Insecurities, Societal Pressure and a Book Review

Saturday, 8 July 2017

I recently started reading the book, Opening Spaces again.

   It had been gathering dust for a while on my shelf. I had been gifted the book back in my senior secondary school days, but I hadn't really appreciated the short stories in it until now. 
   It basically consists of a compilation of beautiful short stories from African Women, which I find very relatable because I have a love for writing short stories myself and I am an African woman obvss lol. 
   The one I will be reviewing however is titled The Enigma by Lindsey Collen. I actually read this particular story (partly because it's the shortest) back when I was about 16/17 which is coincidentally the age of the main character, Marie in the story. 
The story centers around a single, overprotective father and his daughter, Marie who is now in College and appears overwhelmed with the pressure that comes with waiting for a proposal from a suitor whom her father has not yet 'found'. During this waiting period, she appears to harshly scrutinize her own physical appearance and starts to think that maybe she is the problem.
"I can't stand the waiting for a proposal. it makes me think of my faults. although I've never walked barefoot, my feet are cracked. My hair is dry and I've got split ends. there are mango stains on my right hand"
Her deep anger for the fact that she feels that her father has somehow put her life on hold till he finds her a "bon garçon" (a suitable boy) oozes out from the pages of this book.
It's somewhat shocking to find out at the end of this story that Marie intentionally gets pregnant for no other reason but to spite her father and to somehow raise the finger to society and its demands despite the fact that the consequences are scary to her.
"The result of the test. She read quickly. She knew all along anyway. Yes there it is, in writing: 'Positive'. the word Positive has so many meanings.
She feels the lashing she'll get, already. Her father and the belt.
She sees school receding. the thought horrifies her. She knows the confinement to a convent, like a prison that will face her. She feels the ostracism in all their eyes. the stares at mass.
and yet. an enigma: She feels she's stopped the waiting....
the family reduced to mother and child...she smiles. but at least there's no more waiting for her hand to be asked for in marriage."

   First of all, one thing that drew me to this story was the vagueness of it. I enjoy reading--and writing-- stories with that heavy air of mystery around it, and I love abrupt endings that leave readers asking for a second part, even though you know at the back of your mind that there isn't ever going to be one (haha).
  This being said, when I first read this book about four years ago I didn't even realize the pregnancy was intentional. But reading it today, I finally put two and two together.
   Although I think Marie's action was a bit exaggerated as she was clearly bringing another life into this world for the absolutely wrong reasons, this story speaks volumes.
   Lindsey highlights that pressure that comes with the topic of Marriage especially in an African setting with a twist of humour:
"That was it: father, daughter, keys, money and waiting for a request for her hand in marriage.  Hand. as if dismembered, was it? Or as though if she got her hand snared, she could, in due course, be pulled in and caught?"

    If I had a raindrop for how many times I've heard my friends, colleagues and strangers rant about how their family members (especially the aunties lol) have 'jokingly' nudged them at a cousin's wedding to ask when they're going to be wearing their asoebi to their own wedding,..I'd be swimming in a large river.
   (And what's hilarious is that these same African family members are the ones that will interrogate you like a lieutenant before leaving the house. So tell me: Will boyfriend/girlfriend fall from the ceiling?) or the slight panic you feel when you're approaching the big 30 and there's still no ring on that finger?

   It addressed the topic of insecurities and expectations in terms of physical appearance.
Especially with the rise of social media in our generation.
   It just looks like everyone is in a rush and some are itching to look like the "perfect-looking" Instagram models.
   And how it also seems like there is ONE ideal body-shape that women are dying to attain; we have some women nearly suffocating themselves and cutting off their blood circulation all in the name of waist-trainers, people bleaching their God-given melanin to meet society's standards, to conform to the inferiority complex that the white-man left us and having the audacity to make excuses that dark skin is ugly or unattractive.

Originality is being lost every single passing day.

All this is captured in a 4-page read, carefully and well written.
These vivid and spiteful thoughts running through the delicate mind of a seventeen year old child really left me wondering with its sharp, cut-throat ending.

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7 comments on "Insecurities, Societal Pressure and a Book Review"
  1. Awesome Sis! You hit the nail on the head. The pressure is unnecessary and leads people into doing the wrong things. Good read

  2. we really should learn to see the beauty in everyone. I see beauty has something that lies within us as individuals and not just based on physical appearances, but society today has turned it into something else. People now focus more on the vain aspect of beauty leading so many young girls to thinking of they didn’t look a certain way, have a certain skin color, take a picture a certain way, Or expose certain parts of their body they wouldn’t be accepted. We should all be able to feel comfortable in our own body and not be ashamed of our insecurities. Cause that’s truly what makes us unique. I hope we are able to teach our daughters to do better. Love this article. Ps: I’ll definitely buy this book❤️

    1. Hey Edna! you're sooo right. The amount of emphasis and criticism on outward beauty alone is disturbing. Thank you for your response and definitely get that book, girl!

  3. We should be able to see the beauty in everyone. I believe beauty is something that comes from within and not just someone’s physical appearance, but society focus more on the vain aspects of beauty leading young girls to think if they don’t have a certain skin color, or don’t pose a certain way in pictures or show certain parts of their body, they wouldn’t be accepted. I feel we should learn to love ourselves and accept our imperfections and insecurities cause that truly is what makes us unique. I hope we are able to teach our daughters to do better. I love this article❤️ I have to read this book.


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