Faridah loved Saturday school days. On this Saturday, their school had invited other schools for a game of volleyball. She was excited not because of the game but because of the visitors.
Leon was particularly the visitor she was expecting. He was in form three, from a neighbouring school. There were no special features she liked about him, he was a boy who had shown interest in her and that was all that mattered to Faridah.
After all, everybody else had a boyfriend in high school. If she had rejected Leon, chances of being approached by another were minimal.
Now this Saturday, she had done everything the teacher on duty and prefects required of her. Her focus would soon be on the school gate. She wasn’t alone.
Seated on some benches near the school gate were several other girls, their faces heavily made up in cheap make-up obviously shared amongst each other. You could tell this because they all had the same shade of pink lip-stick, excessively powdered faces and blue eye-shadow drawn above their eye lids.
For their hairs, the styles varied depending on the size of hair. Being in school, they all wore school uniform but their skirts were rather short. So short were they that whenever they bent, their upper thighs were clearly visible to the world.
The girls engaged in chit chat as they waited for the school buses to drive their boyfriends in.
Leon’s school came in first. She and a few others let out an excited shriek. The boys must have more eager to see their girlfriends. They peeped through the windows, so impatient to reach the parking lot that they pulled their heads out waving and throwing kisses at the smitten high school girls.
Faridah saw Leon first. His eyes were scanning around for someone. They seemed to meet hers but he shifted the gaze quickly. Their teacher called for their attention and they had to divert their attention towards him.
Faridah’s sixth sense told her everything was not right. It wouldn’t be long before she realized that she wasn’t wrong.
When Leon’s teacher gave them the instructions of the day. The boys walked hurriedly towards the eager girls. Each to his own. She saw Leon walking towards her. Then her classmate, Deedee blocked her view and stood in front of her. Leon revealed a big grin and embraced her.
Suddenly there was a fight. A boy from a his school had given Leon an unexpected blow on his head. Fellow boys stopped the commotion quickly to avoid causing attention.
“Dude that’s my girl!” The boy said angrily.
“No she is not. Ask her. ” Leon answered rubbing his head irritatedly.
“I am no longer your girl Dave. Keep off from me.” Deedee said as she held Leon by the arm walking him away from the crowd.
As the two walked away from the small crowd, Leon shouted, “But you can have this one!” Pointing at Faridah.
“What? The dark one? Eish! Don’t you know charcoal can burn. I don’t want to get burned!” The boy retorted and everyone around burst out laughing.
Faridah’s eyes were wet with embarrassment. She ran to the dorms holding her mouth to stop herself from weeping loudly. Fortunately, her dorm was opened. She went inside her bed and had a long cry.
She sat up and took a mirror out from her box. She was always getting noticed by her dark skin. She knew that even behind her back, her class mates had a nickname for her based on her dark complexion.
Even though everyone at home was dark, no one was as dark as her. She was the darkest of them all. This had played with her self esteem, leaving her feeling different.
Now she had suffered a major shame because of her skin colour. She stared at the mirror and felt a strong disloathing towards the dark melanin shining on her skin.
She peeped through the window and saw Quin, the new girl in her class. Faridah watched as boys ogled at her. Quin said no to all high school boys who tried to win her, boasting that her boyfriend was in campus.
Faridah wanted to be like the new girl whom she had built a good friendship with. She knew that Quin’s fair skin was the cause of her attention. So light-skinned was Quin that from afar you would have thought she was Caucasian. Yes, that was what Faridah wanted, to be like her friend.
She went back to bed. There was no way she would even participate in games after suffering such embarrassment. She would sleep all day until the event was over.
Even though the scene was quickly forgotten by her peers, it remained a painful emotional scar for Faridah for the rest of her school life. She became sensitive to any comment about her. She became paranoid to any gossip around her thinking they were commenting about her skin colour.
After high school, Faridah noticed that the world outside there was more cruel.
As she awaited her results, her friend recommended a job as a waiter in a local hotel.
“Its better than staying at home doing nothing. C’mon, let’s go and see whether we will get the hustle!” Her friend Mary encouraged. Faridah thought, it wasn’t a bad idea.
But the hotel picked Mary and left Faridah.
“That one will cost us a lot of electricity for our customers to see her. You can hardly see her!” Faridah heard one of the employers say, as she closed the door behind her.
“She is so black that I only saw her teeth when she started to talk!” The other said and another guffaw broke.
She went home feeling unwanted, ugly and broken.
The mirror in her bedroom was big. She undressed and had a good stare at her body.
“Truth be told Faridah, you are damn dark!” She said as she turned to see her back. She did not see the flawless shiny skin that flowed so beautifully from her neck to her feet. Instead, she saw a repelling sight staring back at her.
She dressed back quickly, unable to stare any more. Her radio was on and a local singer was singing about an African woman. Faridah laughed at the lyrics, The blacker the berry the sweeter the juice…
“Yet you would be caught dead eating black berries!” She snickered and switched it off.
She joined her family in the living room who were watching a local soap. She kept gazing at her elder sister who had the fairest skin in the house. How pretty her sister was , she thought.
An opportunity to change things came in for Faridah. It was in form of a TV advert. Faridah watched as the advertisement of a body cream promised to change one’s skin tone from dark to fair.
She watched , yearning fibres tearing through her insides. She silently mastered the name of the body cream and vowed to use it to change her skin colour. Although her family wouldn’t approve of it, she would do it anyway. It was her who suffered the most ridicule because she was the darkest of them all. They wouldn’t understand anyway.
