December, 2014. Nigeria.
I'm at the braider's shop, three girls tugging my head in all directions, making my wonderful 20" braids. I was leaving Nigeria the following day and I was making flawless individually-trimmed "feathers". Delight. We were all having the regular saloon-chat. We were talking about Tiwa Savage, who was on TV at the moment. There were just 3 of us getting our hair done.
We were all married, I was the most recently wed. One of them kept staring at me (let's refer to her as (Tee). I wasn't sure why she was staring. Well, I had an idea.
Brow raiser 1
The third lady (let's call her Dee) speaks. Dee says, 'Look at Tiwa!' (in the familiar way Nigerians refer to Tiwa Savage like we just had lunch with her earlier). She continues, 'She's looking so well rounded and motherly, like a real married woman'. Side glance at me.
Awkward silence. (By now you might have guessed that I am not "well-rounded").
No point being sensitive. I break the silence by saying something about Tiwa's wedding in Dubai.
Brow raiser 2
Tee has been squirming in her seat, like a four-year-old on a plane with no entertainment , looking at herself in the mirror, examining her braids, looking at me, glancing at the TV, then at me. Then she lets it out : 'Sister',she looks straight at me 'I wasn't too sure you were married, you are so skinny! Isn't your husband feeding you?'
I took three deep breaths. One for all the retorts that flooded my mind, including a low blow about her weight (the sister-code forbids this). I couldn't do it anyway, even though she had just blatantly attacked mine! However, no one cares about your feelings when you are skinny. What was the right response to this? It was either I let one out or I take the higher road.
So who made this rule that married people should be fat?
It’s just expected by the Tee’s of the world that you become fat after driving into the sunset! They say "It means your husband is taking care of you" or " it means your wife cooks for you ". When I got married I subconsciously believed this, to be honest. The time had come to gain a little weight, so people like Tee could nod in approval and welcome me into the fold.
And guess what happened to me…..yup, the let-go happened! You know the post-nuptial-let-go.
I got fat (the real F word), I stopped dressing up, had heavy lunches and survived the food-coma it brought, minimal exercise and I was missing out on those awesome endorphins!!!!!!! (Although I was getting them from other sources *clears throat*). Marriage had become my plush cushion where nothing was particularly demanded from me. It was like the chill-period after a mean lioness hunt (aka dating).
I officially admit to letting myself go a little (it takes courage to admit). This is the first time I’m actually admitting, denial was bliss but that’s over now. You know what they say about admitting being the first stage to recovery.
Anyway, I started gettingmyself together, hitting that gym, gurgling smoothies (the green ones, the real deal),healthy portions, more lean meat, vitamins, dressing up (even at home), no late-loafing-around-showerless days (I've never done that, I hear it's gross but liberating) . I was in shape, full of energy and looking wonderful. Enter Tee. I think Tee would have liked the post-nuptial-let-go me….. but we’ll never know.
I smiled at Tee in the mirror and said 'Yes, I am married'. That sufficed. Team high road.
She seemed surprised or offended or both, at my answer. Dee looked offended too. They probably would talk about me to their other married friends and then get over it.
In retrospect, I should have thanked Tee for putting things in perspective. Marriage doesn't mean stuff yourself to prove your spouse is taking care of you or that you both are in a good place. It also most definitely does not excuse the let-go. I'm reminding myself every day that marriage is not the boost to complacency.
Easier said than done.
Daily selfies are a way to track and motivate. Self-loving vanity with a twist of revival.