Saturday, 15 September 2012

Part I: Did I marry beneath myself?

There’s something really gratifying about having people respond to something you’ve blogged about. This is one of the reasons why bloggers blog, I think: to (hopefully) inspire a shared conversation around issues that are particularly meaningful to the blogger concerned.

An interesting dynamic when it comes to blogging is that bloggers aren’t always privy to all the conversations that their blog posts inspire.

Long before I really ‘got’ what a blog was, I was a daily reader of a particular blog that simply amazed me. The blogger is the mother of two small children, in an interracial marriage. Her son is autistic while her daughter is not, and her husband just happens to be a recovering sex addict. I came across her blog three years ago or so, during one of my internet searches as I tried to make meaning of my own crazy life. I went back to that blog again and again, stunned by how this blogger managed to keep it together.

As much as I admired and still admire the blog, I never left a comment. I was very content to be a regular lurker – and yet, I talked about the blog all the time to whoever cared to listen. And so, I can relate to the comment below from an anonymous reader. Someone forwarded it to me on behalf of this reader, leaving it up to me to decide whether to post it or not in response to ‘The help’ blog post.

I read it, thought about it for some days, and then decided to write several posts around it, seeing as it brings a number of important issues to the fore. Plus, I’m guessing this comment speaks for a lot of lurkers who, for various reasons, may just have decided not to say anything yet. Lastly, I just want this anonymous visitor to know that her comment is important to me and appreciated, and I wanted to thank her for inspiring a three-part post:

If this ain't something, what is? Am so entangled emotionally with this blog I cannot even bear to leave a comment. I read each post with knots in my stomach not sure what next to expect. SMH. Na wa should sum up how I feel. Bless the helps and may God save that husband-character from rotting in hell. I daresay this babe must have married beneath her in the name of christianity. The man sounds to me like "vermin". Who is to blame her? Not when we've all sometimes acted like we've been brain washed. I am talking to us nigerian Christians, yours truly inclusive. This scum of a man deserves to be beaten into a pulp for putting this angel through all this. "But who are you to judge?, I hear the proponents of "judge not" say. mscheeew. I refrain from verbally abusing this scum of a man lest I join the twerp in hell. He is a real "unam ikot". P.S  … Copy and paste this comment in the blog for me please. I fear that if I leave this comment on that blog, the blogger would throw me off her blog. She sounds too nice and may probably give me a sermon about loving my enemies one of which is this man. Reading about just how much she has forgiven makes me feel so unclean besides such saintliness. No offence meant but "Is she for real?"

I observed with fascination as ‘The help’ rose, literally overnight, to become one of the most popular blog posts. A bit suspiciously, I wondered exactly what the appeal was. Was it that the writing was any better than that of the other posts (I completely doubted this)? Was it that the ‘gist’ was just unusually ‘juicy’? Was it that I have become such a pro at painting myself as the ‘victim’? Or did it strike a chord simply because the story represented the stereotypical nightmare of the African woman – the impending one that she just ‘knows’ is coming sooner or later – and so it leaves many readers with a sense of relief that this horrible fate has so far not befallen them?

Whatever the answer to these questions, the comment from the anonymous visitor is loaded with issues that I thought I would divvy up into three separate questions:

  1. Did I marry beneath myself?
  2. Where is my anger?
  3. Do we dare judge?

I don’t think there’s a simple ‘yes/no’ answer to the first question. In my mind, it only leads to a series of other questions.

When we talk about a person marrying beneath him/herself, what are we really referring to? Are we referring primarily to one’s own money or wealth, the money or wealth of one’s parents, the social ‘class’ of one’s family, one’s level of education, one’s character … or all of the above?

My father would’ve given a blunt answer to this question (perhaps the sort of answer that many are hoping for). As far as he was concerned, I had selected a life partner who was beneath me, and he made this clear before the marriage. He wasn’t the only one that thought so.

Back then, I was deeply intrigued by this concept and asked my father to elaborate. He didn’t articulate what he meant beyond saying that my parents were highly educated and his were non-literate, and so, in a sense, I was choosing to ‘start all over’ – losing the gains my parents had worked hard to make. I didn’t get it then and (to tell the truth), I still don’t really get it now. ‘It’ (whatever it is) would’ve been crystal clear to me if I were marrying an uneducated person, while being educated myself. But this wasn’t the case. The parents of the person I married may not have been to school, but they produced remarkably high-achieving children whose accomplishments rival those of my own parents' children.

