I was brought here at a very young age, and led a very sheltered life. Growing up, I didn’t live around any Nigerians let alone black people. Whenever I did interact with other Nigerians outside my immediate family they were always somehow related to me on some level.
The kinds of interactions I watched were skewed, so my experiences with Nigerians were shallow at best. Additionally, there were no other Nigerian children my age to interact with, so the only people to look to model Nigerianism were the elders that I was rarely allowed to interact with. Interestingly enough, when a situation arose in cultural settings, I was consistently reminded that I am a Nigerian and should remember that, and when I attempted to ask what it was to be Nigerian the response always centered on, some sort of subservient behavior or strict guideline of interaction. For example, kneeling or laying down to greet someone keeping your eyes lowered, never talking back, never speaking up, never giving an opinion, only speaking when spoken to, never give something with your left hand, never receive something with your left hand, and so on and so on.
It appeared to me that everything associated with being Nigerian centered around some rule, always seemed negative, and never had history, folklore, or substantive cultural relevance.Yet, when I interacted with American children and their families, there was a freedom, and a relaxed nurturing environment. There was an interaction between parents, their children, between siblings and never once would you hear “I’m not your mate, or I am your senior”. I just never seemed to fit the mold.
As I grew older the guidelines grew more stringent and I began to resist and resent many of them. Ok, so fast forward a couple of years. I have now come into my own, and realize that I can be myself, and make nooooo pretenses or apologies for being myself, and yet I still rub people the wrong way (well only Nigerians). Somehow I have developed a reputation for being rude, and disrespectful, where in other cultures I’m genuine, and unpretentious.
I’m still single, which is baffling to me because I’m actually a really pretty woman, very nurturing, respectful, and considerate. My family says its because I’m not Nigerian enough. I’m too Americanized which I know is an insult in our culture, but I just can’t understand a few things. When I interact with Nigerian men, I’ve found some to be either too forceful, vulgar, condescending, possessive, insecure, or a blatant womanizers. My brothers aren’t like this, so I am baffled are these accepted norms or character traits?
Are Nigerian men supposed to behave this way? In turn what are my actions supposed to be to counteract that? What is it to be a Nigerian woman? I mean, I see many women pretending with their fake smiles, and bogus compliments etc, and I frankly, I am tired of the Bullsh*t. With the exception of being able to cook a Nigerian meal, and speaking your native language what exactly does it mean to be a Nigerian woman in America?