You know you’re getting older when: those you recall as babies are now sitting for their KCSE exams; you heave a sigh when you sit down; you go out and you want to be back in the house drinking a cup of tea by eight o’clock; your bones creak when you stretch and if you no longer possess the ability to lick your toes. Or if your hamstrings scream in pain when you bend to put on your shoes.
Age is a scary thing. I am only in my twenties and I am already an old woman complaining about young’uns who are out to wreck my comfort. They play their music too damn loud and half of it is gibberish I can’t even understand and I can’t spell their names because I can’t look it up in my 1999 copy of the Oxford Dictionary. I mean, really, what kind of name is Patoranking?
To compensate I try to dress up in a way that makes me feel young, vibrant and alive. I do work out and I am unsuccessfully attempting to ditch alcohol and junk food but those are personal endeavours that only my mirror, my stretch marks and my work out journal are aware of. The world out there has to be convinced that I am younger than my twenty something years and therefore come the cornrows and the short flared skirts. And occasionally, the sophisticated fashion. Now this plan doesn’t always flourish. Robert Burns eloquently put it, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Let me elaborate.
I like leaving the house dressed to slay. Especially if I am going to attend an event. The hair is styled to perfection, make up is applied artfully, the chiffon is actually steamed and the skirt is properly ironed. The cologne is carefully selected and after twirling in a cloud of it, I ensure that it subtly wafts to unsuspecting passersby who will enjoy that heavenly fragrance if only for a moment. When it works out so brilliantly to the point of unending compliments from all and sundry, I feel like a little girl again.
Unfortunately, sometimes the best efforts yield nothing. I remember once when I rocked a tutu and wore a black leather jacket going all biker chic thinking that my dress sense could pave my way to finally becoming a rebel fashion trendsetter. I was going to a party with a couple of friends and when I met up with them, I got nothing. No comments. No looks. The ride from home to the rendezvous point had been awash with unwelcome silence as well. My friends said nothing about my hair, my makeup, my clothes and even the new perfume did nothing for them. While they all looked casual and comfortable, I played up my compliments of their appearance to try and get a commendation back. One of my friends shot a glance at my outfit and I could feel it coming. My inner little girl did a happy dance as I watched his lips part and his tongue curl to form words, “The lining of your tutu is riding up. I can see your bike shorts,” he said. I wanted to strangle him with the lining of my tutu.
Another time, I was going to Airport for an interview and while in town waiting for a shop attendant to finish copying my documents, a young man approached me. On that day, I wasn’t particularly keen on any accolades towards my wardrobe. I was focused on my interview. The disheveled young fellow who was inching closer to me was throwing me off my game though. He had hair that looked like deserted green grams and his skin had the paleness of dried semen. He looked me up and down and held out his hand for money. When I shook my head he said, “Madam vile umeng’ara hivyo ata huwezi okolea kakijanaa. Umebarikiwa na hizo haga zote na huezi niwai kinde nikule aki?[i]” I have never been so insulted, affronted and offended in my entire life. He went ahead to threaten me with a hand full of human dung if I didn’t give him ten shillings. I gave him a hundred and ducked into a shop to hide.
The hunt for impressed attention is a gamble. You either attract the wrong attention of over-amorous touts who hold on to your hand while they empty your pockets, your handbag and your shoes. Or you get no attention at all. And for a girl whose spine creaks with almost every turn of the head, I have to say, I am more likely to be successful at feeling young again by seeking Shangri La. Who’s got a map?
[i] Madam, you are so well dressed yet you won’t help a young man? You have all that booty and you won’t even spare ten shillings for me to eat