You liked the pyjama trousers he was wearing. It was the only thing you fixed your gaze on so you found yourself liking it.…
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Once while I was having a session with two of my favourite people in the world, the one who reminds us–my friends and I–of Rick from Rick n Morty asked me, “what’s it like being so beautiful?”.
I squirmed immediately. I am just getting out of my self depreciating phase and blossoming into the self worth/love phase, so I do not know yet how to not get thrown off guard by compliments. I didn’t even know how to respond, I sat there staring at the window avoiding eye contact and feeling embarrassed. I do know I’m beautiful, I just never accepted that other people must know too so later when I came back home and was overthinking events of the day as I normally do, I realized that people actually do know and most times I don’t like that they know.
“What’s it like being so beautiful?”
It’s suffocating. It’s unnecessary attention. Not unwanted mind you, I love the attention most times, but it’s unnecessary and other times I’m irritated as hell. This is what happens when I have to step out of my house;
It begins with my mother, when I walk to her room to tell her I’m leaving, looking like she’s the luckiest woman on earth for having a daughter with a face like mine which then immediately morphs into looking like she wished she could lock me up like Rapunzel for ever because she’s knows what happens when people see something beautiful they wish they could have and she fears that I’m not emotionally mature enough to tackle such predatory. Am I though? I used to think that acknowledging my facial prowess would make people hate my pride and my guts so for a long time I sat on it, believed that it wasn’t there.(I am a people pleaser so godforbid I had pride that people would hate me for). This didn’t prove difficult to do considering I had been struggling with low self esteem for a long time. So once upon a time I’d be so strung on whoever called me beautiful and would respond in the way that they would want me to which more often than not included sending nudes to prove or getting sexually involved to appreciate. But I’ve evolved and that is behind me now. I am therefore actually more mature now but of course mummy doesn’t know that yet, because it seems I would always be a naive little girl in her eyes, so every time before I step out she goes “don’t allow anybody deceive you in the name of how beautiful you are”, “you’re too beautiful to let yourself be used by any man”, “beauty without brains or manners is just foolish”, “your beauty is not something you have to share with anyone”, “don’t smile with anybody so they don’t feel like they have to walk up to you and want to have you”, “try not to make yourself too obvious” by this last one, she means; “no need for makeup”, “don’t style your hair like that it’ll bring attention to your face”, “don’t wear that your face is already too beautiful don’t bring attention to your body” and of course the impending paranoia of getting kidnapped; “people will see you and think we have all the money in the world, don’t give them any reason to believe that because if you get kidnapped, all I would be able to do is wail and pray”. I have gotten kidnapped, twice, but my memories of it are repressed and I only remember that it happened at all because she keeps reminding me each day. This also happens with my sister by the way who is just as beautiful. Everyday my mother, and me too, worry that male teachers are ogling my sister in highschool, that male seniors are trying to touch her or that her classmates or friends would one day get envious to the point of bringing harm upon her (this is how she raised me too so I spent most of my early years and pre teen thinking that every girl must hate me because I am prettier and this fear had me avoiding a lot of girls and they must have noticed because growing up, especially in highschool, I realized that a lot of girls did not like how I behaved towards them. And I always thought that surely they must hate me and went about living like they were my highschool bullies when in fact it was I who was acting like a bitch thanks to how my mother conditioned me to think “as a beautiful girl you MUST always be wary of other girls”. I try as much as I can to teach my sister otherwise so she doesn’t grow up thinking like I did). It never happens with my brother though, she praises him instead; “I can only imagine how many girls are dying to have you” with a proud beam on her face but she worries still that someone would act on their jealousy or envy towards him.
By the time I’ve left the house, I’m already feeling quite unsafe with how I look and I subconsciously walk head bent to hail a cab. Being beautiful makes you an easy to spot prey.
Standing by the road waiting for a cab, I’ve already had five people walk past who call me beautiful, another five who use their eyes to either tell me “damn, I do definitely want to eat you up” or “damn, is she even real”. Sometimes the latter is fear; “that one na mami wata” like being this beautiful can only mean I’m something demonic. I have always known I am beautiful I’ve just never thought it was this bad. I only started to notice how intense it was when I started meeting people who worshipped and glorified me.