On a planned day, she left to the main town to the main supermarket, eager to purchase the product that would save her from all mockery.
She thought of passing by Quin’s mother’s shop. Faridah had been informed that Quin regularly helped her mother at the shop.
“Faridah!” Quin replied enthusiastically upon seeing her former classmate. Faridah thought Quin looked more beautiful now with make-up and a long weave. She couldn’t help but stare. She just had to get the coal-like skin off her and be like Quin.
As they chatted, she noticed Quin staring unusually at her.
“What?” Faridah asked.
“You! You are so stunning. You are like an international model. So tall above us, beautiful long hair, your eyes have that uniqueness, and see all the lashes around your eyes…see my eye lashes, all fake!” Quin said.
Faridah was lost in surprise. Was Quin mocking her?
“Quin , are you for real, seriously?” She asked almost at the verge of tears at the thought of Quin mocking her.
“Of course I am, Farida. Don’t you remember in high school, how we all called you Nyakim? That supermodel in Sudan?”
“That’s what Nyakim meant? I thought it was such a bad name with a demeaning connotation!” Faridah asked , more perplexed at Quin’s revelation.
Faridah told Quin that it was her that admired her and even confessed how she was on her way to buy a bleaching cream.
“I know the place. Let’s go!” Quin said, surprising Faridah. “Mum, I will be back shortly!” Quin said to her mother.
A few minutes later, Quin and Faridah were in a big store that was full of women selling chemical products.
“There are all kinds of bleaching agents here. You just have to say what you want and they got it.” Quin said.
Faridah looked around in wonder. There were creams, tubes, oils, syringes, capsules, everything. Quin held her hand and led her to a woman seated at a corner. Half of the woman’s face was hidden. The woman was selling registered lotions.
“This is my friend Sabella. Sabella say hi to my friend Faridah.”
Sabella stared at Faridah, desire on her face.
“Quin, does your friend want to change her skin colour?” Sabella asked, a tone of pain hinting in her voice. Quin nodded. Then Sabella bent as if to pick something. When she sat up, she gave Faridah a picture.
There was a picture of a woman, a gorgeous woman with a smooth dark skin like Faridah’s.
“Who is this?” Faridah asked.
“That’s me.” Sabella replied, her eyes glassy. “See me now, ” she said and revealed the hidden part of the face. It was, in the most polite way to say, hideous. She looked like a broken piece of wood put back together using some glue.
“I hated the black skin God gave me. So I decided to bleach it. After one month, the results of the bleach came out. I was fair skinned. I would look at the mirror and love what I saw. I went back for more, for my neck and hands and legs. Since I was selling all these products, I took the capusles to bleach my whole body so that the knuckles would not sell me out.
I did but the knuckles were still dark despite the other parts being too light. I decided to go the injection way and that’s when hell broke loose. My face started to peel off. I went to a doctor but the medication could only do so little. The injection also made me infertike.
The sadder thing is, I cant stop applying some cream till now. My body became addicted. Any time I stop, my body starts to itch like I have scabies. I am a slave to these products. Please my dear girl, stop even thinking about it. You are very beautiful.”
Faridah wanted to turn and go but Sabella stopped her. She gave her a piece of paper.
“My daughter is as beautiful as you are. Someone gave her this to apply as a model but she is pregnant right now. This will not help her much. Try your luck, and call that number of that modelling agency. You might just be what they are looking for.”
The two ladies left Sabella afterwards. Quin inquired whether she would still go ahead with her purchase but Faridah had made up her mind. She wouldn’t dare.
“Faridah. I am glad you passed by because I feel like I have saved a life. Truth is, we are born differently. All of us have our flaws and we have to accept that we are not perfect…”
Faridah sneered at Quin’s last stament and interrupted her. “Mmmh…what’s your flaw? You are perfect!”
“Don’t say that. While we were in high school, in form 2 I had a boyfriend who while we kissing, he put his hand up my bra and realized I had put pieces of clothing in my bra to resemble boobs.
Though I begged him not to tell anyone, he shouted to all and sundry and they started calling me funny names. I had to transfer to another school and from then, started to lie that I had a boyfriend in campus.
I couldn’t stand another embarrassment. Upto now, my boobs are like a pair of small passion friuts although I really wish I had some good pair of water melons on my chest.”
Quin’s confession touched Faridah. Here she was thinking that Quin had it all yet she too was fighting insecurities that Faridah wouldn’t have bothered about.
“Thank you so much my friend.” Faridah said as she hugged Quin a goodbye.
As she went back home, she felt a regained confidence. She felt an overwhelming self love.
“Wawawa, girl aren’t you black!” She heard the conductor from which she alighted the matatu from, say. She turned to him and smiled,
“Black is beautiful, thank you for the compliment.”
Her long legs took long strides as she walked away feeling nothing but joy. Nothing would bring her down whatsover.
“You look so happy today.” Her mother commented.
“I am.” She grinned.
Just before she retired to bed, she read through the piece of paper Sabella had given her. The modelling agency were looking for a model who would be the face of a leading petroleum jelly company. Only a picture and an email address were required. She sent the requirements to the address given and then fell asleep to a heavy slumber.
One week later, Faridah’s face was on the every billboard in major towns. Three months later, Nyakim and Faridah appeared in an international fashion TV show talking about Emancipation of Dark Skinned Women In the Fashion World.
So look in the mirror, no matter the flaws you think you have , and say, “I love me” because you are you and there is no other you like you.