To comfort myself about the complete dearth in palatable prospects, recently (we will NOT mention the 64-year old German man who, last, week, sent me a lovely short message –to which I replied with a polite thanksbutnothanks-type message–…. then criminally followed it up with three emails containing ten pages each of ‘I love you’s, poems and declarations, attached to which were three thousand pictures of himself, his home, and his 4 year old whom I am supposed to mother. He’s DARLING cute and I’ve no objection to step-motherdom but… Almighty. The wife of a psycho? Happy to say I’m not THERE yet. In fact, I have a guilty secret I have to share with you, if I’m to be as honest as I profess and believe muyself to be…
But that’s for next Friday. Today, I am going to end your week by sharing with you the story of Eiyah, which my mother told me, when we were recently discussing the question of Chemistry.
I never get tired of complaining about how lucky men are, and have made quite a skillful patter of listing the advantages of their sex while I’m having a bitching session about my oh-so tragic love life –usually to my mother, who finds it hilarious. I sincerely believe, for example, that given time, a woman could allow herself to fall in love with almost any man. Men, on the other hand, have a distinct taste for their kind of woman. And girls, Mum (a very, very wise woman), and I agree –if a man is giving you the vibes that he doesn’t want you romantically? Give it up. He doesn’t. And he never will. Better to move on than to pine or to make a fool of yourself, which is something that you’ll later spend a good amount of time actually trying to physically kick yourself for. When a man knows –he knows. Which may be slightly disheartening, but is also quite romantic and freeing to think about, as there’s no telling who’s type you are. I quite happily imagine the man of my dreams stopping in his tracks during some party on some enchanted evening, arrested by the sight of my perfectly put-together self, just as I gracefully throw my head back (in slow motion, bien entendu) and emit the most fairy tale-charming-like tinkle of laughter, in response to a joke made by another guest who is interested in me, but has no chance at all. My Prince, having shortly recovered from his astonishment at finally having found his One and Only, would then hand his glass absently to the person near him, and murmur “That is the girl I am going to marry,” before (again, in slow motion) making his way accross the room to me. Our eyes would meet, then lock.. and two months later, I’d be married and expecting our first bundle of joy. OK, I’ll stop this nonsense, and keep it for my own happy place.
Right! Back to Eiyah. The story of Eiyah is a true story, and happened when my mother was a young girl in her village of G_____, in Kenya. Incidentally, thi story centres on the perception of Beauty, which is SUPER relative. Any of you who believe you are an Ugly Duckling may surpeised to be informed that, imagined flaws and all –you’re Somebody’s Ideal Type!
The Story of Eiyah (Part I)
Eiyah was so-called because, on the day she was born, an aunt of hers visited, who had come to congratulate the couple on the birth of this, their first daughter. Eagerly, she made her way to the main bedroom, and peering closely into the coverings of the bundle the mother held close to her, abruptly jumped back with a shocked exclamation of “EIIIYYYAHHH!!!” The child, you see, was ugly. So very ugly, in fact, that the name Eiyah stuck, and continued to describe her as she grew up into early womanhood. Whereas other girls enjoyed smooth, light brown skin (the first indication of beauty) Eiyah was very dark. Where other girls tended to grow to a height perfectly suitable for laying one’s head on a man’s chest, Eiyah, if she ever were so fortunate as to land a man, would have to be content with laying her head on his shoulder, as she was tall. Whereas other girls compared body parts (as young girls do) admiring polite, manageable breast sizes, the evenness and whiteness of teeth, and only the slenderest of ankles, wrists and waists, Eiyah’s graduation from puberty and adolescence had been so complete as to leave her no almost no girlish traits whatsover. Her breasts were full and generous, her waist was slender, but gave way to hips which, though firm and perfectly porportioned, seemed to advertise her fertility. There was nothing admirable about her ankles or wrists, which were strong from work, and which she never bothered to adorn with bracelets, as they only got in the way.
