Let me start with being perfectly honest since the title of the post has the word Truth in it. I use filters ALOT in my social media postings. In fact I deleted Snap Chat a few years ago after finding myself somewhat addicted to the pretty filter…you all know the one. The one that gave you symmetric noses, perfectly big bright and centered eyes, and flawless angelic skin. For me my break up with Pretty Face came swiftly and with no warning. It occurred when I was amidst an internal chat with myself where this voice appeared and said “I hated how my pictures looked.” I was like who’s this bitch and who invited her insecure ass to the party in my head? I didn’t recognize that human inside me that was being so terribly cruel to a girl just trying to love herself no matter what. I had to make a decision to either get rid of that shitty uninvited insecure biaaatch or the filter, so in true CeCe style, I got rid of both the beasts. I’m aware this topic has been discussed time and time again yet here we all are, using some level of photo modification at any given time. I’m not oblivious to how products are marketed, and people are products themselves when they are selling beauty. We are no different than the products in commercials with Glistening Hamburger Patties that are actually painted with acrylics and high gloss epoxy glue’s to appear more Juicy and Appealing to the customer. If you have no impulse control like me, one may find themselves driving on over to Fat Burger at the speed of light. But we know damn well that Burger is not nearly going to look as perfect as it was in the commercial, but all in all, still pretty damn satisfying when it touches your lips. Different visual, but same sensation of pleasure depending on how Hangry you were.
That’s kind of how I feel without camera filters. I’m still a delightful meal, and my ingredients haven’t changed. I still come with the lettuce, tomato, onion, all the sauce and 1/4 lb patty flame broiled. Substance wise- What you See is What You Get and More if you look real close by opening the symbolic bun up more.
Are you hungry yet? I am.
You see sometimes what one person finds appetizing another may not. The Vegans reading this right now are probably gagging on my imagery as we speak. And how would you know what qualities that others admire unless you take off the veil from time to time. You see, I’ve often admired beauty within the physical sense in many smaller and more peculiar aspects of a person’s face. Such as the slight curl of a lip, or how their cheeks ball into little tight chestnuts when they smile. I’ll notice the little cute freckle under their eyes that gives them a sexy yet playful air of mischievousness. Even skin tones where the richness and texture of their skin, can be so inviting to the visual sense. The little goose bumps on their chest or arms that tell a story of their current emotion- all sadly get blended into one boring and consistent hue behind a filter. Tousled beachy hair that is carelessly flipped about that perhaps is on day 6 needing a good wash yet looks Sexy AF. MUAH! I love it all!
I think the textures, contrasts, variations of color in life are what ignite the senses far more than a “pretty” and uniformly symmetric picture. Consider how many magazines we have flipped through, or social media timelines, and I imagine if you are like me I cannot remember one face or specific image. I do follow quite a few artists and photographers that do capture the raw beauty that I find mesmeric. Suitcase Joe did a series on L.A.’s Skid Row and found beauty that was intoxicating and memorable.
Beauty Filter Nemesis Cosmopolitan Magazine even did a feature on body positive photographers to watch out for and follow. Very noble of them considering! The photographer coined as “BODY-POSITIVITY CRUSADERS” are seemingly redefining ‘BEAUTY’ by portraying women of different shapes and sizes through an inclusive lens. And while I love and subscribe to the body positive/self image movement its still often only viewed as art. In which you are a subject of someone’s “Art” or shared in an artistic platform with the hashtag #bodypositive the simplicity of the beauty is often missed.
I have been going to Banff for little Weekend Trips for years since I moved to Alberta. For many who are not sure where Banff is, it’s approximately an hour and smidge if you take Highway 1 West from Calgary. The town itself is an Aspen like oasis that sits smack in the middle of Banff National Park and has numerous mountains within close driving range.
In summer Banff and its surrounding area is fit for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, you get the picture. It’s a non stop adventure park for the weekend warriors we all aspire to be. Winter time boasts some amazing Ski/Snowboarding, snow shoeing, sleigh rides, dog sledding and snow mobiling (which us locals also call Sledding but can be confusing if you think of it in the traditional sense).
Many of my trips to Banff were weekend girl’s trips. Just like “Saturdays are for the boys,” well weekends are for the girls! Banff can get pricey but if you can get a gang together its best to stay somewhere you can fit 4-6 comfortably. I’ve stayed at Hidden Ridge Resort on almost a dozen occasion. It’s not swanky, but you get the real “lodgey” kind of feel, and their lofts have a variety of room/bed options. They have fire places and old DVD players where you can go borrow movies as well as games from the front desk. All have a well equipped kitchen where you have everything you need. The best part of this place is their hot pools and sauna, and has a beautiful fire Hearth at the center of the pool deck. In addition to the hearth, you have a spectacular view of the valley and surrounding mountains which in all seasons is breath-taking. The average amount to stay at Hidden Ridge can go from anywhere between $175.00 to $300.00 CAD which is a steal for Banff pricing.
