This Thing Called…Marriage

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My father was wearing his trademark brown khaki shorts, it’s roomy pockets sagging at the sides, and one of those old singlets he loved but which every other person at home hated because they looked like suspenders. The memory stands out in my head, very sharp. He stood straight with his back against the wall, his hands – the only visible sign of his anxiety – busy doing nothing in particular. My mother stood in the space between my dad and I; her wrapper was tightly cinched just below her breasts and she had rolled up the bogus sleeves of the fading Hollandis blouse past her elbows. She took up most of the room in the tiny corridor, her back to dad and her face in mine.

“I si gini?” she asked, her voice a chilling ferocious whisper. What did you say?

I swallowed the ball of bile that threatened to clog my throat. I had thought this through, I was sure that it was what I wanted, what I needed to do. So I willed my racing heart to calm down, and I said to her – to them, “Acholum inu nwanyi kita a” I want to get married now.

I was just 16 years old when this transpired between my parents and I. If you are Igbo, or Nigerian, or human, then there is a 99.5% chance that you know exactly what my parents did afterwards. In fact, you all now have different versions of the ensuing events playing over in your minds but like Nollywood, we all know how it ends – I didn’t get married. Heck, it’s been a long time since then and I am still not married.

This Thing Called Marriage is a matter that will neither lie low for us nor our generations to come. An elderly friend of mine once said that even if humans evolved into giant clumps of metal eons from now, our hills of steel would still find a way to pair off with each other in marriage. It is so important to us that a lot of the time, marriage is the most important medium with which we classify adults, second only to gender.

Think: when you first meet that dashing young auditor who just started at your office, your first thoughts are not about her state of origin, or birth stone or the trait of snoring in her family history, are they? No. You want to know if she’s married. Or when you first see that hunky form from behind, all you want is for him to propose so you can hand over the children you already had for him in advance; then he turns around…and he’s wearing a priestly collar. Bam! And it doesn’t stop at adults either – even 5-year old Kamsi goes home to tell Daddy that he will marry Miss Tayo, his kindergarten teacher.

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Marriage – it’s the all-important issue. Question though is, why?

Some say it’s a holy order anointed by the gods of society: from ‘School’ to ‘Job’ to ‘Marry’ (S-J-M). Others, like my friend Paul, disagree. He believes that it subtracts from the beauty of the union when people say such things about marriage as ‘it is next on the list’. Paul does not think of marriage as a requirement for whatever accolades are given out at the Pearl gates; he thinks of it as a privilege, one he presently is favored by.

When asked about his partner, he gets all dreamy and emotional and starts to cry tears of love says “moments together with her are moments in bliss. There really is nothing more beautiful that when two people give themselves completely to each other. When we disagree, there is this lovable tension between us; the rest of the time, it is the legendary tale of love birds. Fight or no fight, the feeling is awesome. Words really can’t explain such feelings, neither can words describe how anxious I am to consummate it in marriage”

Then you think that it is all roses and chocolatey panty hoses…until you talk to my friend, Walter. In a recent piece, he recounted how in a moment of – I like to think – sheer bravado, he updated his Blackberry dm with the message: ‘I do not believe in the institution of marriage.’ Now Walter is past 25 and talented, so, promising, and he has a day job! So of course, “the aftermath of that declaration was a series of pings and phone calls from friends and acquaintances who wanted to know if I was suffering a fever or feeling inebriated, for me to have the temerity to say such a thing”

You’re wondering “but why” and I’m saying “Wyclef” “I wondered too” Walter stated as his reasons for his disposition, a compulsive nature and his penchant for lonesomeness. He had more to say – or more rightly, ask: “Why do perennial bachelors need to explain why they don’t want to put the ring on it? Does all of humanity have to want the same kinds of things? Must my happiness and fulfillment come from wanting to spend my life with someone, just like everybody else does? Couldn’t I simply live my life, putting out good stories, paying my taxes and occasionally traveling around the world, unfettered by familial obligations or spousal guilt?”

Then I wondered “why not?!” Really, why not? With the calls for equality and fairness multiplying faster than Ebola is spreading, one would have figured that if the married do not have to explain their reasons for marriage, the unmarried should not have to explain their unmarried status either. I remember one time watching Serena Williams claim another tennis trophy on television; I turned to my buddy and said how it was a shame that such a beautiful, strong woman with so much talent was unmarried and without children. Now I think of it, and the real shame is sitting on my head.

