It is our final year dinner. I look beautiful, I am sure… but I feel different and uncomfortable, more than I have felt my whole life. I am not the barbie faced girl in this Rukky Simone’s gown and Louboutins with body shapers hugging the life out of me. No. I am that tiny soul screaming for release beneath all of this packaging that make me tonight. But I embrace this one time invasion because I want Martins to see me.
Never in my life have I thought to become someone else for a man. Truly, I used to have so much faith in the incidence of love with someone who would look beyond my limp, make-up-less face, feebleness and clumsiness to the amazing being that I am. But after a whole 25 years of waiting endlessly for that special moment, and a never-ending tirade of someone who matters so much- Mum- telling you you’ll never get a man looking as you do, you learn to give change a try.
So I let Salma make me her.
Down at the hall, there is so much activity going on around me, none of which I am interested in. I am seated at this table with Salma’s course mates, staring nauseously at the empty seat beside me, hoping it has been saved for Martins. I take my precious care to do everything because mama’s voice keeps ringing in my head- ‘sit like a lady, look at Salma! Eat like a lady, don’t rush it, Can’t you see Salma?! Don’t focus on your food, make eye contact with your talk partner intermittently. Ask Salma. Be witty, throw in jokes, just like Salma. Smile a lot. Smile, but don’t shoot your teeth out like that.’ There’s so much to learn from Salma, I can’t keep up. But my heart bleeds, for if the person who bore me cannot accept me, who would?
I master my gestures as quickly as possible, watching Salma from the corner of my eye so I can learn better; but when Martins finally arrives, the whole practice feels like a Shamble. I realise I can look and act like her, but I can’t be her. I can’t even strike up a conversation after the casual hello he passed my way. I am confused. I forgot to ask what Salma would do and say if seated next to her long- time crush. I try for a natural performance, and silence is the best I can put up.The dress, make- up and everything wouldn’t even make him pass a second glance. I feel broken within. I look at Salma now, so comfortable in her skin. She is everything I have practised for the past one hour, but it’s easy to tell a natural from one who is trying too hard to be real.
I begin to wonder maybe if I had come through as myself tonight, maybe it would have made a difference. Or maybe not? Maybe it is just a me- thing. Mum has said I am not the kind of girl a man falls for. Quickly, I make my exit from the hall for I fear I might be tempted to strip for release, if I spend one more minute there. Ignoring the many eyes that follow me and my limp through the door, I hail a cab and head home.
In my room, I am in a world of my own, trying to reconnect with the Selma I think I know. I hear that at birth, we are born blank… and the world informs what we do and who we become. Maybe it’s true, maybe not; I just think, importantly, we are who we are, not by choice, but by a force stronger than us. And I understand that people cannot be as patient as we are with ourselves, so I forgive mum and every mother out there who thinks a child is not good enough. And I promise myself to embrace the clumsiness and nervousness that is me, because if I am ashamed of my own product, no one will buy it. I reckon that Salma, my twin, is gorgeous, brilliant, charismatic, and so much the girl you beg to love; while I am something more than her exact opposite, but I won’t love her less because the world makes me feel like her shadow. I won’t love her less because mum insists she is the definition of perfect, while I am the book of flaws…
‘Selma?’ Salma walks in on me and my thoughts now. I see the sadness in her eyes, mixed with a tinge of pity. I smile at her and hold my arms out for a hug.
‘I am fine.’ I assure her.
I feel her smile on my hair as she let’s out a sigh of relief. ‘I love you.’
‘I know darling. I love you too.’
We stay like that, locked in each others embrace for what seems like forever, and for me, that is bliss. I won’t love her less for anything in the world. I am who I am. She is who she is. And the world would have to adjust somehow, or take a leisure walk down the BRT lane.
I am Selma, and I am fine being me.