IN early 2016, international brand Mattel (read Barbie) expanded its Fashionistas collection by introducing three new body types to their iconic dolls: tall, curvy and petite.
This was met by whoops and cheers and staircase moon-walking by men, women, girls and boys across the globe. Former (me) and current consumers rejoiced at this long-overdue epiphany.
Mattel’s president Richard Dickson, in pinpointing the key to the cultish doll’s reign over 55 years was clear: “Barbie reflects the world girls see around them. Her ability to evolve and grow with the times, while staying true to her spirit”.
The body type variations were an extension to Mattel’s 2015 move to diversify the Barbie catalogue by adding seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles. But even better, Barbie now comes with feet that will don either heels or flats.
Mattel, in banding with like-minded corporations and celebrity figures, had a simple message for the world - there exists no, nil or nada single definition of what a beautiful woman looks like.
Devout Barbie consumers and haters can now unite in this chemically-fused expansion of the notion of beauty. But most importantly, they should now understand that slaymode, the serious annihilation of all opponents, can be executed in five-inch stilettos or five millimetres off-pavement rubber slippers, just like in the real world.
Hold that thought for a minute.
It brings to mind Michael Dom’s ‘Seeking asylum in my own country’, a piece so raw in emotion, so clear in voice and unloaded with visible but controlled rage.
My heart hurt as I read Michael’s recollection of scenarios and emotional reactions to what he succinctly defined as divisive behaviour from our own countrymen. But I quickly disconnected those pangs of sorrow, yanked out my inner-Jadis (white witch, the lion, the witch and the wardrobe) and took to Twitter.
In sharing Michael’s article, I used the 140 character limit to empathise with him and flung a ‘FRO’ (that’s ‘fucked right off’ in social media talk) in the direction of the culprits who sustain this over-recycled and tiresome carry-on.
Like Michael, I too have had a gutful.
Who appointed these culprits as the authority on setting and continually shift the benchmark of what a ‘real’ Melanesian-Papua New Guinean is like?
I’m as irritated as I was in ‘Let the C Word Run Free: Desperately Seeking Collaboration’, I’m as furious as I was in ‘The Brain Draining of the Papua New Guinean Non-Resident’ and I’m perplexed as I was in ‘The Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve Been Story of PNG’.
But, as with that saying about ‘ways’, ‘skin’ and ‘cats’, I’ve veered off the path of reacting to my vexatious countrymen. This idea that there is only one standard that one should emulate to be worthy of classification as a genuine PNG article is ridiculous. A closer look at this fallacy is in order.
To all those newly experiencing the sentiments shared by Michael, here are a few cheat tips to manoeuvring your way through the harrowing personal identity crisis so disgustingly imposed upon you by these irrational and malevolent culprits.
As far as haematology’s role in qualifying one’s nationality, I’m fairly confident that you are as Papua New Guinean as the girl next to you who has one parent from the motherland. But just in case I missed the newsflash that a ‘real’ Papua New Guinean bleeds red, black, yellow and white stars, a comparison of blood vials should confirm your authenticity.
Embrace with all your youthful might this truth: you had zero say about the life you were born into. Nor the decisions made in the next 18 years (longer for those at the mercy of hardline PNG parents).
Don’t be compelled to apologise or justify why you lived where you lived, when you ate where you ate or how much of the air you breathed when you breathed air. None of these factors make you any more or any less Papua New Guinean than the culprit holding court at your inquisition.
Compensating for others misfortunes is a recurring theme (aka obligation) in any Papua New Guinean’s life. You’ll have plenty of opportunity down the track to be wrung dry of emotion (and finances). So unless these culprits can show proof that you in your foetal state or infancy had a say in the cards you were dealt, there’s nothing more for these prince and princesses of darkness to do but….
Take a seat. Suck it up. Deal with it.
Papua New Guineans, it seems, will tolerate brilliance so long as your eccentricities are kept under a tight lid. So be mindful of your two A’s – accent and attire. Be you, but please control that you’re not too much of you.
I’m not sure why at any given moment when a Papua New Guinean delivers a string of words with unfamiliar elocution, all ears are pricked and immediately eyes begin the stare-downs and mouths start the self-scripted speculation about the speaker’s authenticity.
It reminds me of that scene in the Lion King where the deer (you) at the waterhole stops mid-drink as their ears prick to the vibration of the fast approaching wildebeest (culprits).
Nevertheless, if your style of speech meets with culprits’ dissent, be swift in adopting the intonation of the Highlanders, the Papuans or, wait, is it the New Guinea Islanders’ or perhaps the Momase inflection that aligns the the best with the way a ‘real’ Papua New Guinean speaks?
Of course, it’s possible to achieve bona fide Papua New Guinean status by ignoring the nation’s land mass in its entirety. In place, emphasise the little nook of the country in which you and yours reign. Regionalism is all the rage. Days of the calendar year have been dedicated to celebrating respective provinces’ displays of diversity in traditional tokples, bilas, singsing and kaikai . (Hang on, what’s this business about acknowledging diversity?)
Investing in a miniature hand-held provincial flag to wave erratically at public gatherings is a sure-fire way to earn acceptance and kick into overdrive that warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging.
You’ll no longer be ‘Mark John a Papua New Guinean’ but, ‘Mark John a true son of Morobe....’
That in itself implies the cancellation of any doubt that, well hey, look here, you’re ‘real’ Papua New Guinean after all. Mission complete.
Pay no attention to this idiom of ‘missis’ or ‘masta’; it serves to injure and compliment, simultaneously. The sooner you accept this, the faster your brain will stop rattling because it’s not all in your head. It was formed and made itself a cosy home in the culprits’ multi-layered, mean-spirited mouth.
Your nautical-inspired maxi dress and too-out-of-place accent is likely to be met with indiscreet glares or leper-like avoidance. As is the delivery of a ‘missis’ sneer; vehemently spat in your direction.
Yet, within minutes of this ill-reception, a caucasian female, one of your prototypes, may enter the scene. You’ll see that this same word will lobbed at her feet but, much to your horror, observe it conveyed through a pantomime that reeks of sing-song and brown-nosing.
‘Missis’ will be delivered two-octaves too high accompanied by the aroma of a nauseating lavender scent most synonymous with toilets.
Then to compound your already frazzled head, the same culprits will later go on to badger their light-brown complexioned Papua New Guinean girl squad members with coos of ‘naispla missis’ or ‘yu missis yah’ and similar banter of ludicrous dimension.
And for their male offspring, a showering of ‘liklik masta blo yumi’ accompanied by misplaced squeals of delight.
Adoration that baffles the mind and makes my skin crawl.
Is anyone else’s temples throbbing from trying to make sense out of this nonsense? Because it is just that. Absolute and utterly preposterous carry-on.
I need an aspirin. And a lie-down.
The message here is simple: culprits should take heed of Mattel and the rest of the world. In this day and age, Papua New Guineans, like Barbie dolls, come in various body shapes, hair and eye colour, accents and attire. We can be heel-encased, flats-wearing and yes even, bare feet.
Just like the reality of Papua New Guinea.
Times have changed, individuals have evolved. Culprits, please do likewise.
There exists no single definition of what a ‘real’ Papua New Guinean is. Rather, a Papua New Guinean should be referenced according to expansive and inclusive criteria championed by the individual staying true to a spirit of love, mutual respect and good intentions for people and country.