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The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect. Some of us confuse wedding for marriage and enjoy the breeze of the former only to wake up in the latter as…

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Even the internet is guilty; try googling the word ‘marriage’ and you’ll find yourself deluged by a litany of rings, white gowns and pristine wedding smiles. That is so wrong. Even for those who understand that the concepts of wedding and marriage are well and truly divorced, it is no guarantee that we understand This Thing Called Marriage.

As at the time I made my intention of marriage known to my parents – yes, at 16, I wasn’t thinking about a wedding. Neither was I thinking of conforming to the societal creed of S-J-M – going by the creed anyway, I wasn’t even half ready. All I was thinking of was the sweet girl (let’s call her Bimi) I was in love with at the time and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Like many of us, I was thinking of babies – how they would have my eyes, Bimi’s hair and nose, and a combo of both our lips, and how it would feel to sit in the evening breeze, with them curled up on my chest, making the cutest infant sounds.

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But I wasn’t thinking of children – the mess they can make, the noise which knows no seasons, the tantrums, the pranks, the school runs, the allergies, the grooming and the raising.

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Like many of us, I was thinking of starting small with Bimi – in a little bungalow in this polite neighborhood where the neighbors minded their business and the rain fell softly every Sunday morning; we would spend the days laughing and playing, I would let her win at cards and she would let me win at table tennis; and at nights, we would make babies.

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But I wasn’t thinking of money – the university degrees neither of us had at the time; the rent for that tiny bungalow which we could never afford without jobs; the PHCN bills, generator bills and water bills, and maintenance bills for when the roof leaked or when an errant child smashed a football against a window; hospital bills, transportation costs to wherever we needed to go, and food.

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I wasn’t thinking of Life – the food that would never come without money; the hunger that was bound to come without food; the attention I would need to pay to Bimi, and her hair and make-up – at 16, she had only just started experimenting with lipsticks; the clothes she would outgrow and the new ones she would need; the girl she would outgrow and the woman she would become; the boy I would outgrow and the man I would become.

The list is endless, and common among us, if we dared to be honest about it. We think of a lot of things, true, yet there’s a lot more we do not think of. And as if it isn’t hairy enough, reality is that a lot of the stuff we never thought of is still mysterious to even the married ones among us.

In correction therefore: The problem of the human obsession with This Thing Called Marriage is that in the long run, a lot of us marry without knowing the half of what to expect that all you can expect is to meet with the unexpected.

On this issue, I am neither for Paul nor Barnabas Walter; I am only that voice crying typing out in the wilderness, questions that you must answer for yourself: Firstly, do you ever want to be married? Why? After which you may then answer, what do you think of This Thing Called Marriage?

 

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

This Thing Called ‘The Face’ – What People Had To Say

 

THE FACE

Thank you all so much for your feedback with the last TTC post; if you missed it, click here NOW!

As promised, this post will recapitulate the deal on This Thing Called ‘The Face’ with the responses I got on the question. I must warn, they range from the insightful to the absolutely clueless; as well as from the hilarious to the downright troubling. But I had a lot of fun and ‘aha’ methods reading them; I hope you find those.

I have tinkered with the identities of the respondents so if I were you, I’d take those names with a pinch of snuff salt.

Again, if you missed that TTC post, kneel down, close your eyes, raise your hands, and stick your tongue out click here NOW.

***

The question was:

“Complete this – you may be as effusive as you desire, or concise. However you want to answer it:

Before I die, I want to…”

Adanna: be at peace with God and man

Ginika: Go to Rome…ALL of Rome

Mimi: Write a bestseller

Ada: I dunno…how many words are required?

Tobe: I never wan die biko. Thank you

Bazo: Leave a mark

Adim: I shall think on it and reply you soon (four weeks ago!)

Pam: I don’t understand you oh. (I repeated it) I’ll think about it; it’s impromptu now (three weeks ago)

Cherry: Why you wan know?

Chioma: be happy and have succeeded in the things I wanted to do and lived a full life without any regrets.

