I was supposed to be in church. I was in church. Sermon had ended. Church had ended as far as I was concerned. I turned my head. I saw her. Light-skinned, large eyes set in a tiny head like a character in a manga. This description is not working. Just take my word for it; she was beautiful. How often do I notice physical beauty in this manner?
My best friend in secondary school used to wonder if something was wrong with me. A girl strolls by. “Ife, did you see that girl? She’s so fine.”
“Ehn ehn? So?”
A car zooms past us. I shout, “Did you see that beauty?”
I can spend minutes staring at the stars at night, I can wax lyrical about the sleek body and lovely features of a gadget. But I did not download the plug-in that enables men to become poets at the sight of a woman.
I don’t believe in beauty lying in the eye of the beholder—at least not physical comeliness. It lies in the genes, in the bone structure, in the symmetrical arrangement of facial features and a life free from accidents that disfigure the body. This is why we have beauty contests: certain people have been blessed with beautiful faces and bodies. I’m not one of them. I don’t know about you.
Lupita nyong’o was recently named the most beautiful woman in the world by People magazine. Take a look at her picture and tell me you don’t know black women with more appealing physical features. But she’s the one who graces the cover of Vogue. There are a few reasons why she’s up there: a masters degree from Yale, an Oscar and the need for black representation in magazines. Place her face and body in a different context and she won’t make the qualifying stages of my village’s beauty pageant. Perhaps, this is why I find it difficult to get knocked over by physical beauty.
Phones, cars, inanimate objects can be beautiful on their own. They need no context. But the world is a place where people don’t become popular just because they have a beautiful face. We all need something extra—intellect, industry, skill, empathy—that would compel us to people beyond our bodies. I know that sounds like fallacy of hasty generalization, so let me rephrase it. Women who become popular for nothing beyond a sex-tape and a large derriere do not abound in Nigeria. Beyond magazine covers and webpages, we have to be more than our faces and bodies. Carving the hairline and beard, and shaping the eyelashes to perfection is good. It would be terrible if you become defined by those things. We have to continue to strive to be more.
Let it not be said that I’m advocating that less attention be paid to our bodies and faces. Who am I to spit such rubbish? I’m only saying what you’ve always known. When you refer to people as beautiful, you rarely refer just their faces or bodies. Okay, maybe those who say beauty is in the eyes of a beholder are right after all. This is why people like me have hope of being attractive to anyone (if you’re like me and needed an ego boost, I suggest you make good use of the one I just offered).
I mentioned my sighting of the pretty lady to a group of friends on Whatsapp. One of them advised me to go talk to her. I didn’t. I had my reasons, but they sounded like the kind grandmothers give to their children about beautiful light-skinned women. I have a lot of beautiful friends. Many of them have the ability to make Shakespeares out of stammerers. But they are more than their faces and bodies—so much more.