BY: Chiamaka Ezekwen.

People are often quite merciless in their inward scrutiny of you; trying hard in their mind’s eye to portray you in the worst possible light, and therefore believe to be better than you. I am well aware of this. I have also come to realise that in order to survive this scrutiny, and more importantly in order to prevent it from manifesting in the way they speak to you or behave towards you, you need to pay attention to how you present yourself to people; the most essential representation of you being the way you dress. The quality of your clothes, your fashion sense and your general carriage speak volumes. But, being aware of all these and putting it to mind most of the time has not helped me in living accordingly. Yet, I do not deceive myself about who I truly am.

My friends, the few I’ve got, call me Nicole. I’m the first of four children born to unfortunate parents. I am grossly underpaid and very unhappy with my job; but I know many out there will grab what I have with both hands if given the opportunity so I try not to complain. I carry a reasonable amount of the family responsibility on my young shoulders, and therefore cannot afford the things I like, especially when there are more pressing needs to be solved at home. I would be pretty, under different circumstances, but now I’m just plain, slightly overweight and unattractive. I get up early every morning, Saturdays even, and go to bed late; I get little rest. I have few clothes, and am often ‘ignored’ by people that know me for the sake of social class and all that nonsense. Yet, I still do not deceive myself about who I am, though there was a time when I used to.

I walk by this route everyday on my way back from work. It’s not that there isn’t an alternative route, or a shorter one. It’s just that I get to stare in at the shop windows, stare at the lovely outfits on display. As I walk past the shiny glass panes, I look hard through it at the picture of elegance posed there. I stare at it, and then stare at my reflection in comparison. For shame, I would never dream of standing beside the elegant ones and risk being despised by them even when I know that’s hardly possible. Still, it did not stop my day dreams. I envied the mannequins, they have so many beautiful cloths that they hardly ever have to repeat clothes. Sometimes, even, I wished I were a mannequin or had one as a friend and imagined that if she were nice, she’d give me some of her clothes. Now, however, I don’t worry about the things I can’t afford. I concentrate on those things that are within my reach, and I’m content with them no matter how little. Walking past the shops now entails staring at the new cloths on display and working on new designs for my fashion ideas and creating new patterns for my sewing.

Have you ever wished you were taller, thinner, more attractive, more athletic, prettier; generally a whole lot different from who you actually are only because these are the models you see on TV and which are widely displayed on the streets? Have you spent considerable time comparing yourself to others who in your opinion (and probably in theirs too) are better than you are?  Nicole may not be a real person, and she may have exaggerated her desires and day dreams, but one way or another she represents us in our struggle to conform with trends in the society and in our desire to live up to other peoples’ ideas of what we should own, how we should dress, places we should visit, how we should dress etc. If we get carried away by all these, we would end up losing our identity. Mannequins are all good-looking, with attractive facial and bodily features. But when it comes down to uniqueness, you find none. They all are more or less the same. In the same vein, we all don’t look alike because we are unique in our own special way. There is no 100%, what is lacking in me is present in the other. Therefore, we complement each other and make each other complete. Understanding simple things like this will make our lives a whole lot simpler, and will help us better appreciate ourselves for who we are and accept others as they are.

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