I love the way I look. I haven’t always but I do now and that is important. It hasn’t always felt that way. The phrase that has been coined to describe men who are a tad bit obsessed with their looks is metrosexual, but I have never been to the metro and I definitely haven’t had sex there. So the premise of the word, for me, is a little dumb. But I digress. The way I look is one of the ways I know myself.
Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer widely recognised posthumously, once remarked that man shouldn’t be able to see his own face (I mean if seeing oneself had been part of Nature’s plan, our eyes would have perhaps come pre-installed into our palms, feet or laps, angled toward our faces). To Pessoa, it is in fact almost sinful for one to know what one looks like. “—Only in the water of rivers and ponds could he look at his face. Nature gave him the gift of not being able to stare into his own eyes.” The very posture we assume to watch ourselves is symbolic, crouching down to stare at our reflections in water, standing still and staring at glass. That is how we commit the ignominy of self-viewing.
I think life would be way much easier if my looks were one less thing I had to worry about, but that can never be the case because I know that a stranger can make opinions of my outer form—a reality I find genuinely dreadful. I walk through the world hyper-aware of my presence and the great chunk of nothing that I exist in the place of. This is a notion I play with, for my own amusement and for my audience which I know exists outside as soon as I leave my house. This is how I curate scent and clothing, coiffure and demeanour.
Living is remembering. Remembering is an integral part of our human consciousness. The closest image I have of myself is from when I saw myself last. I want the me that I remember to always be a me that I like.
A while ago, inebriated and still going at it, with a friend of mine, we joked about how God, unable to see themself had to make us (no river, no pond being large enough) so they could see what they looked like outside of omnipotence and vastness, which I think was a very baroque thinking. Eyes were made for the ego. If we have egos then so does God, and this then absolves us (humans) and God of Pessoa’s sin. I like controlling the narrative of my viewing. It is something that I have savoured in life and I intend to create a continuance of even in death.
The act of seeing oneself is an act of rebellion, and existing in my own gaze is one of the kindest things I do for myself. And while in the past that wasn’t the case, because I wanted to be bigger, to have the stereotypical family physique (such a thing exists), the problem wasn’t that I wanted to be perhaps an inch taller or heavy set (which I still think about from time to time), the problem was how I looked beside my brothers, splitting hairs and hating the difference. I expressed to some close friends that I wanted a nude photoshoot because my body would never look as glorious as it did when I made that declaration. In the great twisted humour of the universe, when I procrastinated on that activity, I was struck with an illness that caused me to lose six kilograms of the happy quarter-life weight I so patiently awaited. I look pretty different from what I looked like when I made the announcement in January.
I know my body is on its own journey in spite of the rest of myself. I was a twink for the longest time and then an otter. I don’t know what I’ll be next. I hope to continue loving this body, this webbing of cells that is me, and to hold myself with kind hands no matter how I physically manifest. I hope my siblings’ children (whom they are still yet to have), think their uncle is a stunner.
When I step out of my body as I sleep, I hope the part of me which knows (the weaver of my inner monologue), I hope he stands over the bedpost as fire or air and says to my motionless body, “You are a unique celestial event and I love you. I will love you in the way of your people, with food. With drink. I will love you with exercise when it’s convenient. I will love you with perfume, with good dress and argan oil. I will love you with laughter. I will love you with orgasms because you deserve them. I will nourish you with good books. With hugs. I see you. I know you. I remember you. You are me. You are mine.”
About the author:
Ema Babikwa is a Kampala-based writer/poet. His literary work has been featured in Held Magazine, The Johannesburg Review of Books, Brittle Paper, Isele Magazine, and elsewhere. His work tackles social issues, spirituality, philosophy, sexuality, and gender. He has written in English, Luganda and Runyakitara. He is infinitely curious, loves cows and adores the colour blue.
Feature image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash