The Mrs Club
Sunday, December 21, 2008 A status bag or the state of your mind

Let me not lie, I have too have succumbed to the lure of the designer bag. The luxurious material, the stylish hardware and most of all, the strategic branding that has caused us to believe that when we carry a bag like that then suddenly we are somebody!

Now I don’t own that many of these bags and most that I own were picked up at outlets on sale or clearance, but a little while back I noticed that my mind had decided to upgrade without consulting me. All of the supple leather on the sale rack looked unappetizing but the new higher dollar ones in the store seemed to call my name. It found ways to justify it. After all, aren’t you supposedly successful, well this is what successful people wear or are you a really failure masquerading as a professional? The magazines and media seemed to say the same things. In my favorite magazines the bag du jour would be some thousand dollar item favored by Angelina Jolie or Halle berry, and the glossy pages would whet my appetite. I would look at these women in all their fabulousity and somehow I would think just for a moment that if I had that same bag, then even though my thighs weren’t slimmer and my bank account was leaner, I too would be somebody.

So finally I crossed over to the other side. Away from the sale rack, to lighted shelves and locked glass. “That one please” I steadied myself for sticker shock. “I deserve it” I said to myself “I too am fabulous”. I felt both excited and sick at the same time as I handed over my card. Bile rose up and my heart took the opportunity to speak “Who are you really? What does this say about you? Sure it’s a pretty piece of workmanship, but are you at the level when you truly afford it? The women who you see on the magazines make millions of dollars!” I caressed my brown bag and I willed it to shut up. I walked through the shiny store and looked women in the eye. Don’t get twisted, I am a shiny girl too.

Maybe it’s the Nigerian in me.

Nigerian women are among the most fashionable women in the world. The society women are constantly focusing on their wardrobe. Do you have the latest French lace, the new kind of aso-oke? Have you seen the new season of Chanel, or the hottest it bag?
The pressures some women face in today’s society, trying to fit in to this fashion oriented climate are enough to intimidate even the toughest of us; Simply put - in Nigeria, Fashion is war!
I’ll never forget an experience I had when I visited Lagos one Christmas period. I had decided to have my nails done at an upscale nail salon in Victoria Island. When I walked in, I was struck by how well put together the clientele were. In every seat, there was a very chic woman, whether she was tall or short, fat or thin, short do or unbeweaveable, they looked fabulous and then they had one other thing in common - The status handbag. Next to every woman, there in a chair, a purse that cost almost as much as one terms school fees at an expensive private school. They went by different names…Gucci, Vuitton, Prada and more. Each woman held it as proudly.
As I later learnt the status bag was used as an entrance to a certain level of society, at least on a superficial level. There were some people who before they dealt with you, they looked you up and down to determine if you were on their level. Shirt – Next? Hmm, jeans – true religion, check, Shoes – can’t tell, bag – Jimmy choo, ding, ding, ding we have a winner, cue automated voice, “you may now be admitted into the world of Nigerian VIPs”

Maybe it’s because I am now older.

Like most women, I have had my issues with self esteem. Still do, kind of. But as I get older I notice my focus has changed. I still love the luxe and sharpness of certain bags because after all, style is style and while I still rock my shiny purchases. I have pledged not to fall into the trap of consumerism again. I have style but I can express it for a reasonable price.

A bag no matter how fine and how coveted cannot take the place of self esteem. No matter how many people look at you when you walk by, what really matters is how you see yourself when you are stripped bare. No matter how many people compliment you and think that you are a baller because you can afford that level of bag, what really matters is where you truly are financially. No matter how many people think you are somebody when they see you expensive leather, what really matters is who you think you are. What would happen if suddenly you lost everything? Not so far fetched. Believe me, it has happened to many people just like you. In true fact, many of us are living financial lifestyles that place us on the edge. One strong wind and we may all fall like dominoes. What happens then? When you will not have all the trappings of wealth to self medicate. When you cannot wrap your anxiety up in a bloody bag and convince the world that you are someone…what happens when you are forced to give all that up? I know you might be thinking, that can never be me…perhaps…but many a person has compromised themselves trying to make sure that they never lose their money, so they don’t lose their status.

The question is this. Do you know that you are somebody already? I finally figured that out. I am not by any means a blueprint for perfection but I am somebody, and a beautiful correct one at that. Let me tell you about an experience I had. I was invited by a book club group in Lagos to come and do a reading of my book “The Mrs Club” so I went. Now I thought I was kind of prepared because I grew up in Lagos, I now what Lagos girls are like...fierce! Also take note that the book club met in a place called posh café…never a more apt name for this group of women. Fierce and fabulous I tell you. They were exquisitely coiffed and attired. The leader was a vision of fashion. Right down to her quirky eyeglasses. I on the other hand, was in a pair jeans and a shirt. I knew something had shifted in me during that experience. When I walked in, I saw one or two raised eyebrows among the mostly smiling faces. I imagined the inner dialogue “This can’t be her” and I smiled because finally my inner dialogue said simply and confidently “Yes it is me”.

