Chronicles Of Lockdown: Help! I Need My Fur Stroked
The pandemic descended on Nigerians in doses, in a subtle gossipy procession, from whispers to murmurs, to mothers firing back and forth, both fake and true WhatsApp broadcasts about a deadly virus from China that could kill people who didn’t wear facemasks, to full-blown reports on the news. Sitting at home, having all this time on my hands, watching novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie make her InstaStories debut, re-watching celebrities and influencers go live on Instagram, covering the news from my father’s couch, I think of my travel luggage filled with a whole new wardrobe for a new job in Abuja, now on hold.
In the early days of the pandemic, I will take breaks from reporting stories about how celebrities are social distancing or the role of religious leaders in the fight against the virus and rearrange my luggage. Was it to be sure that I still had them? Was it to be convinced that they still looked as nice as they did when I went on that shopping spree in January?
If it were the days in the sun, I will dive right in; wearing all the new stuff, from my favourite to my least favourite, feeling good and cool as I pair pants to shirt to sneakers, lost in my devotion to the gods of fashion.
Two weeks into the lockdown and revisiting and rearranging my new wardrobe, waiting for the pandemic to be over, more than ever before, I needed to wear the pieces, to style them in different ways. I thought about declining to take a picture of my last ‘fit before the lockdown. It was my final trip to my apartment in Lekki. I had gone to move my final belongings back to my parents’ house. I wore a white McKenzie T-shirt I ordered from JD, paired with a medium-wash slim-fit Bershka jeans. Black Sketchers sneakers with white soles and a navy baseball cap from New Era.
Maybe the person who wrote recently, “If no one sees you, did you even get dressed?” was right after all.
It started gradually, picking out stuff from the new wardrobe. A shirt here, trousers there, until I find myself getting all dolled up as the day goes by; from a simple look to a whole lewk.
The idea for me has always been to do things for myself. I will attend fashion weeks and not take any photos. I will attend events and not take pictures. I was confident in my philosophy of dressing for myself to mean finding comfort in the knowledge that I did it, that I love my look to an event was all that mattered. But even in those days of strong self-assurance and love for my sense of style, people still saw me and passed comments on my fashion choices, good and bad.
But since the shutdown and playing dress-up, while locked away in my parents’ house like Rapunzel in the highest room of a tower, I started wiping out my phone taking photos for the first time of my new looks. I am, after all, just like everyone else, hoping that people stroke our furs by double-tapping our photos on Instagram.
I started sending the pictures, mostly terrible selfies taken from bad angles to close friends. Then I took to WhatsApp stories, posting mirror selfies of my daily looks, for only a select few, and waiting impatiently sometimes for the fire emoji to troop in.
In those days, I will think of simpler times when it was safe to go outside and all the many photos that would have flooded the internet if I had been an avid sharer of photos. In those moments of deep thought of a past that could have been, I will recreate the looks for my WhatsApp stories. Other times, I put together fashion items from my new wardrobe on my cramped bed and take photos. On slow news days, I send them to friends who are not necessarily interested in fashion, waiting on the edge of my seat for their feedback.
Was I the one living the quixotic life after all, pretending not to like attention to prove to myself how socially self-sufficient and indulgent I am? Or is this just the residue of days locked with my parents and siblings in the home I grew up? I honestly am not sure. Or maybe I am ashamed that I too want my furs stroked, maybe not by strangers on the internet but by family members and friends. One thing has become even clearer to me those days, if nobody sees what I am wearing, then I didn’t get dressed.
Dennis, Da-ala Mirilla is a culture and arts writer based in Lagos.