Now let me say this now, a romantic Banff experience is a completely different set of instructions boys and girls. Boys, please do not bring your girlfriend with 6 of your Bros… Go for the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel minus the Bro-skies.
Because it has a kitchen, we typically bring a big Lasagna, Charcuterie, snacks and booze up there. I suggest shopping in Calgary first as their grocery stores are pretty overpriced and close early. While there is plenty of restaurants to eat at, there are no late night spots open, so drunk you will love you at 3am when you mow down on that left over lasagna.
If you want to opt out of being a thrifty Sisty…I encourage you to check out The Grizzly House. Its super Kitschy and straight out of the 70’s. Each table has a phone as well if you are interested in calling another table and saying hello, as this used to be a swingers restaurant. Nothing says lets get naked with some total strangers than the meat sweats after dining on Meat and Cheese Fondue. I feel like the 70’s was definitely a different time entirely as now I’d have to diet, shave, powder my crotch, and roofie my own drink before I’d consider lifting a ringing phone. And what would one say….”Hey baby, if you like meat I got a whole Bison sausage waiting for you?”
I give an honorable mention as well to The Balkan, where they have some very tasty Greek cuisine and its just above the Dancing Sasquatch, The waiters will bring you to the front of the line as well and hook it up for you nicely; if you don ‘t like waiting in a line full of Seasonal Aussie workers. But if you like them young, cute and poor then waiting in line may be right up your alley.
If you want to just sip and enjoy delicious Craft Cocktails with the gals, Park Distillery is where you want to go. They are right on Banff Ave and within walking distance to everything. There you can sip on 100% hand made, in house cocktails, such as my favorite the “OBSERVATION PEAK”-Park Glacier Rye, Appleton Rum, Amaro Montenegro, cherry liqueur, Park orange bitters, smoked cedar square. They also offer a wide variety of food which they call their campfire favorites. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that was hot dogs and marshmallows. Clearly I’ve been doing this campfire thing all wrong, Which could be also why I hate camping.
The nightlife in Banff is super refreshing for us Calgarians who get a bit tired of the local clubs and hipster watering holes. Let’s face it, I’ll drink and go out anywhere as long as I have a solid crew with me. I love hitting up the Dancing Sasquatch when I’m in Banff for a night. The music and vibe is always cool there and you’ll be sure to dance all night long. The Sasquatch look is also inevitable if you are as big of a hot mess as I am by the end of good night.
There are lots of cab and shuttle options so there is no need to drink and drive there…not like that should ever be an option? I typically like to pre-book for the way home so that if its winter you are not freezing your Kahuna’s off. The locals can pick out the Calgary girls simply by the clothes they go out in there, and that’s just fine with me. However be smart ladies, opened toed heels with frost bite are never cute. I can’t even lie I have definitely checked my coat and winter boots, swapping into my stylish dancing shoes.
If your not too hung the next day, heading to the hot springs or Kananskis Nordic Lodge for the day to enjoy the hot pools is always and epic way to end your weekend and detox the liver.
I would have been around 7 or 8 years old when I recognized my body was built differently than the other girls my age. I had been in competitive figure skating from an early age, spending most of my mornings before school and after at the rink going between one lesson to another. I remember my favorite thing to do was go to the concession stand if my mom had given me some money and share an order of onion rings with my tiny friends. One of the sneaky things I used to do was comb the bottom of my fathers closet where change would fall from his pant pockets onto the floor. This would fund my concession trips on many occasions against my mother’s knowledge who was trying to mold her little Olympic Dream on skates. And as a result, treats were few and far between however and was always reminded that Onion Rings were not a “healthy option.” I didn’t understand why not, therefore given my personality felt more inclined to indulge in the forbidden every chance I could get.
To put it into context further, I was the kid who had the homemade fruit leather and vegetable filled pitas in my lunch, which as an adult I would not complain about this at all. Especially considering my breakfast, lunches and sometimes dinner looks more like a reheated Triple Skinny Latte most of the time. But for myself all I wanted was the fruit roll ups I could stick on my finger like the rest of the kids and chew on its artificially sweetened chemically saturated nectar. Hot Dog days at school were especially difficult- I’d salivate over the Orange Drink and smells of boiled mystery meat and mustard. Walking home from school I was advised to not go to the corner store with friends, but my dads closet floor would always pull through and I’d have enough to buy a bag of O’Ryans Sour Cream and Onion chips, with its savory thick powder coating. The walk home would allow me enough time to eat it, and dispose of the evidence just in time.
