Crutch Me One Time (Say it with Reggaeton).

Crutches hurt your back, stress your arms and give you the gait of a scarecrow on stilts. Even though I was possessed by a strange excitement when I first began to use mine, the novelty wore off chap chap. Life changes when you’re so openly hurt. People you’ve passed by for two years on your way to work all of a sudden stop and with sympathy in their voices, ask you what happened.

First I thought I was being mocked and became angry, but the concern seemed genuine so I mellowed out. That’s one thing that comes with crutches: paranoia.

I was walking up Capital shopper’s parking lot with my sister when I noticed that a trio of young adults had turned to stare. I couldn’t believe their bad manners. I scowled and began to complain loudly about the stupidity of Ugandans nowadays. After listening to me rant for a few seconds, Jero said, “But you realize you have just shaved the back of your head, right? You have a ponytail at the top and shiny kipalata on the bottom half of your scalp. Sure they may be wondering about the crutch, but this attention, you deserve it for wearing that hairstyle.” And she is right. I am used to the doubletakes. Because of the new crutches however, I was convinced that these people were intentionally trying to make me feel awkward.

Crutches provide the perfect response to the kiss-kiss, sister-sister laced overtures that Kampala’s idlers so love to make. Now if I feel a person’s words are offensive, I stop and threaten them with my crutch. So far, both men have run away with real fear in their eyes. I understand that I am a fine specimen of a woman, even with my crooked walk but ssebo, have some respect. I am struggling to get from place to place on this wonky leg and really don’t need your lechery in my life right now.

Breaking my leg has made me unable to abide unkindness, especially from people who are supposed to be making my life easier. Last week I wrote about how traumatized I was by the service at (a certain) hospital in Ntinda. Be fair, people. If you are going to be bad to me, make sure it is when I am full of health and can chase you down.

If you like to look different, the opportunity to accessorize your crutch will fill you up with glee (well, when the thing is not making your armpit yell with pain). I decorated mine with colorful flowers made out of kitenge material and paper beads, making it a bit easier to tolerate.

Lastly, crutches infantilize you. You are not able to blaze out of a room or hop on a boda at will. Because I hate being idle, I decided to continue going to work after my fibula broke

(stupid decision). It is not a very important bone and if it wasn’t for the fear of never wearing wedges/ running again, I wouldn’t even be using this crutch. I cannot leave or arrive at office on my own so my father’s car is very important to me now. His time keeping too. Do you remember when you were five and you realized that you were the last person in class who hadn’t been picked up yet? Do you remember how the tears started forming from the pit of your belly, how they traveled up to your eyes making you cry and cry like you’d never stop? That’s how I, big woman as I am, felt when father picked me up at 7pm last Monday.

Crutches change your life completely. I almost can’t remember walking any other way (lies, I really really can).

Of course I tried to use it as a modeling prop. One day, my moceling career is going to take off. You wait.

Of course I tried to use the thing as a modeling prop. One day, my modeling career is going to take off. You wait.

Bathing plants and office DIY

When my dad discovered me singing to my plants a few days ago, he must have backed away very slowly because one minute I could hear him being generally alive in the space behind me and the next, he was gone. Not to another part of what is a large backyard, mind, but totally gone. Perhaps he was like it’s too early in the day to face the kind of offspring I have bred. 

In the absence of a watering can, and the presence of my two very capable hands, I give my plants a bath every morning. I am very proud of the small plot that I was allowed to de-grass for this project and I’m determined for everything to go amazingly well.  

The process:

Using my palms, I scoop water out of a bucket, quickly come up with a song for whichever plant I’m watering and then pour. For example:

Lemon balm, lemon balm, will you let me be your calm.

and

Sage plant, Sage plant, protect me from these ensanafu

and

Thyme, Thyme, will you love lime…

Look it doesn’t have to make sense. Singing charms plants and that’s what must have brought my strawberry baby back to life.

Have you read this article by Fungai Machirori, founder of herzimbabwe and all round fantastic woman? You should because it is about Anne Kansiime, arguably the funniest comedian in Uganda. I was lucky to meet, attend a comedy show, drink and do loud karaoke on Jinja Road with Fungai when she was in Uganda a few months ago. She’s a real gem and I hope I will one day do something extraordinary enough for her to feel like blessing me with an interview like this.

For now, I will enjoy the fact that she has called me an advertising executive and included a beautiful picture of Kansiime and I in her article.

