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Marriage, Motherhood and In-laws can be sh**

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Something about turning 40 this July  emboldens me to be more vocal about the things that matter to me, so today I’m inspired to write about the reality that marriage, motherhood, and in-laws can sometimes be shit. Let’s take each as a standalone topic.

The one about marriage: I recently said marriage was overrated on my Instagram page. Some may highlight the irony of my own marital status, but I don’t think it’s a dichotomy to say Marriage is overrated while being married. You can be in a good marriage yet believe that it’s overrated because it doesn’t measure up to the fairy tale and happy ever after stories we were sold.

I don’t want to digress, so let me focus on the reasons I believe marriage is overrated. I’ve learnt and seen a lot to make me conclude that there is something fundamentally warped and obscene about how aspects of the Nigerian ‘culture’, or rather, how entrenched  interests within the culture conspire to place unacceptable levels of control on the Nigerian wife. As a consequence, husbands, even good husbands, are emboldened and empowered to indulge in excesses that are detrimental to their wives, children and the wider society.

Marriage is overrated because in the privacy of girl talk, in that safe space where females open up and talk about things they really ought to take to a therapist I have heard too much. And if you really want to learn about the extent of the decay in Nigerian marriages, and the ‘cultural’ acquiescence  of the accompanying  stench, then do join the Facebook Group FIN (Females in Nigeria).

The decomposition 

Couples are living in separate rooms but attending church together. Husbands have families outside their matrimonial homes but their wives are advised to pray. Wives are being told to do whatever it takes to keep their families together, even at the detriment of their own mental or general wellbeing. Successful wives are told to downplay their success least it offends their husband. In the face of domestic violence, the church will advise that ‘God hates divorce’. Parents are refusing to provide a safe haven for their battered daughters because ‘what will people say’. Wives are told to not argue with their husbands because this is what leads to him hitting her.  Wives are being told that as long as side chicks remain on the side all is well.

Husbands are absolving themselves of raising their children because they are lazy; but he is excused as ‘traditional’’. Husbands are absolving themselves of financial responsibility but we are told to accept it because you know ‘till death do us part’. Some wives can’t go to the toilet without seeking permission from their husbands. Some marriages are sexless, completely sexless; 6 months, one year, two years of no sex. Wives are advised to treat infidelity like a mosquito bite – a mild irritant, instead of the first signs of decomposition that it is.  Wives are supposed to be subservient and respectful of husbands who treat them poorly,  they are expected to  love unconditionally even in the face of multiple betrayal and loss of confidence, often in the most public manner.

And our ‘elders’ have let us down. The church has been complicit to a large extent. The sermons are mostly directed at wives; all the things she ought to do – but all she does will never be enough when there is such a huge imbalance, and where excessive indulgence is permitted by the church. And we are silenced when we protest at the sexist attitude of the church – we are called pagans, unbelievers, ‘do not touch my anointed’.

We are taught to cover up the shame of infidelity but who ought to bear the shame?. We have fostered a culture where husbands are mini dictators and where we are being told that it is our responsibility to bend over backwards to accommodate this head of the family dicta.

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Raising children is not enough. 

Wives are lonely, wives are sad, wives are having nervous breakdowns- they feel invisible, and this invisibility only gets worse as they get older. And when they grumble to friends, friends offer an unhelpful ” it is well” or tell them to concentrate on raising their children. But raising children is not enough for most. Raising children and having hot sex are different things, and you cannot have hot sex when all is not right in your marriage. You cannot have hot sex when your husband is sexing everything else. You cannot have hot sex when someone is mistreating you or when you feel disconnected. Forget hot sex, you cannot continue to love a man that shows the world that he doesn’t love you through his infidelity, his disrespect, and his dishonor. And I’m really sorry the love between a man and a woman even in marriage is not unconditional! I cannot love pain, you should not love pain. I cannot love sorrow, you should not love sorrow. That’s not love. That’s Stockholm Syndrome!

What is the point of highlighting these issues without solutions. I do not have a solution. But I know for sure that we need to start talking about dysfunctional marriages, the bundnce of them, and the fact that it’s not okay.

We need to talk for the protection of our children and for the marriages of the future. We also need to challenge our culture or traditions especially when it is silent in the face of abuse to women.

Love

Titilolami

Tomorrow let’s talk about the shitty bits of being a mother.

