Daring To Smell #I

For a long time, I had a paralyzing fear of smelling bad. This is not the worst fear to have. In fact, if more people had it, using public transport in Uganda would be much more pleasant.  I can trace this  fear to a time in my primary school career, perhaps p6, when I earned myself a nickname for smelling sweaty.

This was something my parents just couldn’t work their heads around. To them, 11 year olds who incessantly begged for deodorants were just being bad.

This experience messed with my psyche. At one point as an adult, I had a deodorant in every bag that I owned, two different types on my vanity board and another two in my drawer at work. I couldn’t bear to go a day without lathering my underarms in gooey roll-ons and stinging sprays. On the occasions when sweat somehow broke through the layers of deo, I would become anxious beyond belief.

This attachment to deos wrecked my underarms. I have sensitive skin that reacts to everything, even certain fabrics. For years I silently suffered the discolouration, rashes, bumps and boils. When my underarms weren’t exploding with pus, they were as rough as a crocodile’s back! I had made peace with never having smooth and/or happy armpits.

 On the 25th of March this year, I came upon a tweet by a fascinating lady called Alokin Ikon. She had written that thanks to lemon, her armpits were as flawless as a movie star’s. I read that tweet at least five times.

I was excited, disbelieving and irrationally angry all at the same time. Had I been going about life with armpits that were as ragged as old lorry tyres when lemon could have easily given me the smoothness I so coveted?

After a short conversation with Aloikin, my mind was made. I was going to abandon regular deodorant and replace it with lemon juice. The likelihood of having armpits that would allow me to wave my hands in the air like I just don’t care was fascinating.

This all happened around the time when I’d decided to stop wearing bras (in order to force myself to love the dip and curve of my breasts and appreciate my body image, even without the lift of a bra). I was brimming with boldness and motivation. I threw my deodorants, all ten thousand of them out and embarked on stage one: research.

 I was determined to experiment with only natural deodorizing substances that were cheap and readily available. It was during this search that I learnt about parabens and aluminum, substances that most  mainstream deodorants contain. Parabens are preservatives found in food and cosmetic products. They have estrogen-like qualities and are easily absorbed by the skin. Estrogen is a female hormone known to cause breast cells (both normal and cancerous) to grow and divide. The link between cancer and parabens, if any, is still being worked out by people of science, but this information gave me even more gas to go natural.

My journey had begun with tweets about lemon, so I went to the market and got myself a large kaveera of them. To kill pesky odor causing bacteria, all I had to do was cut a thin slice of fresh lemon and rub it under my arms. I was ecstatic. I smelled like nothing. My sweat was lightly lemon scented. Unfortunately, this bliss was not to last.

Good in food, tea, alcohol and armpits.

Good in food, tea, alcohol and armpits.

I’ll be back next Tuesday with more about my quest to find the perfect natural deodorant.

Advertisements

When Love is Not Enough

When you enter the world, you’re wet, naked and poor in most senses of the word. This is unacceptable to your greedy little instincts, so you begin to gather things for yourself almost immediately. My mother, my nipple, my blanket, my chew toy, my shaker without which I won’t allow to sleep.

As you grow, you attach different levels of fondness to the different things you encounter, from toys to books to friends, lovers and eventually, that person you feel should be yours forever and ever amen. But Happily Ever Afters are rare and sometimes things don’t work out.  What  happens when you have to walk away? When love is not enough?

Loss is hard to accept. To acknowledge that grief is going to blast through you and remain sane enough to envision a time when you will not be hurting, that’s even harder.

When the loss is permanent*, say the death of a parent, friend or spouse, you feel a terrible helplessness and it is this feeling that pulls you away from the lip of insanity. You realize that whatever you do, however much you weep and starve and curse, your person is dead and you cannot bring them back.

Then there’s the flavor of loss that I call reversible loss. This is where your mind tells you over and over again that if you say the right thing, your ugly situation will disappear and you will be back in the zone of comfort, normalcy.

It could be the loss of a job (right before a promotion, no less) where you are sure that if you explain your contribution to the company hard enough, the boss will welcome you back your desk.