In other news, I have decided to document my journey to fitness on tumblr. Check my tumblog out and send me all of your best energies, even after reading that  I yesterday jogged from office up to Alfredos and back. Control your feelings. Don’t let your jerasssey cloud the vibes, hehe.

In fun and final news, I stole an empty banana boat paper bag from the receptionist’s desk. I say stole because it’s really good paper and she may have wanted it for something.

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Anyway, I needed its sisal handles for an impromptu recycling and DIY session.

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Also read as, I felt like changing my hairstyle and didn’t have any rubber bands. I took the handles out and after a minute in the bathroom, looked like this. 

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and this

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and this

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and this

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It’s fun, free and takes my bob away from my neck, which is great for the hot hours. When it gets cold, I can just let it back down. This has got to be the most versatile hairstyle I’ve ever rocked.

I need to go and write a wildly overdue article about songs, sex and gender issues for Muwado.com, so see you on Monday.

Dare to Smell: Aloe Vera gel Saves the Day

Aloe Vera is incredible. It is self healing, can survive with little or no attention, is anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, great for skin, hair, genitals, you name it. For a while, I have been writing about the weeks during which I abandoned mainstream deodorant and went on a quest to find a natural substance that would do away with body odor.

 Find Part one here and Part two here.

When I first decided to put freshly harvest aloe gel under my armpits, I was just playing around. I didn’t expect it to work, but it did. It eliminated the stench-causing bacteria in my armpits for three days. But on the fourth day it failed.

My theory is this: Aloe vera stopped working because I had become distressed. I know this sounds a bit of, but I am just recounting what happened to me (with zero embellishments). A person to whom I’d been quite attached passed out of my life quite abruptly and immediately, I began to smell appalling. Stress makes you sweat more so that must have been a factor, but this wasn’t regular stress. I took to applying fresh aloe vera gel thrice a day but still, I smelt like a dead snake.  The smell of distress is like a moan from the very soul of your armpits.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I didn’t care. I mean, who worries about vubs when their hearts is bleeding?  After all, God didn’t create the nose with special instructions to smell only perfume.

I only snapped out of my funk after what I call the Kisaasi bus incident.  It was the end of a long day and as I walked to the place at Kamwokya stage where Kisaasi taxis congregate,  I made a short prayer that I would find a window seat. It had been a rough day, worse than usual and I smelt both sweaty and distressed.

Alas, there weren’t any empty window seats and so I had to settle for a middle one in the back row. To my right was a lovely looking girl and to my left was a nice enough guy. He made space for me, even smiled. Nobody smiles at a stinky person right? Wrong.

My neighbor on the right was having a fit. She began by pushing the window as wide open as it could go. She then held her tiny nose between her delicate fingers and winced. I looked at the guy on the left and he was having no reaction! I almost asked her if I smelt weird, but I knew the answer to that, so I kept mum.

Eventually, I became irritated with what I saw as a gross overreaction on her part. She was practically holding her breath. Do you know how long it takes to get to Kisaasi from Kamwokya? To have somebody risk death, just so that they don’t have to breath your stink in, that hurts. I felt she was being overtly mean.

Eventually, she moved out of the bus. There’s nothing like a beautiful girl reacting with horror to your presence to help you pick yourself up.

I didn’t start using anything different. Rather, I began to apply aloe vera even in the night before sleeping. Since the smell had been brought on my my distress, I decided to proactively deal with my feelings of loss, denial, anger and fear that all break ups come with. Sadness is no excuse to smell like a he-goat.

My armpits have healed over completely. They no longer look fried by chemicals and are absolutely flawless. An added bonus is that even when I forget to apply aloe, I smell like nothing. 

Recently, I went to Forever living and bought an aloe deodorant. I am OK with most of its ingredients although tricoslan has many weird reviews on the internet. Many days, I’m happy to go without. Occasionally, I go back to applying fresh gel, but  I’d really rather eat the aloe that surrender it to my pits.

So what do you think of my journey? Would you abandon mainstream deos for more natural alternatives?

In Pursuit of Sharp Hair II

Last week, I wrote about my irritation with the saying and mentality that ‘a woman’s hair is her crowning glory’. I wrote about the schemes that many people in my life employed to trick me into growing my hair during the 14 or so months that I chose to shave it bald. I also wrote about the craziness I encountered when finally I decided to grow and style it.

I had reached the part of the story where a hairdresser in Wandegeya tried to assault my scalp with Ariel detergent.

