If you don’t know YOU, it is easy for someone to project onto you their own version of you: and force you to believe that is really who YOU are!
‘In a society that profits from your self-doubt, loving yourself is a rebellious act’ — author unknown.
In the beginning, I thought the name-calling was my fault, I had obviously failed to show Aunty that I was smart. So I decided to remedy that.
Uncle’s home was full of appliances I didn’t know how to use: never having seen or used them before. Which was understandable, as an eight-year-old I would not have been expected to use an electric stove or gas oven back in the village even had we had one. But that didn’t matter here; if I was going to make myself liked by Aunty so she could stop treating me so badly (and that was what I wanted above all else) I had to learn to use every shiny, chromed and complicated appliance— and quickly. I had to remember what knob to turn and to what degree to turn it. And that was exactly what did. From oven and the fridge, freezer to air-conditioners; from the ironing board, electric kettle to replacing the toggle on gas cylinders. I learned how to use them quickly. I had some mishaps along the way, of course, but I learned them all. Well, almost…except one
The electric iron. It was the one gadget that proved most difficult to manage for several reasons. Firstly, the setting, it was hard to remember which was okay for cotton and which was too hot for polyester; which setting to use when ironing my cousins' pyjamas and undergarments and which to use to iron their mother’s silk blouses. Because I could not sort out this confusion some of the clothes got ruined. Aunty, of course, was not pleased — especially when her expensive apparels got ruined. And so I got punished. Hard slaps across the face or head knocks with a folded fist were usually the mode of punishment — I used to have welts on my forehead for days as a result — or split and bleeding lips.
The problem with the iron was not always due to my inability to work the settings. Power outages, the perennial electrical problems that plague Nigeria even to this day were fixtures back then as well. fluctuations were constant issues. These frequently short-circuited the source to which the iron was connected. Which, in turn, resulted in burnt fuses or wires inside the iron. It really is a wonder I wasn’t electrocuted many times over!
Needless to say, ironing was one of the banes of my existence under my uncle’s roof. But even though some of its associated problems were completely outside my control they still earned me punishment. Aunty did not really care which mistakes were directly my fault and which weren’t; if something got burned, broken, torn or blown I got punished.