As Harmony Black tried to fit into her gown, she couldn’t help but pray her week-long starving paid off. She had always been extra chubby as a child, it didn’t help either that as she grew up, food was her only companion. Not many people wanted to befriend the fat ugly girl with braces and glasses.
Born into a family of four children, all girls; her three elder sisters were very beautiful with their mother’s stature and looks, while little (quite the irony) Harmony took her chubby Dad’s looks and stature. She was used to being laughed at for being big, compared to her stunning sisters and jeered at because of her braces and glasses.
When she realised food distracted her from the sadness, she started binging on any edible arrangement around her. The more she ate, the bigger she became. Boy was she happy when she finally losed her braces and changed her glasses for contacts. She was in her final year in secondary school then.
She had been so excited to see her classmates’ reaction to her new appearance but was greatly disappointed when Eseosa, the prettiest girl in the class made fun of her and called her mama. Harmony wondered why she only had friends when it was time for exams but after the exams, they all seemed contented with pretending she doesn’ exist.
Her sisters usually tried to make her feel better whenever they were home for the holidays but they were rarely home because of the numerous dates and parties they had to attend.
Now Harmony is twenty six years old, it was her birthday and apart from the usual calls from her family and a few colleagues from work, nobody else seemed to remember it was her birthday. She had starved herself all week, relying strictly on a diet of salad and water twice a day. She needed to be able to fit into the beautiful gown she got for her birthday.
There weren’t many beautiful clothes for women her size and it stung having to see the scorning looks of the sales attendants at the boutiques. She was determined to look her best and get that 100+ likes Dorothy, her immediate elder sister, though married with children still seemed to get on every social media upload.
She smiled a bit when she was finally able to fit in the gown. She picked her bag, wore her shoes and headed out to work. Working at an event planning company had it perks. She had planned lots of successful marriages, yet, at twenty six years of age, she was as single as a NEPA pole.
“Good morning Letty” She greeted the receptionist at the office.
Letty grunted a response back as she continued typing on her system.
She reached her cubicle in the open office she shared with ten other people and placed her bag on her table. She took her phone out of her bag and walked out of the office to the corridor while looking for a security guard.
“Hello, Good morning.” She greeted the smiling security man sitting on a chair at the corridor.
“Good morning ma’am” The man responded.
“Can you take a picture of me please?” She asked while extending her phone to him.
The man nodded and took the phone from her. He snapped a few shots and gave her the phone back when they were done. She thanked him and started walking back to her cubicle.
She uploaded the picture on facebook, tagged her siblings and finally faced her work for the day. A few hours into the day, she was taking her usual break at the office cafeteria when she ran into her office friend, Kaffy.
Kaffy was a very beautiful and curvy lady with a nice accent that drew people to her. Kaffy used to dislike her when she just started working but after the boss kept maintaining that Harmony was brilliant and smart, she became a lot friendlier.
“Hey, it’s the birthday girl. I’m so sorry I didn’t call or text. My battery was a bit low. I was just able to charge it in my cubicle.” Kaffy said with regret.
“No problem. How are you doing?” Harmony asked.
“I’m quite well thank you. I saw your picture on facebook. It was uh…….. ” Kaffy began.
“Let me guess, I looked like a fat pig.” Harmony said with resignation.
“Welllll, not really. It was just that, erm, the gown is a bit ugly and you looked so rigid in the picture.” Kaffy said with concern.
“Oh, I thought it was stylish.” Harmony muttered quietly as she glanced at the beautiful cream gown.
“For grandmothers, yes. But for you, no. I’m sure we can get something two sizes smaller than this that’ll be sexier and stylish.”
“But it won’t fit, Kaffy.” Harmony said quietly .
“Then you’ll have to stick to the diet I gave you won’t you? Look, Harmony, if you want to be beautiful and wanted, you need to make some sacrifices. Or else, you will keep looking like this and no guy would ever want you.” Kaffy said to her.
Harmony nodded gloomily and walked back to her cubicle in silent surrender. She knew no guy wanted her, but it hurt when Kaffy reminded her. She sat down and opened her facebook to check the number of likes the picture got.
When she saw 37, she quietly slid the phone back to the desk. The only comments were from her sisters and old friends wishing her a Happy Birthday. That feeling of shame and worthlessness felt so strong at that moment. She was twenty six years old with no man to call hers after all.
A knock on her cubicle jarred her from her thoughts. It was a young handsome man with a smile gracing his lips.