I guess I’m just of the opinion that, no matter whom your parents were or are, you still have to prove yourself and make your own name in your own generation. Having the ‘right’ set of parents may or may not help you in this regard. Coming from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks may or may not end up being the motivator that propels one to unprecedented heights.

A young person I know recently told me that she could never marry a ‘poor’ man, being from a relatively well-off family herself. Her point was that being raised ‘poor’ establishes a certain kind of psyche that the person concerned cannot escape from, even if they end up striking it rich on their own, or rising to a higher social ‘class’ – and she could foresee this as causing unnecessary problems in marriage. I admired and applauded her for doing her own thoughtful analysis on this issue at such a young age. I wish I’d been that ‘street smart’ in my early twenties. While I appreciate where she’s coming from, I also know that strange mind-sets aren’t the preserve of the ‘poor.’ If the ‘poor’ have ways of thinking, then so do the ‘rich.’ And either mind-set could come with its own problems.

I know of a really wealthy heir who doesn’t have to work (and doesn’t). At age 40, his life is spent traveling to exotic locations and doing only the things that he thoroughly enjoys. But his mind-set is, in many surprising ways, that of an impoverished man. He tends to be unusually (embarrassingly, even) stingy toward others, and (apart from the exotic trips), toward himself.

Who’s to say exactly what effect money (for instance) has, and whether this effect is consistent across all individuals? What if in-born personality has the greatest effect of all, irrespective of who one is or what one has?

As I pointed out to my Dad at the time (with my idealistic, youthful self), he was once that young man whose parents were non-literate. But nobody remembers that now because of his own achievements – so why (and how) did it matter?

I don’t claim to have any of the answers, but I do know that whatever occurred during my marriage could have happened even if my ex-husband’s parents were the President and First Lady of Nigeria (okay, maybe that’s not the best example – LOL – just kidding!). My point is, I know quite a number of people with seemingly the ‘right’ pedigree who have made really horrible spouses.

Having said that, let me also say that Christianity absolutely does (or, at least, ideally should) level the playing field. Being a Christian will often mean that you will constantly engage with people from all walks of life – some ‘above’ you, some ‘beneath’ you, and some ‘at par’ with you. It also often means that you will tend to give each of these categories of people a fair chance when it comes to marriage. Our prayer is that, whether the person we end up with is viewed by others as ‘beneath’ you or not, let it not be because of their character. And if there are any other ‘inequities’ between the two of you, they should be carefully examined before you say ‘I do.’


  1. True talk ma seour! Agreed, careful examination before 'I do'.

    1. I'm telling you. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. True ooo...but come to think of it! Its nice to know that your parents are highly educated, being 100% Igbo as you put it in one of your posts. I am 100% Igbo and one thing i have found out is, Igbo's of years ago hardly ever went to school. Many made their wealth on trade. Marrying beneath yourself or family or standards is one of the worse mistakes people make. Its not like i am proud or something, i come from a family of averagely educated people and i would like to marry into a highly educated family. Think of it as my mindset, i don't care. I'm quite young, (just celebrated my birthday today, matter of fact and i'm growing older too)i also know that one cant be too young to make choices that feel right to them. I have ended my friendship with a number of very successful guys because i know that deep down, i cant live with them. My family isn't too rich but we were very content, i cant see why i would stay with a man who spends years accumulating wealth and not living it because he remembers how he 'soaked garri' as a child.
    Life could be a sort of teaching aid, somethings work and somethings dont work. i am not justifying your words and i am not disregarding them either. I respect you alot, atleast from what ive read, you are a strong woman who knows her ground...and i really think you married beneath you, your daddy was right.

  3. How interesting ... I have a totally different perspective on Igbo people (although I'm also aware of the strong trading history). I guess this goes to show that there are many different 'worlds' within the same country. I didn't grow up in Igboland, but in the small University town where I spent a large chunk of my life, a large proportion of the population was Igbo, including a large proportion of the lecturers. So that was my Igbo 'world.' I think it's great that despite your youth, you have a good understanding of what you can't live with. That's such an important life skill and it'll keep you out of a lot of trouble. LOL @ 'your daddy was right.' My Daddy would agree (: