Mirror, Mirror… (In My Shoes)

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I’m struggling emotionally this evening and I’m about to tell you why.

You know those mornings when you wake up feeling like all is right with the world? This morning was just that. I woke up feeling really good. Stepped on the scale and I had lost 2kgs. My tummy felt flatter than usual thanks to my new diet regime, so for work, my black bodycon dress was in order.

I showered and then I beat that face, I mean Ruby Woo for the lips, nose and cheek bones highlighted for the gods! Need I say “hair on fleek?”. I squeezed my way into my spanx, took one look in the mirror and confirm that all my bulges were neatly tucked away, then I grabbed my heels. Nothing fancy, black pointy toes (only because the white pair was slightly oversize). I’d planned to rock that “Black widow” look with bright make up and it was working out perfectly. It was about to be a Slay day.

I said my prayers as I drove to work. Yes, today I even felt right with God and I could actually feel the Holy Spirit within me.

Stunners on, I sauntered across the road and into the office with Sia’s Unstoppable still playing in my head. Wind in my hair, and pulling my laptop bag behind me, I was tall and sexy as hell in my 3 inch heels, unstoppable even, “Yes, I’m a Porsche with no brakes”.

Even the security guys were feeling my happy vibes. They opened the main gate to let me walk in, giving my laptop bag the courtesy only accorded to Directors in their cars. But who is complaining?

No one but her. She joined me in the elevator on my way up. Elderly and chubby, I’d seen her around the office. I greeted her politely and she responded, looking me up and down. Then she spoke. “Hmmm. These your heels, they won’t let you marry oh. You are too tall. I am advising you. Stop wearing them. It’s not good. You will be intimidating men”.

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Me: Who did I offend please?

My bubble burst and all the promise and magic the morning had held quickly dissipated. My shoes immediately began to pinch my toes as if they too had been listening. I felt drained but I managed a smile and said nothing.

You see, unmarried people can’t drink water and keep cup in this country and this tweet captures it perfectly.

This woman’s advice had me thinking about all the irrational unsolicited advice I’ve received from women over the years, convincing me to be less of who I am and want to be, so I can be more of what the average guy would prefer.

After getting a Masters in 2010, I talked about getting a PhD and the popular response was: “Won’t you marry first? Men don’t like women that are too ambitious.” It’s been 6 years, with only my Masters, I’m still single.

About that time, I was looking for a house near my office. A landlady’s opinion was “You shouldn’t leave alone. Women who leave alone are loose. No good man will marry you”. It’s been 6 years, I’ve moved back home, and I’m still single.

Fast forward to 2013, I was struggling to buy a car. I had earned and saved every penny legitimately. I wanted a red Camry or a Rav4. “You can’t by a big car, or an SUV, men will be afraid of you”. I thought about the ladies waiting at the bus stop or trekking rain or shine and wondered if they were all married, but to be on the right side of things, I got a humble Corolla. I’m still single.

“You’ve gained too much weight. Most men don’t like fat women. They like the portable ones” So I lost weight. 20pounds lighter… **crickets** … Need I repeat myself?

“Don’t use so much make-up, it makes you look too expensive. Men don’t like it.”

“Can’t you stay in one place? Men don’t like waka–waka girls”.

I could go on forever about all the things men don’t like but you get the picture.

Lets be clear, I understand that all these are said with the best intent, but I have to wonder why just about everything in a woman’s life has to be validated by men, right down to the height of her shoes.

It feels like all our actions or aspirations have to be comfortable for the average man. We are expected to pretend to be something we are not so men can want, appreciate, respect, love and commit to us. Dummy-down and aim lower to be convenient. In short, fake it till you get that ring!

Now, I’d just like to know how many men have worn heels to make me feel comfortable around them. I’d also like to know the guy who didn’t settled for a sedan because women would be afraid of his SUV or his own apartment. Hardly any, because most women are scared of big dreams or success. We celebrate it, but only in men.

I think there’s some crab mentality among Nigerian women or maybe it’s women in general, I won’t know. Most women allow men to be who they want to be, and even support them in their ambitions, only to put themselves down and dragging other women down with them. I really can’t understand why.

I spent most of my adult life being marry-able, cooking, cleaning and pounding yam. Yes, I have wife-material for days. However, I’ve come to understand I have to be my person before I can ever hope to be a good wife. I have to know, accept, want and love who I am before I can extend this love and support to anyone else.

Many of us are here to be happy and share this happiness with those who need it. We are here to love and be loved in return by people with the capacity to genuinely give it. We are here to live, thrive and contribute.

We are not here to be convenient or to make all men comfortable with who we each are. We are not all here simply to be marry-able.

I’m not a feminist, I’m only advocating for fairness for women from women and the right to wear my own shoes.

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