A Landscape of Friendship

friends-landscape

 

Sotonye and I were friends first. I forget now, how we met, that memory superseded by memories of our friendship: the innocence of it. We walked around town and hopped on buses to places too far to walk like the old amphitheatre at the university. One afternoon, we sat together on a leather beanbag, shoulders rubbing, while we fiddled with the controls of my parent’s Panasonic sound system. We took turns to put our cassettes into the tape deck and listen to each other’s mix tape.

“Sit apart!” my mother’s voice startled us. Before I could understand the implication of her words, Sotonye had sprung to the chair farthest from the beanbag, and from me, in the living room. That day heralded the beginning of the end of our friendship, I think.

After I met his best friends, Charles and Karibi, I saw Sotonye less and less. He caved under my persistent interrogation and admitted that he had kept a distance because Charles had warned him that girls like me could derail a guy’s destiny.

I should have told him that I was hurt, but I did not. I could have pointed out that in his stead, Charles was now spending more time with me, the destiny-stealer, and Karibi was a close second, borrowing books from the library to feed my love for books, but I did not. Universities were on strike and Sotonye was convinced that his future lay in the United Kingdom. His plans to relocate consumed his focus.

Ten years have passed since the alliance—three boys, then two boys and one girl— we formed crumbled because we grew up and went to discover ourselves on the map.

Presently, Charles and I are having lunch after a chance encounter earlier in the week, and I am reminding him of how we met. He is laughing so hard, he begins to cough.

“That’s not how it happened, didn’t I meet you first?”

“You wish,” I say, rolling my eyes.

“I can’t believe I did my guy like that!” He slaps his thigh, still amused.

“Better believe it; do you know where Sotonye is now?”

“Last I heard he’s still in the UK, directing theatre productions or something weird like that. That’s what Karibi said when I bumped into him, last year.”

“Karibi . . .” I say wistfully.

“You always liked him. That traitor who swooped in when I left for school—”

“No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was like a big brother to me.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Go away joor. He was the sweetest boy I’ve ever known.”

“That’s because he didn’t shave your head. Abeg, leave that thing!”

“We all were great friends . . .”

“Yes,” he agrees, “but you did not understand boys.”

We distill years past by exchanging phones and swiping photos, who’s this and where’s that, make our puzzle pieces fit faster. But photographs cannot capture all. Suddenly, Charles looks down at his drink and admits to being a closet alcoholic.

“It’s not so bad,” he says, looking up at me.

I nod. In the movement of my head and the steady gaze of my eyes, there is no judgement.

“Why don’t you tell someone who can hold you accountable on the road to recovery—”

“What! You haven’t changed! You’re still naïve . . . like back then . . .”

I trace the rim of my glass with my finger, uneasy and unsure of what he means.

“You still think everyone is like you, and everything is black and white,” he answers my unspoken question.

“No not really—”

“You trust easily. Haven’t people hurt you . . . enough?”

I sigh. Maybe I should not have let him look at all my photos.

“I am no longer afraid of getting hurt. But this isn’t about me. Isn’t your secret too heavy to bear alone?”

“I’ll survive. I haven’t told anyone . . . I don’t even know why I told you.”

I know why he told me. In just two hours, we have travelled back to the road leading to my parent’s house, where, unable to stop his voice trembling, he confided in me about his parent’s impending divorce.

The moment passes and we reminisce about happier times, about the place near the overhead bridge where we met in the evenings after Sotonye left. Charles would arrive with a packet of cigarettes and after he dragged on a cigarette a bit, he passed it round. I took tentative puffs while Karibi backed away as if it were a snake, reminding Charles of his asthma and me of the dangers of lung cancer.

“I gave up smoking,” Charles says. “Best thing I ever did.”

I nod again.

“You were the glue . . .” he begins.

“Nah,” I say, “Sotonye—”

“It’s true, everything was centred around you.”

He signals to the waiter for another drink. I shake my head, no.

“Do you think . . . answer me honestly, Charles . . . that boys and girls can just be friends?”

His answer is slow to come.

“I don’t know,” he says at last. “Even back then, Sotonye, Karibi, and I, wanted more.”

