More than ‘I do’ and a Womb

i-do

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.

Why she looks older than her husband

Pounding

Sometimes I hear men, including my own hubby, express horror at how some women look much older than their husbands. On these occasions my husband will say something like “Are you serious that’s his wife? I will look on with a blank expression, he will respond with “Seriously is she older than him”? When I confirm that the said woman is his wife, and no, she is not older, he will look at me intensely and say ” so you don’t think she looks older?” before I can even answer, he will say “she looks like his mum.” I will take a deep breath and say nothing. Or I’ll point out that the dude in question isn’t exactly Adonis. But if I’m honest he is always almost right, the wife is most likely looking much older, but I never confirm it because I feel to do so would be a betrayal. A betrayal of the sisterhood. I empathise with what is making them look older; chores!! Doing more bloody domestic chores!! and working full time! I’m not joking. Research shows that married women still do more chores on average than their husbands. If you do 80% of the chores in your house you will age before him. If you take on 80% of the child care responsibility you will age before him. If you work full time while doing all of this, you will age before him. Hard work ages.

Of course this is all vanity and some women completely adore doing all the chores, they positively love it they say, all I am saying is that there are consequences to these imbalances; vanity related consequences, and of course vanity may not mean jack to you, why should looks matter when you are being a wonderful wife. I agree. But men are visual creatures they say, after a while those hard palms, evidence of all the pounded yam you made and fed him, those hands will feel like sandpaper on his back. The wringles you developed will remind him of a witch’s frown – So my sisters let’s divide the chores more equally and grow old at the same pace, but if you clearly love doing all the housework and you don’t mind ageing faster than your husband maybe buy Cream de Lamer, because it’s not only familiarity that breeds contempt, aging does too. But wait a minute! Love conquers all? abeg leave that love talk for now.

The Natural Hair Mafias

afroI love my hair, sometimes I’m in awe of its robustness and versatility, yet it’s so gentle, so soft, so me.

When I started wearing my natural Afro there were few of us around. I did it out of necessity. I had just started university and there was little money or time to be throwing at hair. So I started wearing my hair in its natural state. It was no big deal. It wasn’t a statement or a movement. It was practical and I liked it. And yes, it saved me a lot of money!

Fast forward 15 years later and there are more black women wearing their natural hair. This is a good thing. This is important. It is a good thing because I think the media often portray one idea of beauty, which isn’t always inclusive.

The truth is Afro hair rarely features in mainstream magazines, and when it does, it is often a caricature of the bizarrely big or outrageous funky type. I subscribe to a few magazines myself, and I always avoid the hair and beauty section because it’s never going to include tips on how to style my hair in 3 easy steps. It’s not going to show me the latest afro trends. And no, I don’t want to seek out specialist black hair magazines.

But there is another awkward truth. How can we expect mainstream media to showcase what we ourselves constantly hide? It is up to us black women to showcase our own hair in its diverse variety. And this is where I’m conflicted – I’m a weave loving mama. I completely enjoy the freedom to experiment and change my hairstyle. It is fun. It is fashion. It is options. But I do find it concerning that some black women think natural black hair is less attractive. Or rather strangely, that they have to apply all manner of concoction to make it ‘manageable’. I hate that word ‘manageable’. The truth is we are losing the natural skills to deal with our hair and adopting skills to manage Caucasian hair which in my view is not easier to manage – although they can Wash and Go!! And bloody hell I often wish I could Wash and Go!

I don’t belong to the camps that frown on weaves. In fact I went shopping the other day and this black gentleman kept saying to me ‘Yes this is how black women should wear their hair, I love your hair, I love your daughter’s hair –this is how to keep it real, gwan sis’. I was offended. I was offended because he patently thought weave wearers where selling out. If he saw me 3 months ago he would have thought differently of me then, in my weave. However, I was with my daughter and her face lit up at the compliments, what does she care about undertones. This confirmed something I already knew. Even though I am a badass confident chick, love my hair, love my body (not on days I’m bloated) type of chick, I need to instil this confidence in my own daughter. And this must include her seeing me wearing my hair in its natural state more often.