It could be the loss of a partner with whom you have built a flamboyant castle of dreams, a castle that is now disintegrating, wisp by wisp like so much cotton candy.  In the case of lost love, even if you are the one who has broken things off, the feeling of “I must take my words back right now and return to my relationship” can be overwhelming. Woe unto you if your partner has also made their mind to move on because you’re going to be stuck with self-loathing and regret for a while.

People with broken hearts are always looking to commiserate with somebody. That’s why there are so many threads on reddit on this subject, and so many songs. That’s why I’m writing this, to be honest.

I asked some wonderful people how they dealt with the loss of a partner that they still loved. My exact question was:

Have you ever walked away from a relationship with somebody you still love? How did you do it? What was your day 1, 5, 9 10, 20 like?

This is basically sadporn. Proceed with caution.

Nagasha: The same. Weighty. Heavy hearted. Except some days were heavier-hearted than others. But they all carried the same dull ache. Day 1, 5, 9, 10, 20. They were all the same.

Immaculate: Day 20 feels like you made the decision to walk away only moments ago. You can barely believe its been 20 days, it all feels like yesterday.

Kirungi: It’s been a year since he walked away but stupid me, I’m still trying to walk away…it can be that hard.

Nswaswa: Year 1 was so painful that even booze could only numb but never stop it. Year two is better, though just seeing a missed call from her is agonizing and even more so when we actually speak. But going apart has been like removing a bad tooth- the pain of extraction and healing time are worse than the bad tooth pain, but then you feel better and even if you loved that one (or still do) you know life is better off without.

Diana: Grief. It’s just like grief. It is grief. Except that with a break-up, when you think you saw them on the street, you probably did. And then all those times you wondered what you would say have suddenly materialised into an actual situation…

Nada: I cried a lot the first fifteen minutes. Parked the car, smoked a cigarette. It rained and I was on the road by the car, and then it was all tears everywhere. I think that thunder broke something in me. It hurt, I drove back to Kampala hardly being able to breathe. Day five was worse, and day twenty was particularly bad because we bumped into each other. And soon he was gone forever. That pain never really leaves you. It lingers inside your mind waiting for a girlfriend to pose a question like yours, to hit back full swing. But now I take a deep breath and carry on.

And finally, Amanda:

Walking away from a relationship when you still love someone hurts. I listened to the script, Adele, Lady Antebellum, I re-read those love letters. Yes I was one of the lucky few who received those precious missives.There was a permanent lump in my throat for a while I tried to cry and failed. I never cried, which I found strange. We were young and inexperienced maybe even a little reckless. We were each others firsts and even though I am past him I know there will never be one like him. He literally snuck in and stole my heart,the good-looking thief! But we got full closure and that helped we talk occasionally and we are both good.

 Loss is hard to accept, especially if you’re listening to Toni Braxton on a loop. If your heart is a mess right now, know that you’re not alone. The world knows your pain and if I were able to sing songs, this would be a crazy track, just for you. Feel better. I already do.

Here’s some of the stuff that’s helped me feel human again:

Warsan Shire’s Seven Stages of being Lonely

Everything by Soley:

 

Almost Everything by Little Dragon, especially Ritual Union

 

Of Monsters and men (this is an entire album)

 

Almost Everything by KT Tunstall. Heal Over especially

 

Nneka’s Restless (OMG this video). I think I can watch this on a loop because it’s been a couple weeks

Do share the sounds and tricks that have made you feel better after one of them nasty break ups.

x

More Transport Tales from Kampala

The bodaholics and taxi lovers that I connect with on social networks sent me such a nice collection of stories that I had enough material for a second Stiletto Point article. Big thanks to everybody who contributed. First of all, y’all saved me from having to write that Sunday. Secondly, thank you for helping me paint a picture (wordpicture?) of what it is like to use public transport in this our chaotic and often funny city.

Kampala, home of organized chaos  From Kabiza.com

Kampala, home of organized chaos
From Kabiza.com

Akech: I once boarded a taxi from Gayaza to town. When one lady got off off at Kubiri , the conductor started to call for people to come in. Unfortunately, that woman had thrown up all over the back seat. Passengers of course refused to sit there. The conductor then said, “Whoever accepts to sit there will pay half price.” In unison, the whole taxi shouted, “yiiiyyiii?!’

