It was four days after my Igba Nkwu. I was in my mother’s kitchen searching for Nigerian foodstuff to take back to London.
“Kedu gi?” My mother shouted from upstairs.
“I’m in the kitchen,” I answered. I reached for some unripe mangoes and wrapped them in newspaper. I would have to pack them last so that they didn’t ripen too quickly in the heat of my suitcase.
“Ah, I see you’ve found the mangoes. Take these coconuts as well.” My mother also produced a packet of ground crayfish from nowhere and added it to my growing pile. She walked to a cupboard, opened it and shut it again. Then she walked to the pantry. She came back out. My mother was not given to aimless wanderings. I knew something was coming.
“What kind of contraceptives do you take? Do you take The Pill?” I recovered from my shock sufficiently enough to ponder the question. Responding ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to that question would mean that I was either on the pill or was taking another form of contraceptive. It would mean that I was safeguarding against a pregnancy. It would mean that I was having sex before I became a bride four days ago. It was a trick question.
“What would I be taking that for?” My mother was flustered. She tried to recover.
“Well, you should consider another from of contraceptives other than the pill so that when you want to conceive, you don’t have to wait for all those hormones to subside. Also there is a possible risk of weight gain…” She went into lecturer mode. She mentioned condoms. IUDs and injections. My mother held herself stiffly and sliced the air to emphasise her points.
My palms started to sweat. My mother was trying to give me a sex education.
I was twenty-six, had been living on my own for years and got married in a traditional ceremony four days ago, and my mother was giving me sex education. Now. After all this time.
I was perplexed. Was this the same mother who had famously bent over to throw sand into a suitor’s eyes for daring to talk to her as a girl? Was this the same mother that encouraged us to do the same? To keep away from men? This same mother whose previous attempt at sex education was simply “You know you are now seeing your menses. If you like go and get pregnant. Your father will kill you.”
I hated the word menses.
Now my mother stood in front of me trying to cram fifteen odd years into a few clinical sentences. I wanted to mess with her. I wanted to ask, “But how do you have sex in the first place? You are teaching me about prevention but how do I get pregnant?” I took one look at her; she seemed composed but I took in her too-wide eyes and sweat beading her top lip.
“Yes, mum. Thank you mum.” Her feet didn’t touch the floor as she left the kitchen. I felt sorry for her. Igbo Catholics had it the worst of all; the talk couldn’t have been easy. But I was still puzzled. After years spent drilling chastity, womanly pride and the best way to kill a man in just three gestures into my skull, at what point was I supposed to start seeing men as attractive?
Being a good Igbo girl is just hard.