On Bride Price and Wife Material

I hate marriage talk. I swear, I do. But being Nigerian, it’s something that one can’t avoid. It’s like a rite of passage; the minute you turn 18, that’s all anyone around you talks about- older aunties gather around to trade marriage anecdotes so that the “younger ones can learn”, people advise you to drop certain behaviors so that you’re seen as “wife material”—one time, this woman told me that I should stop reading so much so that men wouldn’t be scared off. Good times—, people caution you about choosing certain career paths because your marital clock might tick, tock and die while you labor away in some high-powered career that’s not “suitable for marriage.” It’s marriage-talk-o’clock every damn minute, and I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the emphasis placed on marriage in Nigeria. I’m sick of people acting like marriage is the sole factor that legitimizes one’s achievements as a woman. I once heard someone say “if you like, get a PhD. Your most important degree is an MRS”. (Yes, really. To make matters worse, she felt so clever with her dead joke). Nigeria is a society in which a woman’s essence is predicated upon her being adjoined to a man. You can cure cancer, you can go to the moon, you can eradicate malaria and Nigerians would still ask where your Mrs. tag is. It’s ridiculous. We should know better, yet the entire social fabric of Nigeria is built on such stupid ideals.

The process of marriage itself is another part of Nigerian culture that I fundamentally disagree with, especially with the issue of the bride price that is paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s. This can range from 1 Naira (as a symbolic gesture) to millions of Naira. I’ve always found it an absurd tradition. Why should there be a price paid for the bride? Why does the price seem so arbitrary? Doesn’t this bride price give the groom the upper hand in the marriage; won’t he feel like he bought her and she’s indebted to him? In many instances, I’ve heard of husbands shutting their wives up by saying “shut up, I paid your bride price!” (I have sonneted, memorized, and rehearsed my retort for the hapless man that dares to say this to me. No, seriously, I have). It’s a useless tradition that puts a bounty on women’s heads and vests a sense of ownership in men. In my opinion, if we are to maintain this tradition, it should be merely symbolic (1 Naira?) and not as exorbitantly monetary as it is in many cases.

I stumbled onto an app called BridePrice and, given my reservations about marriage in Nigeria, I was ready to be enraged. How dare they make an actual app for this archaic tradition that subjugates women and makes them chattel for men to trade and haggle over? By digitizing this tradition, they were basically telling us that this tradition isn’t going anywhere. I ventured onto the website with my latent anger boiling under, waiting to implode. I turned out to be a satirical simulation of the arbitrary calculations that go into deciding a bride price. Metrics such as the shape of a girl’s legs [Sexy Bow Legs (Beyonce)/Okocha/Straight]; facial beauty [Just Fine/Normal/Complete No Try]; Skin Color [Half Caste/Lupita/Whitenecious]; Residency [Nigeria/The Abroad]; Education Level [PhD/Masters/Bachelors]; Cooking Skills [Calabar/Indomie/Boiling Egg] are included.

It all seems like a joke until you look at the figures beside each option. Why should fairer skin come with a higher price premium over darker skin? Why should a PhD come with a 100,000 price deduction (which hearkens back to a culture that says a woman can be educated but not too educated, else she intimidate the man), why should a woman’s facial features being more Eurocentric attract a higher price valuation than more “Afrocentric” features? This app is telling of a culture that valorizes certain characteristics over others, and dictates to men and women alike what’s desirable in a wife and what’s not. It is indicative of a culture in which we tell girls that they can never be too domesticated, too light-skinned or too beautiful, but there is such a thing as being too educated. It is indicative of a society that tells girls that their prime achievement is tied to a shiny piece of jewelry on their ring finger and what they can toss around in a pan. It is indicative of a culture that tells boys that they are perfect just the way the are, but holds girls to impossible superficial ideals. Despite its flippant nature, this app highlights some of the wrongs in a very pervasive yet extremely normalized culture. It starts a conversation by simulating the superficiality that we, as a culture, are subjected to. One way or another, Nigerians are complicit in this ridiculous culture. This app is us, wether or not we choose to admit it.

ANYWAY, in case you were wondering what my bride price is, after consulting with the elders, it came up to *drum rolllllll*:

Image

That’s right, ladies, gentlemen, haters, lovers, friends, well-wishers and under-g bad-belles, I am of PREMIUM status in this bride price game. Nobody believed in me, but I made it! I am wife material, cord lace (whatever that is) to be precise! I should send this image to all those aunties that have secretly (and overtly) banished me to a life of spinsterhood. “Who is smiling now????”

Excuse me while I burst into some celebratory dance moves

#LookMamaIMadeIt #TeamPremium #AhNeverEsperredIt

 

 

Home (1)

“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts”- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I have a love-hate relationship with Lagos.

Growing up, my relationship with Lagos wasn’t as polar as it now. I don’t know that I had any feelings towards the city at all; I tolerated in the way one tolerates that annoying never-married aunt that seems to have an endless supply of relationship advice. I had a healthy apathy towards Lagos- the power outages, the endless traffic, the pollution, and the default state of chaos all melded into a mass of indifference in my mind. It was my city, and I was stuck with it.

2009 was the first time that I left Lagos for an extended period of time. Upon my next return, my routinely practiced and mastered apathy was replaced by a temperamental impatience, followed by a burning intolerance that then flamed its way into a full-blown hatred for Lagos, for home. Everything was wrong with this place. The power went out for too long, and the resulting the power generators bellowed with a determined clamor that was almost too surreal to be real. The traffic raged on for hours, lulling to sleep whatever plans you had for the day. To make matters worse, everyone around me had changed. New traditions had been formed and new alliances had been made, none of which included me. If “home”, by definition, is meant to elicit a sense of place and a feeling of communion with people around you, then I definitely wasn’t home. I was surrounded by all these people that I could recognize but didn’t really know. I felt like a stranger in this new home, and that feeling was, at best, unsettling and, at worst, slightly depressing. It then seemed easier to channel my being lost into an exaggerated hatred. If I hated and denounced this city, it wouldn’t matter that I felt lost and that, secretly, I felt like Lagos itself had disowned me.

Given my official hatred for home, I avoided going to Lagos. I almost had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, the next time I was forced to go to Lagos. Who can forget the “hearty” welcome I received right from Murtala Muhammed Airport- the almost palpable humidity that hits you the second you step off the plane, encircles you and threatens to cut off your oxygen supply; the sole croaky fan by the corner, which is squarely positioned on the immigration officer who asks you ridiculous questions while you melt from the heat; and the carousel that doesn’t work so you literally have to fight, push and shove to get your luggage. It was like a holy triumvirate of fuckery saying “Welcome home!”

What’s worse? This time, I was stuck in this deplorable city for 3 months. THREE.