Stop taking relationship advice from men

 

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I wish women would stop taking relationship advice from ‘men’. And by this I mean men who are unqualified. These men are not Counsellors, Psychotherapists’ or Psychologists. They don’t know JACK about you or your partner.  But they are perambulating as relationship experts on social media and even on TV. Some of them are labeling themselves as lifestyle coaches with little qualification to show.  And worst still, a lot of these men have terrible track records of being awful partners to very many women. And you know what? Some women are doing it now too, they are on Facebook live, Instagram live! Talking about how you ought to ‘do’ your man!

Don’t get me wrong we can learn so much from other people, but in my opinion the tell-tale signs of a fraud is when you hear their advice predominantly directed at the woman; cook more, serve him, kneel when you serve him, have sex whenever he wants, pray for him, fast for him, he is your father. Have you ever wondered why these advisers direct their opinions 9and that’s all they are opinions) at women.  Why aren’t many more relationship advisers targeting men with these half baked advise. I’ll tell you why, because it is easier and lazier. Telling women what to do, and how to do it still fits into the traditional norms of many patriarchal society.

I am not a relationship expert either. I am just a married woman concerned about the wrong messaging and the abuse of women under the guise of marriage, and our own complicity as women and as a society in this abuse. All I am saying is that marriage should for the most part be enjoyed, being realistic and mature about its ups and downs too. And as a woman it is  not your sole responsibility to keep the marriage going, it’s a joint effort. You did not stand at the altar alone, you did not marry yourself, and before anyone makes reference to that  Yoruba proverb ‘Obinrin lo un di ile mu’  which translates to ‘it’s the woman’s responsibility to ‘hold’ her home.  We are not listening to that bullshit anymore. It has always and will always take two to make a relationship work and any advise that predominantly shifts the responsibility on the woman is wrong and dangerous.

I have observed that in the best relationships ‘power and responsibility’ doesn’t lie in one place, it shifts. Sometimes the husband is in the driving seat, and sometimes the wife is in the driving seat. I know that this idea of shifting ‘power and responsibility’ goes against the grain of how we as women have been raised especially in Nigeria.  But it’s what I have observed in my own personal interpretation of healthy relationships. In those relationships, the man is the head sometimes, and sometimes the woman is the head. No one sits on the throne forever! And no, healthy couples rarely sit down to carve out when the man will be the head, or when the woman would be the head, it’s probably more organic, falling naturally to where the couple’s strengths lie.  I am always adamant that in the healthiest of relationships a woman cannot always be in that submissive lane, nor can the man always lead. I warn you, if you stay in that submission lane for too long you will become redundant, a doormat.  And if you think you can constantly be the leader, you will morph into a tyrant, and in time lose your captor.

People often challenge me by saying their parents have been married for 50 years and did it the ‘traditional way’ – and some would list barmy things like (no lie I’ve heard all of these):

  • My father didn’t eat yesterday’s stew so whatever my mom was up to she had to cook fresh everyday
  • My father can’t eat pounded yam with lumps so my mum would have to remake it
  • My father didn’t let my mum work
  • My father had affairs but told my mother she was number 1

Often, children from these backgrounds appear to accept that their home traditions is the natural and right order. Never have I heard them question  the physical or emotional damage these imbalances might have had on their mother and even them. In fact they will argue that their mothers were happy, because she always looked happy or rarely voiced her discontent. But  how many mothers burden their children with their deepest unhappiness? And  one cannot judge happiness by the length of a marriage in a society where there is little support for those who leave their marriages, even under cruel and dire conditions; little support from the state, little support from the church, little support from the family). To point to length of marriage alone would be TOO simplistic. Being married for 50 years is not a goal. Being happy, feeling fulfilled and feeling accomplished whilst in the marriage ought to be the goal?.

 

Wives get bored too

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Some few weeks ago I went to see the movie hidden figures under the misunderstanding that My friend had booked us to watch the movie Fences. She was just as surprised as I was when Hidden Figures started. By the end of the movie, we couldn’t grumble because Hidden Figures turned out to be a fantastic movie.

I finally got a chance to watch Fences enroute to Miami. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is a touching story which feels real and true. And the dialogue is sublime.

Mid-way through the movie I started to shift in my seat, wishing I was on land so I could urge every female friend I have to watch this movie and heed three explicit warnings:

1. Do not become complicit in your own mistreatment.
2. Do not lose your identity, destiny or purpose in a marriage.
3. And if you choose to do both, be acutely aware of the repercussions and own the consequences.