By no means do I intend on framing my mother as restrictive or intentionally harmful with regards to the relationship I have with food. You see she knew all too well what I’d face growing up with regards to my weight and sense of self image because she too struggled. She grew up in a time when body positivity was not a “thing” and if you were overweight you would shield your imperfections from the world as to not offend anyone. She would sometimes tell me my clothes were too tight, as a way f trying to protect me from potential mean comments or stares she had endured. I remember her telling me that she would wear big earrings to draw attention to her face and away from her body. I too often use this jokingly when I simply need an excuse to wear big gaudy earrings that only I could appreciate. My mom knew the world could be cruel to me and did not want to see me endure the same kind of judgement she had been through.
So when I could be seen in comparison to the other tiny ice nymphs it was clear I was going to be a bull within the china shop. At that time my favorite Figure Skater at that time was Serina Bonnelly, a muscular powerhouse of fierce athleticism. I wanted to be her. In fact I’d attack my jumps and spins with the same kind of ferocity I imagined she did. Fearlessly I’d approach my set ups with a crazed adrenaline determined that could out-do any element of grace required to stick a landing. I wanted to go into them fast and hard, like a kamikaze pilot raging into battle. As a result I’d often fall just as hard, getting up each time to try it 30-40 more times. I wasn’t concerned though about the falls because I loved the feeling of taking flight with the robust capabilities that my body gifted me with.
As my skating career continued I had begun Precision Skating with a group of 20 other girls, which is now known s synchronized skating now. I remember being fitted for my costume, it was an Annie themed routine, and I wore an electric red body suit with a little white collar. There I was with my oddly shaped 7 year old body, you know the one, round bellied sprinkled with hints of puberty. My legs were strong and I was a powerful skater with a tooshie to match. I loved Precision skating as it was so unique to work with a team as opposed to being alone on the ice. We had gone to a competition with our Annie program and we had taken team photos after winning first place in our category beaming with delight. I’d get the long awaited photo and pull it from its envelope and look for myself in the photo, and it didn’t take long as I stood out appearing like a brown haired chubby cherub in a red body suit. I no longer wanted to be Serina Bonnelly, I wanted to be skinny and tiny like the rest of the girls.
My heart breaks for my 7 year old self with that statement.
Similar situations like the Precision Team picture would occur into my adolescence. I continued to be powerful, strong and heavy into sports like Rowing and Field Hockey which I would excel in. Lazy I was not and loved competing and enjoying the thrills of being an athlete. But sure enough, with every team I was on, there I would be, standing out in photos, with my bottom heavy thick legs and thighs among the petit bodies that I wanted so much to be like. I remember hitting grade 11 and had decided I’d drop some weight going from 136 lbs. to 120 lbs. Weekends we would order pizza to our dorm and I’d savor my allowed portion by eating the slice in layers, starting with the cheese, then the soft dough, moving down to the bare bones of the crust.
I actually still eat pizza this way now, except I eat 4 pieces with ranch and hot sauce.
During that time in high school I had heavy training related to my sports teams, but additionally I’d spend my nights in the weight room working out on my own when everyone else was hanging out. I thought maybe if I could get “skinny” things would get better for me. Maybe I’d be more desired by the popular boys, maybe the cool girls would want to closer to me as a friend, maybe teachers would pay attention to me or even maybe I’d be noticed more for my accomplishments like the skinny girls were. What I wanted was to be seen and appreciated. It seemed like this happened so effortlessly for the skinny girls. This was the message the world was giving me at this time. It was reinforced by the early warnings of my mother who had shared similar experiences of being treated differently feeling that society did not value fat people. In my experience the ridicule came in the form of feeling often invisible in the crowd and achievements unacknowledged despite my efforts, dedication and performance.
“If we make self-love or body acceptance conditional, the truth is, we will never be happy with ourselves. The reality is that our bodies are constantly changing, and they will never remain exactly the same. If we base our self-worth on something as ever-changing as our bodies, we will forever be on the emotional roller coaster of body obsession and shame.”
— Chrissy King
By graduation, I was tiny, and I looked phenomenal catching the eye of those who underestimated this newly blonde and bodacious bombshell. I worked that form fitting Latin inspired dress like a rockstar…it was my night to shine and it felt so good to be looked at for once. I remember my father continued to comment on how amazing I looked and how everybody was staring at his gorgeous daughter.
I felt seen finally!
It was like a drug for a girl that felt so invisible.
