This morning I woke up with an enormous pimple on my chin. A real nice big red mound, rivaling Kilimanjaro as Africa's grandest peak. As is always the case with pimples, bad hair days, or a coffee stain on your white t-shirt, I was conscious of its existence in my every interation. In every conversation, trying to draw attention away from my face. Nonchalantly wrapping my scarf over the bottom half of my face, pretending to be chilled by the cool morning air. In North America, the polite thing for others to do would be to pretend as if it didn't exist. Pimple? What pimple? Ohhh...no, I didn't even notice it! Don't worry; it's hardly even there... Not the case here. In true Namibian fashion, it was brought up by everyone I interacted with. Good morning Jennif- oh wow! What's that there?! What happened? Oh, it's very big neh? Exactly what one wants to hear. It's not at all meant to insult; it's just observation. If I see that you have a pimple, why should I pretend that I don't see it? What made it worse was they were all smiling when they were commenting on it. As though the hit to my vanity brought them some sort of perverse pleasure. A few of the colleagues took it to another level though, by zoning in on my chin and snickering amongst themselves. I wrapped my scarf tightly around my chin and pretended that I didn't notice.
It wasn't until I was in the library with Mr. Iipinge, a young male colleague that I discovered everyone's interest in my blemish. In traditional Ovambo culture there is a belief that if you have a large pimple, or a skin outbreak, someone loves you and is longing to be with you. In their words "Someone is dying for you". There was no reason given for this belief; no foundation or validation, it just is what it is. However, there are parameters. The blemish must be on the chin area, or down the centre line of the face. I wondered: What if the pimple is on the side of your face, or somewhere else? The response: Well then you are just unfortunate.
I love this place. Only in Namibia, can unsightly blemishes be linked to love. And why not? Why not try to make something beautiful out of an ugly situation? I have untied my scarf and am wearing my pimple with pride. Someone loves me.
Over the past week I have catalogued different explanations/first reactions that I have received to my chin...situation. A few include:
- Sooo....who is he?! (Mr. Iipinge)
- Someone is in love with you, but too much of a coward to tell you.
- Someone is dying for you.
- Someone is thinking of you/wants to propose you [ask you out].
- My dear, you must be sexually starving! (My friend Charles from Ogongo)
- Who wants to [double eyebrow raise] you?! (Also Charles)
- You must be madly in love..