Hello strong lady,
I call you strong lady because you’ve probably heard it a thousand times from people. We are strong women who take pride in our strength. We because I am you.
Our strength is not just buried in our vaginas, we command so much respect because we know what it feels like to live in a world where the fittest survives and our drive to succeed takes us to places we have imagined we’d be.
Being a strong girl is tough work. It is tough to keep up with. People expect you to behave a certain way and though it comes with a sort of respect because the strong girl does not follow norms, it also comes with a feeling of loneliness. No one likes to feel helpless.
Reflecting on the conversation I had earlier today with my good friend, Tarfa, I realized that the attraction people have for the strong girls usually leads to fear and this fear,though good at times, is unhealthy.
I met a total of 21 strangers in the last three days who told me the same thing over again. They would commend me for a job well done, they would say I am a strong girl, a rare breed lady who actually believes she can work to make a living. They would compare me with girls who are lazy,who think their bodies are their only means of survival and I’d laugh, because these girls also work. We just have different definitions of work. It’s easy for them, you see and sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to have someone take care of me, who would spoil me just a little bit. Strong girls feel it the most. All that attention and for what? Business, money.
There are times when the strong girl wants more than a quickie, more than ringing some random guy to come give her his penis for a day, more than return home late at night to an empty kitchen because she has no time to cook and no one to notice that all she has eaten in three days is a burger. True, being able to compete in a world where the fittest survive is a thing of pride, being able to treat yourself to a weekend of pleasure brings a level of satisfaction and it’s scary how people see the strength from afar but never realize that we sometimes get depressed.
Failure is a dangerous thing. This is probably why we fight always, against failure. But failure happens sometimes and the world does not think you can fail. The little boy I teach has learned to say everyday that the downfall of a man is not the end of his life. I teach him this everyday and I teach him that a man can actually fall, what matters is that he dusts himself and rises up again. I teach him this because I want him to understand that people still fail and so he should never see anyone as perfect.
Us strong ladies are seen as perfect. Our love is perfect, our hate is perfect, our silence and laughter are perfect and we live our seemingly perfect life praying that someone sees, understands and respects our imperfection.
Tarfa told me today that I am a strong lady who at 24 has achieved a lot. I said to him, I have not achieved a lot and I am not satisfied. I get depressed and sad sometimes but people never see it because I hide it behind a smile, keep up appearances because no one will believe that you are crying.
Yesterday, I cried. I cried after I was stopped at the traffic light, I cried when I drove my sleek red corolla to a five star hotel, I cried when I felt the urge to cry, with the car windows wound up and when the traffic light turned red, I cried and when cars hooted, I parked the car and cried so hard, I cried because I wanted to cry, because there’s so much to say and no one trustworthy enough to say it to but a God I believe exists so I cried and prayed and even as I type this, I’m watching a band sing songs and I’m crying. These tears are not of sadness.
Sometimes, our challenges are overwhelming and its sad that we can only imagine how life would be if all we had to do was dream and have someone else provide the resources to see these dreams become a reality.
Here’s where I find satisfaction, that in dreaming, we can get anywhere; that in fighting, life’s stones feel like softball; that in loving, it never gets boring; that in giving, we never lack; that in living, death is a joke.
A boy will dream again tonight, of his many cars and houses. He will dream of wealth, women and employees. A boy will dream again tonight and wish he would live longer in the land of his dreams. He will count his years waiting impatiently for the day he’ll eventually wriggle free from the clingy protection of his parents. This boy will wake and say to his friends, ‘I dreamed of more houses and wealth’ and they will hold their noses with one hand, snorting and laughing. They will call him ‘The dreamer’ and he will snap his fingers at them, ‘You will see’.
The young boy will grow and be happy. His father too will be. ‘You are now a man’, his father will say and the boy, with nothing but his bag of dreams and hope, will open his arms and say to the world, ‘I am now a man!’
Now shelter and a car, he will be gifted. ‘A roof over your head and a vehicle for your comfort’, his parents will say. ‘Never forget that you are a man’.
With this zeal, he will work. Harder each day, he will work and everyday he will smile because life is not as complicated as they made it seem and even though he is now a man, his mother’s breasts still give him life but soon he will crave firmer breasts unlike his mother’s and faced with a bevy of choices requiring only his money, he’ll explore his youth and test them all.
One day, a stone will hit him; the first stone of many. Firmer breasts will leave him for the next hive and he will shed shameful tears, wondering whether to return to his mother’s breasts.
But I am a man! He’ll say, I’ll dream again.
A man will dream again tonight, of a gentle hand and a loving smile. He will dream of budding breasts and wake up craving to be in the arms of this one. He will stare at faces and chests, he’ll give all to find the smile and touch those hands. If I find these, I’ll be whole again. This man will say to his friends, ‘I dreamed of a creature with smile like a crescent moon’ and they will hold their bellies and laugh at him. They will call him ‘the dreamer’ and he will smile at them, ‘you will see.’
Shelter and car soon disappear, tiny stones become hail, his confidence melts but men do not cry. Smiles and breasts he has seen, none exactly like he had dreamed for when he thought he could shed a tear, their gentle hands had hardened. Do you not know that men do not cry?
Soon hope smiles, one hand holds him close.
‘Cry, baby, cry. Men are first humans’.
He sleeps and dreams like a boy again and when he tells his dream to the one with the gentle hands, that one smiles.
A fresh burst of confidence, a man will understand now that the hailstorm will be tackled by two but he soon will crave firmer breasts and with his money, he’ll find them and forget the one with the gentle hands.
Once in a while, I get asked the ‘five-year question’: Where do you see yourself in five years?
The last time I was asked by a friend, my response was almost the same as my past responses which was ‘In my house, upstairs, sipping wine from a beautiful glass and looking through my window at the vast expanse of land – my land- and thinking to myself how hard work pays’.
I dreamed one night
Lives would be spared
If friends could solve puzzles
People lost their lives
My friends and I
We were spared
Others too lived
We put heads together
We solved puzzles
We thought deep
We lived long.
Chris was driving me home one Saturday evening when we saw a party. I told him that it was definitely a funeral celebration. My weird reason was that the canopies looked like tents but that was just a lucky guess. He asked whether they were celebrating life or death and to this, I replied, ‘Life of course!” He said people tend to spend so much on funerals than they would birthdays and other celebrations, ‘especially the Yorubas’, he said. I argued that the Yorubas spend on weddings and naming ceremonies but that in Edo state, planning a funeral involves heavy spending. All over Benin City, particularly along Uselu road, casket makers are in business. Every other weekend, there is always a burial celebration and it is usually very grand with children, grandchildren, and cousins to nieces of the deceased wearing uniforms, dancing and sometimes, fighting. Relatives compete for food and special canopies are assigned to special people. Sometimes major roads are blocked depending on who died.