Becoming What You Hate

Mariam:

People often associate being petite with having a foul mouth to make up for what’s lacking in height. Standing at 5 feet 2 inches, i always detested such stereotype especially since it made it impossible for me to express myself without hearing someone accuse me with;

“Na wa o. All these short people can be very troublesome.” Hence whenever anything I didn’t like was done to me I silently took it all.

Before long I realized the answer didn’t lie in my silence because though I was not regarded as the typical short girl with a long mouth, my benignity had made me an easy target for bullies.

Adanna and her cronies were my nightmare in this regard. Adanna was loved by all due to her wit and humor- all except me. I was the butt of all her jokes.

“Walk tall, shoulders high and back, chin up. You are queens, act like it” Miss Osas  our GEM club mistress would instruct.

“Mariam, bring down your shoulders. Raising them that high won’t make you any taller” Adanna would tease me to the amusement of everyone. I too usually smiled, faking nonchalance, but it always cut deep.

I wished I could pull off her merry and easy manner. She could tease someone bitterly one second and forget it the next, moving on to something else that caught her fancy while her victim stewed for hours.

I considered her foul mouthed but no one else did. Perhaps they would have were she short. To them she was witty.

Deciding that I could no longer continue that way I began to match her and anyone else who tried to pick on me wit for wit, mouth for mouth, and I decided if it ever came to it I would also match them  blow for blow.

Observations about people which I never voiced because of how hurtful it might be, I began voicing t openly to protect myself from being the victim and had people laughing with me. I also had multiple lines ready for each single line of insult tossed my way. For me it became pick on before you get picked on.

With our JAMB and WAEC exams out of the way and waiting for NECO exams to start the following week, we all sat in class having fun. We felt very little need to read since the exams considered more important were over and were having a game of ‘guess’.

“Guess who is most likely to be the first to get married” Tunrayo asked and most people said “Yetunde” a few others “Sandra”

“I think it’s Yetunde” Tunrayo settled it. “She is the most beautiful and most likely will have men running after her.”

“Guess who is the class water melon?” one student asked and everyone chorused “Nkiru.” Nkiru could call up tears at will. She would cry when she failed a test, she would also cry when she passed a test.

“Guess who has a razor mouth?” Nkiru volunteered. Adanna most certainly I thought and was surprised to hear everyone calling “Mariam!”

“No way. I am not” I protested ignoring Yetunde who tried to remind me that one of the rules of the game was that you could not defend yourself.  But the more I tried to counter their claims the more they gave me reasons why I am no doubt the foulest mouthed student of S.S.3.

“If only you know how many times your bad mouth has made me cry” Nkiru revealed to my consternation.

In protecting myself I had become that which I hated.

 

Shalewa:

When my colleagues started assigning the more humbling duties to me, I didn’t mind. I wanted to impress. Then it became a habit of theirs which I came to detest but never had the courage to speak against. Each time, I decided to refuse every petty errand I was sent on only to find my lips stiff and my legs already moving to grant their request.

Unable to protest with words, I did so with my actions. I would come to work wearing a hard and unfriendly look on my face, hoping it would deter anyone from asking me to go invite the client in or make coffee for the client like I were some common office help. It didn’t work, only made them less friendly to match my unfriendly demeanor.

Then I chose the sloppy way out, carrying out tasks improperly. For instance I would be asked by a colleague to please pass his bag and I would pretend not to hear or would deliver coffee and cake to the client and intentionally leave out serviette. This got me lectures from my boss and head shakes of bewilderment from my colleagues.

“What is wrong with you?” one of my colleagues once asked with sincere concern and I smiled and answered that there was nothing wrong.

“Are you worried about something at home or what?” another asked. “You used to be friendlier when you started working here.” But in all these I could never bring myself to explain that I resented being treated as an inferior. Wouldn’t that make me seem ungrateful after how well I had been received or much worse a lazy worker full of complaint?

I chose a different method and tried sending other workers to do things I would ordinarily do on my own “Get me paper from the printer” I said to one who replied me with;

“Shalewa, you too like madam. Is the printer not close to you? Get it yourself jare.” It seemed so easy, the way she put me in my place but I could never come up with such ready response when I needed them. Once when I did, I noticed multiple eyes staring at me in disapproval.

