That Aunt Iwa was getting married was classified information. It caught us all by surprise, and in the same manner, the eviction notice she issued caught us all by surprise.
They had told Iwa that she had a spirit husband; in her 40s would be unable to have an earthly husband. But she was not only going to prove them wrong, but she was also going to bring the man into her house.
She doesn’t believe in a woman moving into her husband’s house. After all, didn’t the Bible say it is the man that does the leaving and cleaving? She argued. It didn’t say a woman will leave her father and mother; rather it says a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. She doesn’t believe in being found and chosen.
After all, what are matchmakers there for? That’s how she mixed pieces of eccentric and anti-establishment sentiments into her decision-making.
And so everyone wanted to know who this classified man is: Boniface breezed into our flat in a black tuxedo carrying kola nuts and two bottles of gin that Sunday afternoon.
Mama, Adeiwa, I, and the children, fastened our eyes on him. They looked compatible; her fair complexioned matched his. His talk was smooth and honeyed. There were no afterthoughts in his appearance. Everything was a product of careful premeditation and good scripting —the way he held her hand, his moderate smile. Even his physique was well-chiseled for the occasion.
But compatibility is one thing, and chemistry is another. And chemistry could not be rehearsed or scripted. We all felt iffy about her choice. But it’s her choice, nonetheless.
Sheri, on the other hand, went downstairs, blowing hot air in protest. Her older brother and his wife joined. Iwa had issued them quit notice and paid them off to get their own apartment, but they would contest her decision in court. It was their collective inheritance and she had no sole right over it.
Mama, in Iwa’s defense, said the house was her inheritance; and that Iwa was managing it on her behalf.
Sheri and her brother huffed and puffed:
‘No family was going to attend the wedding.’
‘She is destroying family,’ they ranted.
Boniface sweet-talked the children who in turn swooned over him, opening the gifts he bought them.
Mama was heartbroken to see her family fall apart. I was dragged into the middle- as the ombudswoman- to judge who was right and who was wrong.
The feud deepened, when following Thursday, Charles and Sheri, fixed a date for the official engagement.
The following day, Iwa threw another bombshell; fixing the same date as Sheri’s. Iwa posted it all over her social media handles, with the contact details of how to get the aso-ebi.
Sheri was shocked.
Who wouldn’t be?
Iwa was wielding her powers and Sheri was the less powerful here.
“I was the first to choose that date,” she burst out.
“You should know your place in this house,” Iwa replied.
“Aunty, you are so inconsiderate! Why are you even doing this? Is it to get back at me and Charles?”
“Precisely,” she said tersely. “I changed your diapers in this house. I took care of your daughter Flora when your good-for-nothing boyfriend abandoned you. You don’t disrespect me and expect nothing to happen.
Your fearlessness should have a limit. You should know your level!!”
“You are so vengeful…you can tell the whole world that you paid her school fees.”
“But isn’t that the truth?”
“You ruined Adeiwa’s marriage, and now you want to get married. The same institution you criticized, you want to enter? Hypocrite!
“I saved her life from an abusive marriage.”
“Iwa…. Why don’t you show some understanding with your sister…,” Mama weighed in cautiously.
“Moreover, you barely know this Boniface….he might just be after your money.”
“Mama, I know Boniface enough…. My wedding or her wedding? Decide the one you’ll attend.
And so House 44 became a hotbed. Sheri who was going to help me pursue a lawsuit against Naffy, my former employer, is now embattled and distracted.
So I began searching for my own apartment. I imagined what put power and confidence in Iwa’s hands was her career stability and money. As for me, I was six months pregnant— a poignant reminder of my incipient pennilessness and powerlessness.
I started an online declutter business. So I put up for sale on Instagram, my old clothes. I was online all day, searching for an estate agent that could help me get a house. And then I met Dexter online. He was 5ft 11 and looked thirtyish.
After inspecting five different apartments, we finally found, a self-contained apartment in Ijesha. It was in a block of four flats, with no verandahs, corridors, or terraces. Every open space had been renovated into rooms; making the whole place look like a ragtag civilian barracks.
