By Bunmi Sofola
A writer once observed that “some of the virtues needed for a happy marriage such as enthusiasm, loyalty, courtesy, and patience, have become so platitudinous that they fade into the background noise of the modern world; yet unacknowledged, their presence or absence shapes the outcome of every relationship.
” I get more and more alarmed as I listen to young men to talk about their girlfriends with a lot of cynicism. According to those young men, girls of today are supposed to be callous and so materialistic that they drop rich men friends for richer ones without batting an eyelid.
“But are young relationships this hopeless? Even in those easy-going liberated times, I have always believed that nothing can replace the fillip that a good relationship gives. But as things are, it seems genuine love is getting thinner on the ground. Most young girls I talked to, told me that young men should take a more critical look at themselves. Top on the list of these girls’ complaints is boyfriends who not only spend the girls’ money, they also sleep with their friends and sisters.
Damilola, a twenty-five-year-old assistant company secretary with her own car, told me that as soon as she got her ca, her boyfriend treated it as his own. She nearly had apoplexy the day she stood on Broad Street waiting for a taxi and her boyfriend zoomed past her, driving her car with a rival in the front seat!
“That was the end of the romance”, she said, still smarting from her hurt. “I have another boyfriend now, but I don’t trust him. I have learned to carry with me a still voice that tells me to be wary, reminds me, even as I laugh at his jokes or lie in his arms, that I must protect myself against all emotional shocks. Thank God I have my job and some sort of financial security. I can look after myself without help from any man!”
Financial security is not the only challenge in life – we all have to venture out a-field and take chances with relationships. You can hardly go to bed at night and sleep with the warmth of money! Kotun, a twenty-seven-old architect blamed the hard-bitten views of our girls on their bitter mothers. He told me: “Look at the sort of mothers we have today. Those that are not divorced are living out the marriage of convenience. Very few are truly happily married.
“The mothers are always running men down to their daughters telling their daughters that a woman’s front door key to freedom is a well-paid job. My current girlfriend’s mother even told her that if and when she (her daughter) gets married, her old room would always be there for her in case she would need it one day! No creep (meaning her future husband) was going to drive her daughter into the streets!”. In spite of this cynicism, it is gratifying that a lot of marriages, some of them very lavish, take place every week, says something about the institution of marriage still waxing strong, doesn’t it? Felix does not agree. A 29-year-old copywriter, he explained why he is still a single father of two: “I had my first child when I was in the university. Gallantly, I offered to get married to my girlfriend but her father nearly gagged at the idea. According to him, I came from the wrong tribe and from such a large extended family that the money I made would definitely be used to put my siblings and relations through school. As soon as she had my child, her mum took over looking after it and she relocated abroad.
“The mother of my second child had already had two children for a father who didn’t provide that much of financial security. She was always demanding money from me and obviously saw me as her other children’s father. Would my first marriage be to such a woman?
“Last year, my best friend got married to one of the so-called silver spoon girls. He was ecstatic, marrying into money. The girl’s parents helped in renting a flat in the best part of the city and furnishing it. They spared no expense for the wedding and it was wildly celebrated in some of these society magazines. The girl is now back with her parents because she couldn’t cope with the demands her husband made on her. In spite of the fact that her mother did her weekly shopping for foodstuffs and helped her get a maid, she couldn’t cook a really decent meal, so my friend always hit her out of frustration. She ran back into the open front door of her parents’ house.
“Do you know that till today, the parents haven’t bothered to find out what happened from my friend? As far as they are concerned, their daughter is well rid of the gold-digger she married! They’ve now sent word that my friend should return some of the expensive wedding presents! He’s dared them to come and get them! A Yoruba proverb says You don’t give a gift of ram and hold on to its rope. A lot of these so-called modern parents must take responsibility for the break-up of their children’s marriages – especially if one partner is from a rich family and the other one is not.”