I am still waiting for the day someone will ask me why, when I speak about marriage, I choose to use words like “supposed to,” “should,” “expect,” “when,” and “need.” I should get married because I am expected to; I am supposed to want to have kids; I need to have kids and so, a heterosexual marriage is required of me. How else would Nigeria be even more overpopulated, without the help of my womb? How else would she remain on her throne, wearing the crown as the giant of Africa if I choose to not contribute my womb as a home to her kids? How selfish would I be to deny my parents – who have given birth to a dozen kids – of yet another grandchild, or children? Charity begins at home.
When I think of home, I think of a famous proverb: “Duk wanda ya bar gida, gida ya bar shi.” It means: anyone that has left home, home has left him/her. ‘Home’ is the place I visit once or twice a year; where girls are asked if they have found a husband, before they are asked about school. It is where a victim of rape becomes the criminal because ‘why else would she wear a tight dress if she didn’t want to be raped?’ ‘Home’ is where the assistant commissioner of police advices civilians to “pray to God” so as not to be shot or beaten by the police. It is where artistes sing songs about paying for sex and get awards for it. When I think of home, I think of the woman who travelled to Kano state to teach girls about safe sex; I think of all the people who threw stones at her, who called her Satan’s advocate. When I think of home, I think of the house helps who are constantly being abused – emotionally and physically – by their employers. I think of my mum prohibiting me from going out because I’m a girl, while my younger brother roams around the city. When I think of home, I think of the thousands of girls who are being raised to aspire to marriage. I think of the amount of disrespect people have for unmarried women – why, as a teenager, my sister had to learn to tell people she was married. Because how dare she – as an unmarried woman – not want to be catcalled by random men on the streets? How dare she expect to be treated with respect, if she was without a husband? An outrageous request from a post-feminist generation. When I think of home, I think of the village that is preparing my brothers to be successful men, heads of their families; the same village that raised me for those men who would one day be successful men. I think of all the times I’d been asked to learn how to cook, for my husband; how to dress decent enough for a man to want to marry me; how to not tell him when he’s wrong so as not to hurt his feelings. I know of men who do not allow their wives work, afraid of the freedom that comes with being financially independent. They would rather enslave women. When I think of home, I think of brides – how they are told to forgive and be patient, that men are simply like that. I think of how familiar “I’m sorry” tastes in my mouth; how I apologise for things my brothers don’t think twice about: “Sorry, can I ask a question?” “Sorry, you dropped something on the floor,” “Sorry, do you have the time please?” I am always apologizing for taking up space and occupying time. I apologize for being a girl, for daring to exist, for breathing in too much air.
I have left this home; therefore, it has left me.
When I think of home, I want to think of my Grandmother telling me how similar I am to her daughter, my mother – how strong, how determined, how outspoken. When I think of home, I like thinking about my friend, who tells me that I won’t get along with his mother because “I am too feminist for her.” I think of all the things I want the next generation to unlearn. I think of my nephew and the lessons I am going to have to teach him (because no one else would) – do not go searching for your masculinity in between the legs of women who have not yet learnt to love themselves. I think of the lessons I must instill in my niece – may your thirst for societal acceptance and validation not lead you into a loveless arrangement, otherwise known as marriage. I will teach them both to unlearn the words “supposed to,” “should,” “expect,” “when,” and “need” when referring to love. Love should have no deadline, no age restriction and no expiration date. A wedding at 28 is still a wedding. When I think of my nephew, I think of Kristoff from Frozen, who moved mountains to help Anna reach her goal, without expecting anything in return. I think of Olaf the Snowman, teaching Anna how to love genuinely, telling her that some people are worth melting for – as he melted for her. When I think of my niece, I think of the Emperor’s words when he finally addressed Mulan: “I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and… you have saved us all.”
Finally, I think of the saying that, “feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” I like to think that, someday, I’d fly home and in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify merely the opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and existence: the feminine human being.”