This morning, at a meeting with some very important clients, a colleague sitting at the meeting with me asked me to go get some files.

“You are closer to the door. Why don’t you go get it yourself” I wanted to say, but didn’t and I rationalized that I couldn’t say that in front of the clients.

Carrying the files back to the conference room, so much resentment building up at my plight, I banged the files on the table with such vehemence and stomped to my seat. As I sat, I noticed the clients and my colleagues looking at each other and then at me with disbelief. I had no idea it had been so obvious.

Maybe that would stop them from asking me to do things they did themselves when I was not there.

Later that day my Managing director called me into his office.

“I have been watching you for weeks and your behavior has become highly unbearable.” He went on listing all the ways in which I had faulted. Didn’t he see that it wasn’t my fault? That if everyone handled their business I wouldn’t be so defensive? I was not bitter by default, I just needed them to understand that I was not their errand girl.

Tears welled and spilled as he scolded me, my thoughts screamed to be heard, but I hung my head and took it all in instead.

The victim had become the villain.

 

Mama Abbey:

Being surrounded by evil relatives must be my curse for the rest of my life. Growing up in a polygamous family, I had a step mother who was a witch and often accused my mum of being a witch. I took the very first chance I had of leaving home and married the first suitor I had at age sixteen. My mother encouraged me to accept him and keep mum about the events leading up to my engagement before my step mother, out of jealousy that her much older daughters were still single, would tie me up spiritually.

Married for ten years with a daughter whom I had in my first year of marriage and no other children coming forth since then, I began visiting prayer houses for solution to my problems. At each I got the same prophesy; my husband’s brother’s wife, my co-wife, had tied my womb so I would not have male children to contest for properties with her sons.

Unwilling to tow my mum’s line of waiting on God to fight my enemies, which I knew from experience never worked, I decided to fight her myself. I confronted her openly about being a witch and in her usual deceptive fashion she not only denied it but also got everyone vouching for her and accusing me of accusing an innocent woman.

I was asked to apologise to her at a family meeting. I did and she accepted graciously.

“As Christians it is our duty to forgive. That is what Christ did and what makes us like him.” She said. I was amazed at how easily my kinsmen were fooled.  Privately she was never as nice to me as she pretended to be in public.

“Suffer not a witch to live” I quoted to my conscience and set out to make her pay. The prophet at one of the prayer houses gave me a coconut to bury in the middle of the compound and asked that I read Psalm 35 while at it to nullify all the evil she had planted there for me.

“Coconut water is known to neutralize medicine. Coupled with the Psalm 35, your co-wife will begin confessing in no time. Wear a white cloth to signify your innocence” He instructed.

At midnight I went outside with a hoe and the coconut brother Hezekiah had given me. I didn’t need my bible since I knew the Psalm by heart.

As I dug, silently reciting the Psalm, I heard a piercing scream and looked up with the hope that my co-wife had begun confessing. She screamed again calling the whole compound to come see what I was doing.

In no time I was surrounded by my husband’s family. Everyone demanded to know why I was trying to bury a coconut at night dressed in white. There was no need explaining; even I could see that the odds were against me. Worse than my co-wife’s chant of “God has vindicated me” was the look of disappointment and fear I saw on my husband’s and Abbey’s face as they stood huddled together a safe distance away from me.

Dont become what you hate


 

Struggling to survive in a society with different characters can bring out the worst in you and make you that which you are not.

Here are a few tested-but-not-all-encompassing tips I hope will help in situations like this;

  • Speak Out: If someone treats you in a way you do not like, speak out. Holding it in is like filling a cup. Someday it will overflow and spill in way of irrational behavior.
  • Get Intervention: People can be irrational so that when you speak gently to them about how they’ve wronged you they flare up and become cantankerous. If you can, call a person or two whom you know your offender holds in high esteem and get them to resolve your issues.
  • Talk it over: In situations when you do not want to involve a third party, wait out till your offender is in a better mood and explain to them without sounding judgmental how their behavior affects you.
  • Retaliate: This is my favorite but one which requires courage. Retaliate in the same way you were offended then while your offender is feeling upset for being dealt their own medicine you explain to them that this is exactly the way you feel whenever they treat you same way.
  • Give space: If these do not work, distance yourself from such a person if you can afford such luxury.
  • Get witness(es): Everyone has a breaking point, if your offender ever drives you there, it is always important that you have a witness whom you’ve told everything from the start to defend you when everyone thinks you are being irrational.
  • Carry out behavioral appraisal: At the end of each day, carry out a behavior appraisal and at intervals (say quarterly) ask close friends for their opinion about your attitude. Change when you notice you have become that which you do not like.

