How Turning Into A Sweaty Mess Made Me Feel Beautiful
One of my favourite things about hot humid weather is how wavy it makes my hair, call me vain but it’s true. In a warm climate and I get these beautiful wavy locks that take zero effort to maintain. Now the ‘health glow’ that comes with it, is more accurately a shiny, slimy stream of sweat that surfaces above my lip, across my forehead and down every ugly crevice of my body.
Yet somehow, allowing myself to become a permanent sweaty mess has actually helped me feel better about who I am as a woman.
There have been days I have stood up after a long afternoon of outdoor training session when I can actually see a distinguishable sweaty butt print on the bench and I know there is a matching one on my skirt. It happens, this is Africa. But you don’t want people to look at the sweaty butt stain, and if they do notice it you don’t want them to remember you by it the way they would in North America. When no amount of effort you make on your appearance is going to change how sweaty and disgusting you look by 10:00am, you start to concentrate on the other outward projections you can control. So when I can’t be good looking, I hold true to just being good. I smile more and I put more of an effort into talking to people, shaking their hands and looking them in the eye. People will remember you for you when you make the effort to be more than the white girl who already stands out.
It’s easier to change you and your attitude than it is to embrace the changing attitudes toward you.
Even after three and a half months of living in Malawi I have a really hard time accepting the compliments that are thrown my way daily. My friends can attest that I used to whine, yep I’ll admit ‘whine’, about how I could never get a guy to glance my way at any social outing. Back in Alberta I am the ugly duckling, unless some strapping redneck has beer goggles on then and reckons that class and consideration have no place when it comes to charming this girl. I can tell you though it is a surreal feeling to not just be different but be beautiful in the eyes of someone else. In Malawi it is very easy to attract attention and being the ‘warm heart of Africa’ people are friendly to begin with, but you can’t help and smile when someone hisses “pssst” at you when you pass, just so you can turn around for them to tell you “you’re so beautiful”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that being overweight must make these guys think I’m a fabulous cook who knows how to take care of someone and myself. My white skin makes people think I have money and my friendly nature and need to talk to people makes me approachable. But as someone who has suffered from a non-existent level of self esteem at multiple moments in my life… moving to Malawi was something I needed to do to feel good about myself.
Personally, professionally, in social justice and service to others, I feel like I found a part of myself that was tucked away deep in my heart. Because the locals help stroke my outward ego and because my family tells me they miss my humour and personality, aaaand maybe because I’m another year older I feel like I can finally accept and love the beautiful person I am.