marriage

“MARRIAGE IS A PRIVATE AFFAIR” AND OTHER NIGERIAN MYTHS

I once saw a Nollywood movie that thoroughly incensed me.
Okay, at this point a lot of you readers will pause to think, “doesn’t she mean ALL Nollywood movies?” To you, I’ll answer, absolutely not.
“So this girl actually watches Nigerian films?”
Nollywood is the salt of the earth, and I do indulge. Deal with it. Let’s move on.

This particular story was built around a prince-an only child-his parents, and the independent woman he chose to be his wife.

This Prince, whom I shall dub ‘X’ for clarity, came home after almost ten years abroad getting his degree and pursuing a Masters Programme. He was educated, he was exposed. He’d seen the world. His parents were proud of their son and all his accomplishments.
Fast forward a few weeks, or maybe months later. His father, whom I shall call King G, started asking the age-long question -“X, my son, when will you marry?”
He’d been thinking about marriage too, but X didn’t want just any girl, you see. If he did, he would have taken his pick of the girls his mother had surreptitiously been inviting to the palace to parade under his nose. He wanted a particular girl, a girl he’d known when he was in secondary school, a special lady. For months, he tried to track her down to no avail.
Just as he’d given up, he had to process a bank transaction for his father and lo, the branch manager was the girl of his dreams!

He began to pursue her with relentless enthusiasm, but there was a spanner in the works…Miss V was not ready to get married yet. Yes, she was 29, and you wouldn’t think so, but surprise surprise, her ambitions didn’t revolve around a diamond ring and diapers.
You see, she’d just gotten that promotion, and bought her first house. She was happy with the direction her life had taken. She was going places in her bank.

Prince X wouldn’t take no for an answer though, and Miss V started to ask herself, “would it really be so terrible to share my success, my life with a man I obviously love?” So, she told him that she would marry him-on the condition that she would keep her job and wait at least a year to start thinking about kids. Prince X was so overjoyed, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Introduction to Parents Day did not go smoothly. For one, Miss X came from work so she wasn’t wearing a “respectable” floor-length Ankara dress. She was in a smart but sexy pantsuit. To worsen matters, she didn’t come from royal stock-or any stock for that matter. Her parents had both been teachers, were deceased, and she was raised by the Catholic church in an orphanage. She also had the effrontery to say that she worked in a bank and owned a tasteful apartment in a swanky part of town.
Oh, horror! A girl, unmarried, living alone? No, that’s against all plans of God and nature! She must be secretly running a prostitution ring-with herself as the only thing on the menu, of course. And my dear, saintly son, did you not hear her say she was a bank manager? We all know what those girls do to get there! It cannot be those qualifications of which she seems  so proud-the masters degree in accounting and the year-long course abroad! That girl cannot be anyone’s wife, she has not reduced her self enough to be married to a self-respecting, misogynistic egomaniac like I raised you to be. We’re your parents, we know what’s best for you.
(I’m just paraphrasing here, folks. Some words were lost in translation).

In uncharacteristic defiance, X goes ahead to marry her. Then after the wedding, it occurs to her that she’d never asked where they would live, because she’d not expected a grown man to still sleep in the room he had as a toddler in his parents’ house. Long story short, they both had to sleep in that room now. She overcame her disappointment because her new husband assured her that he’d been looking for a house, a place they would raise their kids and grow old together. It was just temporary.
But X lied, because he’d also assured his mother that her only child wasn’t going anywhere out of her earshot again-not even on a honeymoon. After all, they had plenty servants to make meals and carry out V’s every whim. “Did she agree to this?” the queen asked, and he answered “maybe not, but I’m her husband and she has to listen to me.” Maybe it was that confidence that made Queen G, the morning after their wedding night, come to the newlyweds’ room to change her baby boy’s sheets and take out his laundry like she always did.

