by Ifesinachi Okoli
If the Global Financial Meltdown were a man, it would not be difficult to picture the way he would look. He would be weighed down by a burden so gigantic, that it would surely have turned him to a replica of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. His legs would be quivering broomsticks, his back swollen like two sacks of rice placed atop each other and his back would be so curved, it would pass for a taut bow getting ready to release an arrow. Newspaper illustrators would find it easy drawing a cartoon of him for readers to gloat over.
Of course, Mr. Global Financial Meltdown a.k.a Mr. GFM would be forced to complain that not all the loads heaped on his back should rightfully be his. Could the real owners please stand up or better yet come and carry their load? The heaviest loads would have the names of many young men written on them. In particular, those who wish to dodge the century-old ritual of popping the question the right way.
Ah… Gone are the good old days when men were creative; when a man would arrange for a candlelit dinner at a 5-star restaurant, hide the 18-carat gold engagement ring in the ice cream bowl and get down on one knee with a flourish, while exposing chalk-white teeth. The way he would ask, “darling, will you marry me?” would make the lady scream while covering her mouth in awe, tears swimming in her shiny eyes unable to answer because the joy of that momentous occasion would be too much to allow her speak coherently.
Those good old days where a proposal was a rite of passage into the elite SOCIETY OF LADIES PROPOSED TO IN GRAND STYLE; where the style of the proposal and the quality of the ring would determine her status in the non-existent but very authentic society; where her entry into such an esteemed society would give her the permission to flash her ring in public places and be happy to recount the details of the proposal rather than hide her hands in her pockets and reply casually when asked, “you know, the important thing is that we are going to be married anyway. What’s the use how he asked it?”
These days, the most annoying things happen. Seriously, I wouldn’t mind if men blamed their failure to plan a decent proposal on the devil (the devil has always been the harbinger of all wrong doings anyway, from when great great grandmother Eve ate of the forbidden fruit). However for poor Mr. GFM to be accused is totally unacceptable and just goes to show that men no longer accept responsibility for their actions.
These days, men don’t even bother proposing: they say it is waste of time and money. Instead, they stretch the relationship as long as they possibly can to push the date further and further away until the woman complains and starts asking questions. Then to avoid embarrassment, they eventually throw in very casually, “Ehen, don’t you think it’s time for us to go and see your parents?” Of course, if you were the woman proposed to in that way without a ring, not even a ribbon to tie around the finger (while you wait for the real thing to arrive; maybe it’s stuck in traffic with the deliveryman), how would you react, especially when you would have waited so long for him to show some sign of taking the relationship to the next level? All the woman can do is swallow her pride and reply, “Er…when are we going?”
The reply to that could mean another year long wait.
I once confronted a friend of mine, who then asked, “after spending all that money on a simple proposal, what will be left for the marriage?” My friend is young, Igbo and comfortable. He went on to lament about the cost of the things on the long list he knew he would be asked to provide during the first stage of the four-stage marriage ceremony. I sympathised with him a little but not totally, because there is the flip side to the coin.
Before a man decides to go through the route of boycotting the proposal stage, there are a lot of things he should know:
Number one, your wife will take that vow “for better, for worse; in sickness, in health; for richer and for poorer, till death do us part” seriously (minus the richer and poorer bit. Mr. GFM will be happy to accept the blame for that). This means that she will stick with you in any predicament you are in – when you have malaria and are puking everywhere; when your back is aching and you need a massage; when your car breaks down on Third Mainland Bridge and you need someone to push it, anything…which really is the greatest sacrifice of all.
Number two, your wife will bear your kids. She will tolerate nine months of waddling in clothes that she never thought she would wear in her life, feeling like a Helium-filled balloon while her feet grow to resemble mini tubers of yam. She will lie on her back when her belly becomes too big for her to lie in a comfortable position. She will chew bitterleaves and raw pepper because her baby will mess up her hormones. She will spend nothing less than an hour screaming and tearing her hair out in the labour room while your baby pushes out into the world and you pace about the hospital hallway because you are too mushy to stand the sight of all that blood and yuck.
Number three, she will take care of your children. She will not complain to you when her breasts are sore, when your baby keeps her awake throughout the night; when she has to change soiled nappies that stink to cloud nine without your help. She will cry at home when she has to quit her job because someone has to take Junior or Trisha or Darlene to school and the same someone has to pick your kid up, prepare dinner and rub your aching muscles when you get home at night. She will not whine when you do not ask how her day was because you figure “oh well, all she does is stay at home and look after the kids anyway” (by the way, staying at home is so boring that she will most likely get jetlag without nearing an airplane!).
Number four, she will be your mother, your wife and lover all rolled into one. If that is not a full time job, nothing else is. It’s no wonder why women get older more quickly than men. Number five, when she finally starts working, she will not have time for herself but she will put up with your complaining about the weight she gained while she was pregnant. She will try visiting the gym every weekend, going to work every day and being a mother in between. She will paste a past picture of her firm youthful body on the bathroom wall and fantasize about shrinking into the pair of jeans in the picture but deep down in her heart she will know that it may never happen.
Lastly, when your children grow old and get their own children, guess who will start the cycle all over again?
Yep, you’re right.
So, after all these sacrifices, do men still think that women do not deserve just ten minutes of a perfect proposal, a memory that will keep her sane during those hair raising days ahead? Do men still think that Mr. GFM deserves the unfair treatment he gets, the blame heaped by dozens of men who do not appreciate the role of women in the natural cycle of the world?
Unfortunately, when there is food shortage in the world, Mr. GFM is blamed; when there is worldwide unemployment crisis, Mr. GFM is blamed; will he also be blamed when women are not treated like the eggs they are: the fragile but hard-shelled sex who want to be cherished forever? Will Mr. GFM be blamed when a lady of twenty no longer believes in the strength of womanhood because the society defined by men’s rules has stifled her voice?
Seriously, guys cut us some slack and rethink your decisions. If it takes cutting back on four weekends of hanging out with the guys and giving up the dream of the latest David Wej suit, women deserve the fantasy. After all, the guy can always turn the tables around when she’s acting up five years into the marriage. He can always remind her, “baby, remember that hot afternoon I walked down the street of Adeola Odeku with ‘will you marry me, Jennifer’ printed on my tee-shirt? I did it because I knew a day like this will come. Now can you quit nagging and get my dinner, woman?!”