Laura: A taxi I was once in stopped to wait for customers in a sunny spot. When a lady sitting next to a window complained that she was getting sunburnt, the conductor said, “Woviira mu waliwo umbrella?” – meaning “Is there an umbrella at your stop?”

Notice that there is a guy behind the boda guy? Where is he resting his feet?

Notice that there is a guy behind the boda guy? Where is he resting his feet?

Kyakyo: One time, I flagged down a boda along Acacia Avenue. He was wearing a helmet.  It was around 9pm. I didn’t bother negotiating and  just said “stage” and he grunted. I hoped on. As we approached the now Mish Mash area, he reached back and touched my thigh! Indignantly, I shouted, “excuse me!” but he insisted on touching me. When I told him to stop the bike, he took off his helmet and that is when I noticed that he was Indian. I just told him to scoot on.

Kumbuka: In my O’Level at Mwiri college, I was once sent home for school fees. Fare from the Jinja park to home had always been 2500/=. All through the journey, I sat confident that I had enough money, not knowing that fare had been increased to 3000/= . When I paid, the conductor asked for the 500/=. I didn’t have it.  I explained that I was just from school and didn’t know about this increment and even started faking tears but the man wasn’t having any of it. He said,”Mwe kusomelo temusoma mawulile?” Meanwhile, he was taking my shoe!

kla247

Achetun: Yesterday evening, I boarded a taxi near Mulago hospital. As soon as we joined the main road, a Police bike followed us. Two officers ordered our driver and conductor to get out and sign in their book. They then issued a fine demand note. When they asked see the driver’s permit, he claimed to have left it in town. It was when the police unleashed another ticket that the conductor started to complain bitterly, saying they had received three other tickets that day. Altogether they had been charged over 800K in one morning. We were chased out of the taxi and it drove off via Yusuf Lule road.

Ntezi:  I always have conversations with my boda men, especially when we’re travelling long distances. Also in the unusual or ungodly hours I find myself sharing real life experiences with them. This is my way of ensuring I am humanized in their minds, so that they abandon any evil plans they might have. Hasn’t failed me yet.

Osweri: I’d always wondered about people in taxis who make a spectacle of themselves over 500/- until I boarded some taxi to Ntinda (1500). I told the tout I was disembarking in Nakawa. Translation: I’m paying 1000, right? Long story short, my beautiful leather handbag is sans a shoulder strap now. I’m mad and mournful, but without an ounce of embarrassment. I need to stop talking and just buy that scooter already!

Bodaholics

Bodaholics of Kampala

I’m with Marvis. I spend so much time and money on boda bodas that it would be a super smart move if I bought a scooter. Perhaps I would even hire a rider.

Do leave a story of your own in the comment section.

See you next Monday.

Kampala Traffic: I am not a cow.

Recently, I was weaving through traffic, just trying to get to the other side of the road with the breakfast muwogo I’d bought from Kamwokya market.  As I was about to plant my foot on the pavement, a boda boda whooshed past me. You guys the bike passed so close  that it would have hit my belly I hadn’t contracted it in fear.

No I do not have a potbelly. It’s an adorably round affair that contracts when I’m terrified.

Now this bodaman, instead of riding away grateful that he hadn’t caused an accident, turned his head and yelled, “You stupid woman! You cross the road as if you are a cow!”

To be honest, I am not a great road crosser. I like roads best when they are empty. Anything but that and I’ll (usually) either skitter across like a large dudu, or make fast friends with whoever else is crossing at the moment. Roads make me nervous, but not stupid. I wasn’t to blame this time. The man and his motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and tried to kill me dead. Full of annoyance and  embarrassment, I squeaked something at his disappearing back about his mother and her morals.

Later that day, after I’d mostly forgotten about this incident, I clicked a link that Ukamaka Olisakwe posted about three peoples’ experiences in Nigerian traffic. The stories painted what I thought was a fascinating picture of  Nigerian city life that I was determined to do a Ugandan version.

