by Victor Daniel
I’m in my room with nothing but a towel hanging loosely around my waist, a bath delayed in exchange for the company of my visiting friends, wandering in circles and laughing carelessly as I exchange banters with them. Sade is lying in bed, faced to the wall and reading a novel. Paying little or no attention to whatever we were saying. Because ‘Boy-talk’. Only occasionally sighing in frustration when I’m laughing too loud and distracting her.
David, after a string of unsuccessful attempts at humour finally thought it wise to cement his bad run of petty jokes when he suddenly feigned seriousness, and in a tone of sobriety, he asks:
“But Victor, seriously now, see how you thin? When last you do HIV test?”
Stale, but everyone laughs. An old joke that never lost its appeal.
Moments later, they all leave and I’m alone with Sade again. She takes a pause from the novel she was reading and turns to me, with sincere concerns in her eyes, and asks-
“But seriously, when was the last time you did a HIV test?”
She had spent a few days with me and she had always spared for herself the luxury of asking the rhetorical question
“Why are you this skinny?”
And now, my friend has raised the topic in a harmless banter, but Sade, who in a moment of uncontrollable pleasure I had penetrated without a rubber, had taken the joke with an awkward sense of seriousness. Because I’m skinny…An AIDS patient type of skinny (mind the exaggeration), and somehow, Sade had become suddenly concerned about my health status because I’m skinny.
I thought I was created perfect. Light brown skinned, well carved brows, a pretty face and a sharp mind- perfection. At first it all seemed fine. There was no difference between myself and the next kid; we all looked the same – skinny, carefree, free. I would run around with nothing but my shorts and my bare chest, just like other kids. We were all same. Dry. Boney. Skeletal. But it was fine, we were all kids.
All the kids started turning into boys, then men. With all the components of growth and development:pubic hair, facial hair, thicker voices; muscles. All the kids, me too, but the biceps didn’t come. I became self conscious. For the first time I realized I could no longer go around outside bare chested like everyone else. Suddenly I hated shorts, because I needed to have my legs covered. Sleeves had to be long and V-necked shirts were abominable.
Let’s face it. For a guy, being skinny is nothing to be proud of. Yeah we talk a deal about contents and the vanity of physical body shapes, but I hate the feeling that someone I’m attracted to is attracted to another person because of how great his body is. It’s quite easy to give the Tyrion Lannister speech about being proud of your deformities if you are neither a fat girl or a skinny guy. Because you’ll never know what it’s like to catch your girlfriend oogling at the biceps of the cocky dude in your area who doesn’t like putting his shirts on.
I slowly developed a dislike for swimming, because you can’t swim with your clothes on. I feel like everyone’s attention is on me the moment I take off my top while I’m in a public swimming pool. I am as self conscious about my bareness as a girl is about hers.
I like looking at my shadow when I walk, because most times it’s a little bigger than my actual size; the joy in seeing an image of yourself that only exists in your most puerile fantasy.
As a child I was painstakingly selective with meals. I still am, but I’ve improved significantly. My hyper sensitive parents would literally have to shove the food down my neck. They desperately needed to improve my nutrition because I needed to get fatter. People had a miseducated assumption that I was skinny because I was malnourished, and this was outrightly embarrassing to my parents, especially when we always had more than enough to eat, give out and toss in the bin. I grew up and started eating more; though still a bit selective, I ate a lot of the few foods I liked. As a matter of fact I think I eat a lot more than the average human.
“You no dey chop?”, someone who isn’t too familiar with me would always ask. If my body fat increased based on how much I ate, this article would have been about my struggles with fat.
I still haven’t gotten used to the cruel remarks.
“See as you be like who breeze wan blow troway”
Or the assumption that I’m automatically physically inferior because I’m skinny and I don’t have enough strength to perform a task. This assumption has gotten me excused from various physical strength demanding chores; An empathy usually leaves me utterly embarrassed.
Other related schools of thoughts suggests me to hit the gym. What they have failed to consider is that people gym to burn fats. How can I burn fats that I don’t even have?
Silence, Death stare, Clenched teeth, Narrowed eyes… And all other countenances that portrayed anger greeted Sade’s question. It was enough reply. I was deeply offended by the question, so offended I was provoked to take another HIV test… The second in 5 months. Negative. Took a picture of the result and sent it to her on whatsapp with the caption:
This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.
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