In the movie we see Rose ( Viola Davies) immerse herself in family life, loving her husband completely, taking on his family, his shortcomings, and dealing with it as some loving wives might. And although this was heart warming to watch in the beginning of the movie, these traits soon start to grate as the viewer realises that Rose through her complicity, was enabling some destructive behaviour; behaviour which would eventually tear her family life apart.

Rose’s husband wasn’t a stereotypical abusive husband or father. This would have been too lazy. What he was is probably closer to the reality of most destructive characters, they are rarely one dimensional. Troy was loving yet unkind, warm but bitter, responsible and irresponsible. He was traditional to a point of disregard. In his opinion his duty was to provide for his family. And as long as he did this successfully, everything else was inconsequential, including meeting the emotional needs of his children, and ultimately his wife.

Every relationship can learn something from this story. But I am specifically drawing attention to this beautiful piece of story telling because of the parallels I observe in a lot of Nigerian marriages. Often the Nigerian woman is advised to accept and tolerate the intolerable in marriage. We are encouraged accommodate bad behaviour under the falsehood that compromise is the foundation of a good marriage. The problem however, is that too often it is the woman who over- compromises, especially when the husband is a good provider like Troy. But this one sided compromising is at the expense of our future happiness, and more importantly our mental health.

Rose allowed her husband to get away with atrocious behaviour, this she admitted to towards the end of the movie. As the movie progressed,  it became clear that men like Troy can become so self absorbed, they fail to see that they are mistreating their wives. And women like Rose, lose themselves so completely and absurdly in the superficial appearance of a healthy home; cooking for everybody, constantly fixing a plate; toiling. The way Rose was quick to enter the kitchen for Troy and his family; son from another relationship, her hisband’s friend,  his brother, was both symbolic and a clever way of highlighting how women give.

Rose expected her husband to be loyal, loving, and attentive because she was. Unfortunately her passivity or compromises or submissiveness emboldened her husband’s bad behaviour, to their eventual detriment.

Women too get bored too: There was a scene where Troy was honestly trying to explain why he cheated, and I understood it completely. I even felt annoyed for understanding, but at 40 and after being married for over 12 years I know that marriage isn’t all roses and make up sex. Marriage is partly about those daily worries and palavers like mortgage, bills, in laws, child care difficulties. Marriage is about the grind. It is about misunderstandings, miscommunications, neglect, being taken for granted, hurt, and sometimes lies. And yes the feeling of wanting to escape is normal – having an affair can seem like escapism for some – for Troy – who wanted to feel alive, devoid of responsibilities, duty or obligation.

In the middle of his emotionally charged explanation Rose cut him dead. In fury and in hurt she reminded him that for 18 years she had stood by his side, casting her own dreams aside – supporting him, accepting his flaws, covering for his flaws, even at the detriment of her own children. And through snort and tears, the viewers realises that she knows, that she had given too much, and literary played herself out of the marriage. Because you can give too much in a marriage? Yes. You have no business or obligation to give away your destiny or purpose or dreams like she did . No one, not the man nor the children you bear will thank you in the end. And even if they do it probably wouldn’t be enough.

As married women we must be wary of the false notion that giving up on our own development, destiny, or life goals is tantamount to love. It is not. And a truly loving husband wouldn’t want or expect it.

More powerfully Rose highlights a point I wish every man would take away from this movie. That it is not the preserve of men to crave escapism; to want out from time to time. Most women feel this urge too, that desire to run, to cast aside the burden of responsibility, to hide even. And as Rose put it, to seek comfort, desire and escapism in the bed of someone different. But. And there is a powerful But. What stops a lot of women, and some men from cheating, at that real point of frailty, is a combination of discipline, maturity, self respect and will power – holding on to the commitment they made while keeping an eye on the bigger picture – a healthy relationship. This discipline may not be applicable where abuse is present, emotional or physical abuse or indeed neglect may drive women to seek solace with another.

Sadly, most patriarchal societies pretend that women simply don’t feel the desires Rose highlighted.  I guess the very idea that women too feel this urge is itself an affront to the premise of patriarchy.

love

Titilolami

THE KINKS IN THEIR MINDS

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I had an unfortunate meeting at my daughter’s school this morning. Last week she went in with a twist out which I pinned up for her in the morning. Her hair was let down just as seen in the pictures above and below. When she got home, it was tied up in a bun, so I casually asked why she decided to put it up, she said she did so because her teacher said there was an Ofsted inspection that morning, and her hair looked “wild”. I was horrified when I heard the word “wild” I said “did she use the word wild”? My daughter said yes. I was livid!!!’  I didn’t want my daughter to know I was that upset so I shut went upstairs, fuming, I sat down and I wrote to the teacher expressing my dissatisfaction.

