By Amran Gaye
Lately you have been thinking about wangs.
Big wangs and small wangs, toubab wangs and Asian wangs. Wangs bulging out and wangs caving in; the wang of an adolescent, still developing as its owner learns to what uses wangs can be put, as she begins to imitate older sisters and aunties, and that Nigerian actress from the movie last night.
You think of the wang as musical instrument, used to perform in public. First you must figure out what beat you want to perform to. That is the most basic part of music – what timing, how often you repeat a theme. The flirtatious wang performance (a.k.a “the switch”, a.k.a “ndiga bu dama”: “nik…nak…nik…nak…”, and perhaps a “paddy-wack” at the end, if there’s a particularly desirable guy standing around). The dignified wang solo, when you have finished speaking to the group of guys, and are walking away from them, and can feel all their eyes on you (a slow movement, full of belief in its own potential: “yaagadi…. yaagadi…. yaagadi… maang fi di jaagarr jaagari… I know all of you right now desire me…”). The possessive wang display, when you walk beside the man you love (slow also, like the dignified solo, but not inviting (inasmuch as a wang movement can be uninviting): “I am happy where I am”, your performance says, “and heavens help the person who would try to dispossess me because THIS wang”…wiggle to the left…”has a hold over THIS man!”…wiggle in the other direction).
Wangs that bark, Wangs that bite. Wangs that do both. Subtle wangs. Wangs without fibre, wangs filled with nothing but.
The wang, you explain to your friends in college, is much more important in Gambian society than it is here. Men back home worship it.
I ain’t know wachoo talking about, one of your friends says in indignation, I ain’t from no Gyam-bia but ah sure as heayal like me some “wyaang”. Everyone laughs.
Wangs in miniskirts, Wangs in tight jeans, wangs in loose concealing malaans, wangs in tight, all-revealing ones.
I do not like this objectification of women, your friend says, when you tell him about your new fascination with Wang. He is earnest, his major is philosophy and he goes around with a dreamy and mournful look in his eyes, as if he had caught a glimpse of the true world, one ecstatic night, and now spends all his time pining for it, attempting to re-discover it in the books of philosophy he studies.
Women should be loved, he says, for their brains, for their speech and what kind of people they are. Women…
A girl passes – she is dressed in gold, and her hair is gold, and her skin the goldenest of all, the sunlight reflecting off it so she seems as if she is illuminated from inside. You are both silent as you watch her walk past. The rhythm of her wang is a simple one (“tadum… tadum…tadoe…off to classes I go…tadum tadum taday…Need to do my nails today…”), but she takes this basic movement and repeats it over and over, executing it with such finesse and grace, and when you glance at your friend he is watching her, spellbound.
? You were saying, you ask him. He jumps, then clears his throat, a shifty look coming into his eyes.
? I have to rush to class, he says. Then he leaves you there, and walks off after the girl. You can see them walk into the distance, and he stays behind her the whole way. She does not even know he is there.
Ideas for Gambian movies/books based on old classics: a young woman in Serekunda boasts that her wang is even more full than the genni themselves. A genni appears and curses her to forever be nothing but wang: this is how the watermelon came into being.
Another one: An old Wolof kingdom goes to war because a neighboring (and, it must be said, rather charming) prince from the Mali empire had stolen in, in the dead of night, and stolen out again with the Wang Queen of the City (who, to be honest, did not put up much struggle beyond asking that she be allowed to pack her collection of bin-bin). After many battles and much death she is won back by means of a clever ploy involving a wooden statue shaped like a giant wang and left at the gates of the besieged City, a “present” which secretly hides an army.
The Mbahal-Wang, much-used by men. The non-mbahal-Wang, much sought-after.
You wonder what researchers in The Gambia would uncover if they took to serious scientific research of the wang. What interesting correlations, what unforeseen cause-effect chains, could be explained by the AWS (Average Wang Size)? Is the AWS tied to economic booms and busts? In times of prosperity does it increase? Or does it in fact decrease, as people eat less cheap, fattening foods? What about in world cup and African nations cup qualifying years? For the years we fail to qualify, was the AWS extra-high or extra-low? How is this linked to the performance of our boys (a proliferation of wangs in their lives, newly minted superstars that they are, perhaps leaving them unable to concentrate on the beautiful game)? During the Loppy Juice explosion, what happened to the AWS?
