I was doing my usual thing of chasing my tail and managing to stretch my work much later than it should go, when one of my colleagues shouted and told me that I had mail. Okay, you have to have lived in the days of snail mail, and gone to a boarding school up country to really appreciate the increased adrenalin at those three words. Come to think of it, it’s not really healthy to say that to someone who is like a hundred kilos but it just made my day. He must have gone to boarding as well because he told me I had lots of mail, but I found just two. I put all my weight on my disappointment as I allowed myself the joy of tearing open the two envelopes and reading the contents therein. Both were important but one was an invitation to Honorable Njoki Ndungu’s honoring ceremony at the UN Complex. Being a girl’s girl, my mind began to plan for the event. What will I wear? Now before you laugh, or dismiss me as silly, that is a very important question to ask yourself before you present yourself to the world everyday. Your family and friends rarely really see what you are wearing but all those who will be seeing you for the first time, and this will be about a hundred, will notice and remember. “Remember that ‘nono’, bald woman with the patchwork dress that resembles a packed trolley at the supermarket, for the combination of colours, flowers and squares on it…” And truth be told, none of us never lives down the first impression. Unless of cause you are deep like me.
But even depth has shallow places and I sat with my kids that evening and unearthed my newest treasure. Honorable Ndungu has these gorgeous nails and I must have been thinking this when I found fake nails that cost 99 Shillings instead of the at least 600 they normally do. And they came with glue! First thing I noticed was that there was no glue in the tiny tubes. But I had thought ahead and bought extra glue. I slathered these on my nails (times are hard and this process costs a fortune when done by experts) and stuck my newest ornaments to the tips of my fingers. After about 45 minutes of talking hectically with the kids, I noticed that my nails were pointing away from my fingers. I pushed them back and slathered more glue, pushed the errant nails back the right direction and as I settled into a story Leroy was telling us, I suddenly remembered that I had vital laundry – you know what I mean – to do. I was sure the nails would be second to nature so this wasn’t going to be a problem, but on the heel of that thought came the next two, had the nails dried enough to scratch that spot on my back that was eating at my concentration, and that I really needed to go to the bathroom. Right then and there. So I gave up, did what was necessary and came and plucked off my nails, much to Leroy’s horror. I attended the function days later, little pink spots at my finger tips and in a gorgeous dress courtesy of Cardy a designer all you larger sisters need to meet, and I think I looked really nice, as myself.
As I listened to Njoki respond to the honor that had bestowed her, I remembered other instances that she had spoken to us as women with regard to the Act. Ever notice how she modulates her voice so that it comes out as soft almost childlike, and the fact that when she begins to speak people listen? She cautioned against abrasiveness and by example, making no apologies about being female, fought for that which she believed. Femininely! I have learnt from her style as she charged on to achieve her purpose, that when we have something important to do, many times, props and masks just get in the way. Her style reminded me of David preparing to go into battle with Goliath, and discarding Saul’s kingly armor for a few stones and a sling. And with that which he had, he brought down a giant. So what is it that is standing in your way, that you think will not respond to you being yourself? Is it that you have learnt from a manual that people only succeed when they become a certain way? That’s a lie, imagine. Because long nails or short, fake or real, you are already equipped to handle that issue, just because you are you.
Thanks Njoki, on behalf of all survivors of sexual violence, all potential victims, and of all those that have fought to help them survive. Thanks for giving potential rapists and sexual violators something extra to think about.
first published on the Sunday Standard October 29, 2005