Tuesday, October 14, 2014

AVOIDANCE AND IDENTITY WAHALA


Let me start by agreeing with @tilola; Misery is having a story with no medium to tell it or no audience to tell it to. I have been miserable. The mouth in my brain has been itching to say something but my fingers have refused to do their job. They haven’t found the keyboard attractive lately. That’s not the sad part. The disheartening part is that my blog traffic has experienced a slight drop. From where I stand, it means that I’ve been leaving my readers out in the cold and some have decided to stop knocking on my door. I apologize immensely. Please come back oo. Without you, there’ll be no blog; I might as well read my pieces on my laptop while imagining voices in my head saying, “Oh my goodness! You’re such an amazing writer”. If you guys want me to employ a doorman, I will.

So I’ve meaning to do this post for some time now. A few months ago, I wrote an article for to do this post for some time now. A few months ago, I wrote an article for YOU MAGAZINE. The item was about “the dos and don’ts for a first date”. It was a decent piece. I didn’t say anything you haven’t heard before. There was recurring talk on being modesty, dressing right, not having sex on the first date, being yourself and blablabla. When the edition was released, my sister called and was gushing about how she loved the piece and how my parents taught it was cool. Since, everyone was cool with the article, I relaxed and forgot about it. I was in school at that time so the editor sent copies of the magazine to my house.

On getting home, it was one of the first things I was shown. I was glowing with contentment. After a few days, my mum called me for one of those disturbing heart-to-heart talks. My dad was present as well. At that point, I knew that something real was about to go down. The conversation started with questions on the next step I would be taking with respect to my career. In response, I dropped the bomb that I wasn’t interested in getting a masters degree in econometrics which my dad has always dreamed about. I did not get the outburst I had expected. My dad just went cold and quiet although I’m sure the Nigeria-Biafra war part 2 was going on right inside of him. My mum was obviously bothered about something less trivial and so didn’t stop to process my lack of interest in “our dream plan”.

Mum: I heard you are now a professional writer and that you even write on the internet.
Me: Emmmm….Yes ma.
(She gives me that downward yimu that Nigerian mums come up with when they mean to say “hmm! Okay oooo” *note the tone*)
Mum: I saw the article you wrote for that magazine. I’m not saying it wasn’t nice o. As a matter of fact, I was so proud that I took it along with me everywhere I went, but after reading it over and over again, I stopped. Yes, I stopped. Writing is very nice but one must be careful about the style of writing she adopts, especially a young, unmarried girl like you. See that your magazine article baa, I did not like the style. You had little business writing about something like that. Don’t you know that people reading it will be thinking that this girl has “experience”. Ehen, they’ll be thinking that you have experience and it’s not good for your reputation as an unmarried well bred girl. You can write about these things after you have gotten married and had kids.

At this point, my head was spinning. What does “experience” even mean? How does writing a decent article about dating lead to the conclusion that I have a wealth of sexual experience or that I have dated everything that owns a pair of boxers? After all, my only reference to sex in the article was a ‘don’t’. At first, I wanted to get mad at my mum but I realized that I she was only trying to protect me from the society and its identity wahala. A society that judges people based on baseless assumptions. A society that is quick to draw faults out of the well of people’s actions and pure intentions. A society that devours you while pretending to save you from drowning in the sea of its own shallow minds. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the situation.

I know that it’s probably justified to evaluate people based on the proceeds of their thoughts but if we are gonna do that, then we must take a critical look at the whole picture. We must consider the motives and the exact message that the writer intends to pass across. People need to stop helping others think. A person is only responsible for what he says; you are responsible for what you make out of the speech or writing. Like Chimamanda Adichie says, “A single story will create stereotypes and the problem is not that stereotypes are untrue, but that they are incomplete”. I mean, you can’t go around thinking that Nazzy is some kind of slut because she wrote an article on dos and don’ts of first date. It’s just plain stupid and illogical.

One thing that has battered many individuals and households in African societies is the issue of “avoidance”. Avoiding the truth, the unconventional, the awkward facts, will only drive us towards lies. There’s no solace in running from the truth and hoping that bumping into it tomorrow will not wreck your world. We live in a social order where people make every conscious effort to stay away from issues that are inevitable, in the bid to… Honestly, I don’t even know what the point is.

Parents won’t talk to their kids about sex because, well, it’s a sin and at the end of the conversation lurks the devil waiting to send you straight to the abyss. The first time I used the word ‘sex’ in a sentence while talking to my mum, I almost threw up in my mouth and it was obvious that she felt uneasy as well. Why is that? NEWS FLASH: There are bad friends, pornographic sites and movies and let’s not forget terrible house helps who are willing to “educate” your kids on your behalf. Oral tradition in Africa has worsened the issue; there are a thousand and one versions of what would happen to you if a boy touched you, literally. Even if these dudes are some kinda King Midas that makes everything they touch pregnant. Let’s push sex aside.

There are a whole lot of controversial and sensitive yet important issues that should be talked about. Your ability to relate to these things especially when you learn from other people’s stories and experiences is what gives you a complete story which is a stronger platform to build your life on, than half-baked single stories.

Recently, a young boy had a boil on his penis and came to me complaining about it. What caught my attention was that he did not refer to his penis as one but as “toto”. I asked him who had taught him the word and he said it was his mother. When I confronted her, she said I should leave the issue alone because the boy wasn’t old enough to know what a penis should be called. Before then, I had no idea that one had to wait till a certain age to be able to name some of his body parts. I had no idea that knowing the name of a part of one’s body could corrupt their mind. Now this kid will have a new revelation of what his penis is when he “finally grows” and of course, will experience changes during puberty. He may tend to be more curious about that part of his body than he should and might be misinformed in the process of trying to figure things out. I’m not a psychologist; I’m just saying. We hear these kinda stories about parents trying to protect their kids from things that they do not need protection from. Information is power, remember? Teach all that is true about a thing and in it will come the wisdom to do right by that thing. It’s simple.

When we avoid these issues, we give the victims the luxury of excuses to justify their shortcomings. When we avoid these issues, we condemn people who fall prey to these circumstances to a kind of isolation; a place where they are held bondage by their fears because self-expression or even a quest for solutions is forbidden by those who feel the need to nurse their self righteousness and hypocrisy. When we avoid these issues, we place a film over them; they become obscure grounds and people are misguided by barriers that exist only in their heads. When we avoid these issues, we exacerbate their repercussions while concealing the certainty of their occurrence. When we avoid these issues, we ignore those who are right in the middle of issues like sexual abuse, abortions, rape, homosexuality, domestic violence, female gender mutilation and a host of other “unholy issues”. What exactly are we trying to avoid by avoiding these things? When did hoisting a flag of ignorance become a criterion for dubbing a man righteous?


It is for the sole reason that a free mind today is regarded as wild, while feigned innocence is regarded as purity. After that talk with my mum, I considered opening another blog where I could write anonymously and possess the freedom to talk about any sensitive or controversial issue I deem fit. But no, I don’t want to be a faceless voice. I want you to listen and remember my face whenever you reminisce over my words. I don’t want to be the person that hides from the truth she speaks because people might think she’s probably lost her womb for writing about issues like abortion, or that she’s not wife material because she’s bold enough to speak against domestic violence. There is no honor in doubting your own words just because others believe in theirs. Let us drop the quest to be identified in “a certain way” that conforms to “a certain way” at the expense of a credible society.

I want to hear your take on the issue. I believe its something many Africans can relate to.
Cheers!!!