It first started like a force beyond my control; my mother’s inability to get an education affected her economic/social status in life. This consequently determined a lot about my own life because not only was she ill-prepared to face life (just because she was female), she had been married off to a loser at an early stage. Her younger brother on the other hand got all the education he ever wanted (courtesy of being male), and had gone on to do great things in life. [Un]fortunately for me, my father gave me nothing in life other than life itself. So after he died early, it was as though he never even existed!
I had to work extra hard to position myself on the same pedestal as my uncle’s children. It was a hard thing to do even as I was constantly disgruntled as to why the man was wealthy enough to give his children the best in life while I struggled all by myself. My mother told me severally that the man was a money ritualist; she couldn’t even figure out the cause of the problem! But one thing was clear to me, and that was the fact that she never really got along with her younger brother.
It took me a while [though] to figured out the reason for the disparity in status and economic success of my mother and uncle. Unfortunately this was after I already did let the causative factor ruin my life! You see I was my mother’s only son and as such she adored me just like my sisters did. Like most cultures of the world, my Igbo descent privilege manhood. So I was a treasure, while my sisters were more like tools- for protecting the treasure! I enjoyed the attention and in fact lived for the it. It was my birthright. But unknown to me it would be my nemesis!
I mentioned earlier how I suffered to accomplish everything I achieved in life. But the truth is that my struggle for survival is child’ play compared to what my mother and sisters went through. The funny thing [though] is that they never even realize their predicament they were into as a result of culture. To them it was an honour to make their son/brother/lovers happy. It is an honour to most women to protect the interests of the men in their lives. But unknown to most of them they do this to their own disadvantage. Maybe I shouldn’t blame them much; I mean culture made them so!
Regrettably I never appreciated the sacrifices of the women in my life. What can I say…I was the privileged man in the midst of women. I grew up lacking maturity of mind even though physically I was every inch a man. My privileged, male-chauvinistic ways would later rub off negatively on my relationship with women especially my wife Caroline whom this story is about. She was the only woman who ever truly loved me (my mother aside). Just like my mother and sisters, Caroline also sacrificed a lot of her comforts to be with me and make me happy, including defying her dying father’s wish of having nothing to do with someone of my ilk. When things were hard for me it was Caroline who footed the bills. She even helped me to get a job using her family’s connections, all the while having to deal with my mother and sisters who all rejected her. They disliked every bit of her person. It must have been hard for her- all the difficult times she hard trying to conceive a child. My people would call her names, telling her she was a man in a woman’s anatomy. I never for once defended her, yet she stood by me and loved me nonetheless. She would eventually bear me a son. But I was too privileged to find that satisfying.
Caroline found it difficult bearing more children after the birth of our son. This therefore became a major source of dispute. My mother wanted more grandchildren, five more perhaps seven and preferably all boys. And she had a demand- if Caroline my wife couldn’t make that possible the only option was to get another woman for me. I agreed with this plan mostly to please my mother but mainly because of my insatiable appetite for variety. Sneaking around and cheating on my wife wasn’t enough; I needed a reason to make my cheating official and having more children was it. So I began to cheat openly. The plan was not just to marry any other woman into the family, but to taste the waters (and the grounds) to find the one(s) fertile enough for my purpose- expanding the family. Using this excuse I went ahead to disgrace my wife greatly. I would bring the different women into our home and force her to sleep in the guestroom. But as though nature was punishing me none of those women ever became pregnant for me. Yet Caroline stayed.
As the years passed I got worse. My mother and sisters couldn’t make the situation any worst either. But just as the say- change is the most inevitable thing. I was so surprised when Caroline gradually became a different woman. She began by not caring too much about my feelings as she used to, and then she began cheating on me just as I did on her. Eventually she left me, taking my son. The boy hated the idea of me just as I once hated my father. I would never hear about my son for many years except that he had relocated to Canada with his mother where he studied at a top university and became a successful business executive.
As I write this, I am a middle-aged man with no family and no peace of mind. Patriarchy ruined my life, and I let it…
~Emmanuel Benson (Based on an interview with a man who has chosen to be anonymous. Names have been changed to this end…)