Happily ever after
‘And they lived happily ever after.’ Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?
The week before I was to get married, I got a visit from my grandmother and my aunty. They sat across me in the living room of my father’s house and asked me to listen carefully to them. My aunty started by saying that I am a very lucky girl to have been born into this family. She said that our extended family is one of the most truthful and caring families I would know. After laying that foundation, she went ahead and told me that they had come to talk to me about certain things I needed to know since I was getting married soon and my mother was not alive to tell me these things.
It was then my grandmother, who had been nodding beside her, spoke up. She adjusted her Ankara head tie and said (in Yoruba), ‘My child, I am so happy you’re getting married soon. You know, a woman cannot exactly show the world that she is a woman unless and until she settles down in a house with a man approved by her parents. These modern people would tell you something else. For instance, that a strong woman is the one who works all night and day and has no time for her family. Well, I don’t even have to tell you that that’s a lie of the devil. Another thing that these modern people would tell you is that a man must not cheat on his wife.’ Then at this point, she laughed a really throaty laugh. She laughed so long that I began to worry. Then she finally stopped and said, ‘A man must not cheat on his wife?! Where do you people get these things? A man cannot do without cheating on his wife! It is not a matter that instructions or threats can solve. Since our ancestors existed…. The founders of our tribe, since they existed, men have been cheating on their wives. In fact, it is not even called cheating, it is simply called ‘being a man’. I am very old and I have still never met a man who has not cheated on his wife. And If what you’re scared of is your husband being with other women, then there is no need to marry at all.’
At this point, my aunty slightly touched my grandmother’s hands as though she collected some metaphysical baton to continue this ludicrous speech. She said, ‘Yes o. I accompanied mama to talk to you about this issue so it would not seem like it was only during her time that men cheated on their wives. All men, whether old or young, tall or short, rich or poor, will have to be with other women. God created them in such a way that they can’t be with just one woman. In fact, one woman alone lacks the capacity to truly satisfy a man. Except you want to kill yourself satisfying him…’
My grandmother collected the baton and continued, ‘It may be hard for you to take in now but we’re just telling you so that you won’t have problems in your marriage. All those marriages you see and think that they are perfect, they are not perfect. It takes a wise woman to build a perfect marriage and we’ll tell you who a wise woman is. A wise woman is that woman who learns to look away from her husband’s infidelity. She is that woman who does not say everything she sees, accept everything she feels or act on every truth she knows. That’s how to keep a marriage. Yes, your husband would cheat on you, but if you truly love him, you must close your eyes to it. In fact sef, if you truly love yourself, you must close your eyes to it.’
My aunty continued, ‘Don’t look for things that don’t concern you. Don’t look at his phone. Don’t be looking for lipstick stains. Don’t do investigation on his whereabouts. Don’t provoke him with questions Just try to avoid opening any can of worms’
And my grandmother concluded, ‘Just always remember that he chose you. There were many women but he chose you to keep at home and bear his children because he saw something in you that he wants to reproduce in his children. He may sleep around in the daytime, but he will come back home to you at night. And that’s really what matters at the end of the day’
When they finished speaking, I was in tears, not because their speech had scared me or even because I thought about how my mother would never spew such rubbish from her mouth if she were alive, I cried because I tried to imagine what could have happened and when it did, that the most beautiful and amazing and powerful creatures simply began to see themselves as more useless than salt which has lost its flavor.
The next day, I spoke to my to-be husband about it and he laughed… I did not expect the laughter because I thought we shared the same mind on almost everything, and I did not see this how this one was funny. But he laughed. His laughter would have been forgivable if he did not, between snorts, utter the words, ‘But it’s true na. I mean, I’m not saying me I’ll cheat on you but if you look at what they said critically, you’ll see that it’s true’
That was in 2010 and I am still single and happy. It was a hard decision for me to call off the wedding especially since people thought it was ridiculously stupid that I was ‘determining a whole future based on a small joke’.
Well, that was 2010 and I am happy. I wake up every day with new strength because I know that this happiness would last ‘ever after’. And I know that it would because happiness is to a large extent a product of the decisions we make, and I’m finding that I’m the super queen of firm decision making.