Chibueze: Affect lives

Tochi: Make money

Ezinma: I want to love and be loved, live, travel, help, grow old, do crazy; make love, then have sex, have children; before I die, I want to live

Favor: Iron-pumper

JC: I don’t know oh

Uzoaro: Hmm…nnaa, I don’t know oh

Chidinma: Fulfill God’s purpose for my life

Achugz: Dive from the pinnacle of Everest and land on my right foot

Obiora: Leave a legacy, the kind Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr left, but most likely on a much smaller scale. Or maybe more corporate-themed…like Steve Jobs. But in all, legacy is the keyword

Tombari: Live today

Claire: Attend mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with my partner and children

Mazesh: I want to visit Agra India to see Taj Mahal; want to go to the Bahamas and bask in the sun at the beach with my sweetheart; I want to test drive Bugatti Veyron; buy a Toyota GT 86; I want to proclaim in front of my family, my love for someone; I want to fly a T-rex 450 DFC FLYBERLESS RC HELI; ride on a jetski; see stone henge in UK. So many things…

Adaora: Repent

Dan: Hmm…still pondering (it’s been two weeks)

Debby: Hmm…let us see (still seeing for three weeks now…)

Jane: ride a power bike

Pretty: I want to make one person’s dreams come true

Emma: I want to live

Oge: Achieve so much in life and create a positive name

Marcel: Fulfill my dreams

Rose: Know God

Toby: Exhaust all the love I have in me

Cami: Make my name known at least in Africa, as one of the wealthiest, whilst adding something good to the society; start a family with a partner I love and who loves me, and live old enough to see my kids enjoy a comfortable life and stand on their own feet.

Oyibo: Hmmm…no be easy one oh; because I never dey reason die oh

Ofurum: Thank God for the opportunity of experiencing this world and for also for all my achievements and disappointments because they made this world fun to live in

Jessy: I want to make tangible achievements to speak for my existence

***

 

Well, you were warned 😉 A lot of them, as you have seen, revolve around seeking wealth and family, philanthropy and religion in a bid to find The Face. My personal favorites were sent in by Ezinma and Emma: I want to live.

It’s the shortest and probably, the rightest way to find ‘The Face’ isn’t it? Living fully everyday, devoid of all restrictions of society and propriety, without fear of dying too young or too fast or too painfully…just living. ‘The Face’ under such circumstances would reveal itself without any pomp, and every second spent alive would be a breeze.

I don’t know about you, reader, but before I die, I want to live.

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Find me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

THIS THING CALLED…SUCCESS (1)

 

Because the muse hit in 2D, I’ve split this TTC post into two. This first leg is inspired by a sister’s post on her online forum where the issue was of successful women and why unhappy romantic relationships seem to be the price they pay for said success. A lot of people like to make this a ‘Just African men’ thing but for the purposes of objectivity, we’ll leave it open here.

For starters, ‘successful’ in this context refers to that woman who is clearly flying high. She’s at the top of her career, controlling power, fame and recognition, money and even men. And she is married to a man who by his bank account and social status, is not exactly Lazarus of the biblical Rich man parable but is neither Dr. Dre, post-Beats sale. They may not even be married yet; maybe the John is dating her, or wants to. Why is her success a turn-off?

Chimamanda Adichie in reference to her global success once said, “the type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in”. And I can hear the sisters whooping in the house. But wait. Take a chill pill – yep, I can be hippy too – and let’s really think on this.

Why do men run away from successful women?

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Scenario A:

Peter earns more than Mary who he is in a serious relationship with. Mary decides to change the dining table but Peter says, “No, baby, I can’t afford it. Plus do we really need a new table just to eat?”

So Mary lets it go. A few months later she gets hired by a multinational; her new pay package is higher than Peter could ever dream to earn even with two promotions. Three months into the job, she’s on a business trip in Mainz and sees this fancy oak-wood table which literally calls her name as she passes by. She purchases it with a few dainty chairs to boot; she has the whole set shipped home. The day it arrives, she does all the moving and redecorating herself; she is going to surprise her husband when he returns from work with ‘our shiny new dining room’.

Peter comes in, having had a harried time at the office – he really should burn some black candles on top of his boss’ picture. He has just reached for a cold bottle of water in the refrigerator when he sees the table, the chairs too – WHOA! He looks around him quickly – no one – and takes a second look. It’s one very VAAIIIRRYYY ugly table but it’s new – he touches it – EX-PEN-SIVE too. He turns around and Mary is standing there beaming at him…”SURPRIIIIISE!” She runs up against him, hugs him, pecks him, she’s gushing, “Babe, you like it? Come take a closer look…”

Peter sets her away from him very roughly, eyes reduced to irate slits of black. He flings the bottle of water against the wall and positively, literally, incandescently BLOWS UP!

