Fairy tales. Aaahh. I love them. When we were a lot younger, my mum brought my sister and I Disney compilations of Fairytales. My sister got princesses, I got animals. We swapped from time to time. However, the first fairytale to ever steal my heart was Cinderella.
Not the fairy godmother, beautiful dress, horse-led chariot or the glass slipper, but the underlying lesson that I’m sure the writers had no intention of spreading to children my age : Fake it til you make it. Wear expensive clothes, mingle with rich people, sound like them and soon, you’ll find yourself one of them.
Now, if there’s a compliment that I receive so often, it’s that I’m so real. It always makes me smile an extra second, sometimes even chuckle a bit at the thought. If only they knew me 10 years ago. Maybe that’s why everybody I was close to 10 years ago isn’t my friend anymore. The realness phased them out.
I remember arriving at school rather early with my then best friend, to laugh at all the below par cars that dropped people off. I remember never opening the food I carried from home around my friends. I remember wearing sneakers when I knew the rules said school shoes. I remember begging my parents to convince the headteacher I needed my phone.
I also remember bullying people, mocking appearances, acting like I didn’t know any local language and perming my hair, constantly dying and cutting it, getting piercings; all against my mother’s rules. I got whipped for all that nonsense but guess what kept me going? Cinderella faked it. Eventually, she was a princess.
Now, I don’t know if this was my parents’ way of teaching us humility but later on, they often took us to Kabwata orphanage to help out. We did their chores with them, played and conversed. The older girls and boys supervised and helped us where our little arms failed us. It was here that I met a girl, who, for the purpose of privacy, we’ll call Emma.
Emma didn’t hang out with the orphans, despite living with them. She had a different aura to her. An aura I was all to familiar with. She was a snob. No surprise that she was the first friend I made. So sitting on the lawn while everybody else played together, she explained a situation that changed my views on everything forever.
See, Emma was not an orphan. Her parents just didn’t get married when she was born. Her mum’s prospective husband didn’t want her in their home and the same situation occurred with her father’s prospective wife. No relative wanted to take her in and so, like some sick joke, there she found herself living in an orphanage with parents that visited her from time to time. Of course with posh gifts.
She said it with a ring of pride, not realising that her situation was actually a lot sadder than the rest. I didn’t get into it any further but it weighed on my mind all the way home, all through the night and the entire morning I got ready for school. That morning, when I got to school, I couldn’t get myself to laugh at cars that dropped people off.
I couldn’t bully anyone or feel above anyone anymore. Emma showed me that in my pool of friends, I could be the Emma. Maybe everyone tolerated my horrid ways because they too pitied me, as I did her. Just maybe, I’m the one in the worse position, doing all I can to fit in.
Lately, people ask my drink of choice and wonder why I’m so raw. They listen to me speak vernacular and wonder why I’m so hood. They might even look at me wearing sneakers among girls in heels, thinking I’m not as classy and usually, its when I’m almost shrinking and succumbing to society when someone always says to me, “you’re so real.” And I remember how far I’ve come.