We met a middle-aged man, seemingly the landlord in a cubicle-like office.
The moment we entered, he shivered as though shivering from cold. Dexter talked with him and gave him a form to give me.
I began filling out the form. When I got to the marital status part. It read:
Married, I avoided it.
The next option was Single. Under this section, there were:
- Never married/ fully single
I ticked the last option —never married/ fully single and submitted. He put on his glasses and squinted through them.
‘’I want to give you a house, but it is against our policy to give houses to single women. You have to bring a male partner, preferably your husband,” he said.
“I relate with the husband or the man who will represent you.”
“I don’t understand, why I need to be represented by a man in order to have my own accommodation?”
“It is for your own protection. You need a man to protect you….” He ran his eyes over my belly…. “or are you not pregnant? Who will carry you to the hospital if you fall into labour in the middle of the night?”
“I don’t see how that is any of your business. You don’t know what I need more than I do. I don’t need a man to protect me. Stop crying more than the bereaved!”
“Calm down,” said Dexter, placing his arms across my shoulders. And then he whispered to me, “I can pose as your partner.’’
“No way,” I yelled at him. “I’m not going to take this lying down. This is nonsense! If you can give houses to bachelors, why not to spinsters. That is unfairness and inequality!”
“Well, I see where you are coming from…. you are part of all these 21st-century feminist movements…eh…I see…you may call it whatever ooo….but this is my own policy, I don’t give houses to single women. I don’t want anyone to turn my house into a brothel. The last woman turned my house into a slaughterhouse.”
“To categorize all women as such shows how parochial and brutish your thinking is…you’re talking nonsense,… that’s is stigmatization, discrimination. You’re so misogynistic!” I roared, not caring that he was old enough to be my father.
“I understand English oooo,’’ he mocked, turning his gaze on Dexter… “You see all you independent, women of nowadays, you have no respect for tradition and elders….”
He shook his shoulders and added…”you think you know how to talk; you are outspoken abi? By the way why are you even angry….is it not my property… anyone can do what he likes with his property…shebi you are a pregnant woman? Come with the one who impregnated you, rubbish…”
“You are being very unprofessional,” Dexter chirped… “Can’t you separate your biases and stop judging everyone with the same yardstick….we’re no longer interested in your house,” he stood up.
“Mr. Landlord, or whatever you call yourself, you can’t even confidently look me in the eye to make your points. It shows you are a coward! I will get a house in this town, as a single pregnant woman! And I will sue you for this verbal assault and discrimination! Violating my rights to access housing…. is against the law of the land.
Even if it is your property, there is a law in the land that regulates professional conduct…you have no right to discriminate against me on the grounds of my gender or marital status…..
I picked up my bag and followed Dexter, trembling greatly. His words were like a blade cutting me into tiny little pieces. I’ve never been so judged! I imagined if it were Iwa or Naffy, Anwuli or Sheri in my situation. They would have macheted him beyond recognition!
Even though I don’t agree with her definition of feminism, why would I undermine women like Naffy, who advocated for gender equality aggressively? Or Iwa who challenged norms and do not wait to be given power, but seized power and wield it with purpose and deliberation. I may not like what she was doing to her sister, but I secretly admire her confidence, even if it could be confidently brutal. Both have learned one thing I am yet to learn —to ignore background noises and keep your head above the din!
(To be continued)
You can read the last edition HERE
“Unapologetically Shewa” is a story of Shewa and Sheri. Both of them are single mothers who live in a society which judges them. While Sheri keeps seeking where and what to hide behind, Shewa decides to stop hiding or withering under the condescending glare of society. She was ready to shed no more tears, but shed off the scales of self-judgement and begin a journey of self-actualization. Coming against societal norms, will she change the norms or the norms will change her?
Abiose A. Adams, a journalist, creative writer, and senior programme officer at Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, can be reached on [email protected]
Author’s Disclaimer: This story is purely a work of fiction. Any coincidence of the characters with real persons is highly regretted.
Photo credit: Pexels/ketut/subiyanto
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