“Did you not hear when I said I do not want a new table? What is wrong with you, woman?” – then – “SO BECAUSE YOU NOW HAVE SOME CHICKEN FEE TO SPEND, YOU THINK YOU CAN RIDE ALL OVER ME?”

THE END.

Okay PAUSE! Now, rewind. Not at the refrigerator, keep going. Go all the way to the beginning. Unhuh…wait! Too much, go forward a bit…there! Good, stop. PLAY!

 

Scenario B:

Peter earns more than Mary who he is in a serious relationship with. Mary decides to change the dining table but Peter says, “No, baby, I can’t afford it. Plus do we really need a new table just to eat?”

So Mary lets it go. A few months later she gets hired by a multinational; her new pay package is higher than Peter could ever dream to earn even with two promotions. Three months into the job, she’s on a business trip in Mainz and sees this fancy oak-wood table which literally calls her name as she passes by. She purchases it with a few dainty chairs to boot; she has the whole set shipped home. The day it arrives, she does all the moving and redecorating herself; she is going to surprise her husband when he returns from work with ‘our shiny new dining room’.

Peter comes in, having had a harried time at the office – he really should burn some black candles on top of his boss’ picture. He has just reached for a cold bottle of water in the refrigerator when he sees the table, the chairs too – WHOA! He looks around him quickly – no one – and takes a second look. It’s one very VAAIIIRRYYY ugly table but it’s new – he touches it – EX-PEN-SIVE too. He turns around and Mary is standing there beaming at him…”SURPRIIIIISE!” She runs up against him, hugs him, pecks him, she’s gushing, “Babe, you like it? Come take a closer look…”

Peter lets her drag him. He listens with a smile and nods obligingly in between sips of his water while Mary tells him all the special things about the table. She tells him it’s vintage ‘gold’, Pharaoh’s – yes, the very pharaoh of the Red Sea story – elephants were born under it and the legs are hollow so one can store spoons and plates. Peter is exhausted but he oohs and aahs while she hops all over the place, happy as a tot in a candy store. He waits for the perfect break in her gushing, for that lull in her commentary where she takes a breath then he butts in.

“It’s beautiful, darling”, Peter says. She beams. She knows, she says. Then he adds – quickly, “let me just take a bath and we can launch it, huh?” She beams again. Great.

He pecks her and zooms up the stairs, already tugging on his tie. Mehnnn, he thinks, that table is U.G.L.Y. He can’t believe how excited one person could get over one squat ugly table and a set of even uglier chairs. The image flashes in his mind, of her hopping one-legged, gushing excitedly over the absolutely hideous table, and he chuckles inadvertently. Kai!

THE END. No, really the end now.

So my take is that it’s all about attitude. And perception. Have man and woman risen to a level of maturity where material success doesn’t adversely change who they fundamentally are? Is the man able to realize that his partner is the same – faults and points, vices and virtues – whether she earns more or not. Is the woman able to be that – the same – even when her man’s pay is doorman’s tip compared to hers?

Your perception is the fine line. If she always hated cooking, then it is in character that she hire a cook or buy take-out on one too many nights, especially if her pay can afford it. You bore it bravely when she earned peanuts but you can’t stomach it now because she earns six figures? Now you only eat freshly cooked soup, nothing over 24hours-old!

If he always was loud and never stuck a finger past the kitchen doorpost, then it is within character that even when you’re overwhelmed by kitchen chores, he’ll be outside with ears plugged shut, mowing the same lawn he had mowed only the day before. When he paid all the bills, you thought it was ‘cute’ how he evaded any kitchen duties; but because you’re now a CEO, he’s being ‘childish, insensitive and domineering’. And it’s nerve-grating to you that men cannot stand a working class woman!

And there, successful ladies and gentlemen, is where the fabric starts to rip.angry couple

So what’s your take? What’s your opinion of This Thing Called Success, in the context of successful women and their less successful male partners? Click below in comments right now and Share!

 Mention me on twitter @ojukwu_martin