At least two of my sisters are getting married this December. I say at least, not because I do not know for a fact that three women are getting married, but because of the three, one is of questionable paternity. Uh huh. She says she is my sister; my father says she is his child. She says my father is her father – after a fashion, but her mother, that’s another matter. The woman swears up and down that lailai, this girl is not my father’s daughter. In the same breath, she calls my father insensitive and wicked and a bad bad man. So you see, there is a lot of bad blood there that may or may not have to do with denial of pregnancies and then later attempts at claiming a child. At which point the child had been well and truly adopted by the man who made an honest woman of her mother, complete with his name. So how dare my dad. Aha.
Which will elicit a robust discussion about who truly is a parent – is it the person who had the dubious honour of supplying the reproductive materials, or the person who invested their hearts, emotions, finances and time to the upbringing and wellbeing of the child. But that is story for another day.
As it stands, I know for certain that I have seven siblings, six of whom are girls. And of those six girls, two of them have children but my father has not had the questionable pleasure of being called a father-in-law, the proud recipient of a bride price if you follow me.
Not good. Not good at all, especially as one is over forty years old. Yup. And you know how it is. A houseful of unmarried women scares away many a prospective husband, like they must be cursed or something. So, it was with great relief that I congratulated my father on the potential marrying away of two of his daughters, which he shrugged off like no big deal. Conversation went something like:
Me; Daddy, you must be really relieved. There are times I have considered getting married just so you too can hold your head up along with your mates and –
Dad: Don’t be silly. I don’t want my daughters marrying just for the sake of marrying… etc etc
Actually, I believe him.
But that’s not what is worrying me today.
I have serious issues with the whole culture that surrounds wedding ceremonies in Nigeria. I say in Nigeria because I am Nigerian. Please don’t seize this opportunity to tell me what happens in India as many people are fond of doing. Let what happens in India stay in India. Ehen.
So as I was saying, I worry about the whole thing to the extent that I seriously have considered an elopement. It’s just that I love and respect my dad, but seriously, not much of the marriage ceremony, let’s face it, has to do with him. Is it not at weddings that Uncles who have never bought you biro before present themselves as heads of the family? And make outrageous demands? If only I can convince my dad that I did it for him, for my sanity and pride, my peace of mind etc etc and f%$k all those relatives.
See, in some things, you can regard my stances as simplistic but let me tell you what I feel about marriage. Marriage is about two people who want to be together. The rest is as is important as the flower girls, meaning, the rest of it has no value. It’s window dressing and unnecessary stress.
If I will unpack it;
-I am not religious so I do not feel the need to be blessed in a church. Or by any clergy. Strike that.
-I am not superstitious so much, so the idea of getting married without my father’s blessing does not freak me out. He will recover. I respect my father, always have, so if he gives me a hard time, I can very well tell him to take a chill pill and I will tell him sorry later. If I have always respected and cared for my dad, but the proof of it is my marriage, then I do not give a damn. You can close your mouth now, your shocked expression does not impress me.
-About being handed out, I am against this too. I know I did not bring myself to the world. But I did not ask to be born, and I sure as hell am not owned by anyone. The fact that only men may give people away, and the fact that only women are given away both rankle. So no, I do not care much about being given away by anybody. Men inform their families they are getting married, women need permission of the menfolk to be married. And we say we are serious about equality? My father is not my owner. You better face that truth. No one owns anybody, whatever they might think. But I will be fine if me and my people can also march to my prospective husband’s house and ask permission to marry him.
-Finally, since I believe marriage is an equal union, I am completely against a bride price being paid on my account, however tiny the figure, even if it is in cowries or shillings, and even if, as has become fashionable, it is returned. The very idea, the transactional nature of it rankles. Unless of course, after the man’s family come and pay my bride price, me and my family go off and pay his bride price too. No? Why not? Really, think about it beyond the tired rhetoric, ‘It is tradition.’ I should ask Chimamanda the next time I see her how she handled this particular thing. I am also against the list that is handed to the groom’s family. Many a young man has sat in the dead of night staring at said list and wondering how on earth he will begin a life with this woman after satiating her family. But in theory, she is not being sold. He is only doing this to show he can take care of her. He is only doing this to show he values her. He respects her family. They insist.
I do not believe any of that, and I do not subscribe. I want to marry someone who does not depend on what my family demands of him to 1) Realize I come from people, not from the bushes 2) Treat me with respect 3) Care for me. Heavens forbid. I do not depend on all that to know my worth as a person.
Naïve, I know. Simplistic. I know. But I just want to meet this guy and we fall in love and we meet each other’s families on equal terms and we marry and go off into the sunset. Surely this is not too much to ask. All the bride prices that have been paid and collected from time immemorial, I don’t see that marriages are excessively happy or secure or spouses faithful because of this. I would feel terrible if for instance I was asked to prove that I could cook and clean and bear children before I was allowed to marry my man. So don’t ask him if he can take care of me. I am not a child. We date for ten years and live together, no one raises an eyebrow, but the moment we want to formalize things, they start to ask if he can take care of me? It is a big lie. Words, vows, blessings, bride price and lists do not a happy marriage make. Two people committed to each other’s happiness is what does.
Again, if we are serious about equality, we must have these conversations.
But the elders must wack!
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