is our final year dinner. I look beautiful, I am sure… but I feel different and uncomfortable, more than I have felt my whole life. I am not the barbie faced girl in this Rukky Simone’s gown and Louboutins with body shapers hugging the life out of me. No. I am that tiny soul screaming for release beneath all of this packaging that make me tonight. But I embrace this one time invasion because I want Martins to see me.
Never in my life have I thought to become someone else for a man. Truly, I used to have so much faith in the incidence of love with someone who would look beyond my limp, make-up-less face, feebleness and clumsiness to the amazing being that I am. But after a whole 25 years of waiting endlessly for that special moment, and a never-ending tirade of someone who matters so much- Mum- telling you you’ll never get a man looking as you do, you learn to give change a try.
So I let Salma make me her.
Down at the hall, there is so much activity going on around me, none of which I am interested in. I am seated at this table with Salma’s course mates, staring nauseously at the empty seat beside me, hoping it has been saved for Martins. I take my precious care to do everything because mama’s voice keeps ringing in my head- ‘sit like a lady, look at Salma! Eat like a lady, don’t rush it, Can’t you see Salma?! Don’t focus on your food, make eye contact with your talk partner intermittently. Ask Salma. Be witty, throw in jokes, just like Salma. Smile a lot. Smile, but don’t shoot your teeth out like that.‘ There’s so much to learn from Salma, I can’t keep up. But my heart bleeds, for if the person who bore me cannot accept me, who would?
I master my gestures as quickly as possible, watching Salma from the corner of my eye so I can learn better; but when Martins finally arrives, the whole practice feels like a Shamble. I realise I can look and act like her, but I can’t be her. I can’t even strike up a conversation after the casual hello he passed my way. I am confused. I forgot to ask what Salma would do and say if seated next to her long- time crush. I try for a natural performance, and silence is the best I can put up.The dress, make- up and everything wouldn’t even make him pass a second glance. I feel broken within. I look at Salma now, so comfortable in her skin. She is everything I have practised for the past one hour, but it’s easy to tell a natural from one who is trying too hard to be real.
I begin to wonder maybe if I had come through as myself tonight, maybe it would have made a difference. Or maybe not? Maybe it is just a me- thing. Mum has said I am not the kind of girl a man falls for. Quickly, I make my exit from the hall for I fear I might be tempted to strip for release, if I spend one more minute there. Ignoring the many eyes that follow me and my limp through the door, I hail a cab and head home.
In my room, I am in a world of my own, trying to reconnect with the Selma I think I know. I hear that at birth, we are born blank… and the world informs what we do and who we become. Maybe it’s true, maybe not; I just think, importantly, we are who we are, not by choice, but by a force stronger than us. And it doesn’t define what we become or who we end up with, if we believe enough in our own strength. I understand that people cannot be as patient as we are with ourselves, so I forgive mum and every mother out there who thinks a child is not good enough. And I promise myself to embrace the clumsiness and nervousness that is me, because if I am ashamed of my own product, no one will buy it. I reckon that Salma, my twin, is gorgeous, brilliant, charismatic, and so much the girl you beg to love; while I am something more than her exact opposite, but I won’t love her less because the world makes me feel like her shadow. I won’t love her less because mum insists she is the definition of perfect, while I am the book of flaws…
‘Selma?’ Salma walks in on me and my thoughts now. I see the sadness in her eyes, mixed with a tinge of pity. I smile at her and hold my arms out for a hug.
‘I am fine.’ I assure her.
I feel her smile on my hair as she let’s out a sigh of relief. ‘I love you.’
‘I know darling. I love you too.’
We stay like that, locked in each others embrace for what seems like forever, and for me, that is bliss. I won’t love her less for anything in the world. I am who I am. She is who she is. And the world would have to adjust somehow, or take a leisure walk down the BRT lane.
I am Selma, and I am fine being me.
This bit was inspired by parents who erroneously, time and time again, compare one child with another child; or worse still, other children from other homes. I think it’s okay to want the best for your child, but rather than compare and hurt a child’s feelings by trying to make him/her like or better than someone else, understand him/her first and see how best you can help them be better than who they were every one time.
We are not perfect. No, far from it. But we hope that you see through our flaws to the light within us. See us. Beyond the face to the maze that makes us US.
© The Short Black Girl, 2015.