‘UThuli kalanto enhle!’ (Thuli can never have anything pretty) Harrumphed my exasperated mother one Christmas afternoon.
Someone had bought me these lovely gold earrings for Christmas. I had fought a losing battle that morning as I didn’t want them on and mom was determined they would go well with my new Christmas outfit and make me look so pretty.
What I never said was, I didn’t want the earrings on for that very reason. I loathed being pretty, I didn’t want to be beautiful. I lost the battle that morning and kept the earrings on. What mom didn’t know is that I surreptitiously took one earring off and threw it away on our walk to church. I won the war!
I must have been 5 or 6. The abuse had already started by then.
For many years after this I engaged in constant fights with my mom and sisters over my choice of clothes. They could not understand why I always chose to walk around looking like a hobo when I had family who loved me pretty. I remember there was one dress I wore constantly my family used to joke that it was ‘isgqoko samadlozi’ i.e. a gift straight from my ancestors which could not be taken off in case I upset them. It was said in love and I found it funny.
But. What I never said was, what they never understood was, I never wanted to be pretty. I didn’t want to be beautiful.
As if the gods were against me, my body developed really quickly and I had a shapely figure for as long as I can remember. My sister used to buy me clothes that suited my figure just right, and I would forgo those for some drabby clothes. I really baffled my family those years. I always got comments like ‘if I had a body like yours….’
What I never said was, what they never understood was, I never wanted to be pretty. I didn’t want to be beautiful.
Every time anybody commented on my looks, I could feel his eyes on me. I could feel the slime of his sleezy looks slide from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. I deserve an award for how hard I worked at resisting the urge to cringe.
I honestly don’t think I really believed I was pretty nor beautiful. But it felt like it was my curse. It was the reason why I was singled out. I hated any focus on my body, on me and my looks. To me, pretty hurt.
Many years later, I had lovely friends at university who could not understand why I chose to look so unsightly always. One particular friend would lightly pinch my ear whenever she met me on campus without earrings on – like a young lady should. What do they say about full circles and all?
What I never remembered was, I never wanted to be pretty. What I couldn’t remember was why I never wanted to be pretty. I couldn’t remember why I developed this habit.
I’d forgotten that my pretty hurt once.
(Thank you so much for your support so far. Sorry for taking a while without posting. I had a really difficult couple of days. I will try to post at least once a week going forward)