Back when the Hubster and I were courting…
Wait, before I start, let me just say that if you have just laughed at that you have betrayed your origins to be from species other than Homo Igboticus. It doesn’t matter if your name is Aloycius Nnemurumkuja, I put it to you right now that your mother needs to tell you some truths; you are not Igbo. For every Igbo child knows that Igbo people do not ‘Date’ or ‘Hang out’ or any other term that implies the time-wasting in couples so prevalent in this age.
We court. Everything has its purpose.
If you are coming to my house, it is not merely for the pleasure of my company but to taste my food. If your hands linger around my hips, it is to measure that they can bear more sons than you care to count. After all, those millions of seeds you carry about in your sack must be cultivated so that your ancestors will not visit you in your dreams.
Courtship is a dance that goes way beyond what you see in Nollywood films. If proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten, the language of courtship is the ukpaka’s rich, meaty texture in said oil. It is an acquired taste, not for children. If music be the food of love, then courtship is the rhythmic jingle from the waist beads of an obu uzo egwu dancing to the beat. If all this I am saying is not making your blood hot just reading them then obviously courtship is not for you. Go and let the man take you to get Mr Biggs ice cream or chop kanda from Mama Cass. Go on. See if I care.
As I was saying, back when the Hubster and I were courting, I played my part to perfection by sending him on Herculean tasks. Tasks at which the mighty Anukili na Ugama might have baulked. It was not wickedness. It was part of courtship. You tell me how you like the gap in my teeth, I send you to find a pair of shoes made from the foreskin of a castrated gorilla. It is just how it works. To do him credit, the man always returned with the things I askedfor which is one of the disadvantages of marrying a fellow journalist. We have people. I thought knowing a thief in Kibera was something but nothing tops having a gorilla-foreskin guy in the middle of London.
So, I’d set tasks and he would knock them down, and I’ll set bigger ones and he’d do those, and then I got on the WWF ‘Enemy of the Planet’ list and stopped sending him to procure parts of animals. And one day, as I was racking my brain to come up with a straw to break the camel’s back, and failing that, the actual hump of the camel, he said to me: “All these things you’re doing to me, I am going to marry you and my child will do them to you.”
I shouldn’t have laughed.
This morning, my son (whom we shall from henceforth refer to as ‘This Boy’ ) woke me up by hooking an index finger inside my mouth, pulling me upright and making me go out in the pouring acid-rain of London, in 6 degrees Celsius weather to buy him some milk. He also insisted on coming so I had to dress him in the dark knowing that to put on any lights so soon after reluctantly waking would render me blind for the rest of the day. I forgot my phone so I didn’t get a photograph, but this is my illustration of how I looked:
1) Bear trapper hat. Because I am not nearly ugly enough in the morning.
2) Scowl. Maybe some drool.
3) White turtle neck. It was like a beacon in the dark. And I’m arty dah-ling.
4) Pompoms: This Boy is like a cat with string.
5) Skirt. I don’t know why as the coat was long enough and the skirt was barely a there. The waistband was on my bum to attain this length.
7) Boots. Actually, now that I think of it, I was wearing blue wellies with multi-coloured dots. This Boy is like a cat with dots.
And This Boy skipping happily in his padded rain suit.
I have never seen the shopkeeper serve me so fast.
The moral of the story? Courtship is good, but Igbo women please be lenient this Christmas so that you will not reap what you sow. And if you do prefer to do the time-wasting dating thing, then for the love of God, don’t order a whole chicken when he takes you out. You don’t want to know how that will turn out ‘karmically’.
See eh, I’m not joking. This phrase can have even the meanest, baddest, biggest girl/boy to come back from Ala Bekee quaking in their boots. Why? I’ll tell you.
In Igboland, December is a time to make money without shame – yes, yes, I know you non-ndi igbo are scratching your heads in confusion and asking “But isn’t the whole year money-making galore in Igboland?” and largely you are right, but December has a special kind of frenzy attached to making money – spending it of course, but mostly making it, amassing huge quantities of it – that is absent throughout the whole year. None so much as among village children.
Village children are known for many things; iwa anya, literally translated as ‘to cut open the eye’ or in pidgin as ‘Tear eye’, ‘icha akwu’, which means ‘To ripen like a palmnut’ – this is harder to explain. It does not mean physical ripening or maturity. (Everyone knows you can never tell a village child’s age and that only a stupid person would try. Footballers have got nothing on these children). It’s more like being sharp. They have a lot of sense.
