I was doing pretty well in school and after I made my transition from JSS2 to JSS3 I said goodbye to those dreaded grey hot pants I sported for 2years – I went all out on baggy ‘Bermuda’ shorts (roomy for the crotch and 2 inches below the knee, yeah baby!). I wasn’t part of the Stingray generation and I ’misplaced’ my US army bag, although with hindsight I wish I had auctioned it today on eBAY… shame. I was carrying leather (and sometimes plastic) folders which seemed cooler (Cool guys didn’t walk around, like hunchbacks, carrying tons of textbooks). The only problem was that I risked getting punished for not bringing some of those humongous textbooks to class (so on those fateful days I’d wear my baggy shorts with some newspaper padding inside my boxers to reduce the ‘koboko’/cane impact) – the sacrifice of trying to be cool, eh?
Prices of snacks and drinks went up steadily but fortunately, so did my pocket money. I recall those trips to ‘Uncle Tony’s’ kiosk where he sold these dodgy-looking (but surprisingly tasty) hamburgers (mmmm…) and next door to him was the meatpie lady whose pies seemed to be getting smaller but more expensive each year. On days when I wanted to flex/pose/show off/act up/broadcast, I would mosey on down to ‘Mama Nike’ and get some deliciously marinated peppered chicken. The truth was you ended up enjoying the bone more because there was hardly any flesh on it in the first place, yet the cost of 1 piece of her chicken was equivalent to buying about 4 meatpies. So when you asked a girl to join you for lunch you always secretly hoped that she would not opt for the rip-off chicken – otherwise, no lunch for you that week (or you risked being known as a ‘Percher’: Someone who walks around during breaktime trying to get a cut out of people’s meatpies going, ‘Abeg, make I cut?’)
Physically I had changed tremendously. It was not just the bounce in my step (It took months to perfect this without making my butt stick out) but my voice was deeper, I was taller (for an average 13yr old of course), and I was growing unwanted hair in the strangest places…Anyway, that was the least of my problems. I was more concerned about the sour relationship that I had trapped myself in – not with any girl in my school…with my pimples.
Anytime I had started making some progress whilst ‘toasting’/chatting up a fine girl, days later a bloody ripe pimple would spring up on my face and steal the spot-light (no pun intended). If that wasn’t bad enough my pimples, unlike other boys’ pimples, would appear on ridiculously annoying areas - I’ve had one on the centre of my chin, the centre of my forehead (no offence to Indians), by either side of my lips (I said ‘side’ not ‘on’!), etc. The worst-placed pimple was the stubborn one I had bang-in-the-middle of my already broad flat nose – It was like looking at a ripe cherry on a dark chocolate ice-cream sundae…without being the least bit appetizing.
One of my many battles in school was therefore to find an immediate cure for these grotesque skin protrusions. I tried everything: toothpaste, squeezing, pricking, but what worked best for me was Mentholatum/any medicated balm the night before. You’ll know it has worked when the girl you’re chatting with tells you (after staring at your nose throughout your conversation) that you need to wipe ‘something’ off your nose – see! My pimple was working against me as usual.
Other battles I encountered were the Popularity contests. It seemed a big deal to get your name into the school magazine or the yearbook with some cool accolade; ‘Cutest junior boy’ (I wish), Best dressed junior boy (not being sore but I was robbed), etc. I was just known amongst my JSS3 set as the one who talked to the most girls, including girls in the set above me (SS1), thanks to my cousin in that set. I had ‘Haters’ in my set who couldn’t understand how I would sometimes be invited to parties hosted by SS1. Those Haters must have hated me even more when my cousin and I partook in one of the school’s variety shows and danced our way to fame as The Hype Boys (my ‘school fathers’/choreographers/mentors were the Too Hype Boys for obvious reasons). I became a (little) celebrity overnight and it boosted my rep just a little bit
Only one thing stood between me and Senior status – my JSCE exam. To me that meant either repeat wearing Shorts another year or proudly walk in Trousers. .The pressure was now on!