After my escape, I made peace with the fact that I would never again be welcome in Yusuf’s salon and turned to YouTube for inspiration. For the last two years, a natural hair revolution has swept over the internet and there has been faithful documentation by black women from all over the globe, on all kinds of platforms from YouTube to tumblr to Facebook to pinterest.

I was therefore confused when it proved hard to find a short and simple instructional video. I shifted my research to Google and keyed in all the variations of the words ‘spiky natural hair’ that I could think up. My luck was meagre.

It became clear that the information I wanted was deliberately hiding from me and so I decided to learn by trial and error.

I called my best friend, secured her commitment to my cause and then bought three kinds of locking gel. I also bought a bathing sponge woven out of string and went over to her house. On arrival, I washed my hair and proceeded to rub my scalp first with the sponge and then with my palm. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. By the time I thought about giving up, the hair over my ears had spiked up but the rest of it remained bunched up like defiant steelwool. I also had a raging headache and the skin of my scalp felt and looked like bruised tomato skin.

I took my sorrows to back to facebook and finally caught my first break. Apiyo, that dear girl offered to help. Herself a lover of stress free hairstyles, Apiyo is a veteran as far as sharp hair is concerned. Reader, I knew this from the very beginning. Why hadn’t I contacted her earlier? I have no idea.

It took 30 minutes of rubbing to turn my head into a mass of spikes and I walked out of her house preening like a pampered pony. I made sure to stare every cute person in the face, mentally ordering them to propose marriage. I felt fabulous and felt the need to show people outside my social circles how great I looked. This search for attention led me to National Theater the next Thursday evening, for a show by Fun factory.

Was I distraught when I saw Anne Kansiime rocking my very hairstyle? Yes. Did I irrationally decide that she’d somehow stolen it from me? Yes. Did I magically forgive her when I got the opportunity to take a picture with her? Of course. The lady is hilarious.

During the course of the show, I managed to win myself a free hairdo of my choice at Jephi’s salon on parliamentary avenue. Even though I love Kansiime and had totally forgiven her for making me feel less special about my hair, I decided the time for a change had come.

Jephi’s is upmarket and its workers are very skilled but the director was irritable and snappy during the first five minutes of my arrival. When, however, he heard that I would be writing about my experience, his attitude totally changed, of course.

The golden spikes on my head have been a source of much chagrin in the hearts of some of the very people who were complaining about my baldness. Dad took my sister Jero aside and asked her, “Have you told Mildred how bad her hair looks? It’s terrible! It looks like nothing. Go and tell her to remove it!” Smh. In matters of hair, you’ve just got to do you.

Here are some pictures:

Golden spikes

Golden spikes that I got tired of in like a week

What I was rocking at blankets and wine last Sunday

What I was rocking at blankets and wine last yesterday but one

 

In Pursuit of Sharp Hair I

Humans pay too much attention to each other’s bodies. What is he wearing? How long is her skirt? What does her hair make me feel? We are forever poking our noses into things that are none of our business.

I chose to go bald for a little over a year and during this time, my family, (certain) friends and ex didn’t stop devising schemes to get me to wear some hair. My father told me that I’d get meningitis as a result of all the mosquito bites that my large, smooth scalp would attract. He also said I would get headaches and all the exposure to cold wind would freeze my thoughts.

The shoulders of my aunts would droop with sadness whenever I’d walk into the house with yet another haircut. The ex’s tactics were so many and amusing that I cannot do justice to them in one article.

I ignored them all. First of all, I strongly disagree with the notion that a woman’s hair is her “crowning glory”.  A woman’s brain (and the things she can do with it) is what we should be focusing on, people. Not the dead waves and coils of keratin that emerge from her scalp. I refused to yield to the insinuation that the entire experience of womanhood can be reduced to the ability to push dead cells out of a scalp. It was only after I became bored with baldness that I allowed my hair to grow out.

 By the time it was about half an inch long, I was sick of it. I missed the feeling of a cold electric shaver buzzing on my scalp. I missed the newborn alien look that a fresh haircut gives me. I felt like a teenager among all of the S.6 vacists roaming Kampala’s streets. The hair felt invasive and in a last bid to make myself like it, I decided to style it.

 There’s a rather popular hairstyle around town that many people with short natural hair are rocking. They somehow maneuver their kaweke into little spikes that stick out from their scalps, giving a lovely definition to their faces. I knew from research (loads of facebook updates) that this style could be arrived at by briskly rubbing a sponge or a palm over the scalp. Thanks to the lovely people on my friend list,  I also knew that a cheap locking gel could be used to achieve this style.