But the worst bit around Christmas is that village children – babies from six months and upwards included – can already tell a N50 note from a N500 one. (Actually that’s a bit unfair. All Igbo children can do that). And this brings me to the ‘quaking in boots ‘bit. On Christmas Day bands of children ‘terrorise’ households. They come in, all the same size if different ages and they greet you ‘Gi rafun’ (Good afternoon) and say “Anyi bialu ka i gbalu anyi Christmas”. Woe betide you if you don’t have any cash on hand when these children visit because they’ve got all day and they WILL get that money. They’ve got nothing but time and it doesn’t matter how many houses they have gone to before yours on Christmas Day, their stomachs are never full. Your best bet is to feed them, give them money and let them go or your family/visitors will have no food to eat that day (yes, people go round to other people’s on Christmas Day where I’m from). Sometimes they’ll refuse food outright. They’ll tell you they have eaten and all they want is for you to ‘dance Christmas’ for them. They may take a drink or two. They will tell you that they will come back if you don’t have any money now, but please heed my advice. Give them what you have got. When they come back, they come with inflation.
“Well, what happens when you give them nothing?” You ask. It’s similar to a halloween trick but much worse. For you see, in addition to ripening like a palmnut and cutting open their eyes, the village child is a library of insults passed down from grandparents; words that you never knew existed. Also they are possessed of the uncanny ability to zero in on your worst fear or insecurity. And so it was that yours truly, while neither a badass nor a big girl became the recipient of such hits as ‘Onye isi ya ka nke m o’. And I don’t even have a big head. It’s mostly hair. *Sniff Sniff*
To help you, here’s a drawing I have done of a typical village child leader at Christmas:
2) Plastic glasses with fluorescent colours.
3) Tummy-breast buds: Do not try to determine age by looking here, especially if you’re a man. It won’t help you.
4) Bag for collecting money. Usually when the bag is full, the leader will lead her troupe back to their compound (they are usually all related) to empty their receptacles before they hit the road again. Their parents will count and hold the money. The mothers, not the fathers mind. (Side note: Have you ever seen what happens to a parent when they spend a VC’s Christmas money? See: Bakassi Boys)
5) New china blue-white socks, bought two sizes too big and rolled down. They will wear it to other special occasions throughout the year to which they have not been invited. See: The back of your wedding hall).
6) Belt. Tied as tightly as possible so that the skirt of the dress flares attractively. Any dress without a belt is not a dress.
7) Aka kpof-kpof AKA pouffy sleeves. Ditto.
8) Mother’s lipstick, scraped from its barrel with the cover of a Bic pen.
9) Shirley Temple curls. Made with extensions so plastic and shiny that if the sun is a little too hot it can spontaneously combust. The curls give the illusion of thick bouncy hair, and most importantly, cover up the short, natural hair that is the rule in most village school. Sometimes, VC can show up with the ‘Okuku Abuke’ look, which is where they relax the short hair for Christmas resulting in sparse spikes. (See: Wet chickens).
10) Weirdly couloured bit in hair. The extensions for this could be anything from white to fiery red to purple. It has to stand out).
11) Koi-koi shoes, so named for the sound they make.
And I forgot to add a nummber 12, so here it is: The eye-pencil beauty mark/third eye in the middle of forehead. You are not an asa until you have this. Whaaaaaat?
So, you’ve been warned. Don’t be afraid though, just respect yourself, go to the bank on time and all will be well. Make no mistake, Christmas is not Christmas without the village child.
HAPPY NEW YEAR PEOPLE. Sorry for the late/scattered post and thanks for your prayers for tot. See you soon!
I promised you plenty plenty Igbo Chrstmas-related gist but I have had my hands full with a sick tot so I couldn’t. But never fear. I’ll do so soon. Just take time out from gorging yourselves on turkey (why people eat that dry meat is beyond me sef. And have you seen that thing under it’s neck? Tufiakwa. Alu melu!) to check this blog. Hopefully what you read will held you digest not regurgitate, though I cannot promise anything.
And please be careful. If your pesin decides to go to Nigeria for Christmas, better make sure they don’t have one Egovin nwa they are going home to marry. That is all.