The school called me  and we fixed a meeting with the Head teacher and the teacher in question. Sadly, I left feeling more frustrated than appeased. The Head teacher said I was the one that had a problem with the use of the term “wild”. She kept saying she described her own hair as wild frequently and saw no issue with it. She actually expressed her dissatisfaction with my own my letter, because I said “the school had an issue and history of not understanding Afro hair” ( they do ). She said this statement suggested that I was calling the school racist, or prejudice, when at least 2 of her close family members were married to Jamaicans, She said she understands Afro hair and I shouldn’t have brought race into it.

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My good God!!!!! I was flabbergasted and completely certain that this school needed a diversity awareness course. Firstly, the term ” wild” conjures up unruly, unsightly and animalistic. Something that needs to be tamed. All of which my daughter’s hair was not on the day,  and all of which shows an unconscious bias around what is deemed appropriate, or presentable according to a perception that bears no relation to the characteristics of an afro hair.  This unconscious bias was  slipping through in loose and derogatory language and it is the language which I sought to address.

I expressed in no uncertain term that I really didn’t care if the Head teacher described her own hair as wild, I do not want that term used to describe my daughter’s hair. Afro hair texture is not smooth or sleek in the way that Caucasian hair is. It grows up and not down and although it can be chemically straightened to look sleeker, lay flat, and look more European this is not a choice I’ll ever choose for my daughter,  or indeed my own hair. I love Afro texture hair, I love it with its kinks, curls, coils and volume. When she was going to school that morning I brushed her hair,  and I personally put two pins in her hair and sent her off saying your hair looks beautiful and she replied ” I really like it”. Now to those of you raising little black girls you know what an achievement it is to get them to the point where they “love” their natural hair.

We live in a society that has historically not appreciated the difference and beauty in Afro hair texture.  This is not an indictment on the society, because even in many African countries it is often not celebrated or held as up as an ideal beauty.    I had to stop wearing weaves, and even braids to instil confidence in my own daughter’s  hair, so yes I was  not going to let a teacher kill her new found confidence with the careless and offensive use of the word “wild”.

People may say oh she didn’t mean to cause offence, but that is not the point, she did cause offence, and she refused throughout to apologise insisting that the hair was untidy. No. my dauther’s hair was not untidy. What is untidy is the ignorance that still abounds where afro hair is concerned. What is untidy is that a lot of black people have been complicit in the rhetoric that our hair, as it grows from our scalp is unmanageable, untidy, unruly and in need of ‘something’ to make it presentable and acceptable. And often that something just happens to look more European.

The use of the term ‘wild’ is loaded, full of so much value judgement and indeed micro aggression. It’s the exact type of word that chips away at the confidence of a 9 year old, it highlights their difference in an unflattering and negative way and subconsciously forces them to concede and accept that they do not fit the  beauty ‘ideal’. It is a rhetoric that I will fight against, for the sake of my daughter and her place in this world. I do not care if other mothers do not see it or get it, because of course according to the school I’m a trouble maker, not said directly but the Head said on more than one occasion that I’m the only Afro Caribbean parent who seems to have an issue with hair. That hurt my feeling. It hurt my feeling because I remain acutely aware that I live in a society that can be unintentionally prejudice yet if I raise it,  question it, or challenge it I  will be accused of playing the race card, of being overly sensitive, or of having a chip on my shoulder.

Let me be clear, I did not and do not accuse the school of racism. No. Fadeke likes her form teacher very much and she has never expressed being treated differently. But how can race not play a role in the description of Afro hair as ‘wild’. That the school fail to see this, and would defend it is more disturbing. In the end the teacher said she didn’t mean to cause offence, and the Head said it was an unfortunate use of the word, but I was under no illusion, they didn’t get it. And that continues to upset me.

the picture of my daughter was taken on the exact same day.

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Married men on Tinder

 

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The real identities of the concerned individuals have been changed to protect their identity and respect their privacy. Even shitty people deserve privacy.

So my mate WhatsApps me 3 days ago” Titi! Titi! Isn’t Funke’s brother in law married??” Me “yes” silence … she is typing “So what’s he doing on Tinder then”? Me ” nooooooo I’ll call you NOW”!! I finish my Squats with the worse form ever and get on the phone!!!!

Rewind selecta!