After high school I’d venture into a world that was far more forgiving, team photos a distant past and tucked away in a box. My inner desire to feel the urge to compare and regulate my body weight would be fleeting depending on where I was at emotionally. Having my daughter would push me over the 200 lb. mark and keep me there 20 years later. I’ve fluctuated since then losing 10, gaining 20, losing 30, gaining 10. The game continues today. I’ve done weight watchers, Keto, G.I. diet, HCG, and gone vegetarian all with great results. I remember in June this year I’d lose 25 lbs on a quick and restrictive calorie deficit diet, feeling like I had hit the jackpot finally on my quest to feel good in the body I was given. I had been anticipating a night out with friends and planned an outfit that would show off my newly smaller frame. I’d put this outfit on and immediately hated how my body looked in it. Parts of my figure that I loved before no longer were accentuated in ways that made me unique from the pack. I looked like a deflated and more invisible version of myself than ever before. This was not the kind of reinforcement I had hoped for in the quest to continue my journey to be more visible and accepted in the world. And wouldn’t you know, within months I’d go back to the fluffier and more filled out version of myself.
I cannot win, but I’m okay with it.
Let me just say this, the happiest I’ve been with regards to my how I feel about my body is when I can work out 5 days a week and eat what I want. During my most gym dedicated times as my commitment often varies, did I ever lose any significant weight, but my body would change as did my confidence. Do I get “Skinny” by doing this, absolutely not as you can see. What does change though is my confidence and acceptance of how my body looks and more importantly what I can do with it. I continue to try and free myself from the chains of a scale and the displayed numbers that are not necessarily a determinant with regards to measuring the contentment within myself. In addition I’m so pleased to see how society and women especially have embraced the body positive movement, and that plus size models are no longer seen as the other or niche market. On social media you can see women of all shapes and sizes celebrated for their beauty and unique figures, all sporting a sense of renewed confidence that is refreshing for a woman like me who has been welcoming this moment since she was 7 years old.
I recognize that body augmentation remains to be highly sought after with women desiring to attain fuller curves and minimized waists. It mimics the same patterns I felt in my early years looking to be noticed in the hopes to have access to the same recognition and opportunities that appeared to come so easily to the skinnies. And do not get me wrong, I am not against any form of augmentation that a woman desires to get, as long as she feels good about herself and does not risk her health in doing so. What I do caution though within my experience of sharing that sense of wanting to belong and be seen is to not expect that in doing so doors will open or life will get easier. Life remains the same and is contingent on the ambition and confidence you have within- You Cannot Fake It. If cosmetic and plastic surgery opens the door for confidence to root its seeds deep within you then its a win in my eyes. To each their own whichever road you choose.
And to be fully transparent I would love to get a few things nipped, tucked and sucked! I’m 42 and I have at least another 5-6 years of pool parties in me- I wanna go out with a Bang before Menopause hits and I have hair growing out of my chest and bouts of lunacy. If I wasn’t so darn practical and lets admit…peasant poor… I’m sure I would have already dove head first into it. In addition I feel like I have some heavy work to do before taking the easy the way out. I’ve been saying to myself, first get healthy and super fit, see where you land in terms of results then go from there. Lets see if this materializes, don’t hold your breath y’all!
Each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms.
I believe I’m not the only one in this revolving door of wavering confidence mixed with good intentions and intermittent self discipline as it pertains to managing weight. And I don’t believe us full figured women are the only ones that can get consumed with the numbers on the scale. I’ve often heard my slender beauty’s say that there is an element of competition and scale number comparison’s among themselves. They’ve told me other women will ask them how much they weigh and from there put themselves into a frenzy to keep up and out-do that number. I was extremely uncomfortable learning that those kind of conversations even exist. I assure you in the fluffy girl world we do not discuss numbers let alone divulge them in conversation! That’s a no go zone!
But it does not surprise me either.
Shamelessly I admit I’ve been binge watching the Kardashians and on countless occasions the opening scenes start with “Oh my god your so skinny.” Whether its that Jonathon Chaban “Food God” or one the sisters, I cannot believe that is an acceptable way to either greet someone or say hello. What baffles me even more is how this guy eats the way he does and stays looking like Skeletor, I swear the man two finger diets his way through life. Its cringe worthy every time I hear them say it on the show, I just want to jump into the TV and give their necks a choke. I miss fluffy Khloe by the way!
This way of being extends itself to the world outside of the Kardashians whereby other women will refer to other women as “those skinny bitches.” I’m sure you have either been guilty of it or heard it from someone. I challenge you to think about how you felt in that moment and ask yourself what did I mean when I said that to someone?
Did I mean I think they are beautiful?
Did I mean I think they look like they have been working really hard at getting healthy and toning up?
Why did I not just say something more specific with regards to what I admire about them?
I think often our own insecurities become disguised in our admiration of others and can be damaging to them. It’s essentially role reversal body shaming and its not a good look either. Again I think it boils down to the perceived idea that being thin carries the illusion that life must be easier as a result of the smaller number on the scale. Thin, thick, in the middle, we all have the same struggles, that being the journey to love thy damn self and the vessel that god gave you. It has taken me a long time to come full circle with regards to not allowing my value and self worth to be dictated by the failures of the sliding numbers on the scale. As long as body positivity continues to trend and we begin to see a larger array of women being celebrated in various media platforms I think we can begin to close the divide of misconceptions. Taking the initial steps to be kind within ourselves will open the doors to consider being kind to others, being authentic in our admirations of others, and opening the door for dialogue, understanding and acceptance.
