I knew I was intelligent before I knew I was beautiful, for I won academic prizes throughout my primary school years from the time I was five up ‘til ten. This external validation, reinforced by the circle of people who shaped me, became my inner truth.
My mother was the first yardstick I used to measure beauty by. When people called me little Gina, alluding to our resemblance, I realized I was beautiful. But what did that mean?
At my girls-only boarding school, we giggled and bit our nails when boys from the nearby school attended our social events. Being beautiful meant that I was asked to dance and not forgotten on the bench. It meant my classmates said I looked like Yinka, a girl two years older, whom everyone called Black Beauty. Much later, it meant that I tweezed my eyebrows and applied mascara like the models in Vogue.
My mother told me hard work and a good education would secure success. She did not tell me beauty could be a first-class ticket. You see, once when I tried to register a business campaign, my efforts stalled under the weight of bureaucracy. Then a friend scolded me, “How can? A beautiful woman like you? Don’t you know what to do?” Appalled, I went back and talked my way through.
But her seed grew. I studied how people, men, responded to me; after all, they saw me before they heard me. I remember being singled out from a long line of tired and impatient passengers at an airport. As I crossed the gate having passed Security, the officer said, “You’re very pretty.”
I would be naïve to assume that any preferential treatment I receive is because of beauty alone. It would be naïve of you to assume that I don’t receive unwanted attention or worse still, endure suspicion or dismissal on account of my looks.
Recently, I watched a YouTube video about the changing face of beauty, with a friend. “I wish I were born in a different century,” she said touching her generous hips and rubbing her round belly. I just happen to live in an era where my features coincide with what some consider attractive. I’ve come to know that beauty is leverage and the temptation to abuse it, real.
To me, my looks are secondary. But here’s what I know. A beautiful woman on a man’s arm makes him feel taller. In a world of selfies, people soon forget how you look because they are consumed with how you make them look.
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. ~ Anais Nin
©Timi Yeseibo 2015
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