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Advertisements

More Than the Sum of All That

compass

My aunt is wearing a striped tube dress with spaghetti straps. When she sits, love handles circle her tummy like three rubber tires. “Timi, where have you been?” she asks, but does not expect an answer. I am there and it is enough. She sucks me in a tight embrace, her warmth spreading over me, her smile wide. 

The years apart are too many to fit into an evening. We make small talk highlighting the events that count. Did I hear what happened to her son? Only God could have saved him. And what about me and my hopes for tomorrow? I do not burden her with sad news; there is no need to slow down the tempo of the music we are making. Soon we are silent, each of us locked in our world, making sense of words.

When my sister says, “Aunty you look as young as ever,” she returns to the present.

“No o. I am old.”

My sister counters, “You’re looking young. No one would believe if you tell them your age.”

“Please don’t deceive me, don’t give me false hope,” she says like a woman who has been lied to and preyed upon. She pats her Halle Berry wig and looks at me with a small smile.

She is seeking corroboration from me. I cannot just give it, mouthing empty words. I do not know how old she is. I have no compass with which to navigate true north, therefore I cannot tell if she is indeed looking young. Having not seen her for years, in which I harboured memories of her younger fashionable self, she is in fact looking old to me.

My sister and my aunt continue the cycle of compliments and weak rebuttals. I fight within myself. Where is true north?

“Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and color. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place,” Cormac McCarthy wrote. 

My aunt’s husband is long gone; one son is far away, the other closer by, and her only daughter died too early. She has forged a whole life for herself apart from them. Her carefully made up face—thin black-pencilled brows, two large dots of muted raspberry rouge, and red lips that complement her hazel skin—is like a photo from another era. She has weathered storms and raised many children that are not hers, including me. I sense her hunger to be seen and admired as I too have on occasion hungered to be seen and admired.

I stop fighting because I have conquered myself.

“Aunty,” I say, “You look young and beautiful.”

It is not false hope; it is true. I remember learning that a (magnetic) compass almost never shows true north. True north is different from magnetic north, which changes depending on local magnetic variation. About a million years ago, the position of magnetic north even wandered closer to the geographic South Pole.

I had planned to ask my sister how old my aunt is. But when we leave, I let the question die in my throat. What does it matter? I am in charge of my compass. Moreover, she is more than the sum of all that.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/compass-magnetic-orientation-801763/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Seven Colours from My Life

colours

1.
Amber is the colour of HB pencils. One morning, in the year I was five, I returned from our neighbour’s house where we grind beans for akara and moi moi and sketched the grinding machine I saw there. My dad’s sister raved about the drawing and adjudged it an excellent reproduction. She rewarded me with two HB pencils and one eraser. These were not the last accolades I received for my art.

 

2.
Baby blue is the colour of my mom’s cooler. On a Visiting Day in junior secondary school, I took some of the jollof rice my mom brought for me to the hostel. My five friends flocked around and in-between jollification and smacking of lips, intoxicating praise for the jollof streamed into my ears. Three of these friends lived in Lagos. Zaria was too far-off from Lagos so their parents never honoured Visiting Day. The next term, my mom journeyed from Kaduna by bus with her big cooler of jollof rice for me and my crew. The image of my mom walking with the cooler on her head, and a Bagco Super sack of provisions clutched in her hand, stays with me.

 

3.
Brown is the small scar on my mom’s palm. Books, television, and the sound of music made me a wandering kid who always yearned to recreate something wonderful. Many evenings bloomed and withered as I combed garbage dumps for milk cans and precise colours of slippers, from which I fashioned wheels, Ludo seeds, and hockey balls. I ended my quests, each time, looking scruffy, and spankings by my mom’s palms remained the consistent punctuation to homecomings. In my mid-twenties, my mom revealed the real reason behind her anger. It wasn’t her supreme aversion to uncleanliness. Each time I strolled home looking like a pig, I reminded her of her days as a little village girl.

 

4.
Copper is the skin tone of my girlfriend. We were whatsapping one day and then:
*Ping* Why do you like me?
You pinch me. Sometimes. And it hurts until I laugh.
 I typed the last of nine answers to her question.
She replied with thirty reasons why she likes me. I have emailed them to myself for safekeeping.