“So the question is, which boulder are you going to choose to roll? The ‘must lose weight’ boulder or the ‘fuck you I will boldly, defiantly accept the body I’ve got and LIVE IN IT’ boulder?”
I tackled #2 of my action plan with such ferocity, determination and good intention. In fact I went for it so hard that I cracked my ribs about 3 runs in, and was benched by noon at the lodge for the remainder of the day. Why I didn’t buy a half day pass is beyond me, and what’s laughable, is I was actually exhausted by the end of the first run. Muscle memory would require a few more trips before I could pull a full dayer, but Muscle Memory wasn’t the only thing that left me abandoned on those slopes that day. So did the illusion that falling at 42 was going to be the same as falling in my 20’s. This was hands down the worst injury I have ever had in my life, and I have done some stupid shit in this crazy life of mine. I’ve jumped off ski lifts into powder filled cliffs, gone back country riding, heli-boarding…you name it, I was balls to the wall.
Part of my determination around tackling this list too was that I now had readers holding me accountable…so I blame you too. *If you feel an ounce sorry I’m accepting Wine Subscriptions and Cheese.
So lets go back to the day of doom where my ego was murdered and smeared on the side of a Green Run Sunshine Village. I was fresh off the lift, I had just adjusted my boots and bindings as I was starting to get a good feel for my new equipment. My group had gone ahead a bit as I had a few more tweaks to make just as they had pushed off. I was in a tuck just prior to my epic bail and as my knees extended upwards I caught an edge that had planted me with such a force comparable to what felt like a freight train hitting a mouse… I was the mouse…flat and gasping for any kind of breath I could take. My diaphragm had begun to involuntarily take control of my lungs, forcing these horrific heaving sounds, as if Emily Rose’s Demons were exiting my body. As I got onto all fours still heaving, I could see someone coming down the run towards me on a board. For someone near death this typically would be a beacon of light!
You want to know what happened next?
Instead of hailing down the approaching beacon of light, I held what little breath I had in me out of embarrassment. I was just too humiliated that I had fallen so badly that I was now injured. I felt as if I could mind of matter the reality of the situation and trick my body out of what had already occurred. I’m sure this was the concussion and adrenaline talking. So despite needing some medical attention, my stubborn ass thought perhaps I could get down on my own once I could figure out this breathing thing. Never mind that it felt like my breasts had been torn off on the icy tracks about 8 meters back, and quite frankly had decided they could stay there.
I must have sat there for a good half hour, just trying to regulate and assess where my body’s capacity for movement was at. Most definitely I was in shock, that’s for sure, because I was able to ride my board to the bottom of the longest run in life. I managed to unclip and carry my board to the nearest bar The Mad Trappers Saloon where I couldn’t wait to check and see if I still had boobies still. My group was there wondering what had happened and where I had gone. I filled them in, and I ate, drank, 1,2,3,4,5 beers, until I figured I could head back up the mountain with some delusional hope. I mean I had a full days pass, that was expensive. By Beer #5, things were not improving, and neither was my buzz. You’d think by then I’d figure out that indeed, I was very badly hurt, but I’m stubborn and to be honest I had been immune to injury up until this point in my middle aged life. To be honest the reason I decided to leave the lodge was that my phone was running out of juice and I knew I’d have to drive home still, which was a 2 hour drive from the mountain. Time was of the essence as my body continued to swell and ache by the hour.
Fast forward to when I get home where I am greeted by my family who intuitively knew I was hurt. I thought I had been uncharacteristically void of my typical dramatics. Perhaps that was the “Tell” that gave it away, as I had no energy left to be remotely extra about the pain I was in. The stiffness and swelling had really sunk in after the long and uncomfortable journey home. I had told the RCMP officer all about it who had let me out of a ticket as I had been pulled over for erratic driving. You see I explained to him I was just old and trying to re-live my 20’s on a snowboard, which he appropriately let me off after he asked about the conditions and whether or not I had fun.(Only in Canada Eh!)
Once home, I crawled up the stairs, took some Tylenol and advised my boyfriend I was “all good, probably just bruised some giblets.” That night was the worst I’ve ever experienced as gravity presented itself as if Fat Bastard himself had decided to take a seat on my chest and kick up his feet for the night. By morning my boyfriend was shuttling me to emergency, where I conceded finally to the fact that indeed I was badly injured. No Beer, Nor Denial, Nor Tylenol would be able to persuade me otherwise any further.