 

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Self preservation

Don’t talk to strangers. This is amongst the first lessons every child is taught together with their nursery rhymes.

It is what I was taught too but in a more dramatic way.

One christmas spent with my grandma she had warned that I can’t go about being familiar with everybody i see “maka ha n’ebu nsi”

“poo poo?” I had asked and my mum clarified in English.

“Poison” I wondered what color this poison was or how I could identify it and asked as much but got no further answers.

And so it was that when an old wrinkled woman came to visit I called to my cousins and siblings “poison! She has poison!” We all ran away from her and into the house. Thankfully the shocked old woman didn’t understand English else that would have put my grandma in an uncomfortable situation.

Life has taught us to beware and to protect the ones we love we teach them same. It is in this same spirit of self preservation that when in a BRT bus you see in the mirror the reflection of a woman’s legs wide open giving the entire passengers free show you decide to mind your business because the last time you had seen a girl wearing a transparent gown and informed her that her underwear was showing she had unleashed the fullness of her foul manner on you and asked that you mind your effing business. Since then you have learnt to unlook when you see someone with an open zip. You are not even surprised when you see a woman walking about stained and no one informs her. We have all learnt to mind our business.

This Sunday in church there was a bit of activity in the middle row. A man was on the floor jerking. Every one standing around him slowly inched away and only a man a few rows away had the courage to go help him up.

No one wants to be caught in the middle of another man’s misfortune which is why you will see someone being beat up on the street, hear a voice calling for help in the bush, or a dying man lying by the side of the road and ignore them because the last person who took a dead man he found dying on the road to the police station ended up being held as a suspect for his death.

Most have heard the story of the family who stopped to help a pregnant woman stranded on the road only to discover she was a bait used by armed robbers.

When I do have kids I know I’ll be overwhelmed with love for them and worry for their well being that i will want to protect them. I will teach them not to talk to strangers, to stay away from people fighting so they are not wounded in the middle of other people’s battles.

But God forbid, what happens if it is me or mine who is being attacked by someone else and everyone walks away in self preservation?

It’s a pretty tricky dilemma; try to help and get in trouble. Don’t help and leave others in worse situations.

We need to reassess this new ‘all man for himself’ way of life but I’m not sure I have the solution to that. Any suggestions?

Identify Your Digging Point

Hi guys,

 

At the beginning of the year i had promised myself to write a post here on Wednesday of every week. I failed this week and i could give the excuse that i was swamped with work but the truth is that no excuse will ever do.

 

There is a post in the works which i want to be satisfied with first before i post because i know you all deserve the best.

 

While we await that post, here is a YouTube video i did about the different way we dig and why digging is not a bad thing.

 

Please watch and leave your comment. Thanks lovelies Kiss kiss

 

Genevieve Nnaji taste, Ruth Kadiri pocket

Val’s day is upon us again and rather than write I chose to talk instead. I feel I am more expressive that way.

Below is a video I did and uploaded to share my thoughts on choosing the right one. Most, I believe choose who to love based on the available and given better choices would choose differently. Watch, if you have time and remember I always love to hear your thoughts.

Corper Charles Agu: Where is Chidiogo?

A man’s name precedes him long before he makes an appearance. For the new corp member who was posted to our school, terror went before him. His name was whispered with fear among the students who had had the ‘misfortune’ of being tutored by him and those who were lucky enough to have never met him shook their head at tales of him and hoped their good luck would remain.

 

It was the worst luck when we heard he would be our new computer teacher. Asides him being a man to be feared, he was also said to take a favourite in each class, though no one knew on what basis he chose.  I shared my hopes with my best friend then that I would be his favourite. She hoped so for herself too and we kept our fingers crossed.

