Navigating life as a woman in the world today is incredibly difficult. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are.
Every Wednesday at 9 am, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
In this week’s HER I talk to a woman who has struggled with body image issues her whole life. And has only come to be accepting of her body this year. In her own words – “Orobo no be crime and I’m tired of living my life like I’m on trial”.
When did you first become aware of your body?
Probably from all of my earliest memories. In primary school, everyone called me Orobo. Even before then, family members called me Orobo. It was mostly endearing. I was a cute child with my round face, pigtails and cute little striped uniform. There were a few snide remarks from aunts, but it’s only now I realize they were snide. It was in secondary school it became an insult. I was a preteen, then a teenager and the shelter of ‘It’s just baby weight’ no longer protected me.
Do you remember the exact moment the switch happened?
I’m not sure if this was the exact moment, but I have this distinct memory from secondary school that I can never forget. It was in JSS2; I was 12 going on 13 and I got into an argument with three girls in my class. It was over our best characters in a movie or a music video or something like that. In the middle of the argument, one of the girls went “ehn, what do you know, orobo like you“. It won’t have hurt if the other girls did not start laughing. That egged her on. She started talking about how my uniform would eventually tear because I was fat and all the other mean things you can imagine a 12-year-old would say. I retorted with things like “ode you don’t have sense” then I called her a stupid bastard because see I was pained. Then she went to report me because apparently, her dad was dead. At the end of the day, I was the one who got in trouble
And did you ever get teased at home?
I never used to, but that’s because all of us are just fat anyhow. In my second year at uni, my mother started disturbing me about losing weight. She was worried that I wouldn’t find a husband because of my size. Every month now, she tells me the story of how when my dad was toasting her, she was lepa shandy and having kids ruined her figure. She says that I’m single because I’m fat. I used to resent her for it, but now I don’t because it’s not her fault. It’s the narrative society has sold her for years. I understand she’s not trying to be hurtful and that she’s genuinely concerned.
Unfortunately for her though, I’m comfortable like this. Over the years, I lied to myself that I didn’t care about my weight, but I was constantly overcompensating. I was like a little house girl for the one boyfriend I ever had because I couldn’t believe he wanted to be with me. The only thing I didn’t do was put that boy through school. Of which I used to give him out of my pocket-money to add to his own o, so you can even say I contributed to his education. Now I truly don’t care. Na fat I fat, I no kill person please. Orobo no be crime and I’m tired of living my life like I’m on trial.
Weirdest thing that happens to you?
I won’t say this is weird, but this is always funny to me. So I have a slim sister, well she’s sha slimmer than me. She’s about a size 12. Here’s the thing, we look exactly alike. We can almost pass as identical twins; that’s how crazy it is. But anytime we go out and she introduces me to someone as her sister, they always go “it’s a lieee, no wayyy. You guys look nothing alike.” It’s so ridiculous because everyone can clearly see that we look alike, what they mean to say is how come you are slim and your sister is fat. Before, I wouldn’t say anything when it happened. These days, I say, “Look well o, is it because I’m fat? Because we have the same face.” There is always awkward laughter after I say it, but it’s not from me. I don’t even crack a smile.
What size are you?
How long have you been a size 22?
About two or three years now. Before then I was a size 18 for a while. And before 18, I can’t remember what size I was. I know I was a size 18 in year 1 sha.
Have you ever actively tried to lose weight?
My sister, which one haven’t I tried? From exercise to slimming tea. And it’s not just to join summer body gang but for health reasons too. My mother is hypertensive and my father is diabetic; they are both overweight and their size contributes considerably to their health issues. Every other year, I join a gym, but I never stay more than two weeks, because people just like to stare. It’s like you are entertainment to them. You’d see them pointing and discussing, they don’t even try to hide it. The last time I was at a gym, this babe was trying to encourage her friend to finish her reps and she pointed at me and told the friend, “If you don’t finish, you’ll get to that size.” She didn’t know I heard her, and I don’t think she was even trying to be mean. But it made me feel so bad. I just realised I actually haven’t been to a gym since then, and ko si owo personal trainer. So that’s that.
What’s your diet like?
Ah the number one question every fat girl gets. Don’t worry, I was waiting for this question and I know you have to ask it.
You don’t have to answer it, I didn’t mean to be intrusive
Oh at all, we were talking about weight loss now, so this had to come up. People always assume that all fat people eat too much which is a logical conclusion I guess, but that’s just one way to get fat. Sometimes — and that’s what I’ve come to realise is my case — it’s genetic. I don’t eat a lot. I never have. On most days I go by with one meal a day and it’s exactly this – N100 rice, N400 beef and N100 plantain from Olaiya. It’s not a healthy diet but it doesn’t add up to my current size. I’ve never tried to diet because I don’t even eat a lot in the first place.
Most difficult thing you go through?
I don’t like public transport, which is stressful because I don’t have money. In fact, I’ve even stopped taking it, but thankfully my office is close to my house now. When I used to work in Lekki, I had to take one keke and two buses every day to and from home and it was always so traumatising. I worked there for 7 months and there was no single day I went to work with public transport that someone didn’t insult me because of my size. No single day.
I’ll get pushed, nudged and shoved because I’m an orobo and I’m taking up more than the quota of space allocated to me by God. If I don’t get a front seat and that’s the last bus in sight I’d rather wait for an hour than sit in the back. If I’m the first person to sit in the back of a bus nobody else will sit on my aisle until the bus is full. You’ll think I have leprosy or something. When it’s almost full and someone has to sit on my aisle you can always see the annoyance on their face. Some will start grumbling and mumbling things along the lines of ‘how person go just fat like this?’
One last thing why did you want this to be anon?
I don’t know. I thought you’d want pictures and I didn’t want to share anything. I also didn’t want people reaching out to form supportive. It’s funny how it’s always skinny women that do this thing first. I’ll be with a group of friends talking about my struggles and some size 6 bitch will be like “girl I totally get you.” I always ask them, what do you get? And they always say the same thing: we all need to be fit regardless of our size. Which is actually true, but abeg, they should carry their own somewhere else. I also didn’t want this to get back to my mother. You know how the internet is these days. She’ll start crying again about me not finding husband and I’ve had peace for about a month now.
Hi there! While you are here do you want to take a minute to sign up for HER’S weekly newsletter? There’ll be inside gist from this series and other fun stuff. It’ll only take 15 seconds. Yes I timed it.