When Aba Doe’s heart and face glowed very bright for the first time because of a boy, she said with flushed cheeks, jovial eyes and a large smile, “Lucky, I can’t take it anymore. I have a feeling that he likes me too! Sooo, I am going TO TELL HIM HOW I FEEL!” My first reaction to the idea was shock mixed with laughter before I pointed out to my very good friend that Rwandan girls don’t do that kind of thing.
Rwandan girls can be wild. Their wildness is concealed and sometimes subtle that you won’t see it when they flash silly smiles at you or blush at your complements. This tendency is usually developed through Secondary School dynamics. The biggest goal for the prettiest girls there is to attract the most handsome and/or the coolest boys. The common skills to lure the boys, of course, are flirting, laughing at nothing, giggling every time, blushing, playing around with the boys and letting the boys play with them. However, some of the girls are so vicious that they would do such things as lying and deceiving their girl-friends, pretending to like each other, spreading rumours against the girls and ultimately opening their legs for the boys.
Everything though has a limit, hence, one thing they never, ever, ever do, is make the first move. They would pretend to play hard to get all they want, but they never initiate sexual or romantic relationships. So, when I heard Aba, I was quite surprised and said something like, “Wo! For real? THAT IS CRAZY! Honey, that is something we see in films and TV shows; things from the Western world. Girls here don’t do that!”
Her two-word response was, “Who cares?”
The words came out as natural as if she had said, “Good morning!” She then smiled dreamily and started talking about how she and the guy were going to start dating. Unfortunately of course for Aba, the feelings were not mutual.
A few days after mourning of this heartbreak, she called. She had been in class before her classmates arrived with just the crush guy when she decided to go for it. She kissed the guy; as in went to him and shoved her tongue down his throat. The guy had kissed her back; she swore it was her best kiss then. The girl was nuts!
Being real is both internal and external, as in being totally real, true to you, do what you want and never give shit about to what people think. This is one of the most agonising experiences one can ever go through in close communities, especially if you tend to feel and act differently.
Internally, authenticity is a set of feelings, thoughts and beliefs. You are only being authentic when you let these free, just like Aba, regardless of what society might think or say. Being authentic is not always against the thoughts of society, though. When it is, you are doomed. Then you have to act strategically, otherwise, you become miserable like Aba. As one YouTube video indicates, Rwandan women are elegant and calm; pursuing a boy when you a girl, sure isn’t graceful one bit. I admired my friend’s courage, though crazy.
Externally, the concept is pretty much the same but harder because of the exposure of physical appearance; Christians and/or your parents want you to dress a certain way and the Corporate world and the youth wants you to dress another way.
Aba and I get along so well because we met when we were both insane people; not crazy in a way of shouting and drinking and dancing but crazy in a way of never giving a crap about what people think about what we do. So, I don’t like make-up.
If you are authentic, you dress exactly how you want to dress; not because everybody is doing it. Before I started wearing make-up every day, I would look at myself in the mirror once in a while and find my face beautiful. Today, when I look at myself without applying the lipstick, I find my lips too pale. When I look at the photos I used to find so beautiful, I find them so hideous. Then, I ask myself whether I like makeup. I don’t. But, I apply it because it is a requirement in a corporate world; many people have treated me differently because there was no colour on my face. I have to get work done effectively.
I am still a person who does not care what people think – there is not much change in how people look at me now, which is good because I guess I haven’t lost my identity – but when it comes to getting work done, I do care plenty. Sometimes we make sacrifices and compromises to achieve great things. Wear a mask at day and take it off at night.
Therefore, being authentic has a lot to do with identity and freedom, but acting authentically is more of a choice. Just like a very wise man told me, sometimes you have to think of your audience.