An emergency family meeting was called. Miss V was summoned to the throne room from where she’d been lounging beside the pool and charges leveled against her. The supplicant? Her new mother-in-law. Her first grievance? The lack of blood on the sheets as evidence that Miss V came under their hallowed roof with an intact hymen. Her second? The Queen held up a trembling hand with a condom wrapper in it.

To her credit, Miss V had started laughing, thinking it was a joke until she saw the condom wrapper. Then her mirth turned to incredulity. Did her MIL really enter her bedroom, the one she’d spent most of last night having acrobatic sex in, just to look for evidence and investigate under what circumstances the sex really happened?
Surely nobody was that intrusive, and besides, her parents-in-law were enlightened people. Surely this was just some comic relief. Right?
Nope. King G was scowling even more than his wife, and her Prince, her knight-in-shining armour, was apologising, his eyes on the ground. His father accepted his apology because he couldn’t have known that she wasn’t pure, but “you remember what I told you about these girls? Now see.” Also, the condom thing? Such deeds should never be heard of again under the roof of King G the Fruitful, Third of That Name, May-All-Who-Hear-It-Tremble.
Queen G wasn’t to be left out. She reminded her baby that he was the only son, so his primary duty was to produce progeny immediately! Then they dismissed them.

I would like to say this was the least of it, but it wasn’t. Miss V’s maids had to report to the queen on whether she bought any sanitary pads every month. She was greeted at the breakfast table with “are you pregnant yet?” “Hope no more condoms” and “how many times do you and your husband do it?” Things started to escalate as the weeks trickled by. Prince X was given an ultimatum by his father (“I’m giving you one month, one month to present me with a positive result or else I will disown you!”)

Miss V, when she’d had it and calmly told her MIL to mind her business one fateful day when the woman declared she had to get a fertility test, was slapped and then reported to the king. Again.
In fact, that girl’s marriage was more like living in a boarding house where you get to have sex (and I write that tongue-in-cheek).

Then after three months, her honeymoon leave from was done and she wanted to go back to work. Another wahala. The husband who had agreed with her that her job was important was nowhere to be found. Instead, she was stuck with a petulant child who resented the fact that she would be “working with those men” and “have no time for me”. Plus “we’re trying to get pregnant here.”
“No, we’re not”, she said, “remember? We agreed we would wait! If your parents want a baby so much, maybe you should go give it to them! Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen that Oluchi girl with the wide hips that comes to ‘see your mother’ every other day yet manages to end up in obscure corners with you. I’m not an idiot!”
She went to work, and for the first time since she her marriage she felt like her life was hers. That gave her the courage to issue an ultimatum of her own-she would be staying at the house she’d bought, and if Prince X was serious about building a life with her, he would move there with her.

Lol. Like that one was going to go down well with King & Queen G. Their precious son, tomato of their eyes, moving into his wife’s house-a house a woman had bought with her own money? Mbanu! The gods will not agree, not while they had breath in their  bodies. It’s a man that marries a woman, and not the other way round!

So, they locked a grown man in his room until he was cured of his temporary madness, and then they got Miss V arrested for “attempted kidnapping”.

Hay, God. At this point, I was almost foaming at the mouth. Is this one marriage?

Nollywood is not the problem, abeg. Art imitates life, right? That means that there are some women out there who thought they were entering into a loving union with a man, only for them to realise that his parents still wiped his nose for him. This means that some parents would really prefer for their sons to be in a loveless marriage with a girl whose highest achievement is knowing how to never say no-WAEC certificate optional.
I have never spent four hours so angry. What is wrong with us women, who think our highest achievement should be marriage? What is wrong with our men, who have been so indoctrinated that they feel justified in perpetuating the stereotype? Why would you go into marriage with a vibrant, vital, driven woman with a lust for life, then dedicate the next few years to whittling her down until there’s nothing left of her?

All these antiquated thinkers ehn…I don’t even have strength for Nigeria again.

Footnote-you guys need to try Nollywood more. I’m serious. You will be thoroughly entertained-and educated. Maybe not in the way you expect (those people are definitely not passing the Bechdel test anytime soon), but you will be educated all the same.