I started to read and I did me. I enjoyed myself and the time spent with these young, fab chicks. Now needless to say, there were many status bags in that room. I mean I told you, we were at posh café. So the question I have for my young fashionistas, is the same as I have for myself and you. Do you own the bag, or does the bag own you?

I know, I know….Be fine or die!
Love you.
Be well. Be happy.

Posted by Naija Babe :: 7:44 PM :: 19 comments

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Redemption song

I have been compelled to write this note for quite some time but I have been at a loss for words, something that is quite unusual for me. Tonight I woke up and here I am at 4am, knowing that I absolutely have to write this and post it today.

I know this is for someone. And whoever you are, know that God loves you so much that He has decided that I shall not have rest until I say these things.

Okay so a few days ago I had a dream. Well let me start from the beginning, last Sunday I was in church and I heard a phrase in my head. Redemption song. Now before you all go off on a Bob Marley tangent, let me tell you what it meant. The preacher had just called for people who had made mistakes they considered terrible and that had derailed their whole lives to come forward for prayer. Let me tell you, I was among the first up there. I have messed up in this my short life, if not for the Grace of God…well…anyway that is another gist for another day. But I noticed that the altar was filled with people.

I started thinking about women, as I often do, for this is my particular calling and I kept hearing the phrase “Redemption song” I started thinking that this might be the title of a play I would write for my church…anyway I tabled the thought for later.

Later on that week, a thought came to me, “write a facebook sermon!” Now mind you, I’m no preacher (Just a woman trying to figure this life out and by the grace of God willing to share as I go along) so I pushed it away. I mean come on, Facebook is so public and what would I say on this matter anyway?

Then I had a dream, where I saw a woman I cared about being accused and being held hostage because she was ashamed and hiding. I kept telling her, why are you hiding? This is why Jesus died! When I woke up, I wondered what it meant and I realized that the woman is a symbol of all of us.

I know what it feels like to be accused. I know what it feels like to hear a voice in your head telling you how because of what you have done in your life, you are messed up.

Sometimes the very places we are supposed to be able to go to get comfort and direction are the very places where we are accused the most. I know so many people who have gone to church to receive redemption and then they get accused by the holy holy brethren.

I know of women who have become sexually promiscuous yet they hate the act itself. In fact afterwards they hate themselves. They act out of a self destructive compulsion. They may self medicate with various forms of material items but inside they feel damaged and broken.

Now here’s the thing. Perhaps that’s you. Somehow deep inside you feel that you can never hope for better than where you are now. Maybe a man has called you a slut and told you that you could never do better than him. Maybe someone has demeaned you for something that happened to you. Maybe you were raped or abused and your abusers have convinced you that you asked for it and you deserved it. Maybe you chose this life at one point but now you wish you could erase the past and start again.

Maybe you are a woman that hides from God because of past sin. The kind of sin someone told you could never be forgiven. Maybe you were told your actions were an abomination before God. Perhaps you had an abortion. Perhaps you have done something else.

What I want to tell you is this? You don’t have to hide and feel ashamed. True, maybe you didn’t make the best choices. Believe me, I have more than been there. And maybe the people in your life (perhaps professed Christians) spend their time spouting off judgmental statements…I know all about this too, I used to be one of those people, until I saw that I wasn’t anything special, that I could be just as messed up as the next person, and if not for grace! I would fall even deeper into that dark place.

I have this to tell you, Jesus has redeemed you. One day, I will tell you my story about how He redeemed me, but today I have to tell you He came to redeem you. Redeem means to liberate, to release, to rescue…it also means to make amends for, to compensate for, to exchange, and trade in.

Look at your Bible and see how many times Jesus showed mercy and love to women. I think that there is something to be said for that. I am speaking to women today even though the message is the same for men, but I believe we as women we have a way of self flagellating and punishing ourselves. A man can compartmentalize and move forward and still retain his self worth even after he messes up, meanwhile a woman holds onto the shame and guilt even when things are not her fault. Consider the relationship between a cheater and a cheatee…

Jesus wants to offer you hope. A way out. Even as I write this I know that different people of different faiths will read this. But what I want you to know most of all is that you don’t have to stay in a place that makes you unhappy because you believe you are worthless and ruined. You don’t have to feel trapped and you don’t have to keep making choices that are hurtful to you because you want to atone for your choices. Jesus has redeemed you. You are not worthless but priceless. Not ruined but renewed. If you felt trapped, know that He has set you free and He has already atoned for your sins.

If I found a great shoe store, I would tell you.

If I found a great hair stylist, I would share.

How can I not tell you when I have found something that makes me feel whole again?

This holiday, my dearest wish for us all, is that we sing that redemption song…and I’ll even set it to Bob Marley’s melody!

Be well, be happy


Posted by Naija Babe :: 5:35 AM :: 7 comments

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