I wrote a blogpost and a few thousand updates/tweets asking  y’all to share some of the interesting experiences you’ve had while using public transport in Uganda. It wasn’t easy. The stories came dripping, then trickling, then rushing in (thank goodness). I will post some today and others on Thursday.

Ugandans survive this everyday! Picture from tugendedriven.com

Ugandans survive this everyday!
Picture from tugendedriven.com

Darlyne: One time, before getting on a boda, I politely greeted the rider. We chatted some on the 10-15 minute ride to my house. It was just polite conversation. Weather, traffic, such things. When I got off and paid, I also wished him a good day. He then asked me to marry him. Apparently, his other passengers don’t greet and bid adieu. I told him I was sure he would one day find a good woman but I was already taken.

For all those interested in finding marriage partners, you now know what works. A few Good mornings and Goodnights should get the object of your affection brimming with desire and thoughts of marriage.

Ronald’s story features those curious people commonly known as brokers. They hang around taxi stages, selling their time to drivers. For a small amount of money, they will enter a taxi to make it appear to be filling up faster than others. This makes customers gravitate towards it. He says:

I entered a taxi in Wandegeya that was full of brokers. When it was finally ready to leave the stage, the driver paid the guys and off we went. But alas! When we reached Mulago stage, three quarters of the passengers disembarked. The driver started to cry and lament. He had paid the brokers and hadn’t gotten a profit. I was too amused.

Kawuki:  I was crossing the road one time, walking on a zebra crossing when this impatient and impudent taxi driver almost ran me over. Seriously, he only braked when he was a few centimetres from my nose. I yelled (in Luganda), “Don’t you see this is a zebra crossing?” to which he loudly replied, “Oli zebra?” I was stunned. I had no words. I just walked away shaking my head and holding back laughter. The driver was laughing. I didn’t want him to see my amusement.

There are tons more so check back, will you?  Have a safe week .

P.s: Feel free to share your own traffic tale in the comment section!

Breasts, Bras and Feelings

For most of my adult life, I have been on a quest to find the perfect bra. In my head, this bra is custom made to fit each of my ladies just right. It is pretty but not gaudy, colorful but not clownish. Its straps offer a bit of a lift without digging into my shoulder blades. The straps are also perfectly sized; not so wide that I will be mistaken for a nursing  mother(unless I am a nursing mother at the time) and not so thin that I look like I have snake tongues running down my shoulderblades.

I have been failed by so many bras and dreamt about this super one for so long that at one point not so long ago, I decided to make it myself. I decided that I would start Uganda’s first premium bra making company. It would be called Apenyo loves Boobs inc. I would open a workshop where women of all shapes and sizes could walk in and custom make their bras, choosing the fabric, straps and accessories.

This dream is paralyzed now. I have become disillusioned. See, I can count the number of times I have worn a bra in the last 28 days. Why do you wear a bra?

My chest, like the chests of many other girls, began to do strange things when I turned 11. I was alarmed and prayed that these stones under my blouse would go away and leave me be. I didn’t want to be like those womanly looking P.7 girls! I didn’t want to start swishing my bottom and smiling with boys.  For me, that’s what breasts represented.

The minute they noticed the mischief that hormones were wrecking on my chest, my female relatives started to give advice. One cousin told me to get a bra immediately, or else my breasts would “fall”.

I was told by an aunt to stay away from all bras and boobtubes, because they would make my breasts fall!

A fear of “falling” breasts was planted in my mind and no number of young talk pull-outs on the subject was able to convince me that heavy breasts, breasts that sat low were normal.

On to the next couple of years, nature and genetics took their course and I got the pair I have and love now. But then? I was ashamed. Why didn’t they sit high like mighty oranges?

When movies, mags and porn came into the picture, I became convinced that breasts were not breast-enough unless they were as large as melons and as high as possible.

So I ask again. Why do you wear bras?  

I wear bras for support. I cannot do yoga, jog, jump or even walk swiftly down a flight of stairs without my breasts bouncing around like chuzzle balls.

