Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The skinny white fat Nigerian in my head

Note: I usually do a book review post when I finish a book.  But I decided to do something different with Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah and instead share thoughts and comments in a pseudo-real time.

The protagonist is a fat Nigerian.  We know this within the first page or two of the novel.  But the image in my head is a faceless slender white woman.  The same image I’d have for Elizabeth Bennet.  I realize this.  I try to change it.  I try to think of one of my larger Nigerian friends, a well-off woman who I can’t call fat because she’s lived abroad enough to consider it an insult coming from an American.  It doesn’t work.

I keep reading; the image changes.  As Ifemelu grows, the image in my head flushes itself out.  It begins with Ifemelu’s flashback to her school days in Lagos.  The image begins to take the form of a slender African teenager, drawing on any number of the girls in my Zam-fam, my village, or around the neighborhood in Abuja.

When Ifemelu immigrates to America, when she’s new and lost and navigating the strange straddling world of her aunt who has already been in America for some time, the image grows.  It becomes easy to fit each new bit of her into the image in my head.  Her clothes change.  Her attitude changes.  Her hair changes.  She relaxes her hair; she practically shaves her head; she grows and afro.  These changes manage to stick -  although for some reason she has a blonde afro – not white girl blonde, dyed honey blonde.  This protruding of my subconscious strikes me as odd again.

As the scenes pop back to the present, the Ifemelu in the hairdresser’s chair becomes a large, Nigerian woman with black hair being put into braids, puffs of unbraided hair sticking up in front.  An Americanized Nigerian woman who’s become bitter and condescending in ways that would probably surprise her young self (but fit perfectly into the developing image in my head). 

It takes at least half the book before this Ifemelu, the one described on page two, can finally take shape in my mind.

It bothers me a bit, that I cannot take a written description and make an image of it; that my defaults are so ingrained that it takes 200 pages, 200 pages of slow growth and character shaping, to get to something close to the written description.


… For some reason, I did not have the same trouble with the male lead character, Obinze.  Perhaps because my first introduction to him was as a school boy.  By the time he showed up as an adult, he’d morphed into a melding of Kevin Hart and Idris Elba.  I’m guessing the combo is because Obinze is described as not tall.


Apparently Lupita Nyong’o is going to play Ifemelu in the film.  I’m having a really hard time picturing that.  She’s so tiny and doesn’t look at all Nigerian.  At least the actor they have for Obinze, David Oyelowo,  is Nigerian, even if not Igbo like the characters.  Of course, they’re both such stellar actors, they’ll probably pull if off splendidly.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Greetings to You

She said, “Hi. How are you?”  and I walked away, having already said good morning.  I knew it wasn’t really, “Hi. How are you?” but rather “Hi. How are you.” 

It reminded me of our German exchange student who used to complain “People ask how you are and then walk away!”  She’d try to answer them, thought it was a real question to which they wanted to know the answer.

And I thought of the children on the side of the road in Zambia who would yell, “I’MFINE HOWAREYOU I’MFINE HOWAREYOU I’MFINE HOWAREYOU,” over and over again as if it wsa two words instead of five, as if yelling “HELLO HELLO HELLO” and not a question and answer series.

It bothered me to walk away.  It probably would have bothered her more if I’d answered.

Friday, March 6, 2015

While We’re Young and Beautiful

We are told we will not be young and beautiful forever.  Every piece of our culture and our lives we are told this.  Bettery hurry and catch a man because our flower will fade, we will wilt, we will not be young and beautiful forever.

No, I will not be young forever, but I will be beautiful.  I look around me, at the women in my life who are older than me, and I see it.  we are beautiful forever.  It is a changing beauty.

I look at my mother and my aunts; they are beautiful.  They were beautiful at 20.  They were beautiful at 40.  They are beautiful at 60.  I look at colleagues, and church ladies and people on the street.  No, they are not young, but they are beautiful.  I will not be young, but I will be beautiful.

You cannot scare me, life.


… And as for the young, I’d have to live a very long time to run out of men older than me ;)

*Title taken from the Carrie Underwood song “We’re Young and Beautiful

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Making Room for the Clothes part 1

My new place has one closet.  One not-so-very-big but oh-so-very-tall closet.  The ceilings in the apartment are only about 7feet, but for some reason, the bar in this closet is still higher than most, almost near the top of the closet.  “This is awesome!”  I thought to myself, “so much potential.”

First, the tall bar means I can hang up my long dresses and my catsuit without them dragging on the floor.   That’s excellent.  It also means there’s room for a double-decker bar.  So, I built one.

