The first person who drew my attention to my size was my mom. My name is Akua and I had a cousin who lived with us who was also called Akua. To differentiate between the two of us, My mom called me Akua Obolobo. That was it.
The whole neighborhood started calling me Akua Obolobo until one day, the Akua became silent and Obolobo was shortened to Obolo. I grew up knowing I was fat. I accepted it in good faith and lived life as fat people do.
In senior high school, I had my first kiss. It was so good I wanted to do it again and again and again. Maybe it wasn’t the kiss that was good but to have someone loved me to the extent that he would kiss my lips made my heart spin like a carousel. That kiss became my first and also my last from that boy. I did nothing wrong but he started distancing himself from me. He wouldn’t talk to me and he wouldn’t see me even when I’d gone to look for him.
When I asked him why he said, “My friends laugh at me these days because of you. They say when you sit on me my intestines will spill out. They tease me every day and I think staying away from you will save us from the tease and name-calling.” I told him, “You didn’t love me. If you did, you would have defended me.” He was just a boy and I was placing in his hands too much responsibility than a boy could handle. I wanted him to kiss me again but he never did and that was the end of us.
I never had a boyfriend again until I completed senior high school. My friend Matilda, she received a proposal each day from the cutest guys on campus. She said a lot of no and said a lot of yes too. One day she said, “If a guy proposes to me and I don’t like him, can I give him to you?” I said, “Yes, I’m always available but make sure he likes obolo girls.”
That’s how miserable I was.
And then I grew up.
Twenty-five, no boyfriend. At twenty-eight, I had a boy who said he loved me with all his heart. I believed him because it showed in the things he did and how he treated me. He held my hands everywhere we went like he was proud of me and ready to show me off to the world. I had my second kiss, third kiss, and several others from him. In my mind, he was my husband. He was my soul mate and the reason why I’d stayed single until I was twenty-eight. I had planned our wedding in my mind and booked the hotel for our honeymoon in my heart. Our first kid was a girl and the second a boy and the third a girl.
A girl in love can plan her whole life in her head and live it accordingly.
At some point he started complaining about my size, “Akua, it seems you’ve added on weight.” “Really, I haven’t checked my weight recently.” That evening, I checked and everything was the same. I hadn’t added even air to my weight. But he kept complaining. I asked him, “You don’t like the way I am again?” He said, “It’s not about that. You keep adding on flesh as if you don’t have it already. All I’m saying is, do something about it before it gets out of hand.”
From then on it became law; “Thou shall lose weight no matter what or I’ll nag and nag and nag.”
I loved him with all I have. When everyone rejected me, it was he who accepted me for who I was so I decided to lose some weight for him. I started jogging. I started jumping over skips, I ate less and ate lean. Two months later, I added more weight. He said, “Exercise properly for thirty minutes every morning, fast for some hours and take some slim tea. I did everything and yet didn’t see any improvement.
He saw my effort. He knew I was trying but my body wasn’t ready to yield. He never stopped giving me pressure. We argued a lot and fought so many times. Love was waning and we didn’t do so much to stop it. We said our goodbyes and moved on with our lives. I tried, God knows I tried but he kept asking for more than I could give. I’m not my body and one cannot die in the name of love so I let go.
This break up really got to me. It wasn’t only my heart that got broken, the whole me was broken. I was like a bird with broken wings. I couldn’t fly and I was always scared my pursuers will finally find me. A simple whistle from the pine got me shivering. I cried for days and thought that was the end of the road for me.
I closed my mind on everything love and decided to live my life. I made new friends and enjoyed their company. I joined girl groups and made myself busy. There was something happening in my life every day, so much so that I forgot about love. Life was good especially life without broken hearts.
I met Ken.
He was a fine gentleman. So refined in his ways and polished in his manners. He looked like someone who has four girlfriends and still looking for more. When he started making advances towards me I said in my head, “You devil, go away from me.” He kept saying all the things I loved to hear. I asked myself, “Doesn’t he see that I’m fat?” When finally he proposed, I wanted to say yes but I hesitated. I asked him, “Are you very sure it’s me you want?” He said, “I’m old enough to know what I want.”
I only nodded.
Because of what I’d been through I didn’t think I deserved such a guy. I didn’t trust him that much. I wanted to believe him anytime he said he truly loved me but I couldn’t. He was too good to be true. He wanted to take me out on several occasions, but I said no. People would see us together and they’ll begin to tease him out of the relationship. I’ve had it before and didn’t want to risk it, at least not at that early stage of our relationship.
He went out alone and I stayed home minding my own business but at some point, he saw through me and my feeling of inadequacies. He tried encouraging me to get out of my own way and be happy but I was an old dog. He couldn’t teach me a new trick. I insisted on staying in so the world won’t be on our case. I was doing it for him.
I remember one afternoon, he came for me. He gave me all the assurances in this world before I could agree to step out with him. I didn’t know where we were going but I trusted he was taking me to a restaurant or the mall or somewhere the two of us can sit and talk. We both ended up at the gathering of his old school mates. The screams and the boos as we walked in was deafening. I got frozen. That was when all the fears I’ve ever had started kicking in. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t stand straight but he held my hand, walked me through the middle and introduced me to all his friends.
When we finally sat down, everyone was looking at us. I started getting uneasy. I had the feeling we would be over before we got home. He was having fun with old mates while I sat there attracting stares from people who couldn’t believe there was someone as fat as I am. When we got home that day he said, “You care too much about what people think or say. How about me? Don’t you care how I feel about you? You’re not disabled, you only have more skin than others.”
That was the day I started warming up to the relationship. It was so sweet the way he said it and I felt guilty for not giving him my all because of fears. We’ve been two years in the relationship now. July 25th, 2020 would be my birthday and also my wedding day. It would be joy unlimited not because I’ve had it easy with Ken but because all the struggles and shame and pain have led me to a place where it all makes sense.
Whether big or fat, there’s a hand I fit in and there’s an embrace tailored just for me. This is it.
—Akua Obolo, Ghana