I wear bras because I am too used to seeing myself looking a certain way in certain clothes and am still too uncomfortable to just go without.

A good bra can make you feel amazing, but what niggles at me is the root of this feeling. What drives me to feel confident when my cleavage is under my neck?

I asked singer and poet, Ife Piankhi for her thoughts are about bras and she said, “Growing up my mum would stress the importance of getting the right size of bra so that they truly support. I was measured for my back and cup size but I don’t see many women in Africa doing that. Since I came here,  I have not found one that is ideal so at times I don’t wear them. There is a teacher by the name of Dr Phil Valentine who stated once that droopy breasts or breasts that hang are the honour of motherhood, I have breast fed 4 children and when I heard that it gave me the confidence to go bra less at times because I don’t care any more if they hang down because I know I have nourished my children. Of course like most women I’d like to change something about them but through my Afrikan Yoga practice I stay in pretty good shape and I’m happy with my body image.”

If you are comfortable with bras, then I echo the words of Ife’s mom. Go have your chest and cup measured. It is painful to see so many well endowed Ugandan ladies squeezing their breasts into bras that are sizes too small.

I was very excited when I found an article on Counselheal.com that quotes Researcher Prof. Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besançon in eastern France as saying “Medically, physiologically, anatomically – breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity,” “On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.” Click to read more–>BOOBS

Am I going to stop wearing bras completely? Not yet. Probably never. Baby steps. I am actively working on killing my biases and widening my world view to include all kinds of beauty. I mean, my breasts are big, so they curve and dip.  I am not going to go about life being ashamed of my genes or of gravity and neither should you.

However, now that I have proved my point, that I can still look like a million bucks and more without a bra (I mean, 28 days), I am more and more considering following the advice of Ife’s mom and getting (or making) myself a couple of well fitting bras.  

Shame on my face.

It’s been two weeks and two days since I last posted anything. The excuse I’ve been clinging to is that my bosses have blocked wordpress, but seriously. There are like 5 modems at my home. I have allowed certain silly happenings (not so silly. Letting go of a living breathing person you still care for is fucking devastating) to paralyze me, to kill my motivation dead.

Um, some special stuff has been (and is) happening, so I’m just going to dump it all below. Yes?

  • I wrote an article about breasts, popular perception and beauty but I haven’t been able to put it up because I’m constantly rearranging my thoughts on boobs, popular perception and beauty. Really I could write a book.  I need this article to be perfect! It will be up by tomorrow, I promise. For now, stare at this glorious pair
Yea

Yea

  • I made a call for stories about bizarre/funny experiences had while using public transport in Uganda. Many of you responded with such great stories, that I didn’t have to write Stiletto Point Articles for two weeks. Thank you!
  • I entered a writing competition called Writivism a few months ago and the finish line is close. Terribly close. I like to pretend that I’m not at all anxious about the outcome, that whether I among the top 3 or not, it has been a fantastic experience, but I care. I care so much. I hope that when the time comes, you will read my story, fall in love and vote for it. Here is a video of me talking about why I write. Thank you Writivism!
  • I had the best pilawo of my life yesterday. Seriously. It changed my life. There’s nothing better than perfectly spiced meat and rice. Holla at these guys for a plate.
Is there anything better that perfectly spiced meat and rice? NO.

Is there anything better that perfectly spiced meat and rice? NO.

  • My weekend is going to be full of DIY. Today, I am meeting Akiiki and Liz, two lovely ladies from Arisu.ug to make accessories and maybe even skirts out of my lovely kitenge material. Check their work out HERE.
  • Tomorrow, I am meeting another pair of ladies who make shoes. Shoes! Shoes! They are going to help me make some pairs, using some more of my lovely kitenge. I have an almost unhealthy adoration for love people who can do great things with their hands. This is probably because mine ate the clumsiest pair ever to exist.
  • I’m going to be better about posting. I promise. In fact, here is a gift for you. A really good story by Doreen Baingana. Banange she snatches a chunk out of life and presents it perfectly preserved.Just…read it.

http://caravanmagazine.in/fiction/gorging