The success of women in the workplace in The Gambia, how is this linked to the AWS (in years that AWS is up is there a corresponding hike in the number of women holding powerful positions of office? Or less of those, and just more secretaries)? In times of war and strife – such as the ’81 coup – did the AWS increase, as women tended and groomed the only thing keeping the country together, in the midst of the chaos, the thing their men held on to make it through the fearful days and nights? And when the strife ended, did the AWS go down again, as once more the men went back to their old and arrogant ways, marrying new wives and having affairs?
And what of national events? What was the AWS, in ’94? What was it when The Gambia hosted the Zone 2? Would the AWS, graphed across successive years, form the shape of a bell jar – a cyclic waxing and waning representing gaps between old women dying and young women growing into their wangs – or a more sharply inclined plane, climbing up, up, until Gambian women could barely walk anymore, or get out of bed in the morning? These are the questions you would like answered by science.
You are alone with your friend in his room late at night.
? To understand the wang, he explains, one must first understand its socio-political and socio-economic underpinnings.
You think how at night his bullshit gains a fresh smell, as if renewed, and you smile.
? I’m not joking, he says, I thought about this.
? OK, you say. He takes this as a sign that he should continue.
? To observe the Wang merely as a physical product of evolution is to deny the Wang. To understand the Wang fully and completely one must first understand that what we see when a girl walks past us is merely the end-product, the physical and tangible effect, of a system of emotions, attachments, and barely remembered instincts which have, over the years, come to represent everything a Wang is. The Wang has deep roots in our psyche, you see. The search for safety, which is begun when one is born and continues for the rest of one’s life – and which some believe to be what at a fundamental level constitutes love, in its many forms – is primarily a physical search.
Your eyes are half-closed, and you lean back in the bed. His eyes are a fiery red, and the bulb behind him frames his face in a halo of orange light – he looks like some mad witch doctor from a bygone age.
? Meaning? you ask, lazily.
? Meaning that it is ultimately a search in physical space rather than mental or spiritual – we need something to hold on to, as proof of the existence of an external world, because if the person we love, exists and can be held on to, and loves us back, then the external world in which they exist must also of necessity be real. In this way our attempt to find love is at its core an attempt to validate reality, everything that lies outside of our mind, and thereby solve our existential crisis.
You flick ashes lazily off the bed. You pass a lighter between your hands – left, then right, then left again – its movement is hypnotic.
? Why, you say, didn’t you walk up to the girl yesterday, and just talk to her?
? What? he says, looking irritated for a moment, – Hold on – lemme finish. You see when a baby is born, this is when the first attachment to Wang is created. The mother-child bond thus constitutes nothing more than a gradual Pavlovian conditioning – this Wang holds safety, and food, and a warm body that loves you – all you need to do is hold on tight to it. You may think motherly attachment far different from erotic attachment, but are they not in the end both manifestations of a man’s need to be babied? Do you think it is a coincidence that the other body part men desire most is the breasts?
You stand up, and stretch.
? I, you say, am going to sleep. And you, you point at him, – need to get laid. As fast as possible. Horniness rises to the head, after a while, you know.
And laughing at your joke you leave the room.
“Put it on me” wangs (i.e. wangs that you see in music videos with titles like ‘put it on me’ and lyrics containing the verb “shake”, the noun “booty”, and a mention of the girl’s mother and her role in making all this possible). Men whose wangs look like women’s’, and vice versa, leading to certain embarrassing moments of misidentification, in the dark, sometimes.
Wangs that are straight and tall, wangs that are short and fat, wangs that are just the right size.
? Maybe you have a chance, you say to your friend, dead serious, – how will you ever find out if you don’t try.
He has just come back from winning a debate competition, and he is still flush with his success, filled with stories of his rhetorical maneuverings around wily opponents, how he single-handedly floored them all.
? Really?, he asks, when you say this, and there is a glint of hope in his eyes, – but what would someone like her….
You put your arm around him. – The name of the game, my friend, you say, is confidence.
? OK, he says. He does not sound very convinced.