 

The much feared day came and as I think back now I remember noticing the countenance of most of my class mates was subdued as one teacher left and we waited for computer period to begin.

 

No one is born scared, you learn your fears, they say. The previous year, while we were still new students in J.S.S.1 we had this business studies corper whose name I don’t remember but whose face never leaves my mind. I particularly remember the tattoo he had on one arm of a skull above crossed bones. He was rumoured to have been a cultist while in UNIBEN and there was no reason to doubt that.

 

His “I’m gonna” and “wanna’ way of speaking might have been amusing (actually it was afterwards) but for the threats that came with it. “I’m gonna fucking mess you up” he would warn and never were they empty threats.

 

As way of punishment he would ask an erring student to remove all the books from her locker, squeeze herself into the locker and be locked in. We were pretty little but not small enough to fit into a book locker.

 

Having gone through these, our fear was understandable. We were not ready for another nightmare of a teacher just one year into another class.

 

“Class stand greet” The class prefect banged her hand against her table and we stood.

 

“Good afternoon sir, we are happy to see you. God bless you. Amen.” It was obvious we were not happy to see him, even he couldn’t be that dumb to believe that, but it was the standard greeting so we said it anyway.

 

As we took our seats and began introducing ourselves, I wondered why he had to be yellow like our former business studies teacher. When it got to my turn, I introduced myself and rather than move on to my partner he smiled for the very first time since he came in and began asking me more personal questions. I couldn’t believe it. I was freaking John the beloved! The chosen one. I looked at my partner with whom I had made the wish and with our eyes we spoke. ‘Can you imagine’ my eyes communicated and in hers I read ‘lucky you’

 

And so began the roller coaster ride of being corper Charles Agu’s favourite. He invited me to come visit him at the computer room whenever I was free and as I took up his offer he introduced me to an entirely new interesting world that was previously unknown to me, a world he was passionate about and without reserve passed down to me.

 

The first time he took off the trampoline that usually covers the computers and asked me “do you know what this is?” I smiled.

 

“Why won’t I know?”

 

“But have you used one before?” We were never allowed to use them. He encouraged me to put one on and I’m sure my eyes must have grown to twice their size. With as much reverence reflective of the way he was treating the precious computer, I put one on carefully.

 

Some things we never forget. I remember his exact words “Don’t touch it like it’s going to bite you” and he took my hand passing it properly over all parts of the computer and telling me the function of each. The computer which had always been boring now had become my best subject.

 

During his classes, if he punished the rest I was exempted. He sang my praise always though I have no idea what for and whenever he punished anyone they were released only on the condition that I pleaded on their behalf.

 

I would not lie and say I enjoyed that part. It was a bit uncomfortable, but who will have sugar thrown into their mouth then choose to spit it out. When I am not diabetic.

 

I became the topic for every class and one particularly diligent student, Ayobami, who couldn’t do without taking notes actually began taking notes about me with the date on the left hand column, then topic “Chidiogo” taking the centre page. I had no idea until the day I fell sick and lay back in class while others left for computer class. He sent some students to come bring me to him else he wouldn’t teach and when I finally made it to computer class with them and asked Ayobami for her book to copy what I missed there it was.

 

‘Where is Chidiogo?’ I opened to previous pages and my name was in all of them.

 

While I enjoyed the highs in class it wasn’t so in the hostel. Usually while getting ready for morning classes or prep I would brush my hair, my eye brows, my side burns, apply lip gloss on my lips then with a bit of gel  pat down my eye brows and side burns (Lol. Mgbeke behaviour I know, but it was cool back then). While doing this one afternoon before prep a senior came up and with such force rubbed her hand across my face smearing my makeup.

 

“Small girl like you, who are you doing all this makeup for? So it is true what they say about you and that corper?” To say I was confused was an understatement.

 

I was as innocent as they come and when in J.S.S.3 my mum had my baby brother and Yolanda said to me “So your parents had sex ehn?” I argued with such conviction telling her my parents will never do such.  I didn’t know how babies came about so it’s no surprise that in J.S 2 I also didn’t know why I couldn’t be friends with a man.

