In the city of Lagos, being over twenty years old, a female and showing no prospects of an impending marriage ceremony is unacceptable. Like me if you have hit the twenties mid point, and there are still no signs of a recurring name in your conversations of the male specie of course, then you have become a cause for a state of emergency. My friend is a writer, a bit of a hippy too and still has grand dreams to write her first non-Nollywood screenplay and maybe one day lace her dreads with cowries, wearing a long gypsy skirt and touring film festivals around the world. Now it seems a bit “Thomas Moore’s Utopia” but here is the twist. She has just hit the big three zero. That time in your life where you are told that your younger sisters cannot get married before you. When you are asked questions like “what is wrong with you...why are you being very picky. Just choose one and train him. No body is perfect..need i remind you men are scarce in Lagos” . In some instances there are the accusations of being a lesbian and constant references to the fact that your eggs are about to attain shrivelling status before they fry and become completely futile. I always thought there was a process though, you met someone, dated, got into a serious relationship, along the way discover if the forever after would be right for both of you or not. Again like me if you are of the wasted youth generation, who spent years being overly serious and overly responsible accompanied by unnesesary insecurity and self loathing, consequently realising that the world had passed through you instead of the other way round. Self actualisation somewhat threatens you slapping you on the face with statements like “there is an unexplored world right in front of you” and this time round you aren’t just ready to let it pass you by a second time. Marriage is a beautiful thing they say. Finding love and companionship for the rest of your life. Never having to go to the cinema alone pretending that you are meeting a friend there. Saying goodbye to those sad drunken girls nights out where you bitch about men and surveying every club hoping desperately that someone might be checking you out. At least that way the outfit and bleeding toes weren’t in vein. Waving goodbye to the life of unavailable men. Bidding adieu to those hopes of getting picked because finally you are number one. No more booty calls or creature of emotional escapism because you are number ONE and you get his last name to prove it. Marriage is also mortgages, savings, investments, acquiring assets, children, school fees, summer camps, family vacation, business loans, health insurance being responsible, being a provider, leading or supporting the clan, and in Nigeria domestic staff, driver, laundry man and security . Not saying there is anything wrong with this but when do I get to travel on a bus around west Africa and write my book about the Griots. When do I get to wake up and shoot my photo essay on the lives of the Tuaregs for three months. When do i quit my job to start my business and learn a second language. When do i go back packing as part of my artistic odyssey. As a somewhat professional fantasist, yes i accept my plans do go a bit overboard. All one is saying is that sometimes it might just be a bit selfish to get hitched for culture sake when you have a truckload of unfulfilled plans. Yes!!!! i know you can still achieve everything you want when you find the right one. But still, can one just wake up, quit your well paying nine to five, pick up a hobby and still be married? Despite my rant, ask me again in a year or two, when i start using products consisting of names like hypo- dermabrasion kit, glycolic peels and Retanin in a dire attempt to reverse the black on my face from cracking. I might just start singing like a canary. Telling you about my high flying job in corporate communications and my own pending nuptials too. Anything just to save the poor eggs and fulfil my purpose of procreation to my culture and mankind. If you haven’t caved in just yet, a night vigil dedicated solely to your singleton status may just be in order. hopefully someone is still going to want to annoint me with that pearl ring after saying all this.
by WANA UDOBANG I was privileged to be an attendee at a recent celebrity wedding and im sure you know that weddings happen to be the ultimate net-worker’s haven. If you aren’t scouting for a potential spouse, then you have to make those vital industry contacts. I was introduced by a friend to another attendee. Industry introductions are a little different from the norm. You are introduced by your name, accompanied with what you do. Infact the introduction is not only accompanied with what you do, but how high you are on the Richter scale of power. Sometimes it feels like a Forbes one hundred list of the most influential people in the entertainment business. Then there is this over eagerness to exchange numbers. Going back to the introductions, this other guy was introduced to me as the publicist to a very well known crooner. So after the casual smile, forced small talk and swap of digits, I turn back to my friend and then I ask in bemusement, “ I thought L was handling the crooners public relations”. Then my friend proceeds on a tutorial of what has now been coined “ the new age groupies”. He proceeds to explain to me that all these people work for free. They are neither hired nor poached. The dream is that eventually, when the brand blows beneath the stratosphere, they will reap their reward and hopefully get a mention during the Grammy speeches. In these cases though, they will just have to settle for MTV and Channel O awards. Further into the tutorial, he broke down the different categories. There is management, within that there are even different strata of managers. There are the producers, the radio promotions people, the online promotions and marketing people, the print promotions people who tend to be magazine columnists usually. There are the facebook hype people, the hook singers, the graphic designers for the proposed album covers, the video director, the logistics guy, the personal assistant, the diary managers, the logistics people, the party planners, the Tee shirt printers and less I forget, the stylist slash wannabe designer, whom I would usually refer to as the clothing assembler. “babe, its keying into the brand, for a lack of a better phrase to think of” that was what my friend told me. Then it dawned on me, even I was one too. I pondered for a little while, and then assessed some of my previous activities. I had engaged in prostituting myself as fans of their work on facebook with hype status updates, written features about them on blogs, stalked them for interviews, in the end telling myself I was promoting and lending my support to good works of art. I had made comments on facebook walls, on how I had given airplay to some of the most underground songs of these artists before they started to smell an iota of public recognition. I was nothing less than a new age groupie, but just a groupie with a day job. My friend later told me about a mutual colleague of ours who was a groupie too. Apparently he told my friend that once the star gets bigger, the phone calls decline gradually before they finally stop. Gone are the days when they call you to listen to a track when it’s still being mixed on multi-track, all in a bid for your audible expertise. Slowly you become useless and those dreams of hearing your name in the award show thank you accolades start to wither. Like a pest infested plant, just before they die. The dream you assisted in constructing leaves you with a bullet lodged in your spine. Just imagine a drive by in broad daylight. Somewhere deep down, I knew how he felt. It was like when the spice girls sacked Simon Fuller. Or when Rolling Stones Mick Jagger dumped Marianne Faithful( She became a heroine addict and later managed to carve out a singing career eventually then later had cancer from supposedly smoking three packets of cigarettes a day) At least in Fullers case, he was able to conceive the “Idols” franchise which became the blueprint for all song and dance contests around the globe. But not every abandoned groupie becomes as successful as Fuller. Some will eventually give it all up to return to the world of nine to five, and some start to take advantage of desperate fame hungry seekers. For a fee, they will sleep on facebook on your behalf all day, while others just name drop and tell stories of how they all used to share a bedroom in the ghetto when they were still nobodies. None the less, some groupies become entities on their own. They spam you with press releases till you have no choice but to recognise their clients. So there you have it, groupies come in all shapes, sizes and vocations too.
