Image: April + Galina Potography
As soon as Biola clocked thirty, the pressure on her to get married reached fever pitch. She was an extremely hardworking TV personality with the leading entertainment channel in Nigeria. She had over N50 million in her account and ten plots of land. She drove her own Sedan and rented her own house in an upscale part of Abuja. In her view, she had everything and that was why she was constantly tired of the prodding urging her to ‘settle down’, ‘start a family’, and to ‘become responsible’. She couldn’t go anywhere without people reminding her that she was ‘advancing in age’ and should be worried about ‘what people will say.’
Though she had lived almost all her life in Ibadan, she didn’t hesitate to move to Abuja when work opportunity came. In her view, she had freedom; what blissful freedom. Or so she thought.
Her aunt – Aunty Folake – called her once a week to remind her that she needed to get married. She laughed and usually responded by telling her that she would.
‘Biola mi, you are thirty. Time will not wait for you oh! Your mother might not be worried but the rest of the family is. Ha ahn! When will you have children? Do you want to be old before you give birth? As a nurse who has worked for 25 years, I can categorically tell you that pregnancies of women advanced in age are usually trouble pregnancies and the risk factors for the child are high oh! Is that what you want? Ehn?!’ To which Biola would always respond, ‘Aunty mi, I will get married soon. Don’t worry.’ After which she would look for the slightest excuse to end the call.
She was surprised at her Aunty Folake’s insistence that she marry. Her aunt had been married twice before deciding to settle down with her current husband. She still got angry when she talked about her ex-husbands, especially husband number one. He had deceived her into thinking he was comfortable enough to take care of her. It wasn’t until they were married that she realized he was poor. He had a mat, two plates and one spoon. He spent all his money trying to live a lie and something as basic as feeding had been a struggle for them. When he had any money, it quickly disappeared in the gambling pits in town. She had hated him because she suffered real poverty with him. It wasn’t until she got a job that things got better; better being that she filed for divorce and left him.
Her second husband had been the worst. She had come home one day to see him sexually abusing her adolescent daughter. She nearly killed him with a knife. The only reason she didn’t was that the neighbors stepped in and stopped the fight. He spent some hours in the police cell but was released because he was an aspiring politician who had a lot of money to bribe the police officials.
Her current husband was nothing more than a Muppet in the hands of Biola’s aunt. He had no say in the house and visibly resented his powerlessness but Aunty Folake would have it no other way.
Evelyn Oshoeke, her hair and makeup stylist was another person putting pressure on her.
‘Biola, there is this man that wants to meet you. Girrrl, he is loaded! He is a commissioner and men! He has money!’ she blurted as soon as Biola came in for a touch-up.
‘Evelyn, drop it all ready. Like I’ve said over and over again, I will not get married.’ Biola said defiantly.
‘You are a beautiful woman. You don’t even need this make up. You are successful and loaded. Why then won’t you want to be complete? Girl, you know I will keep asking until you tell me the reason.’ she said as she tried to contour Biola’s cheek.
Biola shifted angrily and huffed!
‘You want to know why I don’t want to get married?! Simple! I will not have any man try to limit me to kitchen and bedroom duty when I have so much to do in this life. I intend to leave my name in the sands of time and trust me; I will not put my goals on hold to please any man!’
Evelyn looked at her and frowned. ‘First, you just messed up my work and I’m none too pleased. So keep your face in one place so I can do my job.’ Biola eyed her a bit but obeyed. Evelyn started working again. ‘Second, a man doesn’t have to limit you. He can be your greatest supporter. Take my husband for example; he is helping me achieve my dreams and so much more. When I was just plaiting my friends’ hair, he pushed me to go to take a course in beauty regimen and when I was done, opened this big shop for me. He is my biggest support and you could get someone like that too’.
She continued talking but Biola wasn’t listening. She remembered when Evelyn had come to the shop with a swollen red eye which she had tried to hide with her makeup. Upon further investigation, Biola found out that Evelyn’s husband, “her biggest support”, beat her up for the slightest infraction and that she had been beaten badly on so many occasion that she lost three babies as a result. A day after she returned home from giving birth to her first child, her husband had slapped her for being too slow in bringing his food. And here she was, gushing about her husband and using him as an example for why Biola should get married. Biola let her talk and when she was done, she left more resolute not to marry.