On some days I’m lucky—but not so lucky—and get a lift to where I’m headed. I’m sure you’re well aware of the many possibilities that could happen to a beautiful girl in the car of a stranger. I fold up in the passenger seat formulating escape plans in my head over and over because godforbid this man decides he can’t bear it any longer and proceeds to force himself on this beautiful girl. It happens in subtle ways some times, when they touch my ear or my nose or even my lips; when they hold my arm or link their fingers with mine, when they pretend to adjust my collar or remove an inexistent loose thread from my skirt: when they go as far as trailing a finger from adjusting the loose collar to my cleavage, when they go as far sweeping their palm over my thighs after removing the inexistent loose thread, when they look me dead in the eye and I can see that I’m already naked in their heads (in a situation where we’re both standing they hug me too hard pressing my boobs with their chest or their arms hug to low grazing the top of my buttcheeks). These things do actually sexually incite me but that doesn’t make it right or cancel out the fear that deep down, I’m on the verge of a panic attack. In nonsexual cases, the admirer expresses entitlement, they want to own me in the way one wants to own an artifact, an expensive historical art and then they want to hide me for themselves alone in the way Rapunzel was locked away, in the way one keeps diamonds and jewelleries in display but out of reach. In some occasions, its to my advantage, I get gifts, free lunches, I’ve things paid for with just a snap of my finger but always my mother’s voice looms in my head “remember that no man does anything for free especially with how beautiful you are. They will want something from you in return” nine and half times out of ten, she’s right.
If I don’t get a free lift, I board a cab and it’s either the cabbie thinks I’m rich enough to pay extra care or give him financial support (Nigerians have a bad habit of thinking that beautiful people must have lots of money they’re using to maintain the beauty), or he too flirts. And it’s always so embarrassing because there are other people in the car listening to what he’s telling me and I always get confused on how to respond. Should I call him off? No people would think I’m rude. Should I entertain the conversation? No people would think I’m cheap. Should I just keep mute? No people would think “she thinks she’s so beautiful when in fact she’s not”. It’s constant chaos in my head. I know I should do whatever I want to do without bothering about people’s opinions (which is what I’ve started doing) but it doesn’t get rid of the fact that I’m already feeling very embarrassed and uncomfortable.
Sometimes it’s both the cabbie and a passenger trying to flirt. Sometimes it’s two passengers struggling to pay my fare and get my number. Sometimes, like recently, it’s a passenger trying to coerce me to alight with him to his destination. It was his audacity for me, “you really expect I would follow a man I met 10 minutes ago to his house to ‘hangout’ just because he called me beautiful?” And of course his reply was, “who do you think you are? Is it because I’m begging you? You’re not even that fine sef”.
Lekpashawtie said once, “look for where men buy their audacity and get yours”. Men must think their lustfilled compliments is enough too woo a woman and make her fall/comply.
In rare cases when I’ve gotten to my destination and I have to come out of a car, a guy would rush to open the door for me “because you’re too beautiful to open the door yourself”. I get statements like that a lot from admirers, you’re too beautiful for this or you’re too beautiful for that. Or when it comes to being financially capable, “fine girl like you cannot order bolt?”, “fine girl like you cannot buy iPhone”. Sometimes prices get increased when I stop to buy, other times I don’t have to buy at all because, “it’s an honour having a fine girl like you patronise me” and I know that they mean well, but it always, always leaves me so annoyed! Like my whole existence is revolving around my pretty face. I want to be seen beyond that.
And it’s not just how I look, it’s how I act, how I think, all the things I just happen to be out of luck. One time a friend of mine who had begun taking YouTube tutorials on how to do makeup used my face to practice her brows. Half way she stopped and said “you are so lucky…” I ask why and she said “you’re like a wish come true. Your hair is so dark and so thick and so long, even your brows and lashes. Even your pubic hair guyyy! And your face is perfect and your smile is beautiful and your body is so fine, you can do anything, put on anything and it would come out perfect like your badly placed piercings that look just right on your ears. Your skin is flawless your legs are sexy and you’re so smart and have these so many talents, you’re just so lucky I don’t understand how you’re so insecure about yourself”.
I was so caught off guard I didn’t dare breathe. I looked at her face expecting to see hatred/jealousy but what I saw instead was confusion and pity and she must’ve been thinking, “how can someone who has it all be acting like they don’t have anything at all?”
I am too conscious and insecure of how appalling I look. Makes me feel like this is a burden I have to bear. My face felt and still feels like weight, like baggage.