 

Being loved by the corper meant being hated by the seniors, so to survive I began ignoring him as best I could till he left.

 

Years later I couldn’t stop wondering why he chose me and curiosity got the better part of me a few weeks back and my fingers (not me) typed Charles Agu on LinkedIn. There were too many people with that name so I narrowed them down by complexion to 3 then sent invites with the message;

 

Hello Charles,

Did you do your NYSC in F.G.G.C Oyo between 1999 and 2000?

 

I got a reply from one.

 

Yes I did. Did you serve there too?

 

It wasn’t long before he recognised me, but before I could ask that which had plagued me for years he sent another message saying;

 

Wooooo Chidiogo, how are youuuuu?  I remember you very well, you were about the smallest in your class then and so sharp, that was why I liked you.

 

Such innocent reason, as innocent as I perceived it to be then.  For some reason I felt some satisfaction finally knowing the reason. I wanted to tell him a lot; how that computer that was such a big deal is now everywhere. How good I had become with operating computers… Then when he asked me;

 

Where are you now and what do you do?   I quickly recollected myself and remembered I am meant to be a big girl now, not that little girl he knew. But deep down that little girl is excited to meet him a second time. The difference this time is that there will be no seniors to come and spoil my happy and perfectly healthy friendship with corper Charles.

Seed of Infidelity

“Why will I want a second wife? What is in their body that is different?” I had said to my colleagues who seemed to think that being a Muslim, I will want to exercise my freedom to more than one wife. That was two weeks to my wedding.

Five months down the matrimonial road, all was bliss like I expected it would. My wife was cool-headed, respectful despite our being only a few weeks apart in age and really economical with the little salary I earned.  I had no fear about the new addition we were expecting to our family. She will be the perfect mother.

There’s nothing like a wedding to bring old friends – and foes- together.  A married man for six months and my first time attending a social engagement without my wife due to her pregnant state, I saw her again; my ex.

It had not been a nice parting. How could it be after ten years together? The last we saw she came to pick her stuff from my house, a month to my wedding, and we barely acted in a civil manner towards each other.

Now, she looked to be doing well, though the way she painstakingly ignored me proved she was still affected by our break-up. Deciding to be the bigger man I made a move to be civil.

She was reluctant for a long time. I suggested we bury the hatchet. She looked at me with disbelief.

“Bury hatchet? You are one to talk when you have moved on! Ten years of my life is what I gave you. For ten years I refused every marriage proposal and what do you do? You replace me easily.”

Funny how the guilty can suddenly become the accuser. We had met soon as I was wrapping up my HND programme.  She was yet to get into school and with my paltry salary then of NGN 20,000 I paid her school fees all through school.

My friends saw it as a bad idea. She was in school in a different state from me. Anything could happen. And something did happen. While I was meeting her financial needs and preserving her virtue for marriage, she had a course mate meeting her physical needs.

On finding out, I pretended not to know then when she came to visit while on holiday I did what no Muslim brother should do; I seduced her. I consoled myself that it was the only payment I was to get for my years of sacrifice on her. “She wronged me first” was the reason I gave when my conscience worked overtime.

I would have straight up reminded her all the ways she was the reason for her own misfortune but I noticed for the first time, or just now chose to accept, that I still cared about her.

We are mature adults, surely we could sort out our differences and be friends. Upon further inquiry I discovered our offices were quite close and I suggested we met to smooth things over.

I never hid anything from my wife and when she asked me how the wedding went, I told her all save for meeting my ex. I didn’t want to trouble her, I rationalized. As she inquired further about the wedding and I answered distractedly, it registered that this time last year my wife and I were total strangers. To the surprise of my wife, i got up rapidly in search of a calendar. This time last year was the exact date I seduced my ex then asked her out of my life. Allah blessed me a few weeks later with a virgin maiden, Aisha, who is now my wife.

I began calling Hadiza again. In the office only. No need to trouble my pregnant wife.

“Does your wife know about this?” Nneka, my favourite colleague asked.

“No she doesn’t, but she will once I have made peace with Hadiza, that’s the only reason why I call her”

“OK o, just be careful” She warned. But that was not necessary. I trust myself and love my wife dearly.

