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
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. 🙂