Her eyes had the appeal of a cute one year old and at the same time the allure of the woman she was.
Her steps, laced with elegance and garnished with poise.
Oh and when she finally spoke, her voice seemed like cold milk on a hot day… Soothing, yes that’s the word.
And so with the help of the opening line “Nice Ankara”, we got talking. We talked like kids who had just met each other: freely and with little or no shame. We talked about everything, from the food at the event, to the various attires people had on, to the baby being named and then finally to the couple hosting the event, but wait! There was no “couple”, there was just my colleague Joe and his… and his… I was at a loss for words as to what to actually call the young lady who bore and gave birth to Joe’s child without any nuptial ceremony.
At this point the Ankara Lady (whose name was Ifedinma by the way) helped me out with the words for it, so craftily coined, and elaborately portrayed. A phrase so contemporarily accepted and widely propagated that at once I recalled many of my encounters with it. I reckon anyone from across the room could see the distaste on her lips as she said the words: “Baby Mama”.
Up until then I had never really given it a thought, I’d worked with Joe for years but never quite knew his marital status, so I guess I only assumed when I got an invite for a naming ceremony that he was married. Imagine my shock to discover otherwise when the mother of the child proudly called him “Baby Daddy” in her vote of thanks.
So “Baby mama” I said, hmmm… Thinking about it then I realized how common and popular it had become. Young ladies getting pregnant for guys whom they had no legal marital binding with and giving birth, no longer shamefully (or even remorsefully), No Ohh!! Far from it, they now do it with so much pride one could be fooled into thinking they just bagged a degree at Cambridge. I shared a couple of encounters with my new friend Ifedinma, recalling how I had admired my parents for waiting till marriage to get “intimate” at a time when “fertility” was usually tested for both parties. Parents wanted to know if their child’s intended spouse was fit to give them grand kids, the resultant effect then was that I had tons of friends who found out that their parents lied to them about when they got married in order to keep out the fact that they were born out of wedlock, My! Back then it was a thing a scorn for them, but now it would seem that to be a “Baby Mama” or “Baby Daddy” is like a kind of Medal of Honor.
On the other hand, Ifedinma was bewildered at the ladies especially. She wondered about everything;
“How did they feel to give birth outside marriage?”
“What did they do with their lives when the said guy doesn’t eventually get married to them?”
“How on earth can you share your body with one you haven’t yet been joined to?
Then she faced the society:
“How did the subject move from condemning young irresponsible men who denied their pregnant partners to celebrating the ones who claimed the child but refused to marry the mother?”
“How did we move from plain abstinence to ‘being ‘sexually responsible’ to your partner?”
As she spoke I saw a fire in her eyes which made me drift for a moment into my make believe world and there I saw myself holding her hand while she was being taken into the labour room, and immediately I looked for our fingers hoping to find some sort of emblems of unity (in form of rings) and to my relief I did. I shook myself back to earth as she ended with
“What makes the fact that society no more frowns at something acceptable?”
(By the Way, if you were waiting for a quote today, I guess you should pocket that as you keep waiting)
We walked out into the parking lot as we continued our discussion… We recalled verses in the bible like Genesis 2 verse 24 that says “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” I quickly brought up the fact that many people argue with verses like that on the grounds that it was during the Old Testament period that it was applicable, she cut in and said “If that’s truly the bone of contention, what of the New Testament take on it in Hebrews 13 verse 4 that says-
“Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”?
You should have been there, it was like a teens’ debate club, only difference was that we were on the same side, and were of course, not teenagers.
I straightened out my shirt and adjusted my native hat, knowing I was about to give a speech. Then mindfully, I entered into the role of one of the greatest “speech givers” I knew: Morgan Freeman. And with that I said to Ifedinma:
“No matter how the world seems to change, no matter how standards seem to Avalanche, those of us who know should stand and speak up, those of us who see should shine the lights for others and until everyone around us sees we should not rest, neither should we close our eyes to the looming darkness. For if you KNOW BETTER then you have an unwavering obligation to DO BETTER, not just for yourself, No! But for the many out there in search of a way and in search of the light…”
(If you’d put the other quote in your pocket, then I guess this can go in your backpack)
As I concluded, Ifedinma put her hand in mine, and as we walked back towards the house as she said “Let’s go show people the way then”, in that instant I imagined us in a car all dressed up and driving into the sunset, and yes at the back of the car was “just wedded”…
So I’ll just go ahead and celebrate THE LADY IN ANKARA…
To my African Women who keep it real! And my Virtuous ones, who Deserve Praise!!!
“…Is to be Praised.”