If you spent your childhood in Uganda, you know that there’s no place for shyness and sensitivity here. We manufacture the evilest, most creative bullies and all the playgrounds have too few functioning slides and swings. In my hood, you could only get away with your sweet, flowery, unassertive ways if you had a violent older sibling who watched you all the time to make sure that nobody stole your lindazi or if you had a deck and many Disney cartoons at your house. Otherwise it was necessary to act like a little gangster.
I didn’t have older siblings and the only tapes at my house were The Ten Commandments and Alice in Wonderland, so I had to work hard at perfecting a tough façade. Being naturally demure, this was terribly hard and confusing. Gangster Apenyo would come out in the most inappropriate places like Sunday school and make me loud and argumentative while sweet; sensitive me would wait for when I most needed to be tough to make an appearance- like on the playground where kids were always trying to cheat each other out of swing time. Occasionally, I’d get things right and yell, “Get off the swing or I’ll spit in your nose!” but most of the time, I was trying hard to wear the right personality at the right time.
Years later, in the world of grownups, things are still confusing. Most people expect you to be demure and accommodating because you’re female and call you aggressive if you so much as have an opinion. For example:
#1: Boy says something; Girl maintains eye contact with the floor and giggles. Boy: I conclude that this chick is cool and not intimidating at all. Will you marry me, chick?
#2: Boy says something; Girl makes an equally witty/withering/clever/retort. Boy: Why do you have opinions? You’ll never find love with all those opinions of yours. You even have penis envy! (This has happened)
Excuse me? When did opinions become male? Anyway, it’s taken me five years to reach a comfortable level of femininity and it doesn’t include being demure, poised or even sensible. Being inappropriate, bubbly and awkward is worlds more fun. If you don’t agree, you need to watch Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, fall in love with her and be influenced by this love to agree with me. Because I don’t have the space to map my seriously entertaining journey to womanhood, which was my intention when I began this article, I’ll give just the first milestone. Step.
For the longest time, my feet were two shades lighter than the rest of my body. Why? Because they always had at least three films of dirt on them. It must have had something to do with the way I walked. This didn’t bother me until the Agataliko nfu fu incident. I was getting out of class one Saturday when I saw the love of my life (of the week) approaching me. I’d spent the whole morning in that class so I’m not sure how they managed to accumulate so much dirt, but as he got closer, his focus shifted from my grinning face to my feet. He didn’t say anything vocally but the look on his face yelled, “Wow. What dirty feet. I have only just realized how bad they always look. I can’t handle taking a girl with such shady feet for a walk around the school. My self esteem isn’t sufficient. The shame will kill me.” and he turned around and went back to hostel.
This is when I discovered wet wipes.