Bitch. Woman. Lady. I’ll go with woman.

“They don’t see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch.”

Changing the way women are portrayed in the media is not going to be easy, but with rappers like Lupe Fiasco releasing songs that get people thinking about the labels they place upon their foreheads, we’re getting there.

(Who is as excited as I am about the massive dumps being taken on Minaj’s head? I see them and they make me happy.)

Thank you, Lupe.

My entire HEL/D class was obsessed with law. We were told we wouldn’t amount to much if we failed/ refused to get into law school. I rebelled against my father and my mind by wiggling my way into Mass Communication (thank the Lord). Balamaga has written a sad and amusing post about what it really means to be a law student in Uganda. Enjoy.

Every experience is writing material

Things They Haven’t Told You About Studying Law.

My dear friend Qatahar, I heard the news about your admission to the noble course and I was really excited about your achievement. Finally! You’re just 5 years away from attaining your childhood (if not your father’s) dream. I know you asked for this pep talk a while ago but having failed to make the time to meet you in person, I’ve decided to write you this letter. I’ve sent it open, I hope you won’t mind.

In this, I give you a sneak-peek into what you’re going to experience- if the things I’ve heard and witnessed are anything to go by. I’ll try to concentrate on what you may not have been told (purposely or inadvertently) by the people who encouraged you take the path of the learned fellows. You’ll have to forgive me if this letter comes off as…

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Bazanye has won my Birthday.

Too awesome, this.

Look what Baz made for me. I am too full of squee. I shouldn’t even be here. This is like drunk-texting.

Ernest Bazanye is Uganda’s funniest man. Really. I’m lucky to have him as a mentor and a friend. He makes my life wulululious and not only because he’s really good with photoshop.

I’ll toast to me.

I’m passionate, no, manic, about my birthday. With the way I carry on sometimes, you’d think that the month of August was chosen specially for me to be born in and everybody else in the history of ever had to be squeezed into the other months.

My celebrations usually begin on the 1st of August. I wear something bright and lovely, phone all the people that I can easily manipulate (because of how much they love me) and then go shopping or eating or dancing or all the above. This goes on until around the 15th of the month when a strange calm envelopes me, but only until the clock strikes midnight on the 19th – then I erupt in a series of whoops, giggles, large grins and dance routines.

By the morning of my birthday, I have ascended into a mental state that only allows my words to leave my mouth in short! Squeally! bursts! I walk almost everywhere on this day to avoid imploding and treat myself to the most expensive self-gift of the year. Whichever lucky (or unlucky) establishment I choose patronize has to bear my incessant chattering, bouncing, clapping and vicious bargaining because it is my birthday after all. They should be generous.

My 22 has been a year of writing, massive personal growth, love and baldness. I include baldness because it is not going to feature in my next year. My period of open mourning for my mother ends in September which means I can allow myself to grow, style and be vain about hair once again. I hadn’t planned to do this, had in fact decided to go bald for as long as it took me to stop feeling crippled by Ma’s death, but that is not going to happen. I may as well let my kaweke out of its box.

The opportunities I’ve been blessed with this year have been immense and I finally got to contribute to African Woman Magazine- something that had been on my to-do list from the time I first read it. My relationship with them didn’t end so well however as they went under, taking my stories and remuneration with them. I have long stopped fantasizing about throwing shit-bombs at the editor (and owner) but the sadness of achieving, then un-achieving my dream has stayed with me.

I have been disabused of my silly belief that I am a commitment phobe. This is as a direct result of my meeting somebody that I am compatible with, that I will spend at least 10 years trying to avenge on the event that he is murdered. I have often been described as difficult to love (remember kids, if it’s said often enough, it’s a compliment), and so finding eki laavu laavu was not one of my goals when I was crossing the age bridge last year.  It’s a very pleasant addition to my list of achievements. Life without love sucks.

I have read a lot about women and women issues and women’s writing and advice which has turned me into a feminist (of the sheepish variety). I’m not yet super confident about expressing my opinions because I’m afraid that I will believe something completely different the next minute. I also still suffer from ‘don’t-be-threatened-by-me syndrome’ which involves me downplaying my achievements and/ or being overly self-deprecating, but according to the internet and my older friends, that’s just one other thing to triumph over in your twenties.

