You have to develop a layer of tough skin
Skin so tough that nothing
Can get past to break your heart within.
Sometime in December 2016, my ma nudged me into being “friendsly” with a Catholic priest for “certain reasons”. As a “sweetheart” that I am, Padre and I “bonded” – we talked about varying topical issues, and the marriage talk “miraculously” reared its head. In a voice laden with concern, he said, “You should try to tone down, so that you don’t scare a good man away.”
I threw my head back and laughed in wickedness. (This is my reaction to absurd things.) Really, tone down. Tone down for what, please? (I might have given him the idea I need something I do not need. World people, sef, always needing you to need the things you don’t need.)
From my experience as a Black girl living in Nigeria, I have learnt many lessons and one of them is this: “Everything is out to break you.” Everything.
If we want happiness, we have to break the rules lest they break us. These rules dictate what to do with our bodies, our lives, our careers, and etcetera. Truly, they all work together to compel us to be what we are not.
Let’s start with how annoying voices, backed by outdated books, work hand-in-hand to blackmail us whenever our hands wander to explore our bodies. We end up feeling guilty for embracing the pleasure we desire. Inadvertently, we walk through life making an enemy out of our bodies.
Most of us have experienced how it feels like when random men call us whores for just existing. These people tie our worths as humans, to our sexual agency and how well we cover up.
We know how most men are willing to shove their shafts into any warm, soft orifice; still they project their sluttiness on us. It is about time we owned shame, because you can’t shame what cannot be shamed. To be immune to shame, claim shame.
Another sad reality is that some people see us as two breasts and a vagina. (I don’t know which is worse – sexual objectification from men or from women.)
You walk into a market and some people are groping you. You begin to wonder why someone feels he should touch you. Of course, you can’t complain about it, because some people will ask why you were wearing what you were wearing. Some of them would be so insensitive to say, “If you did not want them to touch you, you should not have gone to the market.”
People want to tell you what to do with your hair and body. They make it seem as though our hair and bodies were an apology by hurling mean words at us when we don’t fit into the beauty consensus. What they don’t tell us is that beauty is diverse and it comes in different forms. Women come in so many flavours – “too many flavours for one spoon.”
Then the marriage talk comes up at every turn.
Is it not interesting how these people asking us to get married assume we want marriage? Do they care if we have emotional strength to live with another person? It is none of their business if we are attracted to men. They don’t care if you want biological kids. All they want is to attend owambe, eat jollof, and wear aso-ebi.
Career-wise, they “advise” us not to earn more than our spouses, because “men are the head of the family. That would make a man feel somehow.” Why is masculinity so fragile, so weak? It’s so weak that a woman being herself, and living to the fullest shrinks it.
We’ll always hear from people that tell us how to navigate through every aspect of our lives – career, body, spirituality, sexuality. Sadly, these voices seem to get louder the more we try to block them out. The only way to get around is by being tough! Yes, we must develop ode-eshi in all aspects of life.
Pursue happiness and stop caging yourself by people’s opinion of how you should live your life. Some of us are scared of what people would say about us. Fear clips your wings before you begin to fly. When irrelevant, random people fling their opinions at you for doing something that is of no detriment to humanity, always endeavour to ask them, “Don’t you think I would have asked your opinion if I thought you and your opinion were important?”
In the spaces we control, we must dictate to people how we want them to treat us. Women, it is time to be in charge of our lives! Life is short, o, but it is the longest experience we will ever have.
P.S. Those women that shame other women should ask themselves: “How has bringing down other women helped my destiny? Don’t I sound very unfortunate whenever I shame another woman for her harmless choices?”
Photo Credit: Dreamstime| Andrii Kobryn