Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ose @ the verandah: Marriage or Wedding?

Ose @ the verandah: Marriage or Wedding?

Marriage or Wedding?

As I read my friend, Adura’s blog, I couldn’t help but smile. She wrote on an issue that has being on my mind for a while. I had debated within myself if I should write anything in this regard but reading Adura’s blog kind of assisted me to make up my mind. I smiled when I read her question on the obsession with being married. My first impression was that probably she has forgotten what it is to be an African or a Nigerian.

Historically, a woman is not respected in Nigeria except she is married. In the sixties, a girl is considered an old maid if she was not married by her early twenties. Though, there is a little bit of change when it comes to marriageable age probably due to education however, a girl is expected to get married after her first degree or at least be engaged. Anything short of this, would attract family meetings and people openly asking you when you would tie the knot. A wedding ceremony especially of siblings or friends would attract greetings in forms of prayer like ti e na a de o (yours will soon come) a be e se ti e na o laipe lai jina (we would join you in celebrating yours too, very soon) of course, you are expected to genuflect say an amen and also thank whoever for putting you under pressure. The pressure is everywhere you turn to not only at weddings; but also at naming ceremonies, birthdays, Christmas and New Year celebrations etc. Soon, the issue becomes a prayer point with everybody close saying a word of prayer concerning your singleness.  After a while you can’t help but be obsessed about it because everyone is anyway. It takes the grace of God and strong heart to survive this.

A woman is almost treated like someone who has an incurable disease from her family and the society at large. It is difficult even in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos, for a single woman to rent an accommodation though she has her money. In most instances, she has to front a man as her husband if she needs accommodation. In religious settings, special programmes are organised for singles in order to get hooked.  On and on it goes each day, the single woman sees herself more like a victim than a victor. If all these are not enough to make anyone obsessed then what will?

Despite all, I think this is not just a Nigerian phenomenon but I believe that generally, at one point or the other, the biological clock starts ticking and the eagerness to obey the clock kicks in. Nevertheless, as I always ask my younger friends Is it marriage or the wedding? For the wedding is very easy, after all, it is just the celebration where we take aso ebi, call the local musicians, the alaga ijoko and the alaga iduro all the works for both the traditional and the church wedding but that’s where it ends. After all the celebrations, the journey starts. Most people don’t even understand what it takes to be married neither are they emotionally and spiritually prepared to marry. I have heard young girls giving deadlines as to when they want to get married without knowing or identifying what they want in a marriage. I asked a young friend of mine once, marriage or wedding? She could not give me an answer but only said, “I just want to marry before I am 30 years” As if that would bring an end to all her problems. I felt rather sad for her because I can see her towing the same path many took which led to failure. The truth is there is nothing wrong in being single. I read a book by Dr. Myles Munroe - Single. Married. Separated and Life After Divorce which further reiterated this. According to him, enjoy being single before getting married. Being single is not an illness that needs marriage to cure. Marriage on its own has its challenges and there is a need to be ready for these challenges to actually make a success out of it. Marriage is not going to complete you but you have to be complete before you enter a marriage. If not you are on the way to a broken home and heart. Moreover, I have seen a lot of married women who are not happy. Some try to hide it but for some they don’t even bother again because the burden of the choice they made is heavy, too heavy for them to carry. Don’t be fooled my sister. Marriage is not the ultimate problem solver.  

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Parable of The Bitter Leaf and Walnut

In Nigeria, there is a lot of emphasis on analogy. This is often used to drive home a point without having to speak too much. This quickly cut to the chase of whatever the issue being discussed at this point. Sometimes, it provides solution to knotty issue; sometime it may provide succour to a depressed situation. Unfortunately, in the modern Nigeria, this style of speech is gradually fading away. The similarity of the Bitter leaf and the Walnut is just to the point of its sweetness. While, the bitter leaf is only sweet after it has been eating, the walnut is sweet even while it is being eaten. However, when water is drunk after eating the bitter leaf, it brings forth its sweetness but the walnut becomes extremely bitter if water is drunk immediately after eating it.  There is a saying attached to the peculiarity of the bitter leaf which is; aadun lo gbeyin ewuro-there is sweetness after eating bitter leaf (direct translation). This is often said to someone who is going through a tough time just to encourage and give hope. But I have never heard any saying about the bitterness of the walnut after it has being eating.

I have always wondered why walnut tastes bitter when one drinks water after eating it. I enjoy eating the walnut and consciously remember not to drink water immediately after eating it. As for bitter leaf, I avoided it like plague simply because of the bitterness. I could not understand why anybody would subject themselves to eating the bitter leaf even though it is a delicacy in the eastern part of Nigeria. I did not want a part of it. The name was enough to put the fear of God in me. I watched my mother eating it raw and I felt there must be something wrong somewhere with her. Then, my friend told me of the health benefit of eating the bitter leaf. The first day I ate it, I felt like throwing up, then I drank water and it tasted so sweet.   

My analogy of Bitter Leaf and the Walnut came up from the write-up I read on Facebook. A friend compared University of Marriage to that of the Bitter Leaf soup. Though the writer used the medium for celebrating his wife but I wondered if truly Bitter leaf can be likened to marriage. I think it depends on each person’s view about marriage. How many truly likened marriages to Bitter leaf before contracting it? A brother compared marriage to a night market where you go shopping without knowing what you are buying because it is dark.  I tend to see marriage like the walnut you eat and consciously remember not to drink water so that it does not get bitter.

For most people, the courtship stage of marriage is often the sweetest. As couples, we treat each other with upmost respect and we are at our best behaviour. At that point, we have special songs, special spots and even private jokes. We talk for a long time without being conscious of time. We are each others best friends. We dress to suit our partner. We are like the peacock and just want to show off our beautiful feathers. We are not ashamed of our partner neither are we ashamed to express our love. We do those little things that bring a secret smile to our face at our solitary moments. When we are together, we appreciate the companionship, friendship and the period of occasional silence without feeling inadequate. Then we marry and things change. As much as I appreciate the responsibilities that come with marriage but all of a sudden we forget. We forget that to retain the sweetness of the walnut, we should not drink water but we do. We drink water and everything changes. We are no longer partners in building the marriage though appreciating our individual roles. We become resentful of each other. What brought us together now separates us. At the initial stage, we try to do it right but we soon give up because it is probably easier to give up. Wait a minute! We don’t have to impress any longer after all we have conquered. Yet, we should show off our spoil of war shouldn’t we?  We go about with a permanent scowl on our faces. We no longer have any reason to smile to that secret jokes. We live together probably share a bed but emotionally and spiritually, we are apart. We have taken to praying fervently for a way out. Yet there is no easy way out and that’s where the analogy of the bitter leaf may come in.

In experiencing the bitter leaf in our marriage, we may have to drink water to bring back the sweetness. We may have to go back to what we used to do in those days when our hearts somersault at the voice of our loved ones. When our heart skip a beat when we hear the approaching footsteps of the one we love. Oh! when we break out in sweats and jitters not in fear but in anticipation of what may take place later in the night. When we do not take things for granted but show off our beloved as the peacock shows off its feathers.  At that point we would experience the joy of eating the bitter leaf