Sure enough we got in fairly quickly, X-Rays done, and advised that they saw no breaks but couldn’t tell if there were fractures either, not that it matters because did you know there is nothing they can actually do anyways. I pretty much had known this as I had google diagnosed myself at 4 am when I was looking to see if broken ribs could be fatal. Broke Ribs no, but apparently collapsed/punctured lungs yes. Hmmm good to know for next time I fall. I was sent home to rest, take Ibuprofen, and make sure I try to take big breaths to prevent from getting pneumonia in my lungs from the limited air I could take in. They didn’t even give me any good pain pills- just a swift kick out the exit doors. That was the only thing I was actually looking forward too. It was like going to a birthday party with no goodie bags. So I’ve been Tripling down Advil every 4-6 hours since last week.
Here I am 10 days later, and I am struggling by the end of the day. Walking around seems okay until one needs to push a grocery cart, drive, roll out of bed, roll into bed, reach over to wipe your ass. At least I can take full breaths now. I will never take breathing with full lung capacity for granted again, god as my witness. Last week in my ignorance I had said I’d be back on the slopes in a couple weeks but I’m definitely going to be another 3-4 weeks.
So hopefully you all will accept my minor set back as I continue to try tackling the other things on my winter action plan. I hope to get writing too again some exciting new Talez as I heal up and avoid any major risky activities. And while I feel annoyed by the discomfort and how this injury is impeding on my agenda to grab life by its lady balls, I can appreciate how my body has come through this and protected me yet again.
I will leave you all with this quote I came across that is so very true.
“Old age is meant to slow us down just before the final destination; otherwise reaching the stop would be too abrupt.” – On Old Age”
Settling into a small African village in the middle of rural Tanzania was not as difficult as I had anticipated. Perhaps it was my experience growing up as an only child, that I was able to easily entertain myself through various means of daydreaming of soap opera type scenarios in my mind of what I imagine my life was like in an alternate universe. I always had a way of finding excitement in the forbidden, and would later in my adult years fully bring that concept to fruition.
But back in Africa there I was a young adolescent girl in a place where all eyes were on me. Not because I was particularly cute or worthy of any attention, in fact I was at the peak ugly stage with my new little cone boobs stuffed in an ill fitting training bra and face full of acne. I was the only white teenage girl in our village, and probably the first that many children and adults had seen. My skin, hair, clothing and activities were a source of fascination among the towns people. I only apologize that this was the first impression they got, because I assure you I die every time I see old pics of myself. Teens today will never understand life without filters and not knowing how at one time we didn’t wear make up that contoured and covered up the misery of awkward adolescence. This type of attention I can assure you is remarkably uncomfortable and definitely the first time I had experienced in my life being “the other.” However, I think it also played a major role in feeling comfortable and confident later in life and navigating the unfamiliar and adapting to my surroundings easily.
I had begun to explore and move more comfortably in my new community of Mgololo. There was a club house nearby where members could access an outdoor pool. It was rarely used by the local members as swimming wasn’t an activity that was actually common for the local kids and adults. So I would go naively in the hopes of meeting friends, but often would end up more like a circus act of one. The children would line up along the fence and people would collect and watch from the stands. It didn’t help that these were the years where Body Glove Swimsuits were in and there I was with an electric yellow neoprene suit looking like sponge bob flapping about in her very own Bikini Bottom Village of one.
Like I mentioned before I had the tendency to escape into alternative universes of reality. When I was at the pool I’d spiral into my make believe worlds, and this was like any other daydream where I became an Olympic Synchronized Swimmer- without the team obviously. I had no idea what I was doing as I had no experience in Synchronized Swimming nor had the athleticism to hold myself in any kind of position that would even remotely look like something graceful and coordinated. But I’d dance away, flailing my arms about, doing handstands, then darting out of the water with one arm shooting up to the sky. A few times I’d come up coughing and choking from taking in too much water in my aggressive attempts at more dangerous and intermediate moves. I’m absolutely sure I looked completely insane. My plan to draw in friends and meet people was completely annihilated by my weird ass resulting in defeat and loneliness. I skulked all the way home that day, retreating back to my bedroom and slamming the door in defeat. My only solace was eaves dropping on our gardener Felix who I had already begun to spin a forbidden romance with in my mind as I watched creepily through the curtains.
The next day was a new day and I had been in the bathroom for about 4 hours learning how to cornrow my own hair so that maybe I’d fit in more. I’d later find out that our hired house assistant Katherine could do it in the matter of an hour. I would also like to share that as Boujie as having a gardener and house assistant sounds, I assure you it was not and just a means to employ some of the folks. Our house was not even large enough to need any help with either, so often we’d all just hang out in the yard. I heard a knock at the bathroom door and opened it slightly as to not reveal the hideous attempt of cornrows on my head. Katherine was at the door giggling and told me I had some visitors. I thought she must be mistaken, unless word of my incredible Syncho Skills made it to the Olympic committee. She stated that there was a young girl my age named Miriam Mbelo at the door with her chaperone Charles Mbelo- whom I’d learn later was her older brother and worked at the same Mill as my father as a junior supervisor.
