‘Waaah! Uko na muscles!’ Brian, my neighbor, 2009.
‘Kuna dame hukuita cute boy wa CU,’ anonymous, 2016.
‘You are handsome!’ anonymous, 2017.

I could go on and on about the instances where I got called out for looking like a boy. Oh, wait. There’s one more.
‘Uko na sideburns!’ my barber, 2015.
You’re probably wondering how I kept record of all these scenarios for so long. Well, that’s because I let them define me for so long.

It started when…or should I go with ‘long time ago’… or my favorite ‘this is a tale as old as time’. Sorry, let me cut to the chase.
I cut my hair in 2009. Why, you ask? Well, my sister shaved hers and for the love (they say the line between love and foolishness is almost inexistent) I got mine cut so we could look alike as we always did. I worshipped her, followed her like a labra doodle. She was the pied piper, I was the mouse. I think that’s enough description.

One year later she joined high school and I was left with four years of primary school to battle. By then I had already gotten inured to getting my hair cut any time it tried to show. While in high school she decided to grow hers. The distinction between us became quite ostentatious; she was light, with long hair, I was dark with short hair. I stood out for all the ‘wrong reasons’.
My barber wasn’t helping. He’d shave everything; we call it ‘Jordan’. My mom’s shopping choices for me weren’t any better. You can’t blame her though. She was a typical Kenyan mother; those clothes had to be big enough to serve the rest of my teenage years.

I didn’t know I was an extrovert till I went to high school. Before then I would lock myself up to minimize chances of bumping into someone who would point out the obvious. Those who wonder how fast my imagination travels, it happened during my formative years of isolation and oblivion. I was an empress of my domain.

There was this time in 2015 when my sister came for the AGM looking amazing, as always, and was the topic of discussion for the better rest of the day. The problem was no my sister looking nice, it was the fact that people kept asking ‘Eh, Stella, kwani what happened to you?’ not to mention the countless times my aunties commented that I was a spitting image of my father. I had no idea how adverse the effects of these comments were since I learnt to ‘live with it’.

Currently, I do not share the opinion that anyone deserves to ‘live with’ anything.
I know my story might have led you to believe that shorthair equals an ugly face but, don’t get me wrong. I have friends who wear short hair and God do I admire them.
I grew up believing I was ugly because the people around me thought so. Even if I had not cut my hair, I still feel that they would be of the opinion that I was an ugly girl. It’s not until sometime in high school that those opinions changed. Not because I changed m hair , but because I started hanging out with people who loved me for who I was.

We all deserve acceptance, to be a part of something. We all deserve to be around people who bring out the best in us. People who make us feel beautiful.
I can’t believe how beautiful your eyes are, I love your fashion sense, I love your personality, your nuanced manner, your bluntness (if such a word exists) , I love how pissed you get when you’re hungry, your melodrama, your warped sense of humor, your keenness to detail.

Beauty Is not defined by one thing or the other. Beauty is who you are. And there’s no way to discover that if you exist in an environment that chokes the very life out of it. If you ever feel ugly, incapable, useless, unloved; if you ever feel like a misfit whatsoever, just look around you. The answer is never too far away.

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