Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Our Song

We didn’t really have a special song that we labeled as ‘ours.’ I might be wrong, but I’ve always thought that if I couple did have a song that was considered ‘their’ song, it was generally because the female partner chose it and then declared it as such (J). It’s no wonder that I don’t have one ‘special’ song even now, as I am surprisingly indecisive about many things.

For instance, my daughter asked me yesterday what my favorite color is. I told her that I like too many to pick out just one. ‘I don’t really have a favorite color because I like a number of different colors. I like pastels, though – anything that’s pastel-colored works for me.’

‘Oh, yeah – I keep forgetting,’ she said.

It’s the same thing with songs and books. I love far too many to really be able to decide which ones I like ‘best.’

My former husband was keenly aware of my indecisive nature, and this is probably one of the main reasons why it took him forever to believe that the relationship was over. He was used to getting his way in the relationship and, for the most part, I really didn’t mind too much if he got it. I think he was certain that there was no way I could’ve completely made up my mind and that the passage of time was sure to change things.

We used to be really into Bebe and Cece Winans in the early years of the marriage. I’m still into them, actually. We would play this duo’s Different Lifestyles and Relationships albums to death as we drove around just for fun. We would look forward to Bebe’s solo on the Relationships album – ‘These What-abouts.’ We never actually discussed the song but I was really drawn to it and I think he was, too. It just seemed different from the rest of the songs on the album. Maybe it’s because it was slower, with a haunting interlude of instrumentals that really spoke to me. The instrumentals were beautiful and messy and painful and confusing, and they made you stop and just listen.

It’s a tragic song, actually, and if I had to choose my ‘divorce soundtrack,’ this would probably be the one. It could easily serve as the soundtrack for the tail end of my marriage as well. The lyrics were almost prophetic now that I think about it. In the song, the protagonist frantically tries to reach out and connect with his lover – with little success, though. We’re not told what exactly caused the rift between them, but we can tell it’s something serious. It’s one of those ‘too little, too late’ scenarios. He realizes it’s way too late, but he tries to appeal to the memory of the hopes and dreams they once shared as a couple:

‘Cause what about the plans we made?
What about the dreams of cascades?
What about the vows we pledged?
Are they still alive or dead?
And what about the promise to stay?
Can I still believe it's okay?
Can we somehow talk about these what-abouts?
These what-abouts

But these are the wrong questions to ask. The problem with ‘what-abouts’ is that they are just about appearances if you all you do is refer to them without taking ownership of how you got into your current mess. It’s not about the what-abouts. It never is – unless you think about the what-abouts beforehand and hopefully allow them to steer you away from actions you’ll later regret.

During my days as a master sleuth, I came across a series of text messages on my then husband’s phone. It was a conversation between him and one of his relatives – someone who later tried to act as an intermediary between us, and with whom we both ended up communicating extensively about our issues.

‘Be careful,’ he warned my then husband. ‘She sounds more convincing than you.’

‘Should I tell?’ my then husband asked him in return. (I’m paraphrasing now as I don’t remember his exact words.)

‘No. Don’t tell.’

At first, I was taken aback by these words. But much later, I thought about it and came to the conclusion that in advising my then husband to withhold the truth from me, this person may not have meant any harm. I’m convinced he thought that everything would eventually blow over and that it was in everyone’s best interest for my former spouse to keep mum because the truth would hurt too much, destroy too much. I was a Nigerian woman – a Christian one at that – and I wasn’t going anywhere (he must’ve thought), so it made sense to just let sleeping dogs lie.

My ex-husband was an adult, though – capable of figuring things out for himself, so I cannot use this piece of advice as an excuse.

And when the outcome turned out to be what they did not expect (what even I did not expect), it was because I wasn’t Nigerian enough. My not being born on Nigerian soil had somehow suddenly tainted my Nigerian-ness after all these years. A ‘real’ Nigerian woman would have known how to handle this matter with more decorum, how to value her marriage. A ‘real’ Nigerian woman would’ve known how to expect less.

I find it really sad, though, this mentality. The usual thing would be to be sad for myself – sad about the fact that they would want to assign me to such a position. But that’s not even where I’m coming from right now. I am just saddened that they appeared so comfortable doing it and did not seem to give any thought to what that made them if that was what they expected for me and from me.

Apart from the interlude of instrumentals, this is my favorite part of the song (Picture Bebe crooning in a desperate, tortured tone, accompanied by equally desperate violins.):

Can we somehow talk about?
Somehow work it out?
Can we somehow find a way, find a way?
Can we somehow find a plan? Somewhere there's a plan
Can we somehow work it out, somehow work it out?
Somehow find a way, somehow find a way?
Somehow talk about it, somehow talk about it?
Somehow there's an answer, somewhere there's an answer
Can we somehow work it out, somehow work it out?
Can we somehow talk about these what-abouts?
These what-abouts
Can we talk about these what-abouts?
It won't hurt to talk about
These what-abouts

The problem with ‘these what-abouts’ is that they’re meaningless when they come way too late.


  1. Hi Rmj, I'm a 52 year old woman going through a traumatic time as almost a year ago I made an awful discovery may I