They really thought they were doing the right thing, our mothers. The way they kept reminding us that the most important thing in the horizon for us was supposed to be marriage.
And they started out really early. You could be as little as 6 years old and your mother would be scolding you for not washing plates properly.
“Is that how you will wash plates when you get married?”
Most of my childhood was a prolonged battle with my mother because I hated domestic chores. I preferred to lounge around reading books or day dreaming. When I think back to it, the only reason she ever gave me to learn how to cook, clean and wash was “when you get married…”
When I was doing my Industrial Attachment (the whole 400level in my university was for IT), I came back home one evening all fagged out. As soon as I stepped into the house with my bag still hanging on my shoulder, my mother started yelling out a volley of instructions.
“Take the small pot and boil some water in it. Cut the onions but don’t blend it with the tomatoes…”
I was angry.
“I am tired, tell Ronke to do it, she has been at home all day.”
My mother turned to me with blazing eyes.
“Is that what you will tell your husband when you get married? Will there be anyone else to do it for you?”
I gathered ‘liver’ from God knows where and I retorted back. “It is not by force to get married.”
I fully expected a beat down as soon as the words left my mouth. But my Mum on the other was shocked. Then she escalated.
“BABA FUNKE!!!!!!! Come and hear what Biodun is saying.”
Within a few minutes, I found myself standing before my father. He was sitting on the armchair close to the window in their bedroom. My father never shouted. He always spoke carefully and gently. He spoke about being proud of how smart I was and understanding that modernity was modifying a lot of things. He, however, said he had a major issue with my lack of interest in anything that had to do with the kitchen. He spoke about how attached he was to my mother’s cooking and that he appreciated how she cared for him. He told me that no man would want a woman who did not know her way around the kitchen.
I listened to him and thanked him.
But I was still fuming. I NEVER heard my parents speak to my brothers about getting married. No one ever said:
“Why are you behaving like this? You will find it difficult to get a wife if you keep doing what you are doing. No woman will want a man that is doing what you are doing.”
See, the Nigerian female is told probably even before she is able to speak that all she does will lead her to the most important job she will ever have: Wife and mother rolled in one. We were groomed to know that we would one day live for our husbands.
Women that are single from a certain age, have a very difficult time navigating through life here. No matter what they are able to achieve, how much money they have or how they are able to contribute to their community, nothing and I mean absolutely NOTHING takes the stigma away. Her husbandless state will continue to be the biggest thing that is talked about concerning her. It will drip sometimes with pity, sometimes with all kinds of accusations and a reminder that nobody will aspire to be like her. This sends a message to younger single women. MARRY!!!! No matter the cost, get someone to marry you.
Is it a wonder that one man can propose to several women and con them out of money?
We are a mess, we Nigerian women. Our worth, no matter how hard we deny this, is tied to the presence or absence of men in our lives. I am so unimpressed when I hear women declare all over the place how strong they are and how much they don’t need a man to live well.
Most often than not, when you get closer, that is all they are obsessed with; finding men to marry. They will scheme and scam. They will spend money. They will offer every swine, Akpos and Bello their warm pearls for marriage.
The men know this. They know us. It is so easy for them. They know what to say. They know what we want. We want to tell stories of our proposals to our friends who will listen with tears in their eyes and envy in their hearts. We want to wear his and hers t-shirts and snap cute pre-wedding pictures. We will do many things, take all kinds of shit (excuse my French) to finally be an enviable and respected Mrs. We will still form ‘strong woman’ then be hailing our ‘King’ on birthdays, anniversaries and father’s day. We will buy gifts for ourselves and invent stories to show we are happy. We want to be seen as the modern woman and at the same time we want to be respected married women.
The thing is, marriage is a fantastic idea. Two people should want to be together enough to get married and maybe start a family. No one wants to be alone. It is not about finding someone to take care of your bills. It about sharing life moments. Both the good and the bad. Laughing together and crying together. You get a promotion and you excitedly call your partner knowing that they will celebrate it with you. You receive news of the death of someone close, you huddle together and cry. Marriage is honourable. So it is a good thing to want to meet someone to spend your life with.
The problem is that Nigerian marriages are mostly not a haven of companionship. Women are groomed to enter a lifetime of slavery where they continue to keep themselves small so that a man towers over them. He can decide on a whim to ask the woman to leave her job. Or ban her from having friends. Or say he doesn’t want her to have a help and will still refuse to help her. I know this does not describe every Nigerian marriage but you would be surprised that it describes a lot. So much so that even the women see this as normal and defend the marriage.
But with all that marriage seems to be in Nigeria, we Nigerian women still want it. There is no use pretending. We don’t believe you Dear Nigerian Woman when you say and write eloquent things about how wonderful single life is and how much your life is better alone. WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU.
Because we know. I know. I was single till I was 31. It is a shitty life of questions and questions, and fraudsters, fake promises, swatting away entitled lazy men like flies, fasting and praying for a life partner, disrespect from small married girls and gatemen. You keep worrying about your fertility clock and being accused of being picky and also dealing with fibroids… even your body will punish you for being single and not having children on time.
I tell you something though. I realise now that my mother was only preparing me for a Nigerian marriage. I do get home from a full day at work and drop my bag right there in the kitchen and begin dinner. The only thing is that I am lucky I married a Nigerian man who is a PARTNER. So when I am hustling in the market or with domestic chores, he is hustling as well so that our needs are meet. He is not perfect but I am not a slave tiptoeing around a fragile ego all day long.
I refuse to judge when Nigerian women are ‘foolish’ for love or marriage. What do you expect?
May we have the courage to raise little girls who can shake off all these expectations to live their best lives. And may we (men and women together) raise boys that will not take advantage of women when they grow up. Men that are worthy of marriage.
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