This is an opinion piece on Toke Makinwa’s “On Becoming”. This is not an attempt to render invalid the experiences of the writer and her opinions on relationships, nor those of readers who share her sentiments. I merely attempt to share my views as earnestly as possible. As much as my humanity allows, I try not to judge other people, their actions, and their decisions even when I find them mind-boggling. I try to do that which is easier said than done – to put myself in their shoes. When I find myself indulging in the rush which comes with judging others, I ask myself – what makes me think that I would act differently if I had ALL of that person’s decision variables? If I had their biology, physiology, sociology, psychology, and metaphysics (including their religious beliefs, or lack thereof) would I act differently?
This write-up is an instance of me completely ignoring that noble voice in my head telling me not to judge. Not because I am a qualified judge or some sanctified monk, but simply because I am mind-boggled.
The first truth which jumps out of “On Becoming” is that Toke Makinwa is a very good writer – and reader, too, because both definitely go hand-in-hand. Above all, she’s had the life experiences which fed her autobiography very well. So her writing bared her emotions and sentiments, and each of her words came to me like peppered hot oil dropping into my eyes. But does that mean that I cried? Absolutely not; more precisely, not the part where she narrated the story of her parents demise (damn, how heart-breaking). But the story of that roller-coaster relationship and marriage with Maje Ayida was very difficult to wrap my head and emotions around.
Why do women (and men, I guess – cos this book is from a woman’s perspective) stay in blatantly horrible relationships? Why does the Nigerian society seem to capitulate to the caprice whims of irresponsible men? Why do people think that marriage makes humans better – like some alchemy of the spirit, turning the copper of a wayward man’s heart into gold? I am deeply concerned about the attitude towards bad relationships. A man is clearly cheating on you, doesn’t show up, he lies and doesn’t respect you or care about your feelings. His only ammunition on you are his roses and apology-after-the-fact (remember, we know only Toke’s story so far; Maje hasn’t presented his own “On Becoming” story), and you go back to him? His mother doesn’t recognise that you two are a couple even AFTER your “introduction”. His sister warns you against marrying him but you cling onto hope which you’ve derived from I-know-not-where. Why believe that marriage would make such a person better? It boggles my mind to see women (I guess men too), wallow in the pit of bad, hopeless relationships. Why is the devil you know better than being alone? And, please dear neighbour, landlord, uncle, aunt, in-law, parent and MARRIAGE COUNSELLOR , pack your opinions and cast them into the fires of Mordor. Yes, I can leave a bad marriage. Yes, I believe that God will not punish me when I leave an irresponsible, hurtful and disrespectful spouse who has no love for me. Yes, I choose happiness.
Toke’s narrative of Maje’s behaviour was so touching that I felt it deeply just by reading the book, so I can only wonder what she went through. But my question is why persist in the bad relationship? Why choose unhappiness? Why should forgiveness and understanding be your first reaction to infidelity instead of protecting your happiness? You catch your man with his mistress, his response to you is “You’re the wife, she’s the girlfriend”. You cry and soon after, you forgive and accept him. At this point I wonder if Toke can really be absolved of the responsibility of the life she permitted to happen to her. My concerns multiply manifold times when I remind myself that I just read the story of an incredibly beautiful and financially successful woman subjecting herself to a loveless relationship. What if the opposite was the case? What if the story was about some poor, jobless lady who looked like the front of a MAN truck, how worse would the situation have been if the lady made same relationship decisions like Toke (remember, put yourself in her shoes). Why would a seemingly strong woman act so powerless?
I don’t know Toke so well and didn’t know how the relationship with Maje ended prior to reading the book. So with each new page, after reading about another misbehaviour by Maje, I thought – that was it; Toke would break up with him and the rest of the book would contain advice on how to deal with bad relationships. This was at page 50; imagine my surprise when I found out this up-and-down shoki dance continued until page 100 or so. The book is 110 pages long….
That brings me to Toke’s 5 tips on what to do when you find out that your partner cheated on you. What a load of crap! It’s such rhetoric that prompted me to write this in the first place; such rhetoric that makes me wonder if Toke is truly ready to move on and heal. WOMAN up, ladies; take the reins of your life and ride gloriously towards the rising sun. And don’t look back. Again, I remind you: to each his own – my solutions to a failed relationship aren’t Toke’s, and neither are they yours. Every relationship is different in its unique way so what solves the problem for couple A may not work for B and C. Take control of your life and don’t let anything or anyone keep you in a loveless, hurtful, unhappy relationship. You deserve the best.