Caleb Okereke: This weight called Bride Price

Nne,
You are not educated. The closest you’ve been to school is aiding your Mother in the shop where she sells drinks and were you let grizzled men pinch your behind as they bellow in excitement. You call it the School of the Wife because it is the school in which you learn how to know which tomato really is from Jos and which is a parody.

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It is the school which your Mother says those Beke girls ought to attend with a slightly overdone pride as if she perhaps did you a favour. In this school, you do not retort sharply when men pinch your behind, your Mother says it is your only resolve, you were crafted by God not just for men to long after but only for men to long after.
Everyday, the sales girls in your Mother’s shop who treat you with the relevance of people who dislike your Mother-Come and wash this plate O, we don’t want Madam’s trouble Or You know Madam won’t complain if you break any bottle-would tittle-tattle about one girl who was so blessed because a Man she met just few months ago had paid money on top her head or another who had been devoted to one man for six years who was not even ‘shaking body’ they said.
At this point they would warn you. “You’re a fine girl, if any man is not ready, leave him and run, menopause is not an enemy and if you see one who is, hold him, don’t let him go biko”
Nne. When your breasts are ripe and succulent, firm enough to hold strapless dresses in place, when your curves convex your Sunday wrapper and the men in your Mother’s shop hesitate before they slap your behind- when the Sales girls remove the cloak of seniority to treat you as an equal, because both your faces have known the silkiness of Mary Kay and your lips the faint smear of lip gloss. I would come.
I would come like all kinds of good news, like the Priest who came to your local church sporadically and whom the young girls swooned over and your poor father sniffing the scent of opportunity would manufacture a list in the manner he produced snuff from his snuff box with precision and maximum attention and say “My son, this is the list”
Nne. I would not bring these many bags of rice, or these yards of material, I would not be the one who would raise your father’s house and buy your Uncle’s their first pair of slippers.
It matters that you have slouched your whole life anticipating the day I’d show up, as believers wait on the day of the rapture, that you have mastered only the art of home making and the submissiveness you studied grudgingly.
You see, the encumbrance of hoisting a family of my own is like a bag of Mama gold rice, liability, slung tentatively and by my Mother’s petition of a grandchild over my shoulders.
And so, I cannot in this same disinclination carry the weight of your own family. I could if you were willing enthusiastic about doing this with me, if you would take off the garment of patriarchy and ease from your ears your Mother’s sermons of how your father had found her as nothing and then made her something only because she knew how much salt to put in the soup and when to succumb to his monstrous desires.
This might have worked then, but smart phones are not alone the innovative things that have come with this generation, equality has too.
Nne. This is September 2015 and I am the new man.
Forlornly, every man wants a woman with whom he can rub shoulders and exchange beer bottles and this is not because of feminism or the sermons that have risen from it.
This is because there are women in his office, with fewer things on their lists, few, too few, perhaps even without a list waiting for him to say “Will you…” before they say “Yes, I will, I will!”
There are women who have attended the school of degrees, who push precincts daily by taking on herculean tasks and purring over premier league matches alongside the men.
But Nne there is hope. For I know men who would still board a bus at Maza Maza, carrying in their heads the faith of meeting women like you who would shower them and their Mothers with the kind of modesty and regard that soon became folly.
I know men who would cheerfully deliver the things on your father’s list and even more because they believe a wife was like a prize, she had to be earned, and not with superficial things as we are starting to understand, but with things of monetary esteem.
Nne, there is hope. For many lips long to tell the tales of crossing the Niger bridge to claim their prize and visiting their tailors to sew matching Ankara outfits, many hands long to feel the skin they consider still in-mint-condition because hypothetically no hands have touched you and this is why you surpass those city girls whose crevices have become like refuse dumps, many ears long to hear your soothing Igbo voice because these Beke girls have thrown their culture to the dogs.
There are many men Nne. But not me, no, not me.

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