by WANA UDOBANG Fashion is brutal. That’s what they will tell you. Like Heidi Klum says in project runway, “One minute you’re in and the next your out”. Suck your stomach in and button those jeans, wear those shoes even if your toes bleed. Its fashion, it’s hot but its got to hurt. But for some of us, our butts can barely get into it. Let’s not talk of looking hot in it. I recently scored a gig as the co-host on a make-over and stylish television show and for me it was off to the shops to hunt down some outfits to film what might sooner or later be referred to as my big break. Here the silent drama ensued. We walked into one of those overpriced Victoria Island stores. After trying on a few calico (Tehru) made outfits and finally convincing them that it wouldn’t fit, much to my embarrassment, we all gave up. As a UK size twenty, with a cup size that equates to the seventh letter of the English alphabet plus complementary hips thereabouts in the width of fifty inches, I had given up on being any designers muse a very long time ago. So the likelihood of finding any piece of fashionable iconography to pass my shoulders(décolletage as the Hollywood stylistics call it) in Nigeria is next to nothing. Then I heard the designer lady over the phone asking her suppliers if it was possible to get some designs in a larger size. Somewhere deep down I started to believe the fashion deities where about to have mercy on my chicken and ice cream sins. For a split second, I envisioned a miracle. I had seen a really nice empire waist dress with the chest area constructed out of patchwork Ankara fabric and the bottom half just a layer of floor length flowing chiffon. The belt would singe my waist in, and the gathered chiffon would drape right over my Michelin belly. I would look fabulous in that dress I thought. Then I asked, “Is it possible to get this in my size? Its not for the show, I will be paying for this”. Forgive my shylock fingers but I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty for the thought that I was actually considering purchasing “patch patch” Ankara for over a hundred pounds.(sadly I still calculate from Naira to Pounds to digest how much im being robbed). Then she replied “im sorry this stops at a size sixteen, making it in a bigger size would be stress for me. It means fitting and re-fitting which for me is a lot of stress”. I gasped beneath my breath and my eyes glided across the room, only to be met with a synchronised stare from my director friend Ododo. I thought I was the only one who realised what she had just said until I could read Ododo’s thoughts in her pupils. Telepathically I was receiving her words. My friend was saying “you know you are on full hungry (hustling) and you are not a star yet. When we finish filming this season, you will have small money to be on full gym (excersice), then you will loose some of this your breast and buy the whole shop”. Ododo had a special way of constructing sentences and sadly I had become a huge follower of her lexicon.
A few days ago, I was approached by one of my neighbours who said she was starting a plus size club and she already had over a hundred members. They would be having their meeting over the weekend and she wanted to know if I would be willing to join. She told me about one of her members who lamented about trying to buy an outfit and the designer said she would ruin the figure of the dress. Actually what the designer said was “you will spoil the shape of the dress”. I was still very caught up in trying to foresee what kind of conversations took place at the plus size girls club. I reckoned it would start of like a narcotics anonymous meeting, followed by lamentations of being ostracised by the fashion world. But nothing less could be expected to close the meetings but therapy sessions on positive reinforcement and self acceptance. As I write this, I receive a text invitation to my first fatty girls meeting holding at the Silverbird Gallaria. I wondered what if the Forever Living weight loss merchandisers attacked the fatty girls club with leaflets and purging tablets. I had been a victim of forever living marketers. They were ferocious at it. I remember a lady searching aggressively through a bin for a product prescription leaflet which she thought would help me tremendously. You would think I asked her for it, meanwhile all I came there to do was check my email. They had accosted me at the bank once, and then at the amusement park in Abuja, then there was the herbalist who held a bottle of shrub stems and sap pointing at my tummy then patting his as he repeated the words “go down go down” .As I had to entertain my city over the airwaves on a Sunday, I was unable to attend the fat girls pity party.
We were under a very tight time schedule for production, thus unable to tour all the plus size boutiques in Lagos. Two stores down, so many ugly lycra and jersey dresses later, we were left with no option but my personal wardrobe. Hopefully as Ododo says, I will be on full celeb very soon and I can say goodbye to fat girl meetings, constricted designer wears and maybe just buy myself a designer instead.
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