Ezigbo Nwata Nwanyi.
Meaning: Good girl. Igbo (ethnic group native to Nigeria)
Can also be written as “Ezigbo Nwanyi” or “Ezi Nwanyi”
They teach you in Integrated Science that with puberty comes pimples. They also teach you that puberty starts in your pre-teen years; the average was between 11 and 12 years.
Mine started at nine years old though – just my luck. By the time I was 13, face cleansers and benzoyl peroxide were staples in my possession.
Those were the years when how you felt about yourself was almost wholly dependent on what others thought of you. In essence, a pimple-faced girl with a great sense of humour, fantastic personality and a heart of gold was…well, a pimple-faced girl.
Let me elaborate:
When there were whistles and catcalls, they were not for me.
When people inquired about “that fine girl”, it was never me. In fact, on one occasion, I was the girl who was asked about “that fine girl;” and on another occasion, I was the girl standing beside “that fine girl” – both of which were equal amounts horrifically embarrassing to say the least.
However, I was always the girl who would make someone a great wife. It was meant as a compliment but what did I care about making someone a good wife? I was a teenager looking to join the ranks of girls who had received attention from boys, and it was always out of my reach.
I remember during JAMB lessons, there had been a falling out between this boy Ifeanyi and another kid at the lesson. Most of Ifeanyi’s friends had taken sides with the other kid but Ifeanyi had stood his ground, and chose to become a loner as a result. At the end of the lessons when we were saying our farewells, I walked up to Ifeanyi and told him how impressed I was by him for sticking to his guns. He was so moved that he hugged me and said with wide-eyed amazement “I go marry you oh.”
He stared at me like he was only noticing me for the first time.
Hmn…I was always there, in front of him, the entire three months of the lesson period but I remained in the friend zone and now that he was never going to see me again, he deemed me worthy of a second glance?
Then there was Ikedi, our family friend, who visited frequently. Ikedi flirted with me but never did more than that, and it was rather confusing.
One day I walked in on him talking incessantly about a girl he had seen that he wanted to get his claws into. I was so frustrated that I blurted out that I had never heard him speak of me in that manner. He walked up to me, cupped my face with both palms and said “I can’t do that to you. You are the kind of girl I would want to marry.” I smacked his hands away and stormed off.
I later understood why he was perplexed by my reaction, but at the time I thought he was an idiot.
Actually, I still do.
Then there was the day I was returning from an errand. I walked past a young boy who noticed me and started to approach me.
My heart started racing and I thought, finally, it’s going to happen! Then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the person who he had been seating with, a neighbor’s son, stop him and say “no, that one na good girl, leave am.”
I was old enough to know they all felt I was “special,” but damn it I just wanted to be toasted*! Was that too much to ask?
*Toasted: Past tense of "toast" - Nigerian slang meaning "to woo"