This September, I celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary. I cannot but thank God for the miracle that my marriage is. The story is one I was not eager to share but over the next few days, I will open my diary to you my muses. Be encouraged.
I was 19 and a member of the choir in one of the most popular churches is Nigeria. Being a medical student, meant I only sang with them during holidays and strikes. However, I had joined while in high school, so everyone knew me. I was the tomboy who wore bathroom slippers (flip flops), to rehearsals. All I cared about was getting into God’s presence. Make up, trendy clothes, and so on were distractions, as far as I was concerned.
It took the intervention of a cousin to change me. He stopped me 1 day at the church entrance and asked why I was “stomping”. Then he proceeded to show me how to walk sedately like a lady.
“Won’t I be late if I have to walk like that?” I asked.
“It is better you are late than to walk like a boy” he insisted.
Another male friend forced me to change the slippers. I went to my mom, (who was not a member and didn’t know what I was wearing to church), and asked for money to buy more appropriate footwear.
It was my 1st day back after some months away in school. Sitting on my favourite seat, I bowed my head to pray. When I lifted my head and looked around, I spotted a new face at the keyboard. He was (pretending not to be watching me as I later found out) playing something very skillfully. I was glad we had someone who would actually play what the original song sounded like not like the others who just pounded out their imaginations on the keys.
Over the following weeks, he became my friend,inserting himself into every gathering I found myself in. I wondered why he kept complimenting my looks when it was obvious there were many more fashionable ladies. Truly, I feared for his sanity. And the ladies loved him. They found every reason to sing a special number or rehearse some song or ask for voice training, just to be with him. Often, he would ask me to join them, claiming he wanted my input. Sometimes, I stayed away, so as not to spoil anyone’s game. My focus was on getting home early as I was getting flak from my dad for staying out late. It didn’t help that I lived in the opposite direction from others.
Before I went back to school, he asked me out. I was shocked.
“What of Sis. So and So?”, I asked.
He assured me that I was the 1st and only girl he had ever asked out. He was in his 4th year in the university and doing an internship (IT) in my town.The ladies saw him as a newbie and swooped in. I agreed to give him a chance but told him he had to be on ‘probation’ for a long while (2 years eventually). This would give me a chance to prove that no other girl was hoping on him. He insisted he was in for the long haul and I laughed. Marry who? My focus was medical school.
Over the years, he proved to me that I could trust him. He didn’t have money to buy heaven and earth but he painted my picture, wrote poems, serenaded me and visited often. I was always the only woman in the room, even in a crowd. Dr. N panicked. You see, I come from a very conservative family. From childhood it was drummed into our ears what was expected of us.
1. Top the class every term
2. Study a professional course (We have 2 doctors, 2 lawyers, and 2 engineers)
3. Marry from our village. Not from our state or local government area but our village.
We were made to know that not only would we be disowned for thinking of marrying a man not from our village, we would be unhappy. This is because such marriages were doomed to fail. Every day, we were reminded of those whose marriages failed. The only reason was their insistence on marrying a stranger. Even worse, was the case of those who actually defied their parents. Their own case was like one under a curse. Either they experienced infertility, deaths, financial troubles, or illnesses that inevitably led to the break up of the marriage.
Mr. Handsome, as wonderful as he was, was not only not from my village, he was not even Igbo. He was from a minority tribe, not extremely popular among my folk for no particular reason. I decided to end the relationship rather than put him through the heartache One day, we had a minor quarrel. It should not have endedthe relationship, but it was my way out. The guy was hitting all the right notes.
Good looking : check.
Intelligent and ambitious: check
Personable and humble : check
Sexually disciplined : check
Generous : check
Hardworking : check
Honest : check
Added to all these, he was not afraid of me. My dreams did not intimidate him. He was bold enough to tell me to my face, if I was in the wrong, and rather than demand my respect, he earned it. There is something about a man who doesn’t have a dime on him, yet, gets you to treat him like a millionaire. He must be something.
He kept pleading and sending emissaries. I was 21 or 22 and I knew if I didn’t walk away, I would marry him. When I prayed, God frightened me by asking me to forgive him.