Excitoss is kilinji me!

Happy Birthday, me.

Friday’s post, an outfit and an embarrassing story.

I attended my first TVC shoot on Friday (the one I’d been choreographing the children for).  After two hours of cut! repeat! run around! look bored! dance! dance! dance! the kids became irritable. Personally, I was ready to kick the music system over and my lower abdomen was cramping ominously.

That I hadn’t posted my mumsy outfit and story of the day was making me tetchy, especially because the dress had become streaked with grass stains and what looked like crushed millipedes.

The filming went on so long, I thought I was going to miss the premiere performance of The River and the Mountain. That I didn’t cry at all is a sign that my tear buds are finally getting a life.

Here’s the Friday post:

Today is dull and angsty. Not even the sound of children playing “by shoe I love you baby” at the reception is making me happy. I’ve been considering feeling upset, like deciding on it, but that will violate my resolution to bring more rationality to my life.

My temper flares a lot. I return to happiness quickly, but the flaring hurts feelings (sorry is not magic. People have to feel like forgiving you) and it entertains some very sick people, some of whom are my friends (bastards).

One of the dumbest things I’ve done while irrationally angry is paint “You’re a stupid, stoopid jerk” or some such on the white door of some boy’s muzigo. I even broke some eggs on the veranda and placed roasted beaver feet on the yolks to make him think witchcraft was a-brew. This was in revenge of him finding love and ceasing to like/need me.

The next time we met, he shook his head and laughed. Laughed! And then I had to go around feeling paranoid that he’d blab to our friends and they’d think me silly or lonely or petty or all of the above.

Things had been going OK between us (I thought) when he stopped feeding me attention. I was unhappy about the sudden silence and even more unhappy when I found out that he’d found-found somebody.

The am-I-not-pretty-enough/am-I-flawed questions didn’t spare me. I’d spent so much time battling that shit and was certain I’d made incredible progress until this stuff happened and I found myself standing in front of a mirror, trying to find my pretty. Those were icky, embarrassing days.

Like fashion, beauty ideals change often and a crazily large portion of the world’s population cracks themselves in half trying to fit them. As I was growing up, I was conditioned to believe  that I couldn’t be beautiful if I didn’t have: light skin, a small waist, if I was Acholi, if my hair wasn’t treated, if I was taller than the boys around me, e.t.c.

I long slammed my fabulous hand in the face of that silliness, but my reaction to that guy moving on from me and the thoughts that invaded my mind at the time make me fear that my skin isn’t as thick as I believe and I still have many layers of self confidence and maturity to grow.

I honestly wish there was some kind of steroid for this.

Here’s my mumsy outfit of the day:

Purple is ma’s favorite color (dress from Awava)

That’s my little herb garden. Only the parsley is looking promising so far.

All in the genes (DAD). #3days

I work out quite a lot nowadays. I no longer feel like my blood is crawling sullenly through my veins and I don’t need to crunch my stomach muscles that hard to see the beginning of two WHOLE abs. My workout routine involves a short run (preferably up a hill), a squat (during which I curse myself for ever starting in the first place) and then a vigorous dance that may or may not involve shaking of booty depending on how my day has gone.

When I described this to my boyfriend yesterday, he gave me a look and said, “I envy the way you live, Mildred. Nary a fuck to give” which made me happy.

When I described it to my sister, also yesterday, she called me crazy. That, coming from the person with whom I (regularly) break into song and dance in the middle of the street is very rich.

I wouldn’t call grooving in public with an aim to get fit crazy or eccentric. There are, however, things I’ve done that fit both of those bills and I blame it all on my father.

See, Dad does not know the meaning of self-consciousness. He does not recognize its existence and expects everybody to experience the world as he does, or else they have a bad case of Satan, or something.

Dad got himself a reputation (and a nickname) for being the lawyer who goes to court in sandals. On any given morning, he wears his coat and trousers (mismatched), gown, sandals and then heads off with a weather beaten laptop under his arm.

At some point, he grew as big an afro as his hair-quality would let him. Whenever a client or an employee would poke fun at him/ complain, he’d say, “Mildred says it looks good.”  Self expression oyee!

