I was only 18 when my mother came to me with the news. I was going to marry Taiwo, my father’s friend in the next few months. My father was sick and he needed to be operated on as soon as possible. I was confused and didn’t know what to say or do.
“Please don’t do this to me, mother” I muttered under my breath. But my mother heard my quiet plea and came to my side, saying…
“ Ujo, it is your father’s wish to see you married to his dear friend, Taiwo. And his condition isn’t making anything better for us in this household” .
“You know our plight. Do this for us and Uncle Taiwo will take care of the family” she continued. “You do understand, don’t you?”.
She looked at me closely waiting for my response. I avoided her eyes and fiddled with my clothes. I felt so betrayed. My own parents were “selling” me off to a 60 year old man I didn’t even like or know.
Growing up, I had always imagined myself getting married to the man of my dreams. My handsome knight in shining armor or even Prince Charming. I never in my wildest dream thought that I would be sold off to a man twice or even thrice my age. But here I was in this dilemma.
I wanted to object to this, I wanted to make them understand but the only thing that kept me sound and composed was the picture of my ailing father in bed.
“The marriage ceremony would be swift and easy” my mother said. “Nothing huge, it will just be you, me, your brothers and a few other family members…”
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“ Mother, please, please spare me the details” I abruptly stopped her. I knew for a fact there was no turning back. I was in a tight spot and I needed to think on my own. There was no one to turn to or talk to. I had no choice at all but to marry this aged man I knew nothing about.
As the days and nights went by, my marriage ceremony drew near. I was beginning to panic. I was troubled. I didn’t know what marriage life held for me with this man.
I was moving into a world of the unknown. I didn’t know how to satisfy a man like Taiwo, an old experienced man. Even at age 18, I knew not of how to satisfy a man. I knew not of any intimate experience at all. I tried to put on a brave face for my father. I tried to honor my father’s wish. But in my moment of discomfort, my mother saw through the façade.
“ Everything will be just fine” She assured. But I wasn’t at ease at all. I thought of the easiest way to get myself out of this arranged marriage. This marriage which was only going to give me nothing but sorrow and could maybe one day spell out my doom.
One day, as if by divine intervention I met my best friend, Amaka. We had been inseparable as kids. I was on my way to the market to get some kola for my father’s visitors. She recognized me immediately. I hadn’t seen her in years. But life had been good to her.
“ Where have you been, my good friend?” I asked, still thrilled at the by chance meeting. I gave Amaka a huge squeeze. It was our signature way to show our affection for each other.
“ I have been in the big city” she uttered heartily.
I was very elated to see my old best friend. She told me tales of the big city and her family there. Life has been in fact very good to her. She was living with an aunt and had already received admission to the University.
I was envious but at the same time pleased of what she had been able to make of her life. When I told her the story of my life. Amaka was shocked and saddened. She suggested I go back to the city with her.
I was frightened, I was flummoxed. I was deep in thought. What about my father? What about my sick father? Virtual pictures of my ailing father flooded my mind. I was running late and had to leave my dear friend but before I left I promised to get back to her later.
My traditional wedding was drawing closer and I was beginning to grow wary. I was 18 and had a lot of years ahead. I was young and it was no use spending wasted years with an old man. I thought.
Reality then hit me a day to my traditional marriage. That day, I knew exactly what to do. I began to gather up my things. I walked out of my room never to look back. I called Amaka at a call centre close to my house. It made sense to go with her at that defined moment. My mother had some suspicions I will do this and came after me.
“Ujo, Ujo come back. You will kill your father. Ujo, don’t do this. You will kill your father” she screamed after me. I didn’t look back. I didn’t want to hear anything anymore. I wanted to be free. I wanted to be liberated from all this.
I had spent my years doing everything expected of a child. Children could only be seen but not heard in my household. I was 18 and a woman. Everything short of a child.
I wanted to choose my own clothes, my own food, my shoes and more importantly I wanted to make that important decision in my life: to choose the man I would marry. Maybe in the near future.
When I got to Amaka’s home, I explained everything to her family. Her aunt, Cecilia was moved by my plight. I couldn’t contain the tears. The unshed tears had to be shed. The untold story had to be told.
And I told it all to these people who cared. Teary eyed, I looked around me. My gaze finally fell on Aunt Cecilia who got up from her seat and hugged me.
“Hush, hush, my dear” She said “You are one brave and lucky girl, Ujo”
“Everything would be just fine”. It felt good to be in the embrace of someone who cared. It felt good to finally make that crucial decision, never to go back home.
This is how it ended or started for me, depending on how you see it. But sadly, there are many other girls in Africa who unfortunately have fallen victim to arranged marriages.
Many people might not believe it but arranged marriages are very prevalent in today’s Africa.
The question I ask is, in such a dilemma what would you do? Would you save your poor ailing father or yourself from a life of waste? You choose!
GC Life 101 is feature on GhanaCelebrities.Com. This looks at various life realities in short story forms as we try to entertain, educate and inform our readers on a variety of life experiences. Articles for GC Life 101 will be filed under Blog.