“Lord, are you joking? Do you know my surname? If you wanted me to marry him you should have planted him in my village. Try another of your daughters, please”
I cannot describe the turmoil I passed through. Being in a secret relationship, getting asssailed by pleas from he and his friends, being bombarded by my folks’ daily “lectures” on suitable partners. It was a nightmare. Rather than pray about it, I presented my strong reasons to God. The bible says we should obey our parents in the Lord. What was the use of dating a man I could not marry? I went on and on.
One day, God asked me if I was willing to obey Him or not. For the 1st time in a long time, I decided to do the “fleece” prayer. It was a Sunday morning. I knew he was not in town, so I told God that if I happened on him at the gate as I walked into church, then I would know he was the one. How smart I felt, scanning the crowd trooping into church from the backseat of the car of a brother who offered me a ride. Then I saw him. My heart sank. Just how had he sneaked in overnight?
He was in between 2 of his closest friends. They were a set of twins in whose house he stayed when he came around. As soon as they saw me, they flagged the car down and “ordered” me out. Bless those twins, they were violent!
“You want to kill our friend, right”, they snapped. “In fact, he has refused to eat since he came. He even fell ill”
I snorted, doubting that they were serious. They insisted we should go and hash out our differences. Who was I to say No? I put out the fleece and it backfired. After service, we went to the twins’ house alone. He was nervous, pacing and apologizing. I laughed within me. If only he knew the “Commander in Chief” had given the order in his favor. What a laugh!
During my prayer time, God had said to me “This boy is my son. I have great plans for him and I want you to take care of him for me. Don’t hurt him” I will never forget those words. They were like cold water down my spine. Even writing them now gives me goose bumps. And I still had the guts to put out the fleece.
So began a secret relationship that lasted till I graduated and began my internship. My folk were joyously awaiting a son -in- law from our village. They had no suspicion at all what was about to hit them. I was torn between my loyalty to my people and my love for this gentle and kind man. He was so optimistic.
“They’ll love me when they meet me, don’t worry”, he insisted.
I shook my head. He had to get his foot in the door first and that was where the problem lay.Occasionally, I would tease them about marrying a stranger, just to feel them out. Their terse warning for me not to attempt it, or face the consequences was enough. I decided to wait for the right time. During my NYSC, he proposed. It was a mere formality (I mean what were we doing all those years?).
His family had met me and fallen in love with me. I was astonished at how they received me and celebrated me. His parents assured me that they would support our wedding and even started praying for my parents to change their minds. All his siblings became my friends. There was no single voice of dissent. I expected at least 1 relative to question the whole thing but none did. A few of my cousins were in the know and they all trembled with trepidation at my parents’ eventual reaction. Dire predictions of their wrath became the fodder for our conversations. Each cousin warned me to ensure that they were far way from home the day I told my parents about him. Do you blame them?
After my NYSC, I took a job in a state in the Niger Delta, to assert my independence. My dad asked why I didn’t come home and work for him. I told him I just wanted the exposure. Deliberately, I lived in a different town from my then fiance, to ensure no one accused us of co-habiting. Those days were filled with torment. I had to prove myself in a new and difficult terrain, he was putting pressure on me to tell my parents about him, I was preparing for my post graduate exams (primary), and my people were expecting someone from their village. I don’t know how I survived it.
From a young age, I have been a reader. I built a library of inspirational books while in the university. Obviously, the romance novels I used to read in secondary school were not helping the abstinence thing. I found refuge in those books. They made me wiser than my seniors and confident in God’s voice. As much as I didn’t wantto “rebel”, I didn’t want to miss God’s best for me.
You will ask “Is there 1 person for each of us to marry? ” I think we can choose to marry anyone. Some will be easier to live with than others but it’s up to us. I had the aptitude to study both the sciences and the arts, I chose the sciences out of curiosity. So you can marry just anyone but you should accept the consequences. Now, my parents were not pushing any candidates at me. Some aunts tried to match make but the choice was mine.
I remember one doctor from my village I rejected. He proposed over the phone without meeting me and I was so disgusted. That means that he just needed a girl from a good home in our village. I wanted more. My mom was upset initially. Later, she discovered some worrisome facts in his family history and rejoiced that I said No.
One day, I summoned courage and sent my mom a text that I had found someone and though he was not Igbo, I loved him and knew she would. She called immediately, and served some hot threats. I didn’t expect less. My fiancé was happy. At least I had set things in motion. Now, he was sure I wasn’t just stringing him along.
I HAD TO BREAK THIS UP AS IT WAS GETTING LONG. PARDON ME.