The husband and the wife know their clearly-defined roles. The man is the bread-winner/hunter/gatherer and custodian of the community ideals. The woman is the home-maker/chef/nurse/change-nurse/ incubator and the conduit pipe of moral values.
Of course, things are changing; Western education, exposure and global culture continually erode traditional roles and notions of the duties of spouses in their marriages. It is not uncommon to see Mama Wale pursue a career in investment banking, while Papa Ihuoma may happily help change the baby’s soiled nappies. Baba Ismaila may even be persuaded to operate and push the baby pram while his wife sorts out the blown electric fuse in the house.
I have however heard it said that men should remain manly, aloof and masculine in demeanor or else there is every chance that he may lose respect from his wife. Should men only do men things?
It would surprise many that many of the advocates of the above are well educated and travelled persons and not the village resident, palm-wine drinking, snuff inhaling, chauvinists your imagination would have you believe.
Divorce rates are believed to be low in Ibo marriages due to the huge bride price and the long stringent process from the stage of declaration of interest (“knocking”) to engagement, dowry payment and the eventual traditional wedding. I have also heard it repeated that the huge ceremony associated with traditional engagement or ibankwu weddings are to remind the budding couple about their roles in the marriage. These ceremonies formed a template for the future with the couple involving in role-playing gestures. At the ibankwu traditional wedding, the local master of ceremony commands Adaku the beautiful damsel bride to dance across, kneel and present the mmayi to “the apple of her eye” Ahanna the hairy-chested smiling groom. A lesson is learnt in humility and stewardship, no?
Women of all cultures want their men to take charge but where does the margin for balance start or begin? Women are becoming more independent, educated and exposed; they can have careers in previously male dominated professions; the trouser suit was invented to give women a place. The transition from career amazon to domestic goddess is a difficult one for many females.
As more professionals return from post-graduate study in Great Britain, the US and Canada, you will find that there exists a demography of young female professionals, educated, world-savvy, knowledgeable, opiniated and able to stand on their own two. They work in finance and investment, are comfortable with handling hot broth and nasty smelling vegetables in the kitchen, and can hold their beers (or cocktail) as well as they can de-feather and gut the carcass of a chicken.
Nigeria, by its nature, is a nurturing nation. Children reside with their parents till their mid 30s; everyone has an opinion or input on every other’s person’s lifestyle-choices; parents and relatives still have a role to play in an individual’s life. A lot of females are growing up to find some of our cultures and norms are rather restrictive to the aspirations of a 21st Century independent woman. Is our culture more conducive for the upbringing of an Apeno than a Beyonce?
If this 21st century feminist ties the knot tomorrow with an average upcoming lad, would she find marriage a hassle, with all the expectations demanded of a wife, daughter-in-law and sister-in-law?
Some girls do not believe they should change their lifestyles or habits when they get married. Marriage is the same as dating except that your boyfriend becomes permanent with a certificate and a ring to boot. To such females, perish the thought of the money for Brazilian hair or air-brushed nails going into the pot for the children’s trust fund or college fund. In a matter of opportunity cost, their foregone conclusion is that they would rather have Rihanna’s hairdo and have their kid drop out of a Jakande public secondary school, rather than rock periwinkle plaits and have him go to Atlantic Hall or University College London.
So are our women becoming more uncontrollable or are men becoming wusses?
There are women who do not think they should change their lifestyles or spinster habits even when they tie the knot. Or should they?
Is it possible for a female brought up in Lagos, who went to pre-school in Ogun state, attended college in America, who now sports a weave made in Peru, wears fitted couture dresses from England’s high streets, chats on a device made in Finland to marry a Nigerian man and live with African values?
But it isn’t just the women who are struggling with an identity crisis; men suffer too. Some are struck with Okoronkwoitis. Read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” or watch the TV series; or examine some of Pete Edochie’s characters as an alpha male, over-bearing, father in any of our local Nollywood blockbusters.
Do men want an Ovularia (Zebrudaya’s wife) in the kitchen, and a Munachi Abi in public?
