Once upon a time I was heading out to study for my final university exams with friends when my father called me back.
“Nwunye,” he shouted after going through the names of the other twelve of my siblings.
“Sah?” I answered, because I am a good child.
“Where do you think you are going at this time of night?”
“I am going to Ogo’s house, sah.” I looked at my watch. It was 5 pm.
“Ogo my friend, sah. You have met her sah.”
“Yes sah. She has big…brains sah.”
“Ah, the big-brained Ogo. So what are you doing in her house at this time of the night eh?”
“We are studying sah. Me and Ogo and Chiamaka and Ifeoma.”
My father grunted, picking vegetables from his teeth with a toothpick. When he finished, he popped the teeth back into his mouth. “Okay. But this one you are always going to study with those girls…” He fidgeted.
“Sah?” I bristled, thinking he was calling their character into question. Did he not remember who they were?
“Just know I don’t want any daughters-in-law. I want sons. Sons-in-law.”
I caught many flies in my mouth on the okada to Ogo’s house that day.
Yes. This really happened. I remember relaying the story to my study group when I got to Ogo’s house. (And for those who are wondering, yes, I did attend university from home. If you’ve only known me as an adult, you’ve just had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment because shit just made sense.) My friends thought it was funny. Me, I was just dazed that my square to the power of infinity dad knew about lesbianism. I didn’t dwell too much on this though because I would have started to wonder what else he knew and my imagination cannot handle things like that. Every generation likes to think they invented sex after all.
But this is what I do not understand. This is the same man that flogged the brown off my skin because I went on a date with a guy at seventeen. It wasn’t even a date if I am honest. Okay, it kinda was. But I was in my second year of university and for chrissakes it wasn’t like I lay down on the road and had sex with him. That came much later. I wouldn’t recommend it by the way. Vehicles are a bloody nuisance and Nigerian grit gets into cracks like you cannot imagine. Sometimes when I sneeze, a little bit of sand and coal tar comes out.
A good Igbo girl is not supposed to think of guys other than as things to beat in school which is unsurprisingly easy. (Yeah, I said it. Heh heh!) Not even when the boys in question are your cousins. You get to a point when your breast buds appear and all male cousins suddenly become off limits.
You spend the next few decades learning that men are the enemy. You spit when they talk to you, your put-downs are legendary and if they touch you, it’s hi-ya! and out pops their eyes. Your parents applaud you, chaste Virginia, you. At what point are you supposed to stop using them for target practice and start seeing them as potential mates? It was a wonder I even tried that first date on for size. (Such was the level of my inexperience with humans of the male persuasion that the first date became the start of a two-and-a-half-year stint.)
I know I have said all this before, but things keep happening that make my jaw drop. Some Igbo parents can really screw up their female kids.
At what point am I supposed to consider giving you (if I desire it) sons-in-law as opposed to daughters-in-law? After all the scare stories about the beastly nature of men, their dangerous phalluses and their fickle-mindedness in dealing with the consequences of their sexual actions (pregnancy, disease. Pregnancy.), when exactly am I supposed to think “Hmmm. I’d like to jump on that dangerous phallus and snare me a diseased baby or two?”
Cover up, close your legs, don’t whistle, don’t sit on a man’s thighs, don’t laugh with a man, he’ll think you’re cheap, don’t whistle, don’t wear rings on your fingers if you’re not married, don’t go anywhere once the sun sets, don’t be arrogant, don’t correct a man in public, don’t raise your voice, don’t argue and my personal favourite , don’t drive – he’ll think you’re feeling too big, then who’ll you marry?
No wonder some women cry at their weddings. Lucky me, I didn’t. My dad did though. Huge, splashy, snotty tears and much hysterical sobbing. My mother looked as if she wanted to give him Snickers bar.
I guess he was just relieved I ended up with a dude.