She takes out a small mirror from her black leather purse. Traces the shape of her face in it. She lifts the wrinkles on her forehead up and down. Then moves to her eye sockets, checks if her eye liner is still proper. She does this with a still face, almost as if she is in a trance. She is quiet. Analytic.
I observe her doing all of this with the corner of my eye, afraid that if I actually stare, she would be distracted and quite honestly, I dont want to be weird like that.
Before the bus departed, she had introduced herself to me, she sounded like a posh lady, her accent and the pace at which she used to articulate her words was one that seemed like a well learned woman,a perfectionist.
I estimate that she’s in her mid 50’s. I note that she is married by the ring on her finger. But oddly, it is not one of those fancy ones, it is a simple gold band on her red polished finger nails.
To my self, I wonder, what her husband looks like. Mr Mthethwa. If he even pays attention to this queen of a woman. I wonder what he does, if he is even alive.
She continues ritualistically with applying her make up. And note, it is 1o’clock in the morning and we are only halfway to reaching our destination. But the time of night does not move her. She powders her face and rolls up her Revlon red lipstick and applies it carefully on her lips. She observes herself thoroughly in her small mirror again, one cheek, then the other. No smile, no look of approval, nothing.
I assume, she is done. She looks beautiful, I convince myself because she has been at this for almost 15 minutes now. I also begin to think of her children, what kind of morals she may have instilled in them about beauty and physical appearance, considering that she is wearing a formal two piece suit on such a journey.
My thoughts are disturbed when my eyes are struck by a bright silver light coming from her purse. Earings. She persues to remove the regular knobs she was wearing and puts on the brand new shimmery earrings. She is wearing glasses but I can sense the hypnotic loop in her eyes. It is as if she is not aware of herself doing all of this pampering.
When she finally closes the zip to her purse, I want to conclude that perhaps she has an important appointment as soon as we arrive in Joburg. Or maybe she is one of those women who take pride in the way they look and will even go as far as waking up before their husband’s just to make themselves look pretty for their husband. But for the life of me, my head refuses to settle on these closing comments.
Instead I am frustrated. I want to tell her to throw all those things out the window because they do not make her any beautiful than she already is. I want to tell this woman who is probably the same age as my mother, that she is beautiful the way she is. That the lipstick, foundation, mascara and lip liner will never satisfy the hole inside her chest. I want to tell her that beauty radiates from the inside out and that there is only one place she can find that true satisfaction and that is in Christ. I want to tell her all these things.
But i remember that I am just 20 year old who is also trying to become a whole woman in the midst of all the modification that is assumed for us by the media. I remember that some days I also struggle to look at myself in the mirror and believe in the light that is inside of me for myself.
Mostly, I’m saddened by the blunt encounter with the reality that there are probably plenty other women like her, who still don’t know that they are enough and worthy and beautiful.
Also that there are many young women like myself who feel that their beauty is a magnet for molestation, harrasments and all these twisted words that are thrown at us every time we say no or even dare not answer to the perverted comment directed at us.
All of this makes me sad. But tonight of all nights, I am choosing to believe in each and every ray of light inside of me. For the sake of the future 50 year old me, as well as the current me who is sitting in a bus to Joburg.
You are beautiful. You are enough. You are worthy.