Life has been about growing up. And whether I liked it or not, I have being growing with it.
Back in primary school, I was the girly guy who liked to play oga with the girls, not because I desired to but because my fellow boys wouldn’t allow me play football with them. I wasn’t good with the sport anyway. The girls on the other hand loved me; I didn’t just know how to play their games with them, I was better at some of them than they were. Because of this, I got mocked and teased a lot by the boys. I was never physically bullied; first, the girls would never stand for it, secondly I was pretty big and strong then.
And then, a day came when I was embroiled in a heated argument with some of my male classmates about me not playing football with them. I said in my defense, “You people don’t select me to play for any of the sides, which is why playing oga with the girls is what I get to do during break period.”
“Okay, no problem, come to the field today and I will make sure you play for me,” one of them replied.
Break time came and I moved to the field. And true to his words, the classmate selected me to play for his team. A few minutes into the game, a goal was scored and guess who was responsible – ME! Crazy, right? I know. A corner-kick had been played, followed by an attempted clearance from the opponent defender. It was a poor one and out of the possible twenty-two players on the pitch, the one person the ball chose to land at his feet was me. Hmm. I sha trapped the ball and unleashed a furious kick that sent the ball flying through the opponent’s defense and into the left corner of the post. I was ecstatic!
Another few minutes passed and I scored again. It was the same scenario. A corner-kick was played, and clearance was attempted this time through a header the ball wheeled toward. The boy sent the ball my way with a head-shot and I dispatched it again into the same left corner of the opponent’s goal post. I was basically the man of the match that day.
The next day, it didn’t take much to get me back on the team. This time however, my shine lost its luster. I was only able to conjure up a less-than-mediocre performance, which unfortunately was not enough to earn me another chance the next day. I gladly returned to my girls who were beginning to wonder if they had lost me.
Soon I graduated from primary school and became a junior in secondary school, and I did well to take my brains with me because it quickly became apparent that that would be my only selling point in this vastly different environment. Secondary school was a lot more different from primary school. There was a larger number of students, which translated to more verbal bullying. A few weeks as a junior passed, and I quickly identified with the girls. And this earned me the mocking wrath of the male students, mostly the seniors.
With each class and taunt and play, I grew.
I am the only child of my parents. And that means I’m both the boy and girl in the house. When my mother observed that she had missed her period after fifteen years of marriage without a child, when she realized she could be pregnant, in the midst of her jubilation, she nursed the hope of having a baby girl. My father on the other hand expectedly wanted a son.
So when I finally popped out after nine months of kicking and living on just fluids, at exactly 5:06 pm on a Thursday, my mother was at once the happiest woman alive and quite disappointed. And so, she determined to raise me in the manner a daughter would.
She made me learn how to cook, clean, wash. I remember running in and out of the kitchen during the preparation of dinner to ask her what ingredient would be next in whatever it was I was cooking. Anytime I came up with the excuse of not knowing how to perform a particular task, she would simply say, “Come and learn because those who do it are not doing it with their heads turned upside down.” If I complained that the task was a girl’s work, she would be like, “So what? When the job is done, won’t you partake in whatever gain that will come out of it?” Or she’d ask me to go get her a girl who would do it. In moments like these, I’d loathe her and wish she was never my mother.
Last year December, she got really sick with liver abscess. When I travelled to take care of her in the hospital, I couldn’t hold back the tears when I first saw her in that hospital bed. All my life, I’d known her to be this strong woman who’d wake up by 6am every morning and prepare for her morning marketing. I cried as though she was already dead. When I think of that day in retrospect, I realize how unprepared I was for her possible demise. She is strong again now, or at least that’s what she said the last time we talked. I have taken to praying for her to live long.
This has made me realize that family is important, ultimately so. I understand that there are people in the LGBT community who are justified in thinking of the family unit as an overrated thing. But…
Family is important.
Written by Michael