Some phone conversations later, we agreed to meet and since I could not confide in my wife I told Nneka about it.

“Nooo Way!” She objected loudly.

“Yes way” I countered smiling. “Remember I promised I will never marry a second wife?”

Nneka continued shaking her head and did everything in her power to prevent me from going.

“Will you be happy if your wife meets with her ex?”

“Ahn ahn, why will she? See, it’s different. I just want to clear the air, that’s all”

“That’s how it starts.”

Very early Sunday morning, one full month after we had met again at that wedding, I met with Hadiza at her house.

She asked why i treated her in such manner. I explained that I found out about her unfaithfulness in school. She was shocked that I knew and explained that it all happened at a time when I began acting indifferent towards her. The guy was very attentive and she was vulnerable thinking I was not interested in her anymore.

I remembered that during that period I was really busy at work because a colleague resigned and I had to handle two people’s job till we got a replacement. I apologized for being inattentive but told her that wasn’t still a good reason to lose her virtue. She explained she was sorry about it and that she had no real feelings towards him.

But she had also become rude towards my family and when I brought that up she explained that she felt like the outsider amongst them because she had not been properly married into the family and hoped I would ask her the reason for her behavior and try to remedy things.

She cried. I cried. We apologized and I realized I had never stopped loving her. She begged me to take her back; Two wives was not unheard of. We talked till seven in the evening before I left for home.

 

“How did it go?” Nneka asked in answer to my “Good morning” on Monday morning.

I refused to go into details about all that transpired and said simply “I still love her. She was my first love.”

“Well, what can I say? Congratulations on your next wedding Fatiha.”

As I opened my mouth to remind her of my vow never to marry a second wife she interrupted me “And don’t feed me that ‘no second wife’ story because the first seed has already been planted and you are doing a good job nurturing it. I just regret that I didn’t make a bet with you when you boasted never to remarry, I would be richer in a few months.”

She sounded so certain that i will be getting married soon. I wonder if it is so. How can one love two women so intensely?

Writer’s Note: This is a true life story; the story of a close friend. Names have been changed and i am ‘Nneka’ in this story. It has been tweaked a bit though and i had to leave out some really personal stuff.

“Is it OK to stay friends with the ex?” That was the discussion on radio last night and as i listened i decided to write this story.

So i ask.; Is staying friends with the ex a sign of maturity or courting trouble? To what extent should one be civil towards their ex?

 

The Holocaust

Since Jesus of Nazareth is the king of the Jews why did he stand by and watch the Jews, his own subjects suffer the Holocaust for 12 years? This is the question that plagued me as I watched the survivors tell their story on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Amongst the names being mentioned in relation to the holocaust two names stand out; Adolf Hitler and Dr Joseph Mengele, the Angel of death.

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Jumping To Conclusion

Jumping to conclusion

To get a husband had been the plan.  Now waiting in a hotel restroom for a stranger expecting to have a quickie, the plan had changed to exerting revenge.

She had spared no cost in getting the perfect dress for this event; she had haggled the price of everything in the market and endured being called “Alaroro” by the market women. It paid off, judging from the direction of all eyes upon walking into the reception with her dad, even those of the bride. Poor bride. It was not her intention to upstage her on her day. Anyhow, she’s done searching. The market is for those still shopping.

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Business As Unusual

Each time I acquire a new phone, before I decide on what to do with it my first action is to view the gallery; pictures especially. It tells me a lot about the original owner. At times my findings make me feel guilty. Some of them, from their pictures, are people barely surviving yet buy big phones for reasons I can fathom still by going through the phone. Some others, I know, will be getting a new and even better device before the next day runs out. For these ones I feel nothing at all. My job has made me an expert in human behaviour. Not the type you learn in schools – that one is all theory and doesn’t hold weight.

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I Woke Up Like This

Watching her sleep was the most beautiful sight. The rhythmic rise and fall of her chest stirred emotions deep within his chest which spread out and warmed him.  Her auburn wavy hair which spread out all around her caught the rays of the sun filtering through the window giving it golden highlights. Her pink lips were parted a bit. She looked peaceful and vulnerable. He wanted to stay this way, watching her for the rest of his life.

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