Mrs. Kayla Griffin was an affluent branch manager of a telecommunication company in Abuja. She was a beautiful, well educated, cosmopolitan woman. Her company was one of the sponsors of Biola’s shows and somehow, they became friends. When she found out Biola was not married, she organized blind dates for her and whispered to her wealthier clients the ‘availability’ of Biola. Kayla was doing too much and Biola was not happy with it. When she confronted Kayla, she responded by saying she wanted Biola to be accepted by society as a responsible woman. This was the same woman who had to settle to marry. Her husband was an uneducated, classless drunk who had lots of money. He couldn’t construct one sentence without murdering the English language. Kayla wore the latest designs by topnotch designers and brands and was always looking fly. It wasn’t long for Biola to realize that the obsession with beauty regimen and fashion bric-a-brac was because she was covering up for something. As uneducated as the man was, he kept dating young girls who were nowhere near his wife; in beauty, class, charisma or style. Biola wondered why Kayla, who had such a failed marriage, was pressuring her to get married. She was nice – after all, she needed the sponsorship – but she didn’t take the words of Mrs. Kayla Griffin about marriage seriously.
Pastor Bolu Oladimeji had been Biola’s pastor since she moved to Abuja. The church was beautiful and a place she called home. Pastor Bolu’s wife – Mummy Adesewa – was a woman with a beautiful spirit. She was humble, respectful and genuinely cared for the church. She lacked one thing though; Pastor Bolu’s attention. She was so starved of attention and love that she seemed to be wilting away. Pastor Bolu was usually in church as early as 7am, returning home usually between 10 and 11pm. He spent so much time attending to the needs of his church and flock that he didn’t see that his wife was starved of attention. She spent a lot of time in church so she could be near her husband but he never noticed her. When she brought food, hoping they could eat together like they used to when they first married, he would take his plate and go sit with his other Pastors. One Saturday, when they came to set the church for Sunday service, Pastor Bolu forgot her in church only to call back two hours later to find out where she was. Yet, she kept urging Biola to get married so that she could hold leadership position in church. Biola told them, in as clear a tone as she could, that she had no intention of being in church leadership! Mummy Adesewa was relentless. She got the marriage counseling unit to set up meetings with prospective suitors for Biola. The drama was tiring and eventually, she started skipping church.
Hajiya Aishatu Bello was Biola’s go to fashion designer. That woman could sew! She had women coming in from Kaduna and even Kogi for her services. She always gave Biola tips on shows to do, especially when they touched on issues affecting women. She called Biola to come in and see her latest designs before she showed them to the public and Biola dropped everything she was doing. As soon as Biola got in, she knew this was going to be more than a sales event. Aishatu whisked Biola into her office instead of taking her to her showroom.
‘Are the designs in your office today?’
‘No…not really. I wanted to give you a concept for your talk show before showing you the dresses and I needed the privacy of my office to do so. You know how people can talk for Africa! And this is a sensitive issue.’ Aisha said.
‘Okay… Hit me! Let hear this idea.’
‘If…for example, a woman has never…’
Biola cut her off. ‘You know me Ayi. I don’t have time for ciphers. Come out with it as straight as it is. Who is the person and what is the issue?! I don’t try to solve people’s problems by beating around the bush.’ she finished with a flourish as she folded her hands.
Aisha looked at her and inhaled deeply. She looked like she was struggling to speak but Biola wasn’t fazed. She wasn’t a top notch On-Air-personality by being overly emotional. She knew just when (and how) to get the emotion and that moment was not now. When Aishatu saw that she was alone in the water, she squared her chin.
‘What I am about to tell you is strictly private and you have no right to mention my name, my religion or the fact that I live here in Abuja. Do we have a deal?’ she asked with the sternest expression she could muster.
‘Hey! Drop that mean mug! You know I respect confidentiality like I love my skin. Your secret is safe with me. I already have a name address which will be a good alias. So, let us have it!’ Biola responded.
‘Okay. This is it.’ she huffed. ‘I have never had an orgasm.’
Now, while Biola could have shouted ‘WHAT?!’ and fallen out of her seat, she knew that she had not reached her peak by blanching easily. So, instead of showing her awe and surprise, she said ‘okay…’
‘OKAY?! JUST OKAY! I just bared my biggest problem and your come back is freaking OKAY?!’ she was almost out of her seat as she asked that question.
Biola knew the situation was dicey. She needed to be careful or lose this woman’s trust.
‘First, keep your voice down. You are the one who wants privacy. Second, relax! You know me, I need to ensure I know everything before I make a comment’ to which Aishatu shook her head and sank into her plush seat. ‘Are you okay now?’ Aishatu nodded in the affirmative. ‘Then, continue’. Aishatu breathed deeply and continued.
