Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
This week I talk to a 20-year old lady who in her own words ‘just wants to vent’.
I’m not sure if this is an actual problem. Especially right now. It’s like there are people dying o Funke* and this is what you are talking about.
Lol, I haven’t even asked anything yet.
I know, I know. It just felt right to acknowledge that given the current state of affairs in the world my issues aren’t exactly going to bring a tear to anyone’s eyes.
Would you like that?
No o I’m not looking for a pity party I just want to vent really. Ok maybe a little bit, for once I’d like to be able to talk about this and get sincere concern or even a genuine ‘pele’. I don’t know if anything I say is actually going to be publishable. Sorry in advance.
I solemnly promise not to scoff. What do you want to talk about?
I was reading about a girl who has an eating disorder the other day. She wasn’t anorexic or overeating so people nobody took her seriously until it started affecting her health. But every time she ate she’d go and stick a finger down her throat and throw up. Or sometimes she’d go for days barely eating anything, just drinking water and juices. And I just thought to myself yo this sounds like me. I don’t have any health problems, at least I think I don’t but I’ve struggled with my body image since I was a teenager and done some stupid things because of it.
In your opinion what’s the most stupid thing you’ve done?
Had to be buying slimming tea. Someone in my hostel was selling them last year, she’s model slim and she claimed that’s what worked for her. For months that’s what I was drinking. I was drinking like four or five cups a day until I got an ulcer. I can remember the doctor asking me over and over again if there was anything I’d like to tell him. But I was with my mum so I didn’t mention the tea. To be honest I don’t know if it was the tea or the fact that I wasn’t eating that caused the ulcer.
Ever tried anything else?
See, I actually don’t have sense. When I was 13/14 I used to stick a finger down my throat to throw up anytime I ate something TV said could make you fat. Like cake or a pizza or if I just felt like I had eaten too much. I continued doing it till I was 16.
What made you stop?
My sister caught on and reported me to my parents. It was a pretty big deal. My mum especially was so angry. She didn’t understand why I was doing it, she thought it was some form of rebellion. After my sister reported, anytime I ate in the house my mum would make me sit down in front of her for hours and monitor me when I went to the bathroom. Nobody ever asked me why I was doing it.
Why were you doing it?
I’m not a large person. I’ve never been at least in theory. At my largest, I was probably a size 12 max 14. I’m currently a size 10. But I’m a little top-heavy so for certain clothes like button-down shirts. I sometimes have to buy a size 12. Anyway, I’m not a large person in theory but I’ve always felt like I was occupying more space in the world than was originally allocated to me by God.
I am small-boned. I can tell from my wrists and ankles. Also, all the women in my family are tiny. My mum has had 4 children and is still a size 8, my sisters are probably size 2 and 0 accordingly. They are also not very tall, about 5’5” max. So when you see my mum and my two sisters they just look like three tiny triplets. Then there’s me, I’m the last child but I’m 5’10 and wear a size 10. My breasts are DDs theirs are B and C cups.
I don’t know if you get the picture. My sisters can swap clothes with each other and even my mum, but I can’t. Even when they are shopping they leave me out because they think my taste is different from theirs but it’s not. I just can’t wear the clothes they wear because of my body. Do you get?
I get it, ever talked to them about it?
I used to but I think it’s either I don’t know how to communicate how I feel or they don’t understand. They always make jokes about let’s say buying a particular dress so everyone can do and co then one of my sisters will say oh but Funke can’t wear this one o it won’t fit her. And someone else can reply don’t worry you’ll do and co with daddy. We are all girls and I’m not even close to my dad. None of us are, he’s hardly around. So I pretty much live in a college girls frat house.
What’s that like?
I’m 20, my immediate older sister is 21 and the one before her is 23. Our mum is 44, she got married pretty early. But she’s very jasi, she could pass for someone in her 30s. She has Instagram, Twitter and she has even just joined TikTok. She has a ‘my door is always open’ policy so nobody is really hiding to do anything. You can talk to her about anything boys, relationship, except sex sha I think that’s where she draws the line.
There’s no sneaking around, we don’t really have curfews and I can walk into her room right now and tell her I’m going clubbing. Well at least pre corona she won’t have batted an eyelid she’d just ask which club. She has jokes for days. But for as long as I can remember I’ve always felt like the fat kid in the popular girl’s clique who is the butt of all their jokes. My mum is the Queen B and my sisters are her cohorts. It’s not as if she’s mean or anything but I think because I don’t look like them it’s easy to be excluded.
And you say it?
I talk about it all the time but it’s always laughed off or comes across as whiny or annoying. I’ve tried talking to my mum ‘woman to woman’. The summary of what I told her was that I always felt excluded from the family. She replied that it was unfair to blame it on her on my sisters because I’m the one who excludes myself from things. But I don’t, they always conclude I don’t like something before they even ask me.
Back to your eating habits, what are they like now?
I wish I could say I’m over it and I’ve gotten to a point where I love my body, but I haven’t, so I’m always on some diet or weight loss experiment. Any time I tell myself I’m done with one, a new one pops up. I’m currently trying intermittent fasting. Before that, I was doing water fasts. Since I read that article I’ve just kept asking myself. Is this what an eating disorder feels like? Do I need help? Or do I just need someone to slap some sense into my head?