Where do I start this post which is clearly directed at my fellow Nigerians? My dear Naija people who I’ve grown to love and despise at the same time? I have spent days pondering how to compose this post, and many times, I left it unwritten with the biggest open-ended question on my mind as I lay my head to sleep – why don’t Nigerians understand boundaries? Especially when it comes to women.
So a young lady, say age 23 graduates from university with an undergraduate degree and decides to purse a postgrad degree; my naija people will be there showing their unwarranted concern for her future.
“Are you sure you want to pursue a postgraduate degree now?”
“Won’t it be in your better interest to find a husband first and build a home? School will always be there, but men are hard to find if you are too educated.”
At this point, the lady in question is faced with two choices – to subscribe to the Nigerian model of success and find a husband quick! or to be labelled a rebel and face the unending whispers behind her back. No matter what choice she makes from this point on, she will be torn. If she manages to find the man and drag him to the altar in due time to assure the concerned pokenosers that she has the ability to get and keep a man, she will always wonder if she should have followed her dreams. If she goes on to choose her postgraduate degree, she will always wonder if love would have found her if she wasn’t buried in books all the time. Perhaps she can choose to do both. She can prove to be a superwoman and bag a man and a place in a postgraduate study classroom. It will not make things any easier for her.
“So when are you going to have kids? You know if you don’t start popping them soon, he will go to another woman.”
And so the battle begins to have children at all costs; not to please herself but to prevent the prophecies of ‘boundary-less’ pokenosers from coming true. The pokenosers who do not understand the pressure she’s under, the desire she has to be child-free or perhaps the reproductive battles she’s facing with her husband. They want her to start popping the children asap to prove she’s not a disgrace to her family. Failure to comply will obviously get the rumour mill going –
“She must have aborted so many pregnancies as a teenager, her womb is damaged”
“You know I figured she was barren. In fact the spirit ministered it to me. We have to keep praying for her.”
Let’s say she has a child- a male or a female child, and decides to let her nether regions rest from the torture she face during labour? They show up again at her doorstep.
“A woman with one child is like a woman with one eye. If that eye is blinded, she has nothing to fall back on. You need to intensify your efforts to make another baby, preferably of the opposite sex from your first, so your family can be balanced.”
Oh yes… it never ends. After the children arrive, they will ask when she and her husband intend to buy their own house. They will have an opinion on which schools the children should go to, and how long they should stay at school. They will throw shade at her life’s choices and expect her to silently accept their criticism and intrusion. If she tries to defend her choices, they are quick to attribute her defensiveness to any failures they can find in her life.
“We are advising you and you’re getting pissed? This is why your husband has been winking at the bread seller down the street.”
It will not help her case if she is unmarried, childless, a high career achiever, and defensive of her life’s choices.
“Aww. Sit down there o. Men will keep passing you by with this attitude of yours. Be acting like your career will keep you warm at night.”
Even if she is not defensive, she’s not exempt from questions that will make her question her ‘loveability’, her attractiveness, or make her wonder if she under a spiritual spell that causes men to pass her by.
“You are 27? Why are you not married?”
“I know a pastor who has delivered many women from spirit husbands (yes that’s a thing in Nigeria). Those women are happily married today o. If you are ready, I can take you there.”
If she starts talking about standards?
“You need to lower your standards, and stop aiming too high. When I married my husband, he wasn’t even educated and look at where we are today.”
“At your age, I already had two children!”
“Hope you know your biological clock is ticking? Consider any man that approaches you. Afterall, man na man!”
It even gets worse for an unmarried Nigerian woman who is seen to be possessed by the demons of westernization.
“Why would you buy such a fancy car? Which man will approach you now?”
“If you enjoy the money you make too much, men will avoid you like a plague.”
“So what if he cheated? You want to leave so another woman can be the madam of the house? I pity you!”
To say I am baffled at the lack of respect for people’s personal choices, vision, and life is sincerely an understatement. I don’t understand how people think it is OK to approach an individual they barely know and start to give unsought advice on issues that are clearly very personal! In fact, they even tell you whether or not you should simply relocate and give up on everything you’ve built in a foreign country.
“If I were you, I’ll move back to Nigeria to find a job” – this is coming from a fellow Nigerian who is sitting comfortably in an office in the United States, and constantly testifying to anyone who would listen that the grace of God delivered him from the unpredictable hustle and bustle of naija.
The same Nigerians who will tell you to marry an uneducated shop keeper in spite of your collection of advanced degrees will be nowhere to be found when the insecure shop keeper starts to pummel you into a pulp due to his heartfelt inadequacies and insecurities.
The same Nigerians who tell you to endure the community penis you married will be the same people saying “she was too stupid” at your funeral when you die of HIV.
Nigerians have no boundaries and they dwell in hypocrisy every single day. I have given up on trying to defend my life’s choices to them, or explain why I am still single at 26. I simply plaster a smile on my face that says “carry on” while I think of what to cook for dinner. Yes, I don’t listen. The pressure from their probing masked as concern does not get to me. I eat pressure for breakfast on a daily basis and snack on it during the weekends. I have enough pressure; there’s no room for more unnecessary ones. I smile at the ones that suggest I go and find a job in Nigeria so I can meet eligible bachelors to marry, same way I smile at the ones who remind me to lay my standards by the riverside and consider every proposition.
My naija people, biko, e jo, Don Allah, stop probing! Mind 👏 your👏 own👏 business👏. We young women will be just fine. If we need someone to talk to, we will call you. If we need advice we will ask you. If an issue lays heavy on our hearts and we feel you are the right person to broach it with, we will bring it up. Stop trying to direct where and how people’s lives should go. You have yours; face it squarely. Stop telling us how to breathe. If you are worth emulating as examples, we will emulate you. Thank you for all the advice o but God is the director of everyone’s life. Nagode; daalu; a dupe o.