And when the wang is not being displayed, it serves a more utilitarian – some would argue a more important – role: as the padding on which the body rests, when it grows weary from its travels. And so to the places where the wang is put: the sofa and the taxi seat, the bed, the doorstep, the sand of the beach. And the small bang in front of the kitchen, as you wita kereng kereng and dream about the future.
You met her, you spoke to her, you invited her. You did all the hard work . Though it was not so hard – beneath her goldenness there lay a quiet shyness, leading to a furtiveness even, an attempt at evading… You set her mind at rest with jokes, you soften her with compliments disguised as put-downs. And she says yes, she will come that evening to hang out with you and your friend. And then she turns and she walks away from you and you stand there and admire her wang, and the song it sings, and the warning in its movement (“taram….taram….tarun…You sound like you could be fun… taram…taram….tarall…But I have given up nothing yet at all…”).
? Like, coming here?
? Yes – don’t panic. It’s just a hangout. We sit, we eat, we talk.
The look of panic in his eyes, of pure fright. You feel suddenly a great upwelling of brotherly feeling for him. You call his name, and he looks at you, and he looks so lost.
? It’s OK, you say, just stay cool – you’re fine.
In the evening she comes, wearing red baggy tees over a pair of black shorts. She wears sandals that are strapped and reach above her ankles. Her gold is muted – what burnt before is now a gentle fire, that plays across her features and makes her almost seem to be glowing.
? Am I late?, she asks, giggling, when you open the door.
? No no – of course not. Come on in, your friend shouts from the bed. You both look behind you at him, and then go back to looking at each other.
? Yup, you say, with half-a-smile, you gotta go back. She makes to turn – you take her hand in yours – you both laugh. Then you let go of her hand and turn into the room, widening the hole of the door behind you, and she follows you inside. She smells like the insides of new cars, air-freshened and flowery.
? This is Jim, you say, introducing your friend.
? Hey, she says, flashing him a smile. – Nice to meet you.
? Likewise, he replies, – I see word of your beauty was not exaggerated.
You roll your eyes. She laughs nervously and turns to you.
? So, she says, swinging left and right, her purse dangling in her hand – do you in fact offer guests a drink and a seat? Or will I have to serve myself?
Another wang idea: A TV Show based on the reinterpretation of a famous proverb or saying in wang form. Those who live by the wang die by the wang: a show about the inner workings of a neighborhood of girls as they attempted to outdo each other and locate a husband. You can’t have your wang and eat it: a dieting show about the constant struggle the modern Gambian housewife faces, as she attempts to balance on one hand the media-propagated dream of a perfect body with no extraneous fat, and on the other the simple and basic and honest-to-goodness need of (a Gambian) husband for his wang, please, and “I don’t care if that’s considered fat in some circles, IT is my circle dammit and I intend to keep it the same diameter, or perhaps even larger”.
? She does not like me, he says to you.
? How do you know – you never even really spoke to her.
? Exactly – she only had time for one person in the room.
You look at him helplessly. – Would you rather I left the room next time she comes?
? No, he says, looking sulky. – It doesn’t matter – I wasn’t interested anyway. I’ll see you after class.
And he walks off, his bag swinging against his knees. A girl passes, scowling, walking fast, smoking a cigarette. Her hair is cut short and she holds a skateboard under one arm – she looks like one of those cool kids from a TV ad, advertising a soda. And at first you cannot read the dance of her wang, it is too wild, does not seem predicated upon or contain any meaningful pattern that you can decipher, no repetitions that will let you give it a form. But then you see – it is not that she does not do the wang dance, but that her dance is not in her wang but her ndiga, her waist. While her wang jerks about her ndiga moves with a studied grace, and it is repeating one word over and over again. “Come….come…come…”. And as she walks something is shed from her moving form, and when you look closely at it, it is a key. You pick it up, and you run after her. When you touch her shoulder she whirls around aggressively.
? You dropped this, you say, smiling and holding it out.
? Oh, she says, breathing hard. Then: – Thank you.
And before she turns away, before she goes back to her frenetic pace, she gives you the tiniest of smiles, her face lighting up, her eyes a piercing blue. And then she turns and leaves.