“Sorry to disturb you miss but I’m looking for a Miss Harmony Black.” The man said.
“I am.” Harmony managed to choke out.
She always got tongue tied on the few occasions guys spoke to her.
“I’m Segun Ojo, the Editor in chief for Blazes magazine.” He introduced himself as he held out his hand.
“Blazes? Wow! I’m a huge fan of that magazine.” Harmony said shyly.
“Thank you. I saw your article on the notice board at the reception. The one on sexual abuse. I must say I loved it. It really caught my attention.” He said to her.
“Really? You love my article?”
“Yes. The writing style is unlike any I’ve ever seen. It’s so catchy and intriguing. I would love to feature it in our magazine.” He replied.
“Oh my life. Thank you so much.” Harmony beamed at him.
“It’s my pleasure. I have to go now, I’ve got an interview to catch up with. But I must say, you have a very beautiful smile. See you around Miss Black.” He said as he walked off with Harmony looking all dazed.
That was the first time someone who wasn’t family was paying her a compliment in a long time.
“So, you didn’t get yourself a cake?” Her Dad’s voice resounded on the phone.
She was talking to her parents that evening after she returned home from work. Her mum’s phone was on speaker, so both parents could speak with her.
“No, Dad. I don’t want one.” Harmony replied gloomily.
“Well, you are not a kid, so it’s all good I suppose.” Her Dad said again.
Then she heard her mum speaking to one of their neighbours who had walked in on the call.
“A Barrister? We don’t need one.” She could hear her mother saying. “Cecilia’s a Doctor, Annabel is a Nurse and Dorothy’s a lecturer. What more do we want?”
Nothing! Harmony thought as she pressed the end button to end the call. Nothing! her own mother didn’t even remember she had Harmony. She thought again as she walked in a daze to the bottle of insecticide on her kitchen counter.
She was obviously not needed. They wanted nothing more. No one would miss her, she thought. She was like a waste of space. A big one. The feeling of worthlessness and being unloved was choking her. She uncapped the insecticide and looked at it longingly. No one would care, she thought.
Snap! Something seemed to jump out in front of her. She shook her head to be sure she wasn’t crazy, for in front of her were two miniature versions of herself, one in white, the other in black.
“You’re right, you know? Nobody does want you. I mean, even your mother just said so indirectly. See, they’re not even calling back to ask why you ended the call suddenly.” Her small black self said.
“Don’t listen to that. Of course they’ll miss you.” The white one said.
“Give her one good reason why she should believe that.” Black one said.
“Well, because they are her family of course.”
“Oh please. She’s a miserable overweight ugly woman. Her agemates are married, yet here she is with only one history of being with a man. Not to mention he cheated on her with a beautiful, Slim lady he’s currently married to. She has got no friends except food and now she can’t even eat that much anymore because she has to lose weight. She’s lonely, sad, depressed, rarely sleeps and talks to herself. Does that show a life worth living?” Black one asked.
“I only see a woman with a kind heart. After all, the man today saw beneath the mass of fat. He saw her brains and her beautiful smile. She has been moving within the wrong circle. She only needs to find people that are the good in her and she’ll be happy again.” White one said.
“And how am I supposed to find that?” Harmony finally asked.
“People with your interests. But first, you need help. Professional one.” White one added.
Before she could reply, the doorbell rang and her miniature selfs popped away.
She walked to the door and opened it to find a smiling Segun at the door.
“I’m sorry, I realised I didn’t get even your phone number. So I asked my friend, your boss and he gave me your address. Hope I’m not intruding?” He asked.
“Not at all.” Harmony said as she moved back for him to enter.
No one had ever smiled that kindly at her in a long time.
Like Harmony, in the illustration above, many young people battle severe depression, anxiety, paranoia, anorexia, bodyshame, self hate and unlimited bouts of self doubt.
The people we walk with, social media and our environment play a key role in our mental health.
You can be someone’s downfall like Kaffy or sometimes, the reason they want to hold on. It doesn’t hurt to compliment or appreciate that lady that sells something down the road. Or that man that cleans the floor. That quiet classmate, the rowdy one. The girl who’s always saying everything is fine or the boy who’s always sulking. It will not hurt to say a nice word to them. It might just be the anchor they need to hold on.
The story is left at that stage for you to conclude how it ends. Does she fight and overcome or does she eventually decide she’s a waste of space after all.
© Oluwaseun Beatrice Wende