Dear African Woman,
Chacha Eke Faani, a renowned Nollywood actress said at one point in her weight loss video,
“Dear Women, there is an age-long projection that you have to do away with…”
This line alone inspired me to write this open letter to all of us African women about weight loss and our traditions.
So, in this letter, I am not going to encourage you at all to drop those sugars and junk. I won’t encourage you either to pick a dumbbell and do at least 20 squats after a few kilometers of jogging every morning. I won’t even try to suggest that you do the simple walk at home with Leslie Sansone. I will scold and mock you.
Earn Your Spot on the Fat Table
Dear African Women, there is an age-long projection that we have to do away with that when we have a baby or babies, we have to let our once beautifully aligned bodies relapse into oblivion.
There is this seedling planted in our minds by our wise grandmothers and mothers that immediately we turn 15 that it’s time to let go of childishness and embrace womanhood. Now womanhood in Africa (well, Kenya, where I come from), is determined by the progressive growth in our bodies, most especially our mid-sections.
This treacherous tradition tries to convince us that when we allow our young toned lithe bodies turn big, it makes us authentic African women ripe to be redeemed by a man of immense wealth and status quo.
To break it down a little bit, according to our rich traditions and culture, there is nothing sexy about slender and petite. To be truly a woman, we must embrace those love handles and paunch in our beautifully curved out torsos.
Spotting a couple of fat rings on our necks and thick flaps under our long arms earn us a certain level of status quo and respect. I mean, you are a woman now. It even qualifies us to finally join that most coveted infamous Women Chama! (investment groups).
Then there is this other thing. Now you have been redeemed by this rich tea farmer with endless acres of tea estates and a thousand fat cattle in the pen. He also doubles as the headmaster in a nearby Kipchengwere Primary School – what a stroke of luck! What more could you ask for, girl!
Mark Your Territory
So cometh this fashion thing of giving birth as soon as you enter that boma (marriage). These days, giving birth has turned into marking your territory with posts and electric barbed wires. So, when you give birth, you let your body flow with it because something inside you will lie to you that you have arrived.
The village women who will come to the tea party to welcome the bundle of joy after two weeks will reprimand you when you push away that thermo flask of Uji (porridge). Fat is the trophy of motherhood! They will advise you, trying to make you fat by all means! Girl, wear these trophies like they were pearls.
Your table will be arrayed with all sorts of food. Tall white family bread, blue band, a bottle of soda, a container of mursik (fermented milk), deep-fried chicken, leftover chips and untouched pizza. You will have to eat all these and get a bed rest to allow your body to manufacture sufficient milk for the baby.
For the next month, they will not allow you to move around or even lift a finger. You will sit still and know that they are at your service and that trim body you were married in; you will see it no more! They will only leave you alone once the fat starts protruding from that clinging bodycon dress you wore the day you went with your aunt Obot Cheming’ in to be introduced to the headmaster.
Brag, Compare and Compete
So, to a refined sound African woman, we weren’t played at all by our wise grandmothers and mothers. In those days, fat was a sign of bounty and wealth. Do you want them to gossip that your husband doesn’t feed you well? Do you want them to think that you have contracted HIV that they think killed his first wife?
Achicha kabisa (not at all), you have to give your husband something to hold unto throughout the night after a long day’s work. No sound African man would want to be pricked and knocked by protruding bones all night long after a tiring day.
Look like a sagging sack of mealie meal. Clog those arteries with the blue bands and fries and chicken drums he picks at Galitos every night on his way from school. Watch Afro Cinema late into the night snacking on that cake you normally bake every other three days with that tall bottle of Fanta Blackcurrant sitting conveniently nearby. As you do this, stretch out your elephant legs on the coffee table and throw a duvet cover over them because the thick lush sofa is now too small for you to curl in it.
Eat all the sugar you can lay your plump hands on. Don’t forget to snack on the mouthwatering Chipo mwitu (chips made on the roadside) every mid-day sold across the road by Mama Cherop. Lazy around the house all day eating like a pig as you order your house girl around to warm you that roasted meat in the fridge, and could she fry some sausages for you and bring them to bed because you have cramps?
On Saturdays, in fact, every Saturday, invite all your girls’ gang and make all the junk you can think of. Sit on the pouch the whole morning late into the afternoon gossiping about these campus girls who flaunt their evil bodies all over the place. Talk about how they lack manners these days and how they bewitch your husbands with their shameless bodies. Spice it up with how your heated men chase after them as though they were answering a cast spell.
Tell your friends stories about how your headmaster of a husband loves you so much that he spoils you with pizza four times a week and how he sends flowers and dark chocolates every other midday. Tell them about those late-night beers in bed together. Brag to them about how he promised to get you a Nissan Xtrail on your birthday to help you move around town easily.
Take it Out on Everyone
When you can no longer see some parts of your humongous body even with a 3D mirror, start hating on that newly employed tall, slim and young female teacher who just got employed at your husband’s school and lives across the hall. Tell everybody what a whore she is and how she throws herself at men just because she was offered a lift by that headmaster of a husband of yours.
Reprimand your younger sister who came to stay with you for the holidays and buy her oversized dresses and sweater. Make her dress like she is a member at Prophet Owuor’s church because her body is slender and shapely. In fact, you hate and covet the small of her back and the flat of her belly all at the same time. Tear apart and bring down your younger sister’s self-esteem because you are jealous of her 20yr old body.
Complain about that single mother with two grown kids yet she still spots her well countered 17-year-old body at 38. Wait, she is even 4years older than you, what a nerve! And why does she even run around every morning in those body-hugging biker shorts and matching boob tops? That husband snatcher exposes too much of her tiny midsection and her nicely rounded taut behind is outrageous, you should report her for indecency!
When you bump into her one morning jogging on your way to get wheat flour for pancakes, my sister, click so loudly and make those Mtchhhhhwww sounds at her. But my dear African sister, that will not make you lose that ugly fat in your body.
In fact, up your game and stalk her on Instagram. Do a diss photoshoot and caption about your curvaceousness and being a true African plus-size model. Talk about your plans to become a socialite and how you will join the infamous Nairobi Diaries.
When you have done all these, make sure to tag that annoying single mom and the young slender teacher with short bodycon dresses living across the hall. In fact, try to convince your celebrity headmaster of a husband to do a Reality TV Show dubbed; The Kiplasois. Sister, even with all these, you will not get the satisfaction that you yearn and long for. That of having a perfectly healthy body. Yes, we know David encouraged himself in the Lord and you are definitely trying to do so too. You have even gone out of your way to using unconventional yet ineffective means. We understand…
Pick Up Your Mat and Walk
Being an illuminated woman blessed with education, resources, and knowledge, I can well excuse our grandmas and Mas. Being a woman in their days was a cage I wouldn’t wish even my worst enemy to be in. I am not saying there wasn’t a good side to it, there was.
So, woman, what excuse do you have? Our Mas gave us what we have right now so that we can have better lives than them. Let me educate you, that includes living a healthy and fit lifestyle.
As we grew up, we were taught, “Once I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child but now I put away childish things.” According to African traditions, being childish includes running all over the place without being pursued (jogging) and patting your legs shamelessly in splits and squats. Aren’t we getting it twisted?
That when you are someone’s wife you should not pat your legs in splits or run around like a witch almost caught up by dawn at the wee hours. Nonsense, who are we deceiving? What is this we use to excuse our laziness and gluttony? What are these sob stories we come up with to justify and excuse our fat lazy self?
Pick up your mat and work that ass out!
Franca Chepkemoi | www.asiwomewrites | Kenya