‘I have never had an orgasm. I lived a very privileged life and didn’t know about sex until I was 14 and preparing for my wedding. My mum told me what to do, which was basically to let my husband do whatever he wants to do. On my wedding night, my husband just mounted me, spread my legs, thrust into me over and again, got spent and got off. And in the 20 years since I have been married to him, that has been the routine’.
This was the time for Biola to shout ‘WHAT?!’…and she did.
‘LOL! Now you are shocked? Well, it get worse. I never knew anything was wrong until I started browsing and came across the term online and read up on it. That was how I found out about foreplay, cuddling and wait for it…KISSING!’ Biola nearly fainted! ‘Yes! That bad! I have never been kissed by my husband, nor have I ever been cuddled by him. For fifteen straight years, he comes to my room, does his ‘wham-bam-thank-you-mam’ and returns to his room. And now, he wants to marry a second wife!’
Biola was shocked! This was 2015 and a full, supple, beautiful woman who was in her mid-30s had never had an orgasm! She had never been hugged by her husband, and was literally starved of physical touch. Where was Biola to start from? She knew her producer would jump on the topic and make it a big show but she wondered how she could help Aishatu. She suggested Aishatu tells her husband what she wanted sexually or teach him if he didn’t understand her, but Aishatu would have none of that. Her husband would think her immoral and probably kill her. When Biola told her to ask for a divorce, she responded in this epic manner.
‘No way! I cannot be without a husband. People will think I am irresponsible. My respect will drop. Plus, my religion tells me that I complete my purpose when I marry. So, divorce is not an option. I have all I need; a big duplex in Maitama, cars which I change every two years, trips to Dubai, France, Switzerland and anywhere else I want to and best of all, I have my five wonderful kids and a thriving business. I love the comfort I have now and it is all because of my husband. No, darling…I cannot afford a divorce’.
Biola was stumped. She knew she could push it but it was impossible to change Aishatu’s mind. What she could do though was help other women with similar problems. The wheels were turning in her head on how she would ensure the show had top ratings and reached millions of people.
After their discussion, Aishatu took Biola to her show room and Biola got to pick the latest designs for her wardrobe. As they perused the dresses, Aishatu asked Biola when she was getting married to which Biola clearly told her she wasn’t.
When Biola was done and was about to exit the door, she turned to Aishatu and said, ‘You do know you can get it yourself yeah?’ She smiled and winked. The look on Aishatu’s face when it dawned on her was pure satisfaction to Biola.
She exited the shop.
Biola was finally sick of the pressure. She was tired of all the drama about her getting married. She knew marriage was a trap that was more in favor of the man than it was for the woman. She was sick of seeing women live empty lives because they have been told that they cannot be complete unless they are married. She wanted more from life and her brains cells were more than a menu for the family and beauty tips to keep her husband. If people were going to call her irresponsible, incomplete or lose because she refused to bow to societal pressure, then so be it! As far as she was concerned, to hell with saying ‘I do’! She owned her life and she was not going to bow to no societal, family or peer pressure!
The wedding was about to begin. Aunty Folake was ecstatic. Biola was finally getting married! After much cajoling, she had finally agreed to get married to a man they chose for her. The church was full and the wedding procession about to begin. The bride was yet to arrive though. ‘What was keeping that foolish driver?’ She pulled out her phone and dialed his number. Just as it began to ring, the car baring the bridesmaids came into the church premises. She rushed to it.
‘Where is Biola?’ she asked.
The chief bridesmaid said, ‘She is coming. She was right behind us and will soon be here’. Soon became thirty minutes and thirty minutes an hour. All calls to Bayo, the driver, were not answered. After two hours, the driver turned up with the car. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief until they realized Biola was not in the car. When the driver was quizzed, he silently handed over a note to Biola’s father. It read:
‘Dear Daddy, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I will not be getting married today…or any day for that matter. You know my reasons and quite frankly, I cannot go into it again. Marriage sucks and I don’t intend to join all the miserable women who are married because, let’s face it; married women are depressed and unhappy and miserable. There is more to life than that and I choose more! I got the driver to drop me off at the airport and I’m heading to London now. I will live as I want and not as society dictates. I love you and I pray you forgive me someday. Explain to mum for me. I’m sorry.’
And like a true Nigerian movie, Aunty Folake fainted!