I uploaded this to facebook. it helped a lot.

I uploaded this masterpiece to facebook  and captioned it with the words below:

 

(slightly edited) You guys, I need your help. So I have seen this style around town where people with teenie weenie fros like mine curl their hair into spiky little points. I know from a bit of research that this style is arrived at by briskly rubbing a sponge over the scalp. What treatment do they put in the hair to make it form the spikes when rubbed? I love this style but I’m not willing to pay the insane dimes that a salon  is sure to charge me.  A sponge is 500 and whatever product they’ll use can’t be more than 30 bob. Any(really really) useful information will be rewarded with long hugs and a good meal. 

Because I’m rich (ha), I visited a salon in town for a cost assessment. The shameless lady told me she’d require sixty thousand of my Uganda shillings. I visited another one, this time in Wandegeya because I figured it would be cheaper, what with the bulk of their clientele being broke campus chicks. I was right. Yusuf told me he’d only need 30,000. When I asked what the styling would entail, he became cagey and it was only after great insistence that he told me he’d be putting Ariel detergent in my hair.

Understand that I really wanted this style. As Yusuf washed my hair, I consoled myself that a little Ariel wouldn’t hurt. It was only when I smelled the actual detergent that I chickened out. The thought of sitting in a taxi going from  Wandegeya to Ntinda while smelling like soaking clothes just killed my morale dead. When I told Yusuf to stop, he was very angry. He rejected payment and snarled something about “losers who visit salons to steal knowledge” at my back.

I then took my research to youtube and thankfully, none of the ladies online were using detergent on their heads.

to be continued.

Either teach well or go home (and kill yourself).

Church was once a staple in my life and slowly, I am starting to find true enjoyment in the word of God again. This article isn’t about my spiritual awakening (which I hope will last this time). It’s about the way people in positions of influence deliver their teachings.

One Sunday last November, one of the pastors at Watoto Church was talking about his wonderful wife and the lovely things that she’d done for him on his anniversary. It was very sweet. He even insisted she come up and sing the song she’d sung on the day to much cooing and clapter*  from the congregation. He remarked on how beautiful she is and how more women need to obey their husbands, especially when it comes to how they look.

He then said, “But some women just cut off all their hair” while making a comical sweeping motion over his head.

I bristled with indignation, and not only because I have chosen to rock a nearly bald head.

Like this

I miss the days it was like this

The pastor’s joke made the entire congregation look around and eyes lingered on those like me with little or no hair. In that moment, I wondered what it would be like to be married to somebody like him and let me tell you, what I envisioned wasn’t a fun experience. I saw a guy who would whine endlessly and be very aggressive about letting you know how he wanted you to look. Just imagine if a Christian couple in attendance was fighting about style choices. On hearing Pastor’s words, whatever headway they’d made would be lost.

A lot goes into a way a person looks. Mood, emotional well being,  fashions, personality, etc. Style is an intensely personal thing. Even in a long term relationship where you’re committed to loving the same person forever, both individuals retain the right of choice.

If you want to change your partner’s style to suit your tastes, don’t do it by shaming them or comparing them to others. Spitting Bible verses won’t work. Belittling them won’t work. Writing blogposts about them won’t work either . Give them a reason to want to acquiesce to your whims. Make them feel comfortable enough to adjust their style in a way that will make you happy. The way a person looks should be their decision, an act of service (to you, their partner) and not one that leads them to doubt themselves.

People in the Education sector are another group that need to be careful about the way they deliver their wisdom. Their job is to instill confidence, manners and a sense of decency in the children that pass through their system year in year out. Instead of doing that, our teachers and school administrations are filling young people up with their own warped sexual politics.
How can a school profess to be against trousers on girls or tight uniforms and then turn around and allow their girls to wear barely-there dresses during prom? If they really thought that trousers caused uncontrollable lust to surge in the hearts and minds of the males in the system, they wouldn’t allow girls to wear them during dances.

A school like Seeta High bars female visitors from entering school grounds if they are wearing trousers, causing much embarrassment and irritation, but allow their students to swim semi-naked in a pool which is not far from the staff room. Where is the logic? Selective morality is dumb and needs to end.

Our young need to be equipped with feelings of equality, self esteem and affirmations, not insecurities and hypocrisy.

James 3: 1 says Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

If you can’t teach well, go home.

*clapping and laughter

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.