Those were the good old African days when life was simple, and the idyll of village life continued to triumph over the slow but steady upset of modermisation, technical innovation and city life madness. Girls of a marriageable age worked hard during the day, helping out in the shambas (crop fields) but sunset signalled the winding up of the day, and the beginnings of preparation for an evening of socialising. At that time, all the beautifuk girls went in happily chatting group to the river, where they gathered up firewood, cutting and placing them in neat stacks, then drew water for their homes in large gourds. Finally, they would withdraw to the bathing spot, where they would thoroughly scour away the dirt and dust of the day, allowing their beautiful skin to glow gently in the pale light. Their ablutions completed, they formed a communal snake, each girl heaving up her stack of firewood onto the next girl’s back, and helping her settle the gourd on top of her head. Thus finally laden, they slowly, and loudly made their way homeward through the well-beaten forest paths, fully aware that the young men, now back from the fields, would be taking every opportunity to gaze upon them in admiration. This was the routine for all of the young women of the village, that is, except of Eiyah. Shunned by all of the other girls for her ugliness, she usually struggled alone all day, heaving up her own stacks of firewood, and coming back for the water. She almost never attended the occasional village dances because, whereas the village beauties arrived in a blaze of popularity, and almost never sat down, so vigourously were they pulled into dance after dance by handsome prospective husbands, she had never once been asked, and had to content herself by watching the event. She had accepted that she was ugly, and her being shunned by the other girls meant that she never went visiting, as they frequently did, never partook of any gossip, and instead learned to be quite self-sufficient. She had the love of her parents and her family, and she was happy to work hard for them.
The village population, though differing on innumerable subjects, many of which had to be resolved by the Chief and other recognised elders, did agree on a single thing. The best-looking, most attractive, most sought after, most eligible bachelor in it was Njao, son of Njao. Tall, strong and perfectly proportion, aside from being handsome, he had long been the target of the most beautiful girls in the village, each of whom daily expected the arrival of Njao Senior with their dowry and a formal proposal on behalf of his son, as dictated by tradition. Every sunset was a chance for them to show off their wares, in the neat way they cut and tied up firewood, in the graceful way they balanced the heaviest gourd upon their heads, in the glowing cleanliness of their uncovered skin, in the dainty, beautiful adornments they made and wore to compliment their arms, wrists, waists and ankles. Every dance was a chance to wriggle those hips as enticingly as came up to the borderline of slutty, and a chance to show Njao (who danced sparingly) how popular they were with the other eligible bachelors in the village. Yet month followed month, and Njao, it seemed, had not yet made his choice of bride. Those less good-looking girls gave up the dream and accepted modest proposals from other men, while the most beautiful pridefully held out for Njao, convinced that he would be sending over his father any day.
Njao, in fact, had long made his choice, and if he did not speak, it was only because he was well aware of his status in the village, and, being a rather shy, retiring man, detested the idea of the hullabaloo that would no doubt follow his making his intentions public. Having quietly ruminated on his problem in three thousand ways, he finally decided on the most daring course of action, and, one sunset, quietly beckoned aside three of his closest friends, who were returning from the fields along with him.
Njao: “Dudes,” he began, “the girls are just now leaving the bathing area, and making their way back home through the forest.
Dude 1: Duh… where do you think we’re headed? I want a good look at that Nyakio creature. I’m almost sure that she’ll have me if I ask…
Dude 2: In your dreams, Dude. Nyakio’s WAY out of your league. You’d qualify for… Wanjiku. Or maybe Nyambura, though even she’s too hot for you.
Dude 3: You’re just saying that because you want Nyakio. And you don’t qualify for her either, because only I do. Well… me and Njao. If he wants her. What do you think of Nyakio, Njao?”
Njao: I don’t want Nyakio, and you’re welcome to her. I need you guy to do me a favour.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3: Sure, man. Whatever you need. Righto.
Njao: The girls are on their way back home, but Eiyah isn’t yet. She’s always the last.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3: So? And? What of it?
Njao: I need you guys to go and grab her, and bring her to me.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3 (pop-eyed): You want what? I didn’t hear that. What did you say, old fellow?
Njao: I said…
Dude 1: We heard you, only… Why on earth would you want us to grab that bitch?
Dude 2: He said grab her, and bring her to him. What the hell do you want with her?
Dude 3: You did say grab, eh what?
Njao (succintly): Just grab her and bring her to me. I’m going to marry her.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3 (collapsing with laughter): Njao please, man! Oh no, that’s too killing! Don’t kid us like that old chap, I have a stitch!!!
Njao (calmly): I’m serious.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3 (pop-eyed, but slowly sobering.) I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it either. Nor do I.
Njao: Are you guys going to help me or what? Hurry up! She should be on the path now. Just grab her, and bring her to me by that copse of trees. Make sure you’re not seen, and be as quick as you can about it.
Dudes 1, 2 and 3 (suddenly going into action): OK. OK! On our way! (as they run off): Fool’s done lost his damn mind. I always knew he wasn’t quite right. Lost his marbles properly, eh what?
Eiyah was duly kidnapped, and eventually concealed at Njao’s home.