Is it possible to instil self-acceptance and confidence in my daughter if I put my hair in weaves more often than I let my natural hair out?. Am I sending a subtle message that mama only looks cute in long straight hair? I decided I couldn’t take a risk, so instead of alternating between weaves and my natural hair, I am leaving my hair out more often than fixing weaves. And I see other black women doing the same, and they may do it for different reasons, but it’s great! But some of them are getting silly, calling it a movement, some of them are rather fanatical, attacking weave wearers and acting as if natural hair makes them somewhat mystical, deep, more black, more enlightened, more in touch. It does not. I know a lot of dread wearing arse-wipes who have no clue. These people have been irritating the heck out of me with stupid-ness like coding different hair texture, promoting not using shampoo and touting all manner of concoctions. Listen, I’m not going to hate the players. If people want to turn natural hair into a lucrative business, fine and great!! But don’t do it under the pretext of a movement. It is a business. You have something to sell. It is marketing.

Up to a year ago, I used to use the phrase ‘it’s just hair’, but deep down I have always known that black women’s hair is more than just hair. I got a rude reminder a few months ago when a stakeholder told me that my hairstyle was rather severe, she said it was intimidating. I was shocked. I had my hair in what I considered a simple up-do. I was so stunned I couldn’t respond. I was upset. This is my hair, as natural as it can be, and when I was styling it that morning, it was just hair I was putting up, not a weapon. In that moment I realised that I couldn’t kid myself any longer. Afro hair isn’t just hair. There are deep seated politics of race, beauty and stereotypes attached to Afro hair and if we as black women want our hair to be perceived as just that, hair, then we need to show it more, in its natural state. But don’t let the business people pedalling their wares hijack it with all their mumbo jumbo.

Towards Equality

I don’t understand why some expect girls to express themselves only with grace, while boys can be boisterous to applause. You expect girls not to raise their voices, be demanding or too assertive, but congratulate fighters, glorify male boxers.

We wrestle with the idea that a woman can be many things. If she chooses to get married and chooses to have children, you question her capacity or worse still her desirability in being more than a wife and a mother. Why are you offended when she says those things are not be enough

And if a married woman is multi faceted, her life fully rounded or in your view a bit too much, too much of this, too much of that, you raise your eyebrow and patronisingly try to put her in your box “oh it’s all okay, her husband doesn’t mind”.

We are all haters

HatersOnce published on FB – slightly updated.

I read numerous status updates about enemies posing as friends, haters, frienemies and all sorts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think some people are unfortunate to have dubious characters around them, particularly if they are young and impressionable. But I wonder if people ever stop to think that they have or get the friends they deserve.

Some years ago I fell out with two people I considered my close friends. It was a painful experience for many reasons and I thought rightly or wrongly that other issues had contributed to the fall out, as opposed to having a misunderstanding that got blown out of proportion.

In the heat of the fallout I too cried haters!!! but, when I look back at the dynamics of the friendship I see clearly that I have no reason to feel hard done by. Before the major fallout I had in my heart of hearts stopped being friends with these girls. But for years I had nursed and continued a dysfunctional friendship knowing full well that I wasn’t being true to myself or to them. I had nurtured this friendship because it suited me to hang out socially with these girls and indeed connect on a purely superficial level.

Yes I can point to some mean and vindictive things that were said or done by one person in particular, but honestly what was I to expect when I wasn’t being true to either them or myself. What could I expect when I failed to deal with the problems directly, instead of carrying on and pretending as if nothing was upsetting me. I continued with the friendship because on some level I enjoyed the banter, mischief, manipulation, gossip. This dysfunctional relationship had been nurtured, in part, by me, for years and I was used to it.

So before you point fingers at the haters in your life, look within yourself. Do you have the friends you deserve? Are you true to them or yourself? Have you nurtured a dysfunctional friendship? I’m wise enough to know there is a bit of hater in all of us, we are human after all. I would like to think that I am a better friend as a result of my experiences. If I sense an issue I try harder to raise it early. A lot of times now I listen instead of talking. Sometimes, you can’t control other people’s behaviour, and so if I sense awkwardness I can’t shake, or a sense of unhealthy competition which dominated and plagued the friendship I referred to above, then I will withdraw. I have also learnt that its okay withdrawn from a friendship without announcing your withdrawal. We are not perfect, our friendships are relationships; they can’t be perfect. But all this talk about haters, ore pleaseeeeeeee, check your sef.

