Years ago, I ran into an old colleague from college. His eyes drifted down to my fingers. He must have seen the ring. “Congratulations!” he said. “Dude from your country?” “Nope” I replied. “He’s a cross between Bono (the lead singer for U2) and Steven Seagal.” Suddenly, the warm smile that had softened his face and greeted me moments before disappeared! He glared at me, shook his head from side to side and bellowed, “You married a white guy? …Blah, blah, blah… don’t you know what they did to us 400 years ago? (Okay, maybe he said 200 or 100- I don’t remember). And by the look in his eyes I was ready to bet my oldest daughter’s iPod, PlayStation and Razor Cell that he wanted to ruffle me up a bit…but, but…that could potentially translate to some quiet time in the slammer and I think he knew the rules! I too, was not oblivious to where he was headed. After all, he was not the first black individual to slap me in the face with that proverbial “how could you?” cold stare! But, this time around, I was not in the mood to engage in any sort of war of words. “Have a nice day” I said and simply walked away!
And such is the classic reaction of a great number of black men (maybe without the verbal outburst) when they see me with, or find out that my better half is more like that “finger licking mmmmmmm so good” inside filling of an Oreo cookie! Women on the other hand, particularly Nigerians, tend to ask, “So what is it like?” Typically, I’ll toss out something like “Well, it’s probably the exact opposite of most things you know about a Nigerian man” or reply with “What exactly do you want to know?” See, quite frankly, such a topic of conversation is never an issue to me, until someone makes it an issue. And speaking of issues, just recently, I ran across Sabella’s article “Nigerian men and their foreign wives.” I also read a big chunk of the subsequent remarks. Then it I dawned on me that there’s more to a contemporary Oyinbo man in comparison to a Naija man than meets the eye. (I say contemporary because in many parts of the Deep South and rural America, there are still countless family structures that are apple to apple to the traditional African family setup; the man literally or symbolically wears the pants-take your pick!) And I believe that numerous Nigerian women in similar matrimonial boats would find most, if not all of my observations universal! To all others with a curious George syndrome, I’m sorry I can’t help you with what makes foreign men tick because I am clueless. However, I hope this inside scoop from the horse’s mouth is enough to pacify your itch about what it’s like to be married to my husband, who happens to be a white man!
One of the major complaints some of my friends have about their husbands (Nigerians) is their unwillingness to lift a finger to help out around the house even if they both hold full time jobs. These women are expected to man all domestic chores and shoulder most tasks associated with raising the children without the tiniest whimper! (The same song plays in my home but with a slight twist.) First, let me say that in many ways, some of these issues that my counterparts grumble about are not exclusively unique to the Nigerian man. Men are men-FIRST-regardless of race! Armed with a healthy dose of testosterone, most men (with the exception of those really happy fellas) have this primal urge to dominate everyone and everything! And unfortunately, it includes trying to relegate women to docile roles.
To begin with, my husband does not hold me to the fire for not meeting those expectations. Neither does he make demands. He is laid-back, easy to please, and not finicky (although he may periodically whine like a baby if he gets leftover pizza instead of that plateful of rice and stew I promised to feed him.)John is quick witted, respectful; familiar with those two magic words “Please” and “THANK YOU” and knows how to use them frequently to get what he wants!
His mother and younger sister are often puzzled and irritated because they believe that he makes me cater to his every whim (so, not true!)Yes, he prefers that I make or fix his coffee. But in their opinion, he’s capable of brewing a full pot for himself-and so he should. We’ve had discussions about my African culture and upbringing and I’ve made it clear to them that I don’t mind pampering my husband. Yet, they relentlessly tease and label him a Chauvinist! Care to take a wild guess about which one has been divorced for over twenty-five years and which is still single, pushing thirty-eight and has never been married? Catch my drift?
PARTNERS BUT NOT EQUALS
Next, some may say, “The African male does not view the African female as an equal.” Why should he? Does anyone really believe that men and women are equals? Is this why men are physically stronger, and only women are capable of giving birth? John considers me his best friend and partner (not his equal) and I’m okay with that train of thought. There’s a mutual respect in our relationship, and we’re both aware of our roles. He understands that part of his responsibilities as a husband and father is to protect and provide for his wife and children. My obligation as a wife and especially as a stay-at-home mom is to serve, honor and cater to my husband’s needs. Yes, I too, am expected to cook, clean, care for the children and manage other day-to-day household routine. Nonetheless, my husband is not completely insensitive to how heavy that “wife-mother” hat that most women wear regularly can get. Every now and then, I could always count on him to come out of the left field with “do you need me to do anything?” Other times, I’d just ask him to chip in and he’s more than happy to give me a hand. Once, I came home from work a bit later than usual, and there he was in the kitchen making a God-awful mess! He claimed he was trying to surprise me with a pleasant dinner so I wouldn’t have to bother with cooking. Let’s just say… one bite of that homemade lasagna…it was Papa John’s to the rescue. Later, I patted him on the back, gave him thumbs up for his effort but begged him to stay the heck away from the kitchen!
MY OPINIONS COUNT
At any rate, John is close to his mother and is never blatantly disrespectful to her. But, on some family issues, my feelings and opinions tend to topple the scale. He is not afraid to stand up for me even if it means standing alone. A couple of weeks ago, upon our return from a fun, but exhausting five-day carnival cruise to Key West and Nassau, Bahamas, it was decided by a simple toss of a coin that he and I should host thanksgiving (a yearly family tradition) at our home and invite all of our extended family members. I was not feeling hospitable. I did not feel like slaving over the stove for personal reasons and I made sure that he knew it! Let me confess, throughout our thirteen years of marriage, I never knew he had it in him. The words that came flying out of his mouth called for a full bottle of Listerine mouthwash! (And they say Nigerian men are verbally abusive?)…Seriously, only ten words came out of his mouth, “If you don’t feel like cooking, we’ll just order something” So, together we weighed our choices and looked at menu options. Ultimately, we ordered the “main course” from a fairly decent catering service and I was
more than happy to whip out a few side dishes and dessert! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s my boy!