Dear Miss LaMore,
As I write to you, you are probably still unpacking your suitcases and lining up your closet with the few items you hold on to so dearly.
Freshman year is a blast. But it’s a bigger blast when you have that shoe-box space you share with your new campus roommate from Butere County. What was her name again, Floise? Yeah, Floise. I don’t know, there’s something suspicious about a girl who insists on squeezing two names into one. I never trust them. Akina Maryanne. Bettyjean. Annabella. Rosemary. Floise.
Listen, you are my kid sister. And even though there is a ten year difference in our age, I must admit that I am mighty fond of you. In the gap year you have been out of high school, I am uncertain to whether I have matured down to your level or you have matured up to mine. Either way, you are my little bitch. And because of that, I share with you simple unwritten rules I have gathered over the years. I don’t tell this to anyone. I have not shared them with anyone before today. And writing them to you will take some edge off them being unwritten.
Don’t wear ballerina flats. Even if that Brit boy band you love, One Direction, promises to pay you a visit in your hostel room if you do, do not wear these shoes. Especially the ballerina flats that have a bow at the front. Argh. Don’t let the innocence of that bow fool you – the cuter the bow, the harder you stay away from them. Ballerina flats are a lazy fashion to posses; too little effort in showing and not enough in telling of your style. Wear shoes with personality: shoes with laces, with studs, with shoe strings, with draw strings, with perforations, with wedges, with ridges or with heels. Anything but ballerina flats.
Never leave your hostel building in bathroom slippers. Never. Wear the Nike sandals you took from me. I repeat: never leave your hostel building in bathroom slippers.
Be stylish, not fashionable. Fashion is outward and trendy, style is innate and can’t be imitated. It’s a signature. Style is in tailoring and fit, fashion is in copy cats and ill-fitting garments. Now that we are here, avoid pants that are too tight. They make you seem cheap, available and tasteless. Like supermarket wine.
Mix your colours. Be about colour. Don’t wear black tops, they drown and gag your personality, and are a terrible vantage point for your outfits.
Don’t refer to anyone as ‘my dear’. Never start a whatsApp message with the line ‘Hey. It’s been long.’ That’s false affection and an utter waste of words.
Don’t get a tattoo. Everything chic and bad-ass about a tattoo was lost the minute we could get them done at Kenya Cinema for less than a ngwanye. But in case you do, make sure it fades away before you tell me about it. Because I will scrap that evil right off your skin myself.
Don’t get an eyebrow ring; you will seem like a lesbian, retarded and a retarded lesbian. Don’t get more than three piercings in each of your ears, or in your entire body – anything beyond three piercings places you in a category where I am frightened to hold a conversation with you.
Don’t buy stuff off the streets of Nairobi. The only items to buy on the streets are magazines, books, plums and pears (in season), hand towels and elastic bands for your hair. Don’t buy condoms, chewing gum, hand bags, purses, shoes, chiffon tops, sweaters, bras – any item of clothing for that matter. Bending over to try a shoe or a top places doubt on your being a lady. And how will you explain running from the City’s council? – DVDs, cell phones, iron boxes, picture frames or anything you buy from a guy who you can bargain with as you both take a walk. Street shopping is a no-no.
Boys are not bad, they are sneaky creatives with their little lies and tales of grandeur and fake swag. Laugh. Not at them, not with them. Just laugh. Laugh even when they didn’t mean what they said as a joke – its puts you in an awkward position of power. Give them advice about their women, it automatically places them in the friends zone and wards them off. Only the brilliant ones will come around to your scheme in time, and by that time you will be long gone.
When a boy visits you in your room, you give him tap water, not juice, not hot chocolate. No bitings. You play him Masta Ace and Rakim. Not Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce (now that I mention it, how awesome is her new album?) So that when your little boy guest tells you that he likes your eccentric taste in music, you know he’s not telling the truth. The only way to measure the truth of his statements is if he tells you that these artists had their limelight in music before he was born. Or, if he heard them from his cooler older sibling who listens to hip hop artists from the early ‘90s. Like you do.
No movies, no serieses. They will use the sequel as an excuse to come back to your room the next day. And the day after. And the day after. Regularity is out of exclusive invite, not anchored on the excuse of a motion picture. Play them those clips downloaded from the Internet. The funny ones that run for three minutes tops and feature a domestic animal, a blonde and a baby.
He sits on the chair, you on Floise’s bed. Make sure that the door is left unlocked and that you both have both your feet placed squarely on the ground. You put your hands where they can be seen. It’s a matron’s rule I borrowed from that author Jeffery Archer, it works all the time. And it saves for a lot of explanations to yourself and to your roommate, Floise. Floise from Butere County, hehhe. I like her already.
Always sleep in your own bed. Alone. Alone in your own bed. Are we clear on that?
There’s a reason why the Moms had to go in six kids in before she stopped the buck at you. She found what she was looking for when she found you. What you imagine they can tell you, tell yourself in the mirror. Blow that reflection a kiss, wink at it. Tell yourself that you are the best they ever made, that they don’t make them like you anymore. That you are God’s gift to mankind. Love God. Fear God.
Campus has the greatest garbage of any public institution; it has morals looser than an abortion clinic, a whorehouse, a strip club, a drug lord’s bedroom and Nairobi Half Life’s script all wrapped up into one. But keep yourself clean from this garbage. Remember where you came from, and what you were after when you signed up for campus. That said, remember to rise before the sun. Eat that shitty campus food. Write up your own assignments and hand them in on time. Go to class. Sit through the day in class. Study for your exams so you don’t have to write mwakenyas (counterproductive I must say, if a student has the patience and energy to write a mwaks in the smallest font he can master, then, by God, he has the patience and energy to bloody read for the exam). No mwaks. Mwakenya, just so we’re clear, is campus slang for an exam’s cheat sheet.
Speaking of morals, being in a public university means you have a license to loot public property. Which means that traffic lights, road signs, movie posters from Imax Cinemas, fancy tumblers and coasters from bars, novelty cutlery are yours for the taking. Steal, sorry borrow, them with a classy eye. But after four years in campus, you will look at your trophy cabinet of looted items and you will immediately be disgusted with the junk. It’s a four-year window: use it wisely.
Above all, remember that the greatest voice is yours. The greatest commitment to keep is the one you made to yourself. The person you are ultimately answerable to is the gyal you see in the mirror. Everyone else is a prop. Everyone else except me, of course.
Tell Floise I said hi, will you?
Sincerely yours truly,