Lockdown: Diary of a Single Lady
So, I’ve been home with my parents for a month now, and let me tell you, I am slowly going crazy. You see these my parents don’t think I’m 25. They know I am, but they don’t think so. All they do these days is regel themselves with stories of my awkward childhood, things I don’t even remember doing, things I used to think were cute to hear them talk about, but now are just exasperating. It’s a very small house eh, my brother and two of my uncles are here too, and my sister’s little son who is five, so I have literally no privacy. There is only my parent’s room, my room and a spare room, which my brother uses. Now he has to move in with me, so the uncles use his room. But no wahala they can have it because it is so hot in there. It is hot in my room too, so most nights I just sleep on a make-shift bed in the parlour, for which I am grateful because it is so much cooler there. My brother can bare his chests oh, he has that male privilege, but I cannot because I possess breasts and should keep them covered (can we please go back to pre-colonial times when women roamed naked and free?).
Too often now my body reminds me that I am a woman and I have cravings. I am in control, yes, of my cravings so it doesn’t matter that I have no privacy to self-explore or to self-pleasure, but I am lonesome, and curious. I have had my sex, but it was terrible when I did and I keep wondering what it could be like if it had been better, could it be better or is it my own fault? But seriously, I once read somewhere that there are no frigid women, that everyone can loosen up with the right partner. Now I don’t know if to cultivate self-pity for being frigid, or try to open myself up, by myself, or to hope for this phantomic “right partner” (odiegwu). I have never had a partner, like in a relationship. Sometimes it worries me, sometimes I am grateful. Most of the time I am curious. Is there something wrong with me? I don’t know if I am not like other girls, or why —if indeed I am not. I don’t know how I came to be so different, so alone. Honestly I just want what the others want. I want security, someone to explore with, experiment with on loving. Maybe there is something I lack, but doesn’t everyone lack something? Don’t the Budhists say that this is an imperfect world and nothing perfect can exist in an imperfect world?
I am going crazy here. I want out, I really want out. There were the times when I lived alone at school and during my service year, and played at being independent. Yet I was not really independent, I couldn’t afford my rent myself and even with the allawee I was still broke. If it weren’t for my V-bank app, and my Target Savings Account I would not even have had any money saved up to buy art supplies, and try to make a living as an artist. It was banking with V-bank that helped me so much, I could save up money and get interest for it, and when I make transactions I am not debited like some other really annoying banks that don’t understand every 50 naira is important these days. In a month I was able to save up some 50,000 naira for which I still received an interest of about 500 naira. My sister used to be wrapped up in the claws of those other banks at a time, till I introduced her to the sorcery of V-bank, now we all live happily ever after.
Still, it was a struggle to afford to buy paint and food and pay daily transport fares all at the same time without looking decidedly shabby. But it was divine to pretend I was free, that I was in charge. Even then, when I had my freedom, how did I not find a mate? Not a smash, not a one-night stand, not a pleased-to-meet-you-pleased-to-leave-you, although I have nothing against those. Was I raised to think that marriage is a beanstalk that magically lifts you out of misery? Or perhaps I was misled into thinking so, as my parents went on and on about how “Tomorrow you will leave this house to your husband’s house.” “Is this what you would do in your man’s house?” “Behave well, that is no way to behave in your husband’s house.”, so much that because it is a future-tense and the future is golden I began to believe marriage is some kind of pleasure-magic. They have never talked about “my house”. Perhaps that’s how come I keep linking freedom with marriage, because I want to escape so much. I want that man that will sweep me off my feet— and out of this house, for good.
Does it have to be a man? But if it’s a woman we cannot marry legally in this country, we can only play at it. And what do I tell my parents? How do I get their blessing for something they vehemently believe is unnatural, a sin?
In this house I am the maid, according to the pecking order. I have to be woken up earlier than others to start the chores going. I live with five adults and one child who cannot fix their own breakfast, and I am not allowed to complain when they all want different things, and audaciously look up to me to provide it. I cannot complain because my parents think it’s bad qualities for someone going to be a wife someday. When that day will come, I don’t know.
Sometimes I am grateful I am single— how do I bring a man home to my parents sef, what do I say? How do I bring anyone, even a friend, home to this cramped space, to our stained walls and furniture with macassars, to my bed on the floor in the parlour? To our toilet comode stained with age, to untiled bathroom walls difficult to scrub? How do I bring anyone home to roaches in the kitchen, geckos leaving dried grains of faeces and chalk-white stains? To our scratched carpet and curtains held up with rope?
Maybe it is my fault then. I am insecure, so I cannot love. When I am loved, I reject it, because you cannot love if you do not love yourself enough. Will I never learn? I am perfect this way, every experience is perfect—even this curious desperation: what do people do in relationships?
Kelechi Chinwendu Kelechi