Like other industries ours too has best practices. One of these involves how we sell ourselves to clients. Best practices demand a girl sells herself by focusing on her personal strengths rather by pinpointing the weaknesses of a colleague. A girl should not act like politicians who win by degrading and mudslinging opponents. Though there is no definite punishment for going against the best practices, doing so comes with consequences.
Two or so weeks ago a white man came driving some not so good looking car, but girls here think white is gold, it matters little how the white is packaged. So three other girls and I crowded the car. Among them was Mariam; a woman who somehow seems out of place on the street. She is relatively older and acts rather mature. Mariam is one of those considered pillars of the street; she is polite and careful with her words. She dishes these random pieces of advice to girls. And among all of us, she seems the most focused and organized. Mariam is very pretty, but has a problem speaking proper English. However considering the nature of our business, that has never been a handicap, actually in some circumstances it is a plus.
The white man seemed interested in Mariam, who was on the driver’s side. She was speaking in her smooth Swahili and the man was enjoying; like most of the white men who come here, he had an odd looking, never ending sheepish smile. Then I did something girls don’t do. I competed by bringing Mariam down. I was broke and had partaken some strong drink. I didn’t care for best practices. “She is fat" I shouted, as if being fat was a bad thing. The white man looked at me, more in surprise than appreciation. Miriam is not necessarily fat, bet she has the right amount of weight. And even if she was, there are men who want such ladies. I said it in bad taste. Miriam forgot about the white man, and came blazing to where I was. Within minutes I was on the ground, there was no way I could fight her. She beat me almost senseless. The girls didn't try separate us, perhaps they thought I deserved it.
I was out for some few days. When I went back, head down in shame, I apologized to her, blaming it on alcohol. And as the rule in such situations, I topped my apologies with some small monetary compensation. We are now in good terms, but I have a small scar on the back of my shoulder; a badge of shame.
I have another badge. When I first came to Koinange Street, I tried to be the people’s person. Trying to be nice and polite to every of the girls. It didn't take me long to realize that was of no use in a very individualistic and competitive environment. In the eyes of the other girls I looked stupid. And yes, I saw the looks when a man picked me and later heard their scathing remarks. Who did I think I was to go round being nice to everyone?
I shed the Miss Good image, and became more acceptable. I could gossip and take sides in arguments rather than be the girl in the middle who giggles sheepishly. Most importantly I could hate. Whether my feelings of hatred were real or not mattered little; the important thing was that in my eyes and those of the other girls I was becoming street worthy. Yet I didn’t have what is unofficially perceived as the street badge of honor.
There is no girl on the street, however good, who is loved by all the rest. Everyone has an 'enemy', and as they say in those hip hop songs, having an enemy is a sign of success; something to be proud of. I knew there were girls who disliked me and openly called them enemies, though I never actually considered them as such. Yet in moments of extreme pressure and competition say as a result of poor business or strong drink I became a little eccentric and took the fight to my so called 'enemies' . At such times a slight excuse was reason enough to pick an oral fight with the 'enemies'.
However oral fights can only last as long. The main victim of my insults was a short, stocky girl called Caro. My issues with her started when I was told, by another girl, that she was going around saying I was a cheap prostitute who had been practicing at the Sabina Joy but now had the guts to go snatching men from the street. Thinking of it now, there was some truth in her statement. But I was not to take it lying down. I confronted her, and that was the start of months of exchanging words.
One evening I was drunk and as she passed near where I was standing, I said “Seems today men have rejected you" or something to that effect. As tradition I expected her to insult me back. But that time round she looked at me for a second then slapped me with her thick hand. A slap begets a slap. I slapped her back. In a few minutes we were rolling on the ground. She was stronger and heavier than me. I was drunk and my punches weak. She beat me proper before we were separated. I still have a scar on the neck from that fight. Though I was beaten I consider it my street badge of honor.
Things here and there in my life. Somehow I can't think straight. I will do one more post this week before taking a short break out of this town.
I was interviewed on Aljazeera sometime last week. You can listen to it here
Facebook: Sue Maisha
Please note unless stated otherwise ads on this website are external,kindly contact the advertisers directly.