I quickly ripped out my braids, leaving my hair all crazy and kinked and approached the door. Miriam was tall, slender and had beautiful dark ebony skin with short hair. She was wearing a traditional African print handmade dress, and looked so mature and regal for her age. Miriam introduced herself and I was so pleased to find out she was my age and had invited me to come to her home the next day. Her older brother Charles quickly moved in front of her, introducing himself likewise. Charles was very formal in his introduction and advised that he would be coming to collect me the next day to escort myself to their home. I advised that I could find my way just fine as it was only around the bend, however he insisted I be escorted. Not wanting to ruin my chances at making a new friend I agreed riddled with anxiety about what on earth did I just experience. First who the hell were these people, how did they find me, and what is a chaperone and why did I need an escort? Katherine was no help and was snickering in the background the entire time because she already knew what was on the horizon.
Later that day my father had come home for lunch. It was customary in Tanzania for the big meal of the day to be eaten at lunch time. We’d all sit around the table and eat the equivalent of a meal that could be more suited for dinner. It was also an opportunity to acquaint Felix and Katherine to some of the North American delicacies we’d have shipped to us. Kraft Dinner was a popular one that we could all agree tasted better with hot dogs and hot sauce. At lunch that day, Katherine sat there staring up from under her shy disposition giving me the “eye” and signaling that I should probably share that I had visitors today and subsequently agreed to be “escorted” to an adolescent play date.
I casually blurted out to my father that I had met a friend named Miriam Mbelo and would be going to her house the next day.
My dad looked up and began roaring with laughter- was he drunk? Did I miss something? Being drunk at lunchtime in Africa was not a far fetched concept for either of my parents during this period so it was possible.
My dad began to sputter through the laughter and mouth full of food that our dear friend “Charles” had arrived at his office earlier that morning introducing himself and sharing a lengthy resume of accomplishments with my dad. My father stated he was really confused because he had not known or spoke to him before but had only heard that people called him “Prince Charles.” He had been left wondering what had he done to be blessed with the presence of such a royal visitor, the Prince himself. His reputation of having quite the inflated ego and sense of self importance among his colleagues was how we all became familiar with how he got the name “Prince Charles,” and was forever only addressed by this name forever after. My father provided a bit more background with regards to how the Mbelo’s were higher on the status pole within the village and could only guess where this was heading. I’m pretty sure they 100% knew where this was going but at my expense wanted it to play out for their own entertainment. My family can be cruel, especially if it means there will be laughter and humiliation involved.
So the next day, Prince Charles arrived promptly in another freshly pressed ill fitting suit that I imagine had been his fathers at one point, or still was his fathers. The pants were too short and displayed his long thin dusty ankles, which made his Sunday Church shoes look surprisingly newer in comparison. Clearly, his freshly moisturized legs had no chance against the dusty red clay roads that he marched fervently through to get to my house around the bend. I can only imagine the spectacle that this journey created in the little village, because by the time he arrived at my house there was a group of children trailing behind him with curiosity. The last time someone was dressed like this was when Mama Fifi, who owned the brothel by the mill, got married.
There was no turning back at this point for any of us as the ground work had been laid and the wheels were in motion little to my knowledge. Katherine promptly opened the door and invited Prince Charles in who sat poised like a regal Lion looking down from his perch above the Serengetti Plain…. except his perch was on our little wooden couch. I came out in my over-sized Spike Lee T-shirt, ripped jeans and threw on my flip flops completely oblivious to what was occurring. When Miriam was not there I just assumed she stayed in from the African heat. I scooped my Nintendo System, and some of my plastic friendship bracelet wire so that there would be no room for awkward silence between Miriam and I. I was not familiar with what African girls that were my age did and was more than willing to share a bit of what us Canadian girls did. So I headed towards the door uncomfortable with the formal presence that was sitting in my living room, and headed out the door without Prince Charles. I mean what was he waiting for, I didn’t need an escort to begin with?
There I was walking ahead at a brisk pace, village children trailing, and Prince Charles bringing up the rear. He asked if he could oblige by carrying my game system which I said “I’m cool, I got it.” Like what does a 13 year old girl talk to a twenty something year old man about? These were before the days of social media and internet whereby girls were not fascinated at all by grown men unless they were a lead singer of an 80’s hair band in spandex. The only boundries that were crossed at that time was maybe that one time my mom caught me tonguing the shit out of my Ralph Machio poster. Again, humiliation at my expense.