I saw how Tinder operated some months ago from my mate. My mate is single. In fact one of the very many enjoyable things we did once was have a girls night in with me going through her Tinder account, swiping left or right. Ohhhhh you don’t know what Tinder is or how it works? Really? okay a quick explanation. Tinder is an online dating app that matches couples based on their physical attraction to one another. It alerts you to other Tinder users who fall within a specified age range and gender and are within a certain distance of your location. You decide whether or not you like the look of a person: if you do, swipe right; if you don’t, swipe left and they’ll never know. If you’re both interested then Tinder’s messaging function offers you a virtual private location where you can chat and get to know each other better.

Tinder is a dating website! A married man has no business being on Tinder! Now this post isn’t about men who cheat. No. That is a boring subject. This post is also not about declaring that all men are assholes. That’s not true! There are perfectly decent men who don’t and will never cheat. And you know what, there are also perfectly decent, good men, who f**k up once, because decent people do shitty things. But this is not about all that. This is about a special breed of married assholes, so brazen, so disrespectful, so audacious as to advertise themselves on a dating App used by more than 10 million users!. This right here is levels!

So I called Dayo! The sister in law! Of course I called Dayo! Are you F******* kidding me! I said “Dayo! Is your brother in law divorced or mad?” After I recounted the gist Dayo started laughing! Dayo always likes evidence – she said ” do you have evidence?” So I sent the communal Dick’s Tinder image. She calls back immediately laughing! She says “Jesus! Is this how these men are behaving! please let me go on Tinder and check if my own husband is there ooo” I quickly interrupt “if you join Tinder and someone sees you on it and reports you! you’ll have to explain that to your husband who wouldn’t believe you where there looking for him! so better don’t start wahala you can’t finish” we both laughed. Should we tell the madam of the communal dick? Hell No! Ain’t no one like that chick anyhow …… and I’ve avoided drama in my life from time …… I’m only loyal to my friends sorry! And ain’t no one like that bitch anyhow 🙈🙈🙈

More than ‘I do’ and a Womb

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When I was a younger lady living with my now husband. My dear Aunty came round to give me some advice. She was not happy with my living arrangements. I had expected her to go down the morality of living in sin route, but she didn’t, instead, she asked if I was going to marry this guy. She said ” A man can always dust off his shirt and leave, but what would you do after?” This was the point where I stared at her, I didn’t want to argue because I liked her and still like her very much, but in my mind I was thinking ” I’ll move on too innit”

The problem wasn’t just her question which some may excuse as being ” out of love” but the loaded presumption and sexism in the question. That I, a female, would struggle to put my life in order if my partner decided to leave. You see, there lies the problem, particularly in the Nigerian culture, until we believe and teach our daughter’s that they too have  options and choices; the choice to move on, the option to opt out, until then, we are belittling their existence and even sending dangerous messages for them to settle for much less and not to live fully. We are asking them to stay in abusive  and unhappy homes.

Sadly, my Nigerian culture fetishises marriage more than even love or ironically a happy marriage. The pressure is on young ladies from the age of 25. And after marriage it’s children. and wow betide the woman that seeks to leave an unhappy marriage because she is UNHAPPY. I have heard the laughs. How can she be unhappy, he pays the bills, he takes care of the children .. what is there to be unhappy about.

And when a woman hasn’t had a child or children in a marriage, the misery some  will endure  from external busy bodies! A post for another day. Whether you are married or not, have children or not. You are doing the “sisterhood” a great disservice, a huge dishonour if you proclaim (for you can have your beliefs but keep them to yourself) that our purpose or worth in life is confined to two things; marriage and children – above all. My strong belief is that our uniqueness, value and worth isn’t tied to either marriage or having children. We are unique and valuable simply because we exist. Not because we are married, not because we have children. We must, must, must, drum this into our children both boys and girls.

How to make a come back?

blog-picWhen I started this blog, I knew that I enjoyed writing, that I loved engaging, and that I had some opinions worth sharing. I started, then stopped.  As with many things soldering on is the hardest part, especially when you feel you aren’t getting anything from it,  and you know what?  I feel I’ve always had to solider on. The biggest drain on my spare time, my energy is the charity I also run, Path to Possibilities. Over the last few years I’ve concentrated efforts on trying to grow it – has it grown? well that depends on how you measure growth. All I know is that I’ve missed writing, and I’ve missed engaging, and if there is anyone out there that wants to hear from me again, please comment – it makes me want to do it when I see people engaging – and I’m prepared to post once a week – New Year Resolution!!  I don’t know how to make a come back, but I’ll try. Suggestions welcome.