I will lift my head adorned in straight skirts and dresses.

The society that grew me celebrated the ‘English’ figure. The reference has probably changed. But in our day this referred to a body with an almost flat behind.
This body could be adorned with almost  anything, anyhow. The owners had the luxury to move from a maxi dress, for example, to a skinny jean and the onlookers would cheer in approval. No lumps or curves showed on the dresses; no hips and behinds on the jeans. They didn’t need to cover up. They tucked in and belted up with their heads high; enjoying their freedom of expression.

You see, society is often founded on binary oppositions; approving of one usually means marginalising of the other. Thus an approval doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It a result of comparing and contrasting, of deliberately deciding which one should be adopted as proper and which shouldn’t. Thus in approving the ‘English’ figure, society was in a way disapproving the ‘non-English’.

Mine is a ‘non- English’ figure.

I am a self declared pear shaped. Whether it be the avocado pear or the normal pear fruit. That is how I describe the structure I walk in. Like the fruit, small upper body and broader bottom.

I don’t know when the awareness set in, but I grew up alert that people with my kind of body hide it. That the curves and corners should not be seen in public. So I grew up covering everything that fell outside what could be seen. Hear me right, I am all for decent dressing, but I have a problem when decent means ladies with pronounced behinds and hips should cover every part of their structure. When they are expected to pile layers of cloth over their bodies to conceal their curves and creases, hiding their make-up. But this was one of the commandment when I was growing.

I was discussing this with my elder sister last week. Her shock surprised me. I was telling her that I lived my life hiding under clothes, conscious of the bend and bulge society preferred invisible. I told her that I am alert to my ‘non-Englishness’ so much I’m uncomfortable when people walk behind me –  so I often slow down to let them pass – especially when the clothes are closer to my body.

 “I never could have imagined that. You have such a beautiful body” She said ” and you are so assertive I am surprised you are struggling with that”.

I must confess that I’m grateful for the blessing of assertiveness. I can handle a lot.

My sister was surprised that my affinity to A-line designs was not only a chosen fashion taste but was also a response to a disapproving culture. That it was an effort to blend in among the ‘English’ figured.

Because of my awareness of the expectations or maybe my genuflecting to them,  I am almost an expert on what prints, threads, textures of cloth hide the corners better. I don’t, wear, for example, skirts with horizontal stripes; my skirts are hardly light in colour and I do not wear skirts and dresses with big flower prints . What all these have in common is make the bottom part of the pear look broader, exaggerating its size.

But I got my Mojo back.

I will remember 2017  as the year when I stepped out of the societal shell. When I showed appreciation for my God given structure. I will celebrate my ‘non-Englishness’. My  A-line designs will probably still dominate but I will celebrate my new found freedom by daring other designs. The ones I have admired from a distance. I will, through clothes, challenge the view that the pear is too curvy to be allowed the freedom of dress.

I will still be decent, nevertheless.

Yes, I am aware of the influence of popular culture on what we deem the ideal body. Aware of the kind of body that dominates our media. But my chat is with the society that I often hear talk about and to this body. It is the society and not the media that is more immediate to me. Its voice whispers in my ears at every clothes shop, directing me to its approved  patterns; unwavering in its explanation on the inappropriateness of straight skirts and dresses on the curved and creased.

I am free at last.  This year I will ignore ‘banyana ba ga Mmangwato’ songs. I am not going to ask anybody to explain their “a o tswa kwa ga Mmangwato” questions. No. It is my year of celebrating this body. Of being fully aware of its deliberate shape and being grateful.

2017 I am daring the straight. I am lifting my head adorned in the straight and narrow. Come with me all yee pear shaped.

13 thoughts on “I will lift my head adorned in straight skirts and dresses.

  1. Motshidisi says:

    Oh wow. I hv always envied ladies with the pear shape as i felt clothes looked great on them. Coming from Serowe with an english figure always isolated me from the flock. I was always called by funny names… leburu… irioning board… shapeless… at 1st it bothered me until i decided i was pretty and u cnt take that away from me and was created by one above u. Thats when i stopped worrying myself. Society can confuse u if u dnt stand for urself. You r beautiful Oesi and keep rocking that figure 4 us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was a good attitude to adopt early in life Tshidi. Society is difficult to please. I’m just grateful it didn’t dent my self esteem. Bug of course it denied my some other beautiful cuts.
      I’m coming out indeed.

      Like

  2. Enele says:

    I would never have imagined this being an issue, I guess if I had ever picked it up, I’d have passed if off as ‘your over-sensitive’ nature. To borrow your words, one wonders if this is another binary, two-phased manifest of a rich, creative mind?
    Is it real or imagined societal expectaction/approval of the English figure? Could it be jealousy by those without the quintessentially African ‘print’ or perhaps just confusion brought about by the ephemera of sophistication of post-colonialism, wanting to belong like the Frenchmen of West Africa?
    One can’t say with any certainty, but let 2017 be the year of real people, genuine in their ways and comportment: warts, pear-shaped and all. As the French would say, liberte. It’s about time true Africans liberated themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nkah says:

    Amazing how we hear different things on the same issue. I think you were too conscious of your bottoms, more than society approved English figure. I believe our society had/has little room for English figured women. It was/is common go utwa ngwanyana a sotlwa gotwe gaana leha ele leragonyana; ga go itsewe gore a o tswakwa kgotsa o yakwa etc. Yet ba difigura bane ba bokwa. All names Setswana names for hips aa di boka. I can’t remember a negative name. My take is, you became too conscious and it’s good you taking a decision to free yourself from the prison.

    This post reminded me that many times it is about how we hear people, than what people actually say. So girlfriend, bon voyage in the exploring different cuts, prints and fabrics.

    Like

    • Do you know songs that reference to behinds as ‘matoroko a terena’. Do you there are more bad jokes about the so called ‘banyana ba Serowe/Bangwato’ than there is about any women from others tribes?. You might correct about my being too conscious but it was a result of hearing disapproving tones.

      Like

  4. Sedirwa says:

    So you only just came out of the cocoon yesterday.
    Well everything happens for a reason and rather than view the societal oppression you lived under negatively look at the positive results it has yielded into you. Thank society and it’s sometimes unwritten and misguided moral guidelines.
    At least you are not too old to enjoy the liberty nor too young to be over swept by the liberty you have just discovered.

    Like

    • Just now have come out, atleast on straight cuts.
      Yes society both helped and maybe even maimed me. It should thus shoulder some of the blame for others of my shape who will never know freedom.

      Like

  5. Goitse says:

    Pear shaped and very proud. Maybe fortunately for me I grew up amongst very positive people who always emphasised how great my pear shape was.

    Like

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