He wore sunglasses everywhere for some very long months of my life.

He once dug TWO fishponds in the backyard of a house we were renting in Bugoloobi and filled them with catfish. I’m surprised that nobody in the family has whiskers.

He keeps us in laughs, stories, and FML blushes.

The most just-watch-how-much-I-care thing that I remember him doing happened when he took us all to Didi’s world to experience Uganda’s first recreational park with rides and everything. We were excited, but not as much as he was. He herded us to the water slides, somersaulted into his swimming costume, climbed the ladder and slid ever SO slowly down the big, winding slide. He had a very large, laughing and pointing audience but did he care? NO. I don’t think he even noticed. The pool was empty, so nobody died when he splashed Panda-bearishly into it.

I was proud of my family in that moment. We didn’t run and hide inside the bumper cars. We stood torn between cheering him on over-loudly and trying not to cry.

My 22.9 years have been filled with incidents like this and there are many more to come so don’t judge this girl when you see her shaking her belly fat off on the side of a busy street in KLA. Blame her father.

My mumsy outfit of the day:

Mum would SO wear this

Children, meanness and great, great fun. #4days

For the last two days, Maad Advertising has been alive. Children have brought their squeals, questions, giggles and bad manners into our office and I have loved every minute of it.

I have always liked children, in a kind of way. When I was little, I liked to carry babies and pretend they were my doll kajungu. Kajungu was not what you’d call normal. He was a head; a big, white head full of brown curly hair. Although he was good enough company, he wasn’t as interesting as real babies who had both big heads with curly hair and bodies.

When I grew into a teenager, all of my interest was turned on myself. I examined my face and body, declared them a firm 6 (I described my smile as dusky) and proceeded to decorate my face with piercing upon piercing upon piercing. There was no space for children in my life (except for my siblings).

Yesterday when these kids came in, I was shy of them. I stared at my computer and ignored them, mostly. Then my creative director called me into studio and asked if I could help choreograph a Video jingle that they were to be part of. I agreed of course. Apenyo approves of any song that goes “The beat is too heavy, I’m shaking my belly”.

I went downstairs, stared, stammered some and then chose a tame looking one and asked him to teach me a move. The rest, for sure, was history.

I have danced, played, been called Auntie Mildred, Milly, and even mommy by many adorable children. I’ve had to rush in and break up fights, most notably, one between a loud, attention loving girl and man who all of a sudden shouted, “Don’t mess with me, you stupid girl. Don’t mess!”

If looks could bust balls, that idiot would be a eunuch right now. I told him to please leave if he couldn’t respect children and then soothed the girl. She was troublesome, sure, one of those who refused to listen, jumped on tables, and clung to adults-especially male ones. She is however a child and deserves to be treated with as much tenderness as the best of them.

There was a three-year old who made my ovaries somersault with his cuteness. This one became my dance partner at the end.

After we were done with rehearsals and I was back at my desk, one boy came over. I don’t know how we began to talk about mums, but he asked me if mine is around, in the world.

I said no.

He put on this very sad face and said, “Also me. I’ll never forget the day my mother died.”

That broke my heart. I felt a solidarity with this motherless boy, especially because I have siblings his age who must feel the loss exactly as he does.

I told him to be happy and to look at us and how much we were doing, even if our mothers were in heaven. I was in the middle of assuring him of his complete awesomeness when he burst out laughing and said, “I’m lying! My mother is not dead!”

My mumsy outfit of the day:

A bit short, but she’d be kawa with it.

I was pissed. I told him to leave my table, go back to the boardroom and draw on one of the papers that I’d distributed earlier to keep them occupied.

That feeling, that FUCK YOU, CHILD feeling has stayed with me. A part of me is still feeling sorry for his tiny, “motherless” self.

And now, even as I post status updates about how much I love kids and how teaching nursery school children (TOP CLASS) at some point in my twenties is on my bucket list, It’s clear in my mind how stupidly mean children can be and how when you’re an adult you always HAVE to take the high road.

Tribal biases. Who’re you marrying? #5days

To celebrate my birth week, I’m wearing only clothes that my mother would approve of. Skirts in paisley print, midi skirts with whimsical hems and actual blouses. I have a surprising number of these in my closet.

