The next time someone asks you to live long enough to blow a thousand candles, shoot them
Old age sucks. When you are a 99-year-old, toothless, has-been snoring in the backyard in diapers, everyone, including yourself, starts wondering what the heck you are still doing around here.?
You can’t enjoy a cigarette. A stiff shot of whisky would send you straight to the morgue. You have no teeth for chewing fatty roast meat. And the young pretty lass with a firm behind walking down the road could as well be a goat. Of what use is life then?
But in the unfortunate event that you live that long, and assuming that you retain a brain cell or two for memory, you will discover there are four things you haven’t seen: An ugly bride, an ugly baby, an ugly pastor and an ugly president.
We hate ugly people. That is the truth. You will never hear it whispered in a church, mosque or witchdoctor’s hut, but humanity discriminates against ugly people more than it scorns (at least in Africa) gays, women, integrity and clean public toilets.
Have you ever seen women swooning around an ugly baby, posing for photos, giving it lipstick-coloured double pecks and perfumed hugs? I suspect ugly babies are hidden from sight, in the manner children with severe disability are tucked away in the darkest room of the house and only whispered about.
It isn’t that easy to make an ugly baby anyway. Boys in the estate don’t hover around the gate where the worst-looking broad in the neighbourhood lives. They don’t chase her like a pack of salivating wolves, even if she has a brain the size of a tractor engine.
Even before the Stone Age, it was always that girl with sleepy eyes. The one with juicy lips. The one with long legs, a sculpted butt and breasts so full they were to blame for all the bent lampposts on the road. All of the 40 boys in the estate would go chasing Sheila everywhere, but not that sorry-looking lass who was christened Anaconda by her daft mum after something she saw on television.
Go back to your school days. Teachers pet, remember? He or she was always tiny and so pretty or handsome it hurt. They always smelt fresh, even after fooling around on the pitch after school break. Clean clothes, fresh breath, not a hair out of place. Oooh, how Teacher loved them!
What do you think Maxwell? Go and ring the bell, Maxwell. Maxwell, rub the board. Maxwell, carry my books. Good boy, Maxwell! Ooh, Maxwell… Excellent, Maxwell! I wish all of you were as tidy as Maxwell… How tedious!
It was always Maxwell this and Maxwell that. And the snooty little bastard would be sitting in the front row (the beautiful ones always sit at the front) soaking in the love and adoration like a silly puppy.
Meanwhile, the ugly ducklings would be huddled in the corner, gathering cobwebs and cringing away from a world that detested and ignored them. They could sit in that corner for years and Teacher would never know they existed.
Even if they stood on tiptoe and raised their hands to the ceiling shouting, “Teacher, me! Me, Teacher!” Mwalimu’s eyes would sweep blindly across the room and come to rest on dear Maxwell’s handsome, grovelling face.
So Maxwell got the girls and passed his exam with flying colours as Bad Face went to hell. But if Bad Face turned out to be brilliant in spite of all the hurdles placed in his path by this beautiful world, he was still in trouble.
If you are reading this at work, look around the office. Do you see a single ugly face? Everyone at your place of work is beautiful because when Maxwell breezes into the interview room, the women in heels go, “Wow!” and the old men in stiff suits mumble, “Fine lad.”
Having grown up in a world that adores him, Maxwell is easy and confident. He smiles a lot. He looks people in the eye. He exudes charm. “Mmmh… He can sell our product,” the panel nods effusively. Of course. Maxwell can damn well sell anything. He is handsome. Arrrghhh!
But for Bad Face to pull that off, he would have to be extremely brilliant, and the cute candidates seeking the same job practically retarded. Still, going up the ladder can be tedious, unless his father owns the company (Show me an ugly man who owns a big company, dimwit).
After years wasted hanging around the dusty floor next to the toilets while Maxwell breezes up the corporate ladder, Bad Face discovers what is going on. One fine morning, after being passed over once more for some young idiot with fine looks, he curses and storms out to make a pile of dough in the scrap metal business.
Twenty years later, he has so much cash it spills out of his gut. Women suddenly discover he isn’t so bad-looking after all and fall over themselves to give birth to a bunch of average-looking kids whose path through life will only be smooth because of Daddy’s cash.
And then the inevitable happens. The political bug bites Mr Bad Face. He starts dreaming that if he becomes a leader, the world will finally embrace him. He rains money on his constituents like Mobutu Sese Seko. He builds churches, attends funerals, dances with women… Everything. And you know who the women and youth vote for after chewing his cash? That snooty little good-looking good-for-nothing Maxwell fellow!
Folks, there is a pogrom going out here; a holocaust against ugly people. We won’t give birth to them. We won’t dance with them. We won’t sleep with them. We won’t elect them. We won’t even allow an ugly pastor to take us to heaven.
It is the beautiful ones we love, the ones who make the fashion page, the one with lovely weddings. And when we crown them Mr or Miss Something, we demand of them to save hungry children, stop elephant poaching in Africa, campaign about clean water, eradicate slums, stop breast cancer and woo people to use condoms and prevent HIV and Aids.
As if it is impossible to do these things with an ugly face.
Ted Malanda is the Associate Editor, Nairobian
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