 

5.
Yellow is the colour of egusi. The day we overcame our reservations and ate at Mama Favour’s spot, we sat in the open air, on an unstable bench, battling impolite flies and smoke from smoldering firewood. Her pounded yam and egusi was delicious. Incredibly cheap too. So cheap that we did the math three times to make sure we weren’t short-changing her. Two years on and Mama Favour has two roofed bukkas now. My best friend and I, and the other friends we have shared the gospel with, are still her customers.

 

6.
Porcelain white was the colour of Aunty Ramatu’s teeth. To the delight of my parents and we kids, her visits to our house were seldom without a jerrycan of kunu and sticks of sugarcane stuffed in a Bagco Super sack. In September, I visited Aunty Ramatu at the hospital. Her only surviving child laughed at a joke I cracked, revealing white teeth. I marveled, turned to her mother and discovered, as she too laughed, weakly, that her teeth were also white. Aunty Ramatu was discharged from the hospital two days later. In October, after contending with a terminal illness for more than fifteen years, she ascended from our realm. Your kindness and laughter will always be remembered, dear aunt. Rest in perfect peace.

 

7.
Red is TED. “Did you read Chimamanda’s 9K words essay?” read Mimi’s IM on WhatsApp. I hadn’t. She whatsapped the link. I read and found it articulate, inspiring, and instructional even if I didn’t agree with a number of Chimamanda’s admonitions. The waves of my doubts crashing against the shore of my convictions steered me towards Google. There, I discovered Chimamanda’s TED talk We Should All be Feminists. These days, I wonder if the women in my life will not live richer, fuller lives if we all became feminists. Maybe I am slowly becoming a feminist. Maybe not. Only when I marry, beget and rear a daughter will I really be certain.

© Samuel Okopi 2016

Samuel Okopi loves to sing, design, and fantasize about the future. He believes there is no end to learning and so, for him, every tommorrow is pregnant with new opportunities to inch closer to perfection.

 

Photo credit: nbostanova/ https://pixabay.com/en/pencils-coulored-red-blue-yellow-1654051/

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Drawing the Line

relationships

I once had a client, a man with lofty ideas and limited resources, whose business was pertinent to the success of mine.

In those days, a Lagos bus conductor who did not have adequate change for his customers, would ‘join’ two or three passengers together by giving one of them the total value of their change.

At their stop, he would explain to them, in between soliciting new passengers and calling out the names of the bus stops ahead, that he did not have enough change. Then he would give one passenger a single Naira note, which represented all of their change, as the bus driver rode away. We understood that as far as change went, our fate was sealed with that passenger and we had to find a way to split the change.

I have walked away from this arrangement—the huddling, the debate, the shadowing the ‘lead’ passenger as he perambulates in search of change, so we would not be duped twice—without my change because time was more important to me than it was to the others.

I felt as though my client was the passenger with our change but this time, the stakes were too high for me to up and leave.

I shared my worries with a friend.

“Get close to his wife. She will make things easier for you,” Ronke said.

I knew what she meant and I recoiled at her words. My client’s wife was a woman with a smile for everyone. Petite and pretty, she remained mum if she happened to be around as her husband and I discussed business, but I was aware that her intelligent eyes took in everything. It seemed cavalier, predatory even, to befriend this angel for the sole purpose of using her to influence her husband as we did not seem to have anything in common.

I endured my client’s belligerence and failed promises, promises he made after I made presentations and shared proposals. At my wit’s end, one night I sat in Ronke’s car for hours and itemized the problems I faced. She suggested, yet again that I make friends with his wife.

Soon after, a chance meeting with my client’s wife occurred. After pleasantries, she lowered her voice although we were alone and told me about a similar project they were undertaking with another publisher. In her words, the wahala nor get end. Sensing an opening, I took the ball she’d passed to me, but I did not run to the goal post. I dribbled until all obstacles were cleared and then passed her the ball to take a clean shot to goal.

“Ah ah men!” she exclaimed, “They don’t understand. Leave it to me. Here,” she handed me her business card, “if you have any issues, give me a call.”

I collected her card without looking at it.

“I’m serious,” she said, stopping me with her intelligent eyes. “Timi, if you have any problems, call me.”

I never had to call her. My client gave me my change and then some.