I’m also telling a little story (everyday, hopefully).

When she was young, my mother was very biased against Acholi people. She often told my Aunt sherry that she would never ever marry one, not even if all the men from all of Uganda’s other tribes disappeared off the face of the earth.

I’ve never been told why she felt this way. Maybe she had terrible Acholi neighbors, or maybe she had heard lots of bad stories.

She ended up marrying one- an Acholi. A tall, dark, handsome and smart one, but an Acholi just the same. I used to laugh at her a lot.

Where I grew up, there was this deep bias against Baganda men. Even my girlfriends from Buganda had no kind words for their brothers. These men are cheaters, apparently, and very passive aggressive.

Every female relative of mine has at some point warned me not to get involved with one, and forgetting my mother’s story, I vowed never to look at them with even the slightest hint of interest.

I am currently quite attached to a Muganda boy and often dream of having his 1.5 babies. Life is interesting. Things change. Tribal biases are stupid.

😀

Dear actual stilettos, I give up.

It all started when Oliver Mtukudzi came to Uganda last August. His show was well publicized. Whenever I caught one of the many ads on TV, or heard one over the radio, every hair on my being would scream YES. This was not because I was obsessed with the great man’s music, I’m ashamed to say. It was all about some guy.

The opening act was to be done by ZOLA and within that band was a boy that I’d become infatuated with. My approval of his face and his voice was so deep that I googled Mtukudzi and even asked my friends to raid their parents’ music collections. I didn’t want to go for the show knowing just one song: ‘Todi’.

On D day, I had everything ready- beautiful dress, decent purse, but alas, my shoes wouldn’t do. Those were the dark times before I had become wild about footwear, so I had exactly three pairs in my life and they all looked a bit shabby; overworked.

A plan came to me. I would buy stilettos from Wandegeya, learn how to wear them before leaving the shop, sashay to the show and steal the boy’s heart.

The shoes I got were everything I considered beautiful at the time. Ribbon, check. Shiny, check. I paid for them, wore them and proceeded to drag myself to the nearest stage with my eyes leaving the ground a total of zero times.

I hopped on a boda and directed him to office where colleagues were waiting for me. In retrospect, I should have gone straight to Serena and sat on the stairs with a book until the show began. That would have saved me the excruciating walk up the slopping parking lot of my office and the sniggers of the guards.

The show wasn’t as well organized as it was publicized. We had to stand jammed against each other in an overcrowded lobby for one and a half hours. By the time we were being shown through the door, what little mastery I’d had over the shoes had disappeared along with my resolve to bear pain with dignity.

S.E.X.Y. also, U.N.W.E.A.R.A.B.L.E.

I did the kakinda man walk to my seat. The suffering didn’t end there. Friends wanted quick words outside the hall during the show, the toilets beckoned, etc. That was an awkward day, but not as ridiculously embarrassing as two weekends ago when I attended the wedding of a workmate.

I wore high heeled boots. They were very pretty- on my shoe rack, and even on my feet. I had no car to ferry me from place to place, so I wore really comfortable clothes hoping that the comfort on my body would somehow soothe my feet when they’d begin their inevitable lamentations.

I was wrong.

After standing in line for food, my instep was practically bleeding. I left early, so the walk back to the main road was harrowing, involving evil school children who were screaming their laughter behind me. I finally discarded my fear of fast moving vehicles, stood in the middle of the road and hitched a ride.  The moment I reached Ntinda, I bought a pair of brogues.

Not all women are created equal. Probably, some are born with steel in the backs of their legs and in the insteps of their feet. Either that or there’s a plastic surgeon in Kampala who modifies legs to be able to stand stilettos and I just haven’t found him/her yet.

Stories, mixtapes and shit.

I’ve been working on 12 stories since the year began.I’ve finished 5 of them and three of those aren’t even mine. They’re Gabriella’s (my 7 year old sister). 

I’ve suffered writer’s inertia and debilitating ennui, have stopped trying to learn one new word everyday and have started to resent my stories and myself. Fucked up.

So starting September (or even tomorrow, don’t joke), I am going to write a story a day. This is going to be easy (in theory) because my dreams are usually vivid and very weird. Good material. 

I even have a badge. 

Images. Wha