Remember when you were little? You just finished eating a bowl of cereal, your stomach is still round from the assault you just launched on the cereal, you wouldn’t eat Amala with the rest because you don’t like the Wara your mother served it with.
Your Mother prepares to go out, you didn’t wait for her to finish tying her Gele before you began to look for your slippers, you could not find it and you rushed after her without your shoes, begging to follow her to the meeting she wanted to attend. She wouldn’t hear any of that, you clung to her legs and made walking difficult. When she could not bear your bawling any longer she asked you to go and wear your slippers before you could follow her.
“oya answer me” she said as she took a seat on the stool outside.
You rushed in and wore the “Iya o ba baba tan” mismatched slippers you could lay your hands on, your mother was gone already, the empty stool says all you need to know. You cried nonstop for hours until one of your siblings came to silence you with a knock.
Remember how you felt when you realized adults lie too? Remember how you lost trust for your mother since then? Remember your eyes became opened for the first time then.
Remember, that one time when your auntie sat you down and talked to you about sex and boys, how she warned you to steer clear of them because they give you nothing but “belle”. “It takes only one touch” she said. Remember how you kept yourself thinking how ideal it would be saving yourself for your wedding night as she had advised. But you were shocked to your cores when a married woman came to shout in your compound that day, you would never forget the curses she rained on your auntie, narrating to nosy neighbours who cared to listen that your auntie opened her legs “Yakata” for her husband while you stood there wondering the number of times your auntie got touched. Remember how crushed you were when your auntie decides to keep the baby anyway, how she falls in and out of different beds to take care of her child whom she is solely responsible for.
Remember when you decided to do it too, after all your auntie who preached to you about chastity did it too. You would not forget that hot night, the windows were shut to keep out the mosquitoes, but they still won’t leave you alone, they buzz around your ears as you try to force yourself to sleep, singing songs of humiliation for you. Since you never really wanted to, but you had to so you could be “experienced” as your auntie terms her escapades. Remember how your friends helped you out of that tight situation by giving you before and after pills. Remember the blood that marks your initiation into coven of the “wise”. Now you counter everything your auntie says about sex in your mind. Touching doesn’t make girls pregnant!
Do you remember? How your Daddy flogged you mercilessly that day? Just because you were reported to have cheered two boys fighting in your school on. You didn’t do it, your Daddy knows too but he hates the fact that your name got mentioned. He flogged you in the presence of everyone you loved and hated, Nonso the yellow boy with wide nose and Okada seat head, Kunbi the small dark skinned girl you were crushing on, the Barber whose shop is in front of your house, your juniors in school, your siblings, your mother who sat and said nothing as he flogged “disobedience” out of you. And you wonder as you lay on your chest for your welts filled back still protests. You wonder why your Father choose to punish you for a crime you did not commit even though he knows the truth. He came into your room that night to apologize but you pretended you were fast asleep, you avoided him the next morning, and the morning after till you grew apart. When you have a son, you’d do better you said to yourself remembering the blood stained tee shirt.
Remember when you thought adults were perfect beings incapable of flaws and mistakes? Remember the salty Ogbono your mother cooked? How she had made a face at you when you refused to chug it down, how the Ogbono felt like phlegm you are trying to push back into your lungs. How miserable you had felt when you remembered how she called your siblings to come and laugh at you the day you added a bit more salt than it was necessary to the Rice.
The adult world is not perfect, aye life is not perfect. Often we get to realize this through disappointments and disillusionment which opens our eyes like the first inhabitants of Eden. Little did we know we are shedding our naive, inexperienced self to embrace the matured experienced self who is just seeing the world?
We wise up whether we want to or do not want to when models we look up to fall short of standard and we realize no one is really perfect the way we thought them be.
Life has a funny way of teaching, it could be through pain, happiness or disappointment but we learn still. We can not move to the next phase of our life without going through the passage, and we can not pass through without experiencing the rites of passage.
We form our identities through experiences and we need the rites of passage to discover our true selves and unchain ourselves from the prison adults lock us in trying to mold our identities before we could take a form.
-Inspired by Dr. Femi Dunmade.