Understanding me – At 19


At 19, I decided I was no longer fine being normal.

By normal I mean the kinda girl who accepted everything

BS and all.

The welcoming lady, with a perfect smile

Quiet and shy and coy too, I guess.

To make men feel less threatened,

Speak only when spoken to,

Keep your opinions to yourself,

Dress well ‘in a feminine way’,

Laugh at any unfunny thing said,

So long as the joker has a stick between his legs.

Fix your nails, hair, teeth, especially if he likes it.

And if he doesn’t,

Well whatchya waiting for,


Pretend to love children even if you really could do without them.

Giggle when they poo on you,

Carry as many as you can,

So you can prove you’re homely and motherly.

Lie about your stand in the last elections

To make him happy.

Succumb to his taste in food,

“Tea is better than coffee” – “Of course, I drink tea every morning and night”

Even though you can’t stand the taste of tea and you revel in the smell of coffee.

Learn to cook as many soups as possible,

Not for yourself but for your future husband.


At 19, I chose not to be apologetic for who I was.

I chose me over them.

I chose to be polite not to make guys less threatened

But because it is good to be polite.

I chose to speak up when spoken to

Or about.

I chose not to conform to a man’s image,

But to be a better me, for me.

Never to settle for less or false companionship.

To enjoy being happy, alone.

To learn to laugh, alone.

To learn to sleep, alone.

I mean who doesn’t love cuddling.

They say a teddy doesn’t count

But I’ll christen mine “Miss Alone”.


At 19, I saw my Nigerianess , my Africaness

For what it was,

And took it all in,

And decided it was good.

I will no longer settle for hand-me-downs,

I will no longer keep quiet when it is said that “Africa is a country”

I will no longer complain about our society or movies or culture

Without taking a stand to do something about it.

So I chose to fight silently at first.

Alas the “silent” fight became deafening

Because black was not a continent or skin colour

But an attitude, a way of life.

I chose to appreciate the beauty of numerous cultures.

I chose to smile at the elderly Hausa mallam who sold biscuits daily.

I chose to see the Nassarawa not as a place on some map,

Not as a place on the news where Muslims fight wars,

But as a place where Christmas decorations are put up long before places in Enugu.

Where humility and friendliness welcomes you.

I chose to see the truth in our pure but complex diversity,

To insist that Obe Ewedu is as hygenic as Ofe Oha,

Even if it is turned with a broom.

To insist that stereotypes do not always ring true

Because harmattan is our own version of snow.


At 19, I understood that I could dictate the course of my life

I could be awesome and fab and me,

A mosaic filled with various parts of different people.

That I could time travel,

To my not-so-distant past or to my looming future.

I realized I was privileged,

Extremely privileged to have the opportunities I had

And that my education was merely a platform to make my privilege, our rights.

I saw that my love for art never waned,

That we were merely in a long distance relationship.

And everytime our paths crossed, I felt that sort of joy that

Only food could give me.

And like chicken and pasta,

I embraced it whole heartedly.


At 19, I saw God

I saw God not as a mystical being but as a Father often misunderstood.

I realized that my mother was like me: certain in uncertainty.

That my father was not perfect.

I came into the knowledge of the trials and pains of womanhood.

I saw life first-hand

And I knew that my brother,

Will always be my brother.

That friendship wasn’t about who came,

It was about who I chose, that stayed

And I chose you.


At 19, I made a pact with myself to be different.

I chose not to settle for carbon copies of happiness.

I chose to be me, in all my K-legged glory.

I chose to be the Nigerian African Feminist.


By Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa

*All images from Google.


Words Are Work…and fun too. 🙂

24 replies added

    • Chisom March 7, 2016 Reply

      I so agree, Datoks. Thia did a very very NICE job with this one. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

    • Chisom March 7, 2016 Reply

      You can huh? It must be hard. All I know is, coming of age is tough on us all. It was especially tough for me, as a man, I can imagine how trying it must also be for the female child. We must help ourselves abeg, as much as the journey of finding oneself is largely a personal one, there are bits and pieces of help ‘friends’ and ‘brethren’ can offer.

      • Thia March 8, 2016 Reply

        Totally but these friends and brethren could make it worth the while. It still doesn’t change the fact that it’s your personal struggle and deep down at night you are definite that you are all you have…

  1. Thia March 7, 2016 Reply

    Thanks guys… 🙂

  2. josh March 7, 2016 Reply

    Speechless. Nice poem

  3. Kachi March 8, 2016 Reply

    Cynthia this is beautiful.

  4. Adeola March 8, 2016 Reply

    This is so good… Well done Cynthia

    • Chisom March 24, 2016 Reply

      Thank you, Jenny. *thumbs*

  5. Kay March 22, 2016 Reply

    a good read really.

    • Chisom March 24, 2016 Reply

      I’m elated you think so, Kay. Thanks a mil

  6. Munachimso July 8, 2016 Reply

    This is so beautiful, a nice way to put what a lot of young girls feel into words. I like the way the poet thinks

    • Chisom July 8, 2016 Reply

      Lookie who showed up! 🙂 Thank you, Muna … see you more and more, no?

  7. Chizzy July 10, 2016 Reply

    I can’t tired of reading this piece my fellow African Nigerian Feminist

    Nice one Thia

    • Thia August 1, 2016 Reply

      Aaawwwn thanks Chizzy, Chisom owes us a WAW lunch, probably buffet to seal our family bond… Lol

  8. Bimpe September 22, 2016 Reply

    How many things will I even quote biko?

    ”To insist that stereotypes do not always ring true
    Because harmattan is our own version of snow.”

    What spells awesome more than that????

    • Chisom September 22, 2016 Reply

      Nothing does, Bimps. Nothing.

      lmao. Thank you for coming over 😉

  9. Emmaco Autos October 17, 2016 Reply

    Forgive me for keeping my praise till this time. This write up is damn good. Kept the page open, so as to read it again and again..

    • Thia June 14, 2017 Reply

      Thank you. I’m only just seeing this comment. Thank you.

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