I’ve wondered about this incident and what I call my moral high horse. I guess because I have been used as a stepping stone in business, I did not want to bathe someone else with gifts and attention and then slam the door not minding if her fingers were trapped in the hinges or not.

But isn’t that what we all do? When we were younger, my siblings and I chose the favourite child, the one whose requests were hardly turned down, as an emissary to our parents. I sometimes attend social events with colleagues, when I’d much rather stay at home in my pajamas, to influence outcomes in the office. Relationships grease the wheels of business and human interaction is fueled more by trust than logic. We trust referrals from those we know.

My client’s wife and I never became chummy. We didn’t share enough common ground and we could not commit the time needed to explore what little commonalities we might have had. I see her once a long while and respond to her smile, the one she has for everyone, without guilt, but with warmth. And I sleep easy at night.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Shifting Gears [1]

shifting gears

 

Human clay finds its moisture in relationships and will evaporate into dust without them  – Beth Moore

 

When I arrive at Tamali’s house, she holds my arm and turns me from side to side, and then she sighs.

“How do you do it?”

She knows how I do it. Her eyes sunken, her voice nasal, her walk without bounce; she coughs as she leads the way. The aroma of sautéed bell peppers and tomatoes hits me. On the gas hob sits a stainless steel pot. Underneath the glass lid, I spy something white; rice, pasta?

“Food?” she gestures towards the pot.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

She opens the fridge and brings out Amaris’ cake. I recognize it from the photo she sent me on WhatsApp. The Barbie doll, which sat atop is gone as is half of Barbie’s pink-layered flowing gown. She gets busy with her knife.

“Too much,” I protest.

She eyes me, “You don’t have to eat it all at once.”

Her neck is lean and last week was tough for her. So, I take the knife from her and halve the portion she set aside.

Back in the living room, she offers me the stubby bananas that Kwame brought from Uganda.

“Very sweet. Not like the ones from Costa Rica in Albert Heijn.”

“I’m full.” I bend and hug my stomach.

“You never eat! I can’t count how many of them I’ve had,” she spreads her arms and looks at her torso; “I’m always eating!”

She is not always eating. It is her frustration speaking.

“How did I get from there to here?” She points at a framed photo by the TV and then digs out more photos from the shelf next to the TV stand.

This is what you do for a friend with flu. You stop by her house after work with a packet of Day & Night Nurse and explain how to take the capsules. You eat cake when you’d rather not. You pull your chair closer to hers and hunch over hundreds of photos. You listen as she reminisces about her days at Makerere University and her time in London, the jauntiness of her late teens and early twenties—that period before we tell ourselves, I’ve got to get serious and settle down. You see a girl you did not know, who helps you understand the woman you now know. 

She appraises each picture by size, interrupting my flow.

“Oh, look at this one, I was slim here.”
“You think I look good there? No way, I resembled an elephant.”
“This one was taken earlier in the year. See me in the same dress later that year; the dress is bursting at the seams! What did I eat?”

And you mourn with her, the loss of youth. Because flu makes you delirious. It makes you want your mother who is 6000km away; although you left home at twenty and you are now in your early thirties. It chains your legs so you miss the gym, stay at home and raid the fridge, and feel fatter than you are.

A pathological nostalgia has seized her and you cure it with kindly indulgence, not once looking at the clock. 

I recently read an article about why female friendships are fraught with infighting. Sitting here with Tamali, I cannot relate. Have my friendships always been this supportive?

There was that time Ada stayed over and borrowed my jewelry while I was at work, leaving me a note to dispel panic in case I looked for it when I returned. I stayed mad for months and ignored her overtures and peace emissaries. My anger was toxic, contaminating anyone who would listen. One day she braved my rage and showed up at my doorstep.

“Yes?” I filled the door space, arms folded across my chest.

“I’m sorry. It broke. I couldn’t return it until I fixed it.”

I blocked her advance, spreading myself wider.

“For crying out loud Timi, it isn’t even 24-karat gold. It’s costume; that’s why nobody could fix it!”

“Beside the point! You shouldn’t have taken it without asking!”

She edged passed me, pushing me against the doorframe. She dropped the broken piece of jewelry on the dining table on her way to the kitchen.

