It Did Not Kill Me.

In the year of our lord 2000AD, while I was on holiday from boarding school, I did something that made my father very afraid. My mother had travelled and it was just Daddy and us and we had just returned from church, it was Sunday morning. Continue reading →

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Show A Little Kindness.

The first time I watched a video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was struck by the number of times she would prefix her sentences with “I think”. A few years later, I was at her workshop and again, I was struck by how she never said anything without saying “I think” first, even on the most ordinary things, even in spaces where she is an authority. She would always use that prefix and after a while I was upset by it (see what I did there). Why did she always have to absolve herself from being definite with her opinions? Why didn’t she cut through certain bullshit with “you know what, this is what it is” and end the matter?

 

Eventually, I would come to understand why it was necessary to create that distance, she is a human being whose words are prone to be twisted, misinterpreted and even outright lies ascribed to her. I have long since stopped wondering why she is such an easy target; she doesn’t say things we haven’t heard before or thought about, neither is she rude or uncouth in passing her message. And no, it is not the fault of bloggers and newspaper headlines, if we stopped reacting to a particular topic- it would stop being news.

 

If I hadn’t watched the video of Ms Adichie’s interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show yesterday, I would have thought that she decreed a new law preventing men from opening doors for women- from the reactions I saw this morning. No, I am not going to pretend to understand how asking people to be kind to everyone regardless of gender and using opening doors as an example is suddenly the worst thing in the world. Or how asking that the weak be saved first regardless of gender is a now a crime, I’m sorry my brain circuits would not survive the power shunts required to make the connection.

 

The truth is, she shared her thoughts on chivalry, watch the video or see the transcript on Farida’s wall. Everything began with “I think”. Unless we are saying she has no right to think or that her thoughts are suddenly binding on all of us. She can go on a billion talk shows and tell men not to open doors for women- as people are implying she said, it will not change anything. The men who want to open doors/ stand up from seats/buy assurance for bae, will still do so.

 

You can still be anything you want to be, a feminist, a feminist who loves the patriarchal privileges, a chauvinist, a woman who believes that women were put on earth as afterthoughts and to be foot mats to the kings- men. I have always distrusted chivalry and romantic gestures, call me unromantic if you like but I value kindness and tolerance more than anything. Ulterior motives scare me every time.

 

I’d much rather be with a man who is kind to everyone and is unromantic than one who is terrible to others and fantastic with me, romance will always fade, friendship might wear and chip and crack but kindness is constant. I’m more interested in how my man treats his younger sisters than in his pampering of me, if he is a bully to them… I should fucking expect to be bullied with time. My friend ‘Vester, lights up when he’s talking to his sisters, it almost makes me want to be one of his sisters even though I do not want more brothers and my feelings for him are not even sisterly to start with. But this is Adaeze and these are her thoughts and not binding on anyone.

 

We all have our platforms where we share our thoughts, some of us make a dozen posts daily across social media where we talk about the same things over and over; Buhari, Assurance, Sex, Money, Saraki- whatever we please and nobody tells us how our own is too much or how we put our mouths in things that are not our business. Most of all, we would not tolerate people coming to tell us what to talk about, or what matters while our thoughts do not. It’s not hard to extend that courtesy to CNA, to wait to watch a video or read the transcript to know what she’s talking about before going on outrage rampages or speculating silly theories about her mental state or her marriage. We do more for pastors and politicians…

 

At the end, Ms Adichie in her speeches, interviews and books, does the same thing we all do every day- share her thoughts. Until she gets into the position of making laws and edicts that affect our lives, let’s spare our outrage for those who actually make the decisions that affect us.

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Mama lit a fire.

My grandmother had called my father ‘Uncle Eze’, as long as I can remember but I thought nothing of it, didn’t my own mother call me Mommy when she wanted me to do something I wouldn’t do normally? Maybe like my mommy, she too used it to move the immovable force Mbaise children tend to be.

 
A few days ago, I was teasing my dad about something. In the past, teasing him like that used to be the sure way to negotiate for more pocket money or getting a major boost to the “anything for the girls” ministry. Sadly, I am grown-up and independent *hot tears* and that teasing does not yield monetary results but the routine has been set and the man likes it (he’ll deny it if you ask him)
 
Uncle Eze” I said as I patted his shoulder and I suddenly wondered why he was uncle to his mother, I knew it wasn’t a reincarnation story. What could it be? I asked myself.
“Why did Mama call you Uncle Eze?”
“You’re the one who told her to call me uncle” he replied.
Mua Adaeze?” I gasped and he chuckled.
One day she was calling me nwa and you said ‘why are you calling my daddy nwa?’”
 
I burst into laughter, I was a slightly imperious child and assertive too. Most times, the stories of the quirky things I said back then always seem to be of a different person.
What did she say?” I asked, still laughing.
She asked you what she should call your daddy” he continued, he was smiling then but his eyes showed his thoughts were in that room in the past with his mother and his young daughter.
You told her- ‘call him uncle’ and she agreed.” he was smirking now.
Just like that?”
“Just like that,” He confirmed.
 
As I told Paul this story this afternoon, while I sat across the table from him with chocolate ice cream warming my blood and icing my tongue, it hit me that my grandma had been laying the foundation for a lesson she wanted me to learn- that my voice mattered regardless of how small I was at the time, that I would be listened to and my ideas considered, and if they are superior- they would be adopted.
 
And the funniest thing is- she didn’t need a fancy speech or to join a million-woman march, or to get a Harvard degree in gender studies to teach me these things.
Sometimes, the biggest fires were simply because two stones rubbed together at the right time
 

Marley’s Ghost.

May 11, 1995.

The girl was bouncing on her grandmother’s four-poster bed as she listened to the radio, she loved jumping on the bed and having the bed throw her further in the air than with the other boring beds everywhere else. The radio was on, Bob Marley’s songs were on rotation and she bounced in rhythm to them even though she wished it were Lucky Dube instead. She preferred Lucky Dube’s songs to Bob Marley’s because at her mother’s birthday party when she was four, Lucky Dube’s music was the backdrop and that was one of the most exciting moments of her young life.

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Fling

You wrapped it in a pink towel, tucking the ends of the towel in the folds that had formed in the towel as you wrapped. You placed the pink bundle in the Ghana-must-go bag you bought from Iya Lukman this morning after you had stopped crying. It took all of your will to clutch the zipper until you got to the end of the bag and sling the handles over your shoulder. Continue reading →

Lost, Found.

December 2nd

 

She was bent at the waist with a broom in her hand when a movement at the corner of her left eye forced her to jerk upward, she straightened to see a wiggling bundle on one of the pews at the left wing of the church. As she got closer, she heard sounds she recognized as the cooing of a nursery rhyme by a child. Who would leave a child here, she wondered as she drew near. Continue reading →