This weight gets heavier in scenarios like waiting to get a cab admist other women and a car rolling to a stop offering to give only me a lift. I get so embarrassed I want the ground to swallow me up. Or when I’m with friends and only I get male attention, i start to feel uneasy about how that might make them feel. It’s probably all in my head and my friends don’t feel anyhow about it still I find myself underdressing, numbing myself down a bit so I don’t shine too much or at all. Whenever I get singled out for a favour or an opportunity because of how I look, I start to get survivors guilt. I start to think “do I really deserve this or am I just lucky to be beautiful?”… This causes people to have an image of me that depicts a spoilt-lazy-girl-whose-life-has-been-made-easy-because-of-the-favours-she-receives-from-admirers. It’s advantageous, yes. I shouldn’t bother about what people think of me, yes. It’s not all that bad, probably. But sometimes it’s gets so bad I feel selfish and wicked.
Another problem with being all of this are the expectations thereof. I just happen to fall under the cringe category of “beauty with brains”. Society succeeded in making me feel like my beauty has to be validated intellectually. I’m always expected to live up to the status of being beautiful, and smart. My first year in highschool was the first time I came back home with a bad result, my dad said it was distraction of being away from home for the first time (I went to a boarding school) but my mum feared that I was being carried away with how beautiful I am that I wasn’t concentrating as she was not there to constantly remind me that my beauty without brains was invalid and mocked. She also feared that one boy had been baited and hooked and was now distracting me in the name of love. My second year in highschool when I got suspended for kissing a junior student during night prep, the latter was confirmed. And all she kept saying was “you think you’re the only beautiful girl in your school who’s kissable? You think your beauty means anything if you keep allowing people to kiss you anyhow” to me it felt like it wasn’t that I had done something wrong but that it had happened because I’m beautiful and that I should somehow find a way to hide my beauty till I got married to a man who wouldn’t kiss me out of wedlock.
You’re either sexually objectified for being beautiful or being made inferior because you’re not as smart as you’re beautiful. Whenever I don’t reach the expectation of ‘beauty and brains’ I hear things like “fine for nothing”, “as she fine like this she no come get sense” and it’s always so disgusting like you’re saying if I were ugly no one would expect me to have straight A’s? And then I go to stand in front of the mirror, my reflection and I wondering if life would get easier if I found the guts to douse my face with acid.
People tell me I have no right feeling burdened or guilty for being beautiful but it overwhelms me, I have social anxiety and the last thing I want is this kind of recognition. When I have sessions, I want to be remembered as the girl with the dope playlist and lit vibes not “if you see her ehn, she too fine. She come sabi better music and get mad vibes sef”. People think in all my attributes, my beauty comes first before any other thing. I’m rarely ever the girl who just paints but the beautiful girl who even knows how to paint, like the other things I am capable of are just added deserts to my whole meal of a face when it should be the other way around.
I also have to deal with people’s infatuations and jealousy. Someone would wake up one day after having obsessive thoughts of me for three days and automatically conclude that they’re in love with me and most times demand that I love them back. Or when I’m in an entanglement with someone and they get jealous and insecure over the compliments I receive from strangers when we go out, or from the way people stare, or from comments when my picture goes up on social media. My partners would say when I tell them not to worry, “I know how these things work, someone is going to offer you something I can’t offer and then you’ll realize I’m no match for you” or they’ll think I’m so beautiful I deserve someone better and I have to constantly assure them that they are who I choose regardless of all the other ‘better’ they think I deserve. It’s almost like I intimidate my partners with how I look. It has gone as far as not being introduced to their other friends or not being posted online or having public dates because they wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from overthinking what other people would think when they see how beautiful I am.
Also, everything I do is always judged on how beautiful I am; “she’s such a flirt because she thinks she’s so beautiful”, “look at her wearing provocative clothes as if being beautiful is not enough”, “see how she’s behaving because she wants us to notice that she’s beautiful”, “she did what? She thinks she has the right to do anything she wants because she’s beautiful”. People hate on me for having beauty privileges and it sort of hurts cause it’s really not my fault.
“What is it like being so beautiful?”
I know of lot of beautiful girls who relish in their glory and love every bit of it and I envy that. In my own case, I’ve been groomed and conditioned to see my beauty as a threat, as something that could bring shame and harm and judgement upon me. I wish it were like a switch, I’d turn on the beauty for paid modelling and when I’m trying to impress a crush then I’d turn it off when I’m trying to melt. (I didn’t even get to narrate how it’s difficult to not be noticed by predatory lecturers in school who make my school life a living hell because they too want this beauty for themselves. All I literally want to do is blend in and not be noticed by such people).
“What’s it like being so beautiful?”
I hate it and I love it at the same time. I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to the compliments but I know I am already tired of the unnecessary attention, not the attention in general, just the unnecessary ones because really, who doesn’t love to be praised for being beautiful?
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