One of the touted attractions of the Middle East despite their so-called aversion to sexual exhibition is Belly dancing. The most famous of the dances in Arabia is known as “The Dance of a Thousand Veils.” I was fortunate to witness one such dance during a tourist visit to Dubai and came away with a very good impression.

The beautiful but slightly fleshy Bedouin maiden, dressed in translucent silks, mid-riff bare and face draped in transparent veils, wriggled to the mid-tempo Eastern music swirling from the speakers. She undulated back and forth seductively, sinuous movements like a feline, with the belly rippling gently and tantalizingly. The effect was enchanting and beguiling as most of her body was covered and only hinted at the pleasures that lay beneath. The power of the dance lay in the ripples of her belly. The Belly was the “tour–de–force” of the dance piece. What an enchanting belly it was! 

The belly, the subject of this piece in this case cannot be flat for effective belly dancing. It has to be slightly protruding, it has to have character. It should be foldable, rippleable and dimpleable. I repeat, it cannot be flat, hence the title of my article.

I have noticed with increasing alarm, that our young ladies nowadays no longer have flat stomachs. You are walking along the road and you espy a young girl of 18 or thereabouts. Too young to be jaded, too much of an ingénue to have acquired the unfeminine traits of beer and stout drinking, but she has a small pot-belly! How come?

I have put considerable thought and research time into this and have come to the conclusion that it has to do with diet and fashion. I am not going to say here that the women have changed places with the men who once thought obesity was a “sign of good living”. No. And I am not going to say that it is because of eating too much food either.

What I will reveal to you, is that first of all, the tentacles of fashion have spread far and have sucked in those whose uncouth and ungainly physiques would normally have been hidden by Wrappers and “Oja” (Waist brace), whose itinerant wanderings to market their wares, “Fiiiiiiiine Bread”, “Ewa re o!” would render them invisible to the elitist eye. They have dropped their trays and now sell Phone recharge cards at every street corner and roadside stall, or braid hair in the many ubiquitous “under-bridge”, Mammy Market and Car Park Braiding Centres. They dress well now because they have access to ”Grade one” designer clothes in the 5th - hand bend-down clothes markets. The only difference with those of us who shop abroad is the number of past owners of the clothes. The clothes are the same, so the ladies look good and noticeable. Their hair is of the best quality because they have access to attachments, even the discarded N250,000 ones.

But these ladies are still not the subject of this piece. My focus is actually on the High School graduates, the University undergraduates and the young graduate females who should know the importance of a flat stomach and should by nature and the lack of effusion of time, have stomachs as flat as a board. You can tell from their gait, speech and comportment that they have enough class to know the difference, yet they go around sporting little stomach bulges like the end of the first trimester of pregnancy when the load is about to “show” properly. The rest of the body is trim and without stretch marks but the mid-riff bulges scandalously.

Initially, I thought it could have something to do with, “that time of the month” when the water retention causes a bulge. But the coincidence would have to be huge for such a mass simultaneous manifestation of PMS! Then I observed that a lot of the youth these days do not cook but eat out. This means they have no control over what ingredients or condiments they consume. I also observed that many of the Fast Food joints and Bukas cook with “White Maggi”, Monosodium Glutamate which is actually a chemical and not a condiment that stimulates the part of the brain that tells you what you are eating is delicious. This chemical is absorbed through the stomach lining and also causes fat and water to develop in the surrounding tissue. Why the Doctors and NAFDAC have kept silent on this danger including the potential for Kidney failure is a story for another day!

So we have in Lagos at least, hundreds of thousands of young, well-educated girls with fleshy little tummies, who have no idea of the horror the protrusion is creating in the minds of those who are supposed to be admiring them for marriage purposes. They walk along in the streets, bellies bouncing in rhythm to their undisciplined posteriors.  They feel they are too young to wear “Body Magic” and so bounce along blithely unaware of their “Michelin” propensity! People wear “Body Magic” when they have added “Spare Tyres” to the stomach rolls.

What we are witnessing is the extinction of an endangered species, the perfect female form; the Breast-36, Waist-26, Hips-36 statistics we were brought up to admire as ideal for the “Femme fatale”. Nowadays what we see is 36 – 38 – 42 or worse! (Don’t ask me the equivalent in Centimeters, I’ve never really been able to adapt to the Metric system where such statistics are concerned).

But to give some credit, those humongous backsides are ideally suited to “Owambe” Dancing. More recently, the “butt” shaking exported raw by Fela’s dancers to the Americas and like every other African export, is refined and re-sold to us as the finished products featured in foreign Hip-hop Music videos as the standard to imitate. 

To explore the total indigestion of this stomach issue, I must mention what I saw recently on TV as shown by those who really are experts in the “Body Beautiful” business.  Some of the finalists in a Worldwide Beauty competition held in Nigeria the other day actually strut their stuff with their “Six-rolls” bouncing above their forward-thrust hips! Someone should please put our girls straight before this type of belly-dancing becomes the norm! Or maybe we should start Belly-dancing/Butt shaking competitions to capture the local talent! Is it exportable to the Middle East? Nah! Look for some other product!