I want to tell you a story. A true life story based on an experience of yours truly.
On one random Sunday afternoon, I decided that it would be nice to eat some cheese balls considering the fact that I hadn’t had them in a while. So I got up from bed, put on a shirt and shorts and with two hundred naira in my hand walked out of the gates of my house. I think it is safe to say that that was my first mistake.
The ‘cheese balls place’, a small kiosk, was only two streets away so I began to walk. Half a street later, I saw two men playing football on the road with two little boys. I decided I wasn’t going to greet them. Not because I am rude or anything but because I just didn’t want to. (and plus those guys looked like they would say something incredibly stupid if I did) I was about to walk passed them when it happened. One of the guys said something to me. Something really stupid. It’s not like I was surprised or anything. I mean, I can’t even count with my fingers the number of times a random guy on the road has said something stupid to me. So I decided to ignore him. He, obviously not taking the hint that I wasn’t in the mood to entertain him continued. ‘Why you dey frown?’ he asked, like it wasn’t obvious why. Again I chose to ignore him. I kept on walking. The other guy, as dumb as his friend or who knows, maybe dumber decided that it was his turn to say something. ‘Leave her’ he said to his friend. ‘This one no know man.’ He said it in a way that made him sound like he was pitying me, like the fact that I didn’t ‘know man’ was a sad spectacle to behold. I, angrier by then still chose to ignore him. I was almost past them. I was going to walk down the street, walk to the kiosk, buy my cheese balls and forget that those silly men even existed.
But then he spoke. Those words that I can’t seem to forget. Those words that rang in my ear for days after he said them. ‘Then come, let me teach you.’ It took about five seconds to register in my brain. ‘Then come, let me teach you’ Teach me what? Teach me to ‘know man’ of course. I cannot explain the feeling that came over me after that. It was a mixture of disgust and anger and sadness. It was like there was fire burning in my heart but at the same time like slugs were climbing all over my body. ‘Then come let me teach you’ Each time I ran that sentence in my head I felt like throwing up and I felt like stopping at my heels and turning to face them to give them a piece of my mind. I wanted to destroy them with my tongue. To throw at them all the insults I knew in this world. To raise curses that will touch their sons and daughters. I wanted, in fact to walk up to these men and slap them heavily across the cheeks, call them shameless and stupid and mad and perverts and bastards and imbeciles. This is what they will do to your daughters, I wanted to say. But I didn’t. I walked past them. I ignored them.
And then I thought. How many girls have been catcalled before? Just for being girls. Just for having breasts on their chests. How many girls have been told by men they have never seen before to come and learn from them. To come and learn to pleasure them. Because that is why girls were created? To pleasure them. To fill their stomachs with food and give their privates a good beating. Because if a girl does not know man, she is a sad sad prude. Useless even. She is like a pen that does not work. Just there standing uselessly, waiting to be disposed of. But if she somehow knows man, she’s a slut, a whore, cheap and useless still.
I thought about all the girls that have rejected advances from men and have been insulted in return. ‘Is it because I even came up to you?’ Why are you now forming for me?’ You will die alone.’ I don’t know why but sometimes I am afraid that any boy that sees me sees nothing other than two breasts and a vagina. That I cannot be appreciated for being cool or funny or smart, anything other than pretty or sexy. Or maybe i do know why.
I thought about all the girls that have been raped. Forced into intercourse by man they rejected. Because how dare they not want to have sex with you? I thought about how afraid most of them are to speak up about it and how some of those who do are told to shut up about it, to act like it didn’t happen or told that it was probably their fault. ‘If you hadn’t provoked that man.’ ‘If you hadn’t worn that short skirt.’ Like any
of that justifies rape. Nothing justifies rape.
Then I thought about all the young girls that have been married off to men old enough to be their fathers. 12 year olds married to 60 year olds, their childhood stolen and the theft of it celebrated like a festival. When I was younger people would tell me to behave myself because some girls my age in Kaduna or Sokoto already had children. What a reason to behave? Because I can as well be somebody’s mother when I myself am still a child. I thought about all the girls that have been killed or have contracted some kind illness because their ‘husbands’ tried to push theirselves into them, about all those who have bled to death during child birth or those who are breastfeeding when their mates are running up and down, being children or going to school.
I thought about my president saying that his wife belonged in the kitchen and the other room and how quickly that was swept under the carpet, treated like a joke like he was some kind of comedian.
Then I thought about men, not just the ones playing football on the road, who felt I needed to be taught to ‘know man’ and all the boys they would bring up this way. And I felt sorry for them. And then I felt sorry for girls for being born straight into this prejudice just for what they had between their legs.
I still went to that kiosk and I still bought my cheese balls. I ate them and they were good, so good they got me wondering why I don’t eat them often. This is just my story. What’s yours?