By Chinelo Ude
I often have the talk with my brother about marriage and who Mama and Papa feel we must marry. For a girl with Igbo heritage, this is a perpetual poignant question. My brother scorned at the expectations.
Do they expect us to go back to Nigeria to find a mate to marry?
For him, this was a no-no. The boy actually forbade me from going back to do any such thing. What gives him the right to forbid his big sister of anything? As American as he thought he was, you could see the Nigerian alpha-male syndrome oozing.
He reiterated that he did not want me taking care of ‘those men’. I laughed at him. His image of Nigerian men was curious.
As a Nigerian raised American, I had somewhat of a westernized ideal of marriage. The class and influence of who we ought to marry was not a pivotal question as much as love. The ideology of love as the pre-requisite to marriage is ingrained in most western Nigerian children. And we all know how counter cultural it is to our parents’ perspective
Unlike my westernized Nigerians who are pre-occupied with love, my Nigerian based friends kept reminding me of how I need to come back to Enugu Ngwo to get married to my kind . These differences of opinion drove me on my search to try and understand the phenomenon of marrying Nigerian. I intended to learn what I could and possibly pass the lessons to my westernized Nigerian friends who are caught in the same web of indecision and irony. In a not-too subtle tone, I was constantly reminded of how I am supposed to marry Nigerian, Igbo, and Enugu. This tone clashes with our whole western way of thinking—individualism.
My first jinx was the mentality of marrying from my tribe. I realized that the family and cultural expectation was not just marrying a Nigerian- but one from the Igbo tribe- specifically Enugu State. After overcoming the hurdle of deciding I would marry a Nigerian, I realized I had only scratched the surface. I kept asking why it had to be from the same state as I am. I only have a hand full of men from my state to choose form. I mean do not get me wrong, my state has many men to choose from but let’s break it down.
From the framework of the cultural perspective, there were the following classes of men. The men that want to marry you because you are their visa overseas. The ones that want to marry you because you can actually speak Igbo. The ones that want to marry you because you remind them of their mothers. The ones that want to marry you because you have a university degree. The ones that want to marry you because of your family name. And then, the men that want to marry you because of all the aforementioned reasons put together. And while I understood these premises, I did not buy them. These should not be a major deciding factor for a man to want to marry me and verse versa for the female counterpart.
Enough of the negatives. I will delve into some of the favorable outcomes I realized on my quest. I realized that even though I grew up in America, I was more Nigerian than I thought. I found myself one with the culture and figured out how much easier it was to solve problems. There is almost no culture clash and there was more understanding in times of trouble. I started to see the wisdom in my family’s push for me to marry someone from my culture. I wouldn’t have to fight that hard for my marriage. To add the cultural difference to the usual marriage differences would be an enormous ask. This is because, as humans, we are more willing to work through problems with people we understand than ones we do not understand. Understanding one’s culture, values, background, and history makes a huge difference in resolving problems and approach. I have…
TO BE CONTINUED…