I went to that fabulous hardware store and picked up a metal clothes pole, two eye bolts, two S hooks and two pieces of 6-ft lengths of chain.

I wanted the double-decker pole to only be half the closet so that I still had a place to hang my long dresses.  I measured that space in the closet and cut the metal pole to size with my hacksaw.  I’m not very good at cutting straight with a hacksaw, especially when I’m using my legs as a clamp to hold what I’m cutting.   The edge is a bit crooked, but not too bad.  I used the wire brush attachment on my Dremel to remove burs and smooth out the cut edge of the pole.

Then I drilled my holes.  Well, I tried to drill my holes.  I had a 1/16” drill bit the hardware store gave me for free that was strong enough to go through metal.  But my eye bolts were 1/4” and the only bits I had big enough for that were masonry and dry wall bits.  Neither would go through metal.  I had to put the project aside for a week while I gallivanted all over the country and come back to it when I had the proper bit.  I picked up the proper bit in Milwaukee.

Once I had the holes drilled, I put the eye bolts in and screwed on the nuts.  I put holes in both sides of the bar so that the eye bolts go all the way through, making the bar studier when it’s on the chains.  I put one end of each piece of chain on empty hangers and hung the hangers on the closet’s existing pole.  I put an S hook on the other ends and the other side of the S hooks on the eye bolts.  And there I had it, a second level in my closet!

closet bar

I have it arranged now so that my long dresses are in the single-decker area, my suits are on the top level of the double-decker area and my blouses are on the hanging bar.  It’s working great so far.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Fleetwood Mac

Mommy and Daddy and I were supposed to go together, in February, in Milwaukee.  But I left.  So I went alone, in January, in DC.  The chance to see Fleetwood Mac, the entire group, live, was something I couldn’t let moving get in the way of.  So I got myself a single ticket, took the bus to the Verizon center, and took my seat between people who could have been my parents instead of my parents.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect the band members to look 60.  They do of course, because they are.  I think their clothes haven’t changed, though.  Stevie Nicks wore a black flowey outfit with high-heeled boots.  It’s good to know Mommy isn’t the only senior citizen who can still rock 4” heels.

My ticket said “obstructed view” but I’m not sure what was supposed to be obstructing it, other than the woman with the extremely large head a few rows ahead.  The seats were on the side near the front, waaaay up top.  They were pretty neat because I could see the stage well and see backstage, and see the backside of the screen where everyone appeared in mirror image.

The band opened with “The Chain,” which I found personally appropriate since that’s the song that got me into Fleetwood Mac when Bone Thugs N Harmony sampled it in their “Wind Blow.”  The show was sort of divided into 3 parts, 4 if you count the encore.  The opening and closing pieces were upbeat, high energy, full group songs.  The middle was slower, more melancholy, and  served as an intermission for pretty much everyone but Lindsey Buckingham.  He was joined for a part of it by Stevie.

“Landslide” was just Stevie and Lindsey.  “Landslide” made me cry.  I think it always will.  Music is like a time machine, transporting our hearts and the depths of our emotions to another place, another time, another us.  That song takes me back to a very dark and painful time.  But I still love it, it’s such a beautiful song and a visit from tears now and then is good.  Once everyone came back on stage, they started rockin’ again.

I was surprised when the set didn’t end with “Don’t Stop.”  But, since I could see backstage, I could see the band was coming back on and figured they’d do it during the encore.  And a few songs into the encore, there it was.  An older couple down a couple rows from me got up to dance.  So did some very drunk young ladies at the end of the row.  I thought it’d be the end of the show.  But I was wrong.  Christine McVie took center stage for “Songbird” and then everyone got loud and rambunctious and Mick Fleetwood went a little nuts with some whooping and hollering.

The show involved a lot of talking, something between nearly every song.  -  Much different than the Metallica-style I’m used to where every song bleeds into the next.  Lindsey was trying to talk about all the heartaches the band went through and how the personal meaning of a particular song had changed through the different stages of his life, but the crowd wouldn’t let him.  People kept cheering and yelling “We love you!”  He lost his train of thought; he eventually gave up and just played the song.  I felt bad for him; he was trying to share his soul and the crawd wasn’t listening.

At one point, Stevie was talking about her history, how she joined the band, and her inspiration for “Gypsy,” and she said go after your dreams, no matter what others tell you, conquer fears, chase the dreams, etc.  It felt so perfect, making me not feel alone in this giant brand new city, making it feel right to be here, chasing my dreams, going after that thing that made so many people say, “you want to do what?!” and some very special others say “ok!”

The show was awesome, Mommy, Daddy, and my auntie who got my ticket are going to love it!