Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nigerian incident

A childhood friend comes to visit. We're having a party. His wife and four kids are in tow. He's a highly qualified professional- doing well by Nigerian standards, the driver and car are there parked in the foreground of our compound to prove it. As is the wife- professional, well-educated, turned out in an expensive lace long skirt and blouse. Up our front steps she struggles- to hang on to the baby, the baby bag and the two older ones' hands while at the same time hitching up her "tight-knee" skirt to negotiate the steep steps. Husband (my friend) strides obliviously on. I go to her and take the baby bag and the two older ones off her hands. Her relief is palpable.

I settle them in and explain that the buffet is open. It's serve yourself as we say. She looks around trying to negotiate what to do with the kids. Husband is deeply engrossed in conversation with some other friends, seemingly oblivious to the problem. I take their order and then go and get what she wants and serves them. Husband swivels round and says what he would like to eat. She abandons feeding the children and heads for the buffet and is soon back with hubby's order. The whole family tuck in.

My friend does not seem to have changed, he's still the same funny, humane person- passionate about Nigerian development and about Nigeria moving forward. We discuss various projects and initiatives that he's involved in.

Yet his treatment of his wife rankles. I keep quiet till the next day. Over a drink I gently, half-humorously raise my observations. He laughs as he tells me that I have turned oyibo- brainwashed by the English. I disagree, reminding him of our heated conversations in university, our rejection of the status quo. That was theory he says- this is practice. We turn to other less contentious subjects, but I still can't shake off my confusion.

The gap between us looms....

14 comments:

ayoke said...

Shame. That wasn't even about the status quo or being oyibo. That was about just being plain considerate. It's not even about women's rights as much as it is about having a reasonable companion.

Well, the couple must have their own understanding. Maybe it is a sign of male weakness for him to be that considerate and some women even prefer that their men appear the macho brute in public than the "sissy, all over my wife" type. And also, maybe it's the sign of her own perfection - a submissive professional. Well educated, yet honours her husband. Different dialectics.

Cryptic, eh? Just think back about cracking shells...

Anonymous said...

You don't want to know what I'd like to do to your friend. Goodness, do men like that still exist?????

Anonymous said...

Some men are just like that.I once thought it was a naija male thing but i discovered that a lot of men regardless of race, nationality or background are like that totally oblivious to helping out the wifey with kids and everyday chores.

Funmi said...

I can't believe there are still men like these around. Then again his wife must enjoy juggling all the 'work'......like ayoke mentioned its all about being considerate which is what real love is about.

n9ja said...

Shame....stone age men still exist

Anonymous said...

one of my brothers started doing that after he got married. it's weird, cuz i'll go visit and he'll cook for me (and i'm like 10 years younger), but not for his wife. i think she created that atmosphere, though, cuz he was well-trained by our very matriarchal family and doesn't dare behave like that with any of us. he's getting better though, now that they have a baby - diaper changes, midnight bottle feedings...he's a good dad.

i don't get why nigerian women choose to burden themselves with these traditional roles, because, let's face it, they don't have to anymore. it's the 21st century; if your friend's wife had stood her ground as an equal from day one, they wouldn't be in that situation. maybe you should have been talking to her.

Anonymous said...

and now that i think about it, i agree with ayoke. my brother's wife makes more money than he does and thinks she should be more submissive so as not to bruise his ego. what she failed to recognize is that my brother's ego had been sufficiently battered and destroyed by his sisters, who just weren't having any male dominance in the house! i'm kidding, but yeah, he learned early that men and women are equal, and then she just went and tried to undo all that just to be "politically correct".

deola said...

my goodness..may my daughters never marry such a man.

Everchange said...

sounds like most nigerian men. Good on you for calling him out on it.

Anonymous said...

Sad! Marriage and all its consequences require an equal partnership. Sure, there will be times when one partner must adjust their temperament for the benefit of the other, but both have to be "on deck" always. Can't help but thank God that my hubby is excellent at dealing with the children. Although, I must say, it would be nice if he cooked more often, though I probably wouldn't eat his cooking. Just not up to par. I hope he doesn't stumble upon this comment. Love you husband! No vex oh!

t said...

Sometimes a guy wipes up a table elegantly and properly, and I think it's so hot. I like that in a man.

Anonymous said...

The outrage is interesting, while it is inconsiderate of the man to leave his wife struggling with the kids, how exactly do you propose to enforce the "you have to help me with the kids" rule, other than by not going out with him?

I am not sure who would be the loser if that was the case! It is not enough to be self righteous. The men bashing needs to calm down

Ore said...

Last Anon, I don't think this is purely about male-bashing, though the behaviour exhibited is typical of a lot of Nigerian men - and dare I say, men in general.

Times are a-changing, but it's still the common belief that women need to be the primary care-take (of children and husband). And many women go along with it, even though most privately complain about it. So, in a way, many women are sanctioning that type of inconsiderate behaviour.

Like Everchange said, it was good that you talked to him about it.

Stella-Belle said...

It seems as though both you and your friend have resided outside the box for some years... your friend still enjoys the privileges of patriarchy. Although he may consider himself a progressive thinker, he still enjoys relaxing while his wife toils away at the domestic duties. He may just be too comfortable with the power division to change his ways.