As a woman trying to earn her keep in this city, there are problems I encounter that are as unique as coffee made with elephant dung. They are exhausting to contemplate. And could drive anyone to drink. However, I am sometimes forced to consider that they occur because I am a bit on the chubby side. But being a size 12 only means that I have to squeeze a bit more vigorously into skinny jeans. The other issues are simply owing to my gender.
Take for instance push up bras. They give ample support. Provided by an underwire craftily sewn in the rim at the bottom edges of the bra cups. Now these “wires” aren’t really wires. They are strips of metal that always break through the fabric and decide to dig into your flesh when you least expect it. In my case, my first time was at a job interview. A communal one where the interviewers were a collection of intimidating HR people who look at you as though daring you to prove them right in their initial unfavourable assessment of you. The wire was digging into my side. A few inches below where the pit meets side boob. And let me tell you, there is no dignified way to publicly scratch that area. I kept sliding off the seat trying to make gravity do something but alas it didn’t work. It just made me look oddly nervous. Needless to say, I never got the job.
But that’s not the only thing. I am heckled endlessly at the stage I board my bus to work. They even know where I alight so they call me “dame wa Kilimani”. It’s annoying. And sometimes when I am dressed to the nines they call me names that would be unsuitable for publication. It doesn’t even end there. When I am wearing headphones, they keep calling me “Deejay Kilimani”. One even went as far as grabbing my arm and insisting that I play him a tune. I tugged my arm- to no avail because those fellows live on some kind of supernatural miraa and spiked ugali. So I walked while he still held my hand, boarded the bus and banged the door against his forearm. Thankfully, onlookers weren’t their usual jaded selves. They heckled him right back and one woman even pelted him with her bag. Hopefully he learnt his lesson.
Speaking of women with bags… as women, we carry our purses with the sanctity of a soldier with his trusty gun. This is my purse. There are many others like it. But this one is mine. But some carry bags that only a bags salesman would have. And they swing them willy nilly, uncaring for folks walking beside or behind them. One who must have been a bags and bricks saleswoman swung her bag and hit my bosom with almost targeted accuracy. For a second I couldn’t even breathe and had to sit on a kerb. There should be a law encouraging people carrying such bags to be careful or they could get fined. Or they should be sat in an aisle seat on the bus and have their heads bashed in as often as they bash others.
Another problem I encounter is with my beloved shoes. Until recently, they have been my allies until they realised I was betraying them with bills and junk food. For some reason, they all fell apart simultaneously. And it wasn’t even the Nairobi dust that did it. Or the occasional mud. No. It was mutiny! I had a pair of sandals that surreptitiously broke at the front and didn’t even have the pragmatism to let me know by having a strap dangling. I had to find out when I was boarding a bus then the split sole caught on the step and had me tumbling head first. My forehead has never been so callously mishandled. As if that wasn’t enough, kind strangers helped me up then as I took the next step, the thing caught again and tore off entirely. Sole, straps and even spirit. I had to use donated paper bags to make makeshift straps so I could walk home.
But the worst isn’t even those. It’s not unplanned period cramps, urges to pee in the middle of a place with no toilets or even an itch in your crotch. It’s not having your dress or skirt get blown by the wind as though it has a vendetta against your decency. It’s not getting caught out in the rain without an umbrella and no money to fix your hair after it got flooded. It’s not those people who have to elbow your boobs in a matatu as they take out their fare or even being bothered by patrons at a hotel who couldn’t understand that sometimes a woman needs alone time with her beer and her phone. The greatest conspiracy of them all is pantyhose.
These things were made to embrace a woman’s meat and appear tight and compact. For some who don’t suffer from my jiggle problem, it gives their legs this elongated elegant sheen that screams “HOT! Look but don’t touch- even though you’re tempted to.” They are sexy. They can make miniskirts presentable for a board meeting with stooges who still believe that anything above the knee is something that should only be seen on TV. After the children have gone to bed. However, these babies can tear better than paper in the hands of a toddler armed with scissors. And they do it at the oddest of times.
I had a pair that decided to perform a split right before I got to the office. I had decided to jump up two steps and just felt that tear spread from my pelvis. By the time I had cleared the stairs, there were twin runs between my legs all the way to my ankles. They tear in matatus when they get caught in anything. You just hear a pap! And boom you have a run preceded by a hole big enough to hold water in a lake. I bought a pair that was advertised as high tensile and almost resistible to tears. Wapi? They got caught on a toenail and proceeded to run up to my knee.
You cross your legs under a seat, pap! You kneel to collect something, pap! You deal with an itch on your leg, pap! You adjust them and they find your wrist watch, pap! It’s a conspiracy I tell you! I have hundreds of pairs of torn stockings I can never wear again because you can’t sew them. You can’t add patches. You can’t artfully distress them like a pair of jeans. Luckily they are only Sh100/- (USD 1.00) so you can easily replace them. But really, shouldn’t science have invented something as sheer and slinky as they are that doesn’t tear at the whisper of contact? Science? SCIENCE?