Racism in Nigeria

nigeria-flagI am glad that I started the charity Path to Possibilities (P2P) mostly because it keeps me in touch with Nigeria. I honestly don’t think I would visit as often if not for the charity. If you know me well, fairly well, you will know that I have a love/hate relationship with Nigeria. I am one of those people that will freely diss the country, but woe betides any non-Nigerian that wants to take a pop! I know! I am a hypocrite.

When I visited Nigeria this March gone, I honestly had a great time. My God I love the humour, the laid back attitude, and Nigerians resourcefulness. And the food! I ate Nigerian food throughout and it was just marvellous. But for the second visit in a row I noticed something quite concerning; the growing racism or call it destructive colonial mentality harboured by my people.

My charity is focused on education so this means visiting schools. I was puzzled that in one particular school we have been visiting for a while there seems to be a distinct preference for hiring white headmasters (and this seems to be the trend in the top ‘international’ schools). I am aware that this is a contentious issue; after all, I live in a country where I shout that there must be equality in all spheres of life, so why shouldn’t Nigerians hire white people. They should, if they are the right people for the job and if this is the sole reason they are employing them. But what I observed and what I am referring to is quite bizarre, quite different. I am referring to Nigerians dismissing talents in Nigeria and seeking other talents not because of what they can bring to the table, but simply because they are white or not black, because anything but black at the top seems to be reigning.

There is a distinct trend for those who own private businesses to go outside of Nigeria, specifically targeting non-black people to run their businesses. And I repeat, it is not because they can’t find the talent in Nigeria (although I accept that this is the situation in some cases). My problem is that to these Nigerians, hiring white or non-black people apparently lends an air of competence, professionalism and respectability to their businesses. In the school I referred to, this is the 3rd white principal in about 3 years. I actually dismissed this for a while and thought surely they can’t simply have a preference for white people, until a meeting with the proprietor convinced me that they did.

I spoke to a friend of a friend who is in construction. We were having a casual conversation about his business and the challenges it faced and very casually he said he was going to China to recruit someone to head up his construction company. This person was going to be the figurehead and the client facing person, while he would run the show from behind the scenes. He said this was what he needed to take his business to the next level. A Chinese person. People like a non-black face at that level. He said people expect to see ‘this’ these days. I was about to start protesting but stopped. Over the years I have grown tired of arguing with Nigerians, especially Nigerian men. Also, I had to check my own privilege. I can preach to the cows come home but I don’t know what it’s really like trying to survive in one of the harshest economies in the world. It is tough running a business in Nigeria. It is tough making a living in Nigeria. Some will argue that you just have to do what you have to do to survive, and honestly a part of me sympathises with every hardworking Nigerian/business man just working hard. But we must stop and ask is this right? Is it right that we Nigerians are blatantly discriminating against our own people, our own talents? Nigeria puzzles me. When it comes to parties we are prepared to throw on the aso-ebi and shout about our culture. We dance to Wiz Kid all night long who the hell is Wiz khalifa. I observed dudes, fine guys, wearing sokoto and buba in the clubs, proudly declaring their heritage. But when it really matters we turn our backs on our own. We allow most of the private schools in our own country to teach a foreign syllabus that has no bearing to the reality of the Nigerian life. Honestly, there is something majorly f**ked up about children knowing nothing about the significance of Badagiri or the Nigerian Civil War knowing everything about World War two. There is something seriously messed up when our children learn about the principles of economics in pounds and sterling’s. We proudly announce that our children can’t speak Yoruba (I am personally ashamed of this). I understand Igbo has been declared an endangered language by Unesco. We are playing a dangerous game and we don’t know it. We are sending mixed and strange messages to our children and we don’t know it. When little Abike looks up and sees only a certain colour at the top in very many spheres, she will grow up believing it’s not possible if she isn’t that colour or as I observe now; it’s not possible if she doesn’t lose everything that identifies her as Nigerian to become more and more and more western.

Let me pause – what do you think?