We are the second best girls. The close but no cigar girls. The good-friend girls in tom boy shorts and clunky glasses and a bumbling grace to us. We are wall flower girls who actually smell like flowers, in patterned dresses that make us look like school girls. We are the gypsy girls dancing around the fire in our flared skirts and flowers in our hair, moving from town to town i.e. from label to label. Today we are at home being the smart girls of perpetually good grades and tomorrow we are stuck in the back water bushes of being the homely girls with only a vague concept of contour brushes.

We are the quirky girls of the weird senses of humor and the booming laughter you do not see coming until it over takes you. We are the infinitely forgettable girls. The passed by and passed over girls. Invisible in a room full of people. Able to spot each other and sometimes raise a glass, a smile or a kind word in recognition of that unbearable angst, and other times quick to pass by to avoid association. Yes, even we do not want to be associated with us from time to time.

From time to time we would like to be the best girls. The effortless center girls. The spotlight girls. The girls who have all the luck and boys and experiences and who all the atoms in the earth automatically gravitate towards. The girls with lips a gorgeous red hue and twinkling eyes. Girls with seductive curves of smile and subtle but alluring curves of hips. The undeniably pretty girls and there’s-just-something-about-them girls. You know those girls, the at home in themselves girls.

We are different girls. We are the unexpected girls. The girls who take you by surprise. The ones you have to work a little bit harder to spot, blended as we are into the background until we speak and then you cannot unsee us.

We are quite the hardworking girls. Ever trying and testing, mixing and matching, researching and bookmarking. Sometimes in science and the curing of diseases, but mostly just make-up. We have mastered the art of following along to the gurus on computer screens leading the way to outward beauty nirvana. We have sliced our clothes and padded our bums and filled our bras and exercised our unsymmetrical bodies into exhaustion in an attempt to make them symmetrical. We know all the little prescribed steps but they are still foreign languages, and we think in English so there is a disconnect we cannot bridge. Hence… we are the interesting girls. The girls people will tell “you will be interesting if not beautiful”. And it’s true, but we are still the girls who wish we could be both.

We are the bookish girls. The noses buried in books girls. The late bloomer girls. The few friend girls. The awkward girls. Judged from the outside, we are inexhaustible on the inside and you will never know it girls.

We are the dance alone girls. Dancing in our rooms in terrible coordination to the beat. Stay at home girls. Up at odd hours girls. Stare out the windows, thinking girls.

We are daydreamers. Big dreams. Unmanageable dreams. Leap of faith dreams. Go out and work at them little by little dreams. Failing at them and beginning again dreams.

We are sensible girls. Knocking sense into others girls. Practical and logical. Quick to point out to others ‘have some self respect girls!’ Quicker to draw you into a hug girls. We are sit beside you while you cry girls. Cry with you girls. Heartbroken because you are heartbroken girls. We are imperfect girls, outside and in. We are not beautiful on the inside because we are imperfect on the outside. We are flawed on the inside as we are on the outside.

We are accepting girls. Working to accept ourselves. Attempting to accept others, girls. We are direct girls. Straightforward girls. Uncomplaining girls. Unflinching in the face of difficulty girls. We are open. Vulnerable. Baring all while we bleed girls. We are enduring.

We have been broken by others yet we are not hardened girls. We are hopeful girls. Not cynical. Unsuspecting of a harsh world. Unwilling to share hurt passed onto us, girls. Wistful but not envious. Wishful but not angry. We are not tear down girls. We are building block girls, fitting red piece into blue piece, building bridges and houses not only for ourselves but everyone. Houses that have no walls.

We are spiritual girls. Looking up girls. Looking outside girls. Quick to kneel and clasp our hands girls. Finding ourselves in more girls.

We are self questioning girls. We are “are we enough?” girls. “Will they love us?” girls. We are girls who have to remind ourselves that we are, convince ourselves that they will until we begin to believe that we are those girls.

We are girls others try to improve. ‘Wear this girl’. ‘Try this girl’. ‘Maybe if you did this girl’. They try to reassure us of our worth as girls. “Don’t worry, you’re still a very beautiful girl’. When we are heartbroken, they present studies that show men are more likely to hold onto the prettier girls.

“What about us?” we ask and they look away.

“Well, you’re still a very pretty girl.”

Oh well.

At least we are still dancing girls. Most likely to become beautifully and frustratingly intimate with ourselves girls.



Post image by Koto Bolofo via Manufactoriel

Portrait - OmakiZainab A. Omaki is a Nigerian journalist who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. Her work has appeared on the Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper and her debut short story collection is forthcoming from Bahati books. She can be reached on Twitter via @ZaynabOm.


I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

11 Responses to “We Are the Second Best Girls | by Zainab Omaki | An African Girl Manifesto” Subscribe

  1. Anelisa 2016/03/02 at 5:20 am #

    Wow this is beautiful! Thank you Zainab. 🙂

  2. Omono 2016/03/02 at 6:08 am #

    This resonates with me.

  3. Zainab 2016/03/02 at 6:32 am #

    Thank you Anelisa and Omono!

  4. Hadiza Muhammad 2016/03/02 at 10:47 am #

    This is lovely, all the girls have space in the universe.

  5. korkor kugblenu 2016/03/03 at 12:59 pm #

    Love it Zainab!

  6. Thia 2016/03/03 at 1:32 pm #

    Very beautiful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. seun 2016/03/04 at 11:25 am #

    This is me! Thank you Zainab. But I think WE are the best girls!

  8. Suzie 2016/03/05 at 6:06 am #

    We are the dance alone girls. Dancing in our rooms in
    terrible coordination to the beat. Stay at home girls. Up at
    odd hours girls. Stare out the windows, thinking girls.”

    This is Me in all my fabulous shade.

    Thank you Zainab, in my head we are like best friends now.
    I could relate with all that was written, and I found out too that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me for being the second best girl, no am not a weirdo either.

  9. Zainab 2016/03/07 at 6:11 am #

    I completely agree Suzie! Absolutely nothing wrong with being the other girls. Glad it resonated with you

  10. Zainab 2016/03/07 at 6:15 am #

    Thanks Seun and Thia and Korkor! Cheers to us all being best girls!

  11. Chisom 2016/04/18 at 1:15 pm #

    This made my day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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