“Do you have any food?” she asked one hand on the door of the fridge.

I sighed and smiled. You cannot poison food if you are going to eat and share it. That was twenty years ago. Ada and I are still smiling.

My girlfriends and I congregate around food. We eat; we do not eat. Thighs and hips feature in our extended conversations. Size is important and relative. Beneath this shallowness is affection, deep and strong, binding us as tomatoes cleave to meat in stew.

When I was younger, I made war. Now I’m older, I make peace. 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Hardwired For Sorry [conclusion]

One

The Power of One

I shook my head as I reviewed Ope’s first draft for the series. Her prose though beautiful did not resonate with me. This piece lacks heart I thought. It did not. The problem was me. I could not conceive that a girl would have insecurities about her height. That others brought them on was beside the point. How could she not see how lucky she is? Someone said that privilege is invisible to those who have it. I am the petite girl with graces, how could I know?

Aware of my bias, I reread Ope’s piece, processing her ideas and connecting them to my experiences.

Tall girls seem to be the norm where I live. I have watched little girls grow up to be gorgeous tall women and none has expressed any reservations about her height. But once when I asked one why she enjoys watching the TV series, Suits, she replied, “Because I look like Gina Torres, and she’s badass!” Was she looking for a role model to validate her six-foot frame? By questioning the premise of her heightend apologies, I see how Ope has become a lighthouse for tall girls and short boys too.

Stories are a way to share our humanity and reading stories is both a conscious and unconscious search for validation.

When Abi submitted her article, she mentioned that every sentence of her rant was factual and she had exceeded the set word count. In fact, every contributor to the series burst through the imposed word count to set their stories free and I, wielding the editor’s scissors, could find little to trim.

Abi’s article stemmed in part from people’s inability to see the pervasive misogyny in her society. Just as I could not connect with Ope’s story at first, they could find no basis for the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s quotes, which Abi shared, tagging them mischievous.

Adichie says that gender is a difficult conversation to have and as Sheryl Sandberg notes, the subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated same. It seems Abi wanted to make gender visible to men and women.

Some dismissively brand articles like Abi’s feminist. Have you ever been in conversation where a word popped up that made you stop listening and start churning points in your mind to deconstruct what the other person is saying? Anything that reeks of feminism arouses this impulse in some. So, when Abi signed off as a feminist in her bio, I was tempted to remove it.

There are two jars of honey in my cupboard. One label says the honey is from wild flowers and the label on the second jar says the honey is from honeydew. Humans are too complex to categorize into neat labels like honey. This explains why feminism has many definitions and connotations as well as branches—socialist feminism, African feminism, free-the-nipple feminism, and so on.

Those who take this as a sign of confusion should remember all the other philosophies that are similarly ‘confused’: democrat, conservative democrat, republican, liberal republican, catholic, catholic charismatic, Christian, evangelical Christian—are you laughing yet? Wherever human agency exists, there will be divisions, sub-divisions, and further divisions of the sub-divisions. The challenge then is not to merely dismiss ideologies because of labels but to listen in spite of them.

When a woman shares her story, it should cause us to remember our own challenges. At the very least, it should broaden our understanding of our world and our place in it.

After I pitched the idea of the series to Ekpos, she replied, “My own issue is different; people are always saying sorry to me!” Other challenges like physical disability eclipse gender, but only partially. Ekpos relates an incident at the airport where a porter looked at her and exclaimed, “Kai, fine girl like you; wetin happen to ya leg?”

She notes that wit is often the bridge through awkward situations. We need to laugh at ourselves more and get the world to laugh and then see with us. Amy Schumer uses comedy to good effect in her I’m Sorry sketch. According to Schumer, her show has been likened to putting shaved carrots into brownies. Emancipation is a journey, smile you’re on camera!

Ekpos makes the distinction between things she could and could not control. Disability and gender were thrust upon her. The will to overcome these perceived limitations was hers to invoke. The external factors, which make women hardwired for sorry, will not change overnight. But women can take charge of themselves by rejecting the messages they have internalized.

