By Bunmi Sofola
SOME months back, Rebecca, a distant relation but a good friend invited me over to her place so she could have some support when Tonia, her 27-year-old step-daughter came to discuss what she termed a very important matter.
Tonia and her younger brother were quite young when their mother died, and Beccky is the only ‘mother’ they know. Tonia and Beccky are quite close. Tonia had just bought her own flat in her base in London and had come to Nigeria to discuss her future—she was getting married.
I could picture Beccky furiously planning the wedding even before Tonia gave any details. “Who’s the lucky man?” she asked enthusiastically. “Is he of our tribe? Are the parents anyone we know? Are they rich?” On and on she went. Thankfully, I was with Beccky when the discussion started. I tried to caution her when I noticed a slight scorn on Tonia’s face as her step-mum got carried away with the wedding plans. “I’m not getting married here,” she cut in. “Walter is British and he’s half-
caste. His mother is from the Dominican Republic. We don’t want an elaborate wedding—we just want our friends and close family members to be around, and….” “A foreigner?” shrieked Beccky, “You’re getting married to a foreigner? A man we haven’t even met. How long have you been going out with him? Do you know anything about his family? You know these British people can be a bit weird. Who would intervene when you have tiffs and how long do you think this type of marriage would last?”
Tonia was getting a bit worked up at this stage. “There’s nothing more that can be said about this marriage— I’m already pregnant and living with Walter and we’ve rented out my flat. Our wedding is less than three months away—Dad had already spent so much on Femi’s hospital bills and we don’t want him breaking the bank on a simple thing as my wedding, so, all you two have to do is show up and give us your blessings.”
“A foreigner,” mumbled Beccky as if in a trance. She hadn’t yet taken in the dream of a show stopping wedding blowing up in her face. “How long do you think such a marriage would last, with both of you coming from different cultural backgrounds? Tonia saw red. “No offence meant mum, but how long has your marriage to dad lasted! I wouldn’t call what you have now a marriage, would you? Was it not under your nose that dad brought in a stranger to our home, passing her off as a relative when all along he was bonking her? Did this very woman not end up being a traditional “wife” to dad and giving him two kids before she had the tragic accident that claimed her life? And now that dad goes to the home-town more often than he has reasons to, what makes you so sure he’s not looking for a new wife? At least, that was the fear you expressed when you came over on your last holiday.” I was shocked at Atonia’s openness, to say the least. Beccky was speechless, but Tonia hadn’t
quite finished with her tirade yet. “Have you forgotten how devastated you were when Ayoka, who wasn’t more than a maid, gave birth to dad’s child? On the few times you stayed with me, you were so bitter I was afraid you might harm someone.
You cried into the night most of the time and you warned me not to trust any man, remember? You even gave me the examples of all your friends that had bad marriages but were hanging on in spite of their unhappiness at being betrayed by men who swore to love and cherish them! And half of your friends are either divorced or busy changing lovers. It’s not your group alone—how many seemingly
happy marriages can the country boast of? I talked a lot with my friends and a lot of them have unsavoury things to say about the types of marriage their parents have.
“We’re not knocking marriage, but we don’t want a situation where we would blame any future spouse because, thanks to your generation we know just how deep a man’s love can be. I mean, take my aunty here,” she was pointing a finger at me.” I quickly found my voice, “Heh! leave me out of your warped research. So you want to marry a foreigner ,we can’t stop you. You ‘re already 27. We just thought you should explore all the options you have.”
She was a bit apologetic when she realized she ‘d gone a bit too far. “I’m sorry Aunty. I’m not criticizing you. Actually, I admire you for getting quickly out of an abusive marriage instead of hanging in there and losing your dignity in the process.
You have a good job and a good home. If you were a man, women would be clinging to the doorpost, wanting to stay married to you. At the end of the day a woman is the architect of her future. The way Nigerian men behave abroad, you would think they’d graduated from remand homes—without the privilege of any parental care.
They hop from woman to woman and prefer whites who don’t mind giving them no-holds bared sex while spending money on them. The ones who are British citizens are the most insufferable. They dangle their citizenship and gullible women who see wedding bells a means of becoming citizens themselves are always used and dumped. Walter is not one of them. He loves me, his parents are fantastic and can’t wait to meet you… “
“Can you believe what you just witnessed?” Beccky asked me as soon as Tonia flounced off to meet her dad. I bet she was still smirking from Tonia’s dig on Ayoka, but what could the poor girl do? She was already pregnant and was living with her Walter. I told Beccky she should have respected her choice and wished her luck.
“You mean you don’t see anything wrong with her permanently settling in Britain with her children? The kids wouldn’t even know anything about their mother’s country, her people….?” “Heh! hang on,” I chided, “She’s not living at the back of beyond, you know? Britain is only over five hours’ flight. I would cross that bridge when I get there if I were you….”
How much hurt are you ready to forgive?
“There is such a thing as good anger,”explains psychotherapist, Janice Alpert. And dealing with it is much better than pretending it is not there.” So, at what point do you stop turning the other cheek and go for an eye-for -an-eye option? Does the fact that the person who hurts you says, I’m sorry” automatically see you saying —”That’s okay, forget it’?
A few weeks ago, at a children ‘s party, a bored-looking young boy suddenly got from his seat, strolled determinedly towards a much older boy and gave him a slap. The adults around looked shocked. “I’m sorry,” whined the boy. The recipient of the slap wasn’t having any of that. He retaliated with two sharp ones. The culprit howled in righteous anger: “But I told you I was sorry;’ he whined. “If you deliberately hurt someone,” explained an adult to this misguided boy, “sorry doesn’t make it right. You must be punished.”
Let’s face it, some people don’t deserve to be forgiven. At least that is what Sandra believed when she discovered that on the eve of their wedding, her would-be husband, who was supposed to be having a ball at his stag night was in her best friend’s flat having a last mad fling. She was not only furious, she felt let down by the two people she held dear.
“I didn’t find out until years after we were married,” explained Sandra.” A friend invited me to lunch and told me a ‘there’s no easy to say this ‘story, that Ken, my husband, had been carrying on with my so-called best friend since before we got married, she knew about his stag nights’ escapades too and she wouldn‘t have told me if they had put a stop to it. But, at a recent do, she actually saw Ken grab Faith(so-called best friend’s) bum as they both left for his car.
“Rage couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Faith was closer to me than a sister to me and she was the first I tackled. At first, she denied it but when she realised I had all the facts, she burst into tears and started apologising profusely. But what was she sorry for? For bunking my husband behind my back or for being caught? I told her I never wanted to see her face again. This was a girl I could give my right arm for, that was always helping herself to clothes from my wardrobe.
“I guess she must have believed Ken came with the package too. As for Ken, nothing but revenge would do. After letting him know what I thought of him, he too blabbed that he was sorry. I said nothing but I meant to draw my pound of flesh. When next a friend of his flirted with me as he often did, I encouraged him. He couldn’t believe his luck! After I slept with him, I thought I would feel elated by my revenge, but I felt terrible.