What it means to be a skinny child

My earliest memories consist of idle afternoons spent traversing our neighbourhood on the shoulders of my big brother. Looking back at the photo album, I can understand why I would have been a popular choice when my siblings were looking for someone to carry around. I was a tiny child.

So tiny was I that I remember visiting relatives and family friends cooing with concern over my bony frame. People I hardly knew often wondered whether I was eating at all, and if I was, then they couldn’t see where the food was going.

Few things bother you as a child, especially if your basic needs are met. I was fortunate to have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep and a good number of playmates. Besides the fact that someone was always trying to feed me a little extra to plump me out, it didn’t concern me that I was so thin.

The great treatment
I started to feel special when I joined boarding school. Even though I was in Primary Three at the time, I was treated like a Primary One pupil.

I still remember one Primary Seven girl who used to carry me up the hill from the dining room after supper. I must have been light as a feather or small like a cartoon character. But then again, in my little eyes, the P.7 girls that year positively looked like giants.

However, the special treatment did not start the day I reported to school. It started at home when my mother was packing my “grub box”. She must have had visions of her little girl starving at school, so she packed everything from biscuits to canned beef.

Looking back, although the school food was not the best, many fellow pupils got along just fine. They did not grow thin like I did after the first term. But then again, I do not think my problem was due to the lack of food.

I think I grew thinner because I was homesick. The next term and the subsequent year, I was put on a special diet while at school. The matron at my dormitory was given money and instructions to make sure I got some food over and above the posho and beans served at the school dining hall. Still, with all that effort, I did not put on weight probably because I was not destined to.

During the school holidays, all the chicken, eggs, cassava, matooke and everything else I was fed on did not bear any fruits. I remained a skinny child throughout adolescence right into adulthood. I was tall and thin and in my local language, there are lots of nicknames for people like that. I remember being called many of those names.

When I became older, I started to pay attention to my body shape and the comments about my size made me self-conscious. I often worried about my size and wondered if there was something I could eat so that I could grow bigger.

I hardly wore any skirts until I was out of university because I was stick thin and the first time I found store-bought jeans that fit off the rack, I was in my early 20s.

It may be trendy to be thin now but back then, it was tough being a skinny child and later, teenager.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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