Bel takes this approach in her article. Although she was invited to the table, as were the women in Schumer’s sketch, she tottered at the edge, self-doubt hampering her stride. Many women are echoing songs their parents and grandparents taught them, songs that romanticized a woman’s lowly place in society. They are unconsciously complicit in their disempowerment. Bel noticed that the same self-doubt that tortured her was also present in the minds of some very fine, intelligent women in her company.

By looking inwards with a view to understanding herself, she finally gave herself permission to stand. In her words, “Fortified with this knowledge, I set out to change my story . . . I have begun to tell myself, first, that I am bigger on the inside than I am on the outside.”

Amy Schumer’s sketch isn’t about semantics, in my view. Sorry is still a useful word. However, the characters in the sketch were really using sorry to: diminish their accomplishments so they could be likable, temper their requests for their entitlements with ‘humility’, register their opinion as though it isn’t worth hearing, take nurturing to the nth degree by assuming responsibility for things beyond their scope, and mask impostor’s syndrome. 

If you, man or woman, are concerned about the external and internal factors that predispose women to shrinking themselves, then you need to answer this question: what change or sacrifice do I make to ensure women are unapologetic about taking up space in the world? One thing. Then follow through. Ripples will occur. This is the power of one.

I can’t thank you enough for writing, reading, liking, sharing, and joining the conversation.

timi

 

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Hardwired For Sorry [5]

apology

My Height-ened Apology

My uncles, aunts, the traders at Iwaya market, and the sales person at Wranglers boutique conspired to spit accusations at me. I burrowed the ground with my eyes and hid my lanky arms behind my back. They made me regard my elongating form with shame.

Ahan Ope, do you want to grow as tall as iroko?” People questioned me without expecting answers.

I wanted to die and on the days that I did not want to die, I wished God would shrink my height—who would marry me? They said I was tall for a girl and at the rate at which I was growing, it would be impossible to find a man taller than I was. Even when I pretended not to care, fury spread its wings on my face and at night, I buried my face in my pillow while crying away the pain.

And so, I learned to apologize. I apologized to the inconvenienced sales person who searched and searched for the right size of shoes for me. I apologized to the world, boys in particular, by slouching a little so that the measure of my stature did not intimidate. I apologized to petite girls, who would never have a problem when it came to marriage, by silencing my brewing envy and playing nice. I apologized to my older siblings by giving up my right to speak in their presence because I was told that I had stolen their right to be taller than me.

Like the women in Amy Schumer’s sketch, I say sorry when I do not need to. After I hit my head on the roof of a campus shuttle bus as I got off, my auto-response to the driver’s remark, “All these tall people eh,” was sorry. It was my defense for distracting the other passengers, by making them concerned about me. It was embarrassment for being five feet ten inches tall. It was martyrdom without the halo.

In the last scene of Schumer’s sketch, the male moderator inadvertently pours hot coffee on the third panelist’s legs. She falls down in pain, screaming, “Sorry!” Exaggerated for comic effect, her legs melt off and in agony, she moves with her splintered legs to the chorus of sorry from sympathizers. Her dramatic exit ends with these words, “I’m sorry, I’m dying, I’ve ruined everything. It’s all my fault.”

The moderator never says sorry. He says, “Oops!”

 

Until recently, I believed apologizing for my height was the polite thing to do. I have not unlearned this, but I have become more conscious of it and begun to question the premise of my apology.

Why should anyone have to apologize for the genes they received? Do I apologize for my father and mother too? Why should I be ‘conditioned’ for marriage as if it is the highest purpose I could aspire to? And is a woman who is taller than her husband an anomaly really? Really? Does my height mean I am likely to be more domineering than petite women with graces are? Can flat shoes and a small car truly alter my outcomes in life?

The message from my society is subtly clear: make yourself smaller so men can feel bigger, taller, and more powerful. My height is but a metaphor, which affronts obstinate traditional ideas about gender.

stand out where I come from. Perhaps I’m not supposed to fit in; I am to own and celebrate my uniqueness and be a lighthouse for tall girls and ‘short’ boys too.

This hardwiring for sorry cuts across cultures. My apology revolves around my height; what does yours spin around?

 

Ope Adedeji is a fourth year law student at the University of Lagos. She dreams about bridging the gender equality gap and working with the United Nations. Ope writes occasionally at artsandafrica.com and talesbycecile.wordpress.com.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.