In Nigeria, to be taken as mature, you have to exchange pleasantries with: How far? How you dey? Wetin dey sup? My guy! Boss! You have to be proficient in the vernacular, pidgin. Likewise, you must have had sex with a ton of girls. You must have had sex or smoked or engaged in street fights. You might, as well, be rude.
Speaking proper English, especially asking how are you?, in the midst of your pidgin-speaking friends is offensive.
I have sat in the midst of so many arguments, whereby you hear a side argue about the correctness of asking how are you?, and the other, otherwise.
It is no longer surprising if someone, maybe a friend, doesn’t reply my how are you?. It is now more of my understanding, in my exploration that, when you are in Rome, act like Roman. Which, of course, links me to my main focus, still on maturity’s misconception.
I am twenty years old. A twenty-year-old is a man. A twenty-year-old is a decision maker. A twenty-year-old is a planner. A twenty-year-old is a dreamer. A twenty-year-old can live. A twenty-year-old Is mature. A twenty-year-old is playful. A twenty-year-old is a thinker. A twenty-year-old is an explorer. A twenty-year-old is human.
Maturity, to me, is not adjdged by a person’s age or physicality. It is not judged by the kind of language he wishes to express himself. A mature person doesn’t have to prove it to anyone that he is mature. A mature person is very loud, but thinks beyond his voice. A mature person condones insults, from old and young, never in the quest for a pre-address, and laughs. A mature person makes mistakes, and yet, stands to be corrected. A mature person doesn’t care about what he looks to people, but how comfortable he sits.
I have been going through a lot of challenges, which have been posing questions to my age and maturity.
I am this kind of a person that shouts and seeks attention. I am so playful that you’d think it is my entire life. I like to speak proper English, even if it is a crowd for pidgin. Does that define my maturity? Does that mean I don’t think?
On grounds of talk on maturity with my brother, he takes age as maturity. He has talked to me and tortured me because I have not brought home a girlfriend, or slept with one, which means, to him, that I am immature.
He said, “You are twenty. I started fucking girls at the age of eighteen,” like it was an achievement generally, although, it is an achievement to a lot of Nigerians, if not Africans.
His friend, Yomi, who usually pronounces “Last year” as “Laxt year”, conjoined my brother, stating, “I was 16 when I started fucking girls. I also began drinking at that time. You are dulling yourself o!”
It wasn’t enough, so he continued, “That time, my brother and I would wrap bottles of beer in a nylon, and we’d take them into our room to drink. Nobody would know. You are really dulling yourself. O de n bi mi’nu. See all these guys that are not as fine as you. The ones that can’t reach you in speaking, or even, dressing. They are eating fish and cleaning their mouth. All you know how to do is press phone from morning till night, writing and reading stories that won’t fetch you anything. I tire o!”
I was angry because, before the start of this conversation, I had been bullied. I had been tickled, as if to determine my virginity. Slaps landed at my back. You know why? Because I am 20 years old, supposedly immature, and I can’t have a girlfriend.
When Yomi’s brother talked, he agreed they let me be, but, with a foolish statement, backing it. “Leave him now! I don’t blame him na! Since he is already carrying bag for Kenny, why won’t he feel like a woman? He is a lesbian. “The last time I heard a man being qualified as Lesbian was this year, in October, during my coming out, from my mum.
It was in the night, the third mid-night after my mum had learnt I was planning to leave the house, after all the pressure following my coming out. She thought I was possessed by the evil spirits in my father’s house, the ones she usually talked about. So, we prayed like that, every mid-night, for a week, till I was taken for a deliverance and counselling, which made her mind settled that I was saved by them.
During one of the mid-nights’conversation, after she’d read the interview I’ve had with nostringsng.com, an online LGBT advocacy site, pertaining my experience as an out gay, and my beautiful hope for the future, she was stunned. She shivered, the one that happens when you are diagnosed with fever or malaria, when she read the last sentence of the second to the last paragraph. It reads:
I’d like like to get married to a Black American, with two kids; black boy and white girl.
“You want to get married to a man?” She asked. “Over my dead body,” She continued. “I won’t let my eyes open till you go astray. Don’t you know lesbianism is against God? You don’t know it is against nature? Then why are you doing it? Why are you doing lesbianism?” She concluded.
I wasn’t able to correct any of them, my mum nor brother’s friend, but I was struck. I wondered how long illiteracy would last before it is eradicated, even to a lesser percent, in Nigeria, and Africa at large.
I realised I was angry at illiterates, after he referred to me as “lesbian” , whose lives were surrounded by drinking of beer from sunshine till moonlight, and forecasting Bet Naija. The ones who graduated from secondary school, who have petite jobs, with the unpredictable pennies in their pocket, thinking that is where life ends, where miracle happens or believing that they are being trailed by their parents’ family. I lessened my anger and was upbeat about my life and write-ups.
Yesterday, after going to deliver a home service to a customer, I was holding my phone, editing my next blog post, while heading back to the shop. I was, at the same time, pensive about when I can afford a laptop for myself, to be able to compile real, interesting stories. My mother, with her friend-like-sister, Kenny, sighted me and lambasted me when I reached where they sat.
Aunty Kenny, a lady supposedly in her late thirties, whose life adjusted from being a good, comfortable prostitute, into a hypocritical snitch, said, “I thought you were intelligent. I am so disappointed this Evening. You should, at least, have some road ethics.” She then went ahead to make references to some two girls, and then, some rich kids whose mother said, “comport, please,” to halt their argument on the elevator.
The two girls who were snapchatting while walking, and a car hit them.
To me, the reference, or should I say the example, was illusionary, and it was way different, because, I was conscious while thinking and typing, so I didn’t bother. I just drew my cheeks back, providing a smile of appreciation.
Later, at night, after a customer had ordered for a bottle of Heineken and I had said I didn’t see it, I was shouted upon by my mother, proving that I was not settled, that my brother said there was one left.
My dad came with me, and we riffle through the fridge together, so I sighted it and took it to who had asked.
Heading back to my seat was a conversation about me. Everybody seated, including uncle Deji, but excluding my dad, who was gazing at me wickedly, had something to say.
“Demola is a good boy, but he is lazy,” Aunty Kenny began. “He doesn’t like things that would stretch him, which I think would be a problem for him living. Everybody is striving for themselves. I am not saying he is not, but he likes things that are easy. I heard he knows about Catering, he also has other valuable skills, but he is not using them.”
Uncle Deji, although he is straight, but he is one of those men I like so much, said, “That could be his being. People are born that way, do you know?” He asked Aunty Kenny.
It turned into an argument which led to me being immature and not responsible. They argued about me mixing. And when they were going to conclude their argument, saying I usually chatted on Facebook and Whatsapp, I said, “I do not chat. I have a blog that I write in.”
Uncle Deji shunned me, then my mum.
If I wasn’t mature, I won’t be in thought of the future. If I wasn’t mature, I won’t keep my future plans within me. If I wasn’t mature, I won’t give perspectives. If I wasn’t mature, I won’t be twenty-year-old.
Maturity is not by age, sex, sexual orientation, communication ability or playfulness. It is about integrity. It is about understanding. It is about growing to know that you can survive alone in the sea, regardless of the airy waves.
Photo credit: Google.