Thankfully the walk took less than 10 minutes as I had not developed the gift of small talk at that age yet. Prince Charles had gotten my age, grade, and that I was only child out of me before we landed at our destination- The Mbelo House. Miriam came out to greet me very formally again and was brought into the modestly decorated home that had a lot of the same furniture we had in ours. When the mill was built, many of the houses must have all been furnished the same in order to settle a mass amount of Expats and Tanzanians into a small remote village to run a fairly massive pulp and paper project. Miriam was impeccably dressed again and I wondered if she was always going to be this proper as I was not equipped to match her class and polite disposition. Lets face it, I was swearing like a trucker by the age of 5 and I was eager to see what damage my influence could do. Prince Charles who was in my peripheral was not helping either with my master plan. I wanted to talk about boys; boys private parts, anything and everything to do with boys. I needed to know if she had gotten to 3rd base because I wanted to share that 2 months before I got felt up over the shirt, and needed to address the other burning preliminary questions that would help us be BFF’s for life! I wanted to know did she love Bon Jovi as much as I did and if she thought Axel Rose stuffed a sock in his white jeans or was that really his ding dong? Prince Charles needed to make an exit, and wasn’t going anywhere as we sat there in silence.
After what seemed like an hour of staring, I asked Miriam if she wanted to go cruise the red clay streets of Mgololo. Surely this girl knew this was code for lets go find some boys to flirt with. I would never find out though because Prince Charles insisted he “escort” us about the town. The term cock blocking had not yet been introduced to my vocabulary at that time but without a doubt this was my fist experience of the cock who cock blocked. There we were, two teen girls who couldn’t look anymore different cruising the red clay African streets, village children in tow, and Charles bringing up the rear watching over his flock. Thankfully the walk provided us enough space to get in some more comfortable small chat in and make plans to hang out again. Miriam and I would spend a few more times hanging out, going for walks and watching movies. I even managed to get her in on eves dropping on Felix from behind my bedroom curtain. However, my plot to pollute her christian mind was never actualized and perhaps she remained a better person and wife for it.
However the story of Miriam and I’s friendship did not end there. It seems Prince Charles had his own agenda, similar to the fairy tales I was known to dream up in my head.This moment is exactly where my parents were anticipating on landing in terms of their own selfish desire for cruel humor at the expense of their equally devilish daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were sitting on the pack patio pressing the passion fruits to make juice for the homemade Popsicles. From a distance we heard singing, similar to the choir that could be heard at the church. In fact it was the church choir singing Immaculate Mary, Thy Praises we sing….growing closer and closer. Wouldn’t you know, there was the choir coming up the path to our house, village children in tow, Miriam Mbelo, Mr & Mrs Mbelo and at the rear Prince Charles. The other Expats who lived around us came outside to check out the spectacle. My dad pulled his head out the hood of our Jeep, opening a fresh bottle of Tusker Beer and taking a long swig of it. It was in that moment he knew it was the moment that he had been waiting for. The moment in which decades of tearful laughter could be had at the expense of his daughter. He took another long swig and finished the freshly opened bottle, placing it on the hood of the jeep and making his way over to his pride and joy, his daughter, who was about to be proposed to by Prince Charles.
It seems that once Prince Charles had spent enough time observing the potential of Miriam’s new friend that it would be only right to approach this said friends father with a marriage proposal and Dowry offering of 50 Goats. It seems it would have been higher had I not ended up disclosing to Miriam that I had been felt up over the shirt which brought my worth down substantially.
Oh the Betrayal!
Firstly, Miriam never intended on being my BFF. I felt so used!
Secondly, Prince Charles used Miriam as an informant to plot and assess what I was worth in goats.
Thirdly, Prince Charles wasn’t escorting us anywhere, he was protecting his investment and took the concept of cock blocking to a whole new low.
And while the subject of child brides are nothing to be laughed or joked about, leading me to believe that I was about to be sold for 50 goats apparently was. I kid you not, my parents sat for approximately 2 1/2 hours with this man and his family, playing along poker faced until they could no longer hold it in any further. Even the church choir and village children had begun to disperse as the negotiations fell apart and no compromise could be settled upon . There would be no royal wedding in Mgololo after all. Prince Charles left with his ego dangling limply between his legs and offended that his seemingly gracious offer had been refused. His dreams of making babies with this girl were now assembled in a small pile of ashes, soiling his Sunday shoes.
My dad would often joke that had he been able to get at least 100 goat that perhaps his investment in my education would have paid itself off eventually. Years later I would remind the boyfriends I had along the way that dumped me that there was a Prince in Tanzania that offered to pay my parents in goats in exchange for my good lovin’. They were not impressed and I remained heartbroken and alone time after time. My hat goes off the the women of the world whereby this practice continues as it was by far the most insane experience I had while living in that little village. And if you are ever curious about your own worth in goat there are actually quizzes you can take online in case you hate your children like mine did and want to get into goat farming.