I was watching a Nigerian movie recently where a woman and her husband were having a discussion about their son who was refusing to marry a girl the father had nominated for him. The husband, played by actor Amaechi Monuagu was very upset about the matter and implored the woman to “talk to her son.” Some moments later, the woman remembering that it was time for dinner asked Amaechi with affection “My husband, are you ready to eat so I can go and serve your food? He hissed loudly with irritation as he barked “Yes of course, I never told you that I was on a diet!!!”
At times, it is possible to get a brief peek at the mindset of men on the subject of roles and get a sense of the kind of relationship and communication some men expect from a partner. You may get an idea when you hear opinions during general conversations among singletons in a casual environment like a bar.
A good few years back, I was at bar and grill somewhere on the mainland with about 6 friends and a discussion came up what we would do if any of our girlfriends told us she was pregnant.
Some answers were straightforward, some were downright bizarre. But there was this chap called Triple X whose answer shocked everyone, as he dragged on his Benson cigarette nonchalantly: “If my girl got knocked up, she would not even come and tell me because she knows what my reaction would be. Rather she would tell me later that she was preggy before but she has now removed it via abortion, so I should not worry about it as she has now taken care of it.”
Wow what a douche bag. This guy would have been tearing his hair out when he watched the movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”
Some guys do not believe in taking wives anywhere apart from church and maybe to the market so she could buy his favorite goat meat cuts. On weekends, they would rather hang out with the lads while they expected wifey to sort out the laundry and conjure a huge Saturday dinner. I mean, she is a wife and not a friend, right? Wives are pudgy, boring and smell of baby food, right?
That’s one extreme of the spectrum. There are husbands who take their wives to the beach but sit on a beach chair reading a daily, sipping beer and munching suya while she splashes around in the surf with the kids. Heaven forbid they get their feet wet in the rushing waves; they want to maintain their father figure image.
There are well-travelled and exposed chaps who still don’t hold hands in public or display any form of public affection. She may get a little glimpse f love when she notices the small spark in her man’s eyes as he says lovingly to her at the dinner table, before he delivers the downer: “Pass me the salt, luv, would you? This your food nor get taste.”
There is a common complaint that Nigerian men are becoming less of men. Not just in this country but in different parts of the world? It does not help that the latest male fashion fads make Carlton of the hit series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air look like a gangster rapper.
I was at the Federal Palace Hotel in Victoria Island recently for the Elite Model event and saw lots of fruity dressed chaps wearing jeggings and polka-dotted bow-ties. I mean, come on dude, how can you air-kiss other guests. What happened to a firm handshake for other chaps, and a full frontal hug for the females?
Take a look at the Wayne Bridge and John Terry debacle last year in England. What John Terry did was inexcusable, there are some rules of the game you don’t break – he and Wayne Bridge were former teammates both at national and club level, and John should not have slept with Bridge’s baby mama. The English tabloids had a field day bashing John Terry and building column inches over a matter that in Nigeria would have only gotten a brief mention on the back pages of Nigeria’s National Encomium at best. John Terry was stripped off the England national team captaincy; in Nigeria, he would have been made an Otunba or an Nze.
But to me, Bridge burnt his bridges (no pun intended) and lost any empathy I had for his situation when he refused to shake Terry’s hands during a pre-match handshake just before a Chelsea and Manchester City game. The tension had built up towards the game, with the press trying to speculate on what Bridge’s reaction would be when they met face to face.
I’m from an era where you suck it up and get on with it. Bridge should have looked Terry in the eye and shook his hand. At least in public.
Your wife should be your soul mate, by the way. End of.
We want the erotic, exotic ladies/
and not the toxic ladies/
that burn a lot…/
Notorious BIG (You can’t stop the reign, 1997)
City life, no choice but to live by the knife/
Put food on the table at whatever the price/
My beautiful wife, all the time cooking precise/
When there ain’t no meat, she bless me with the eggs and the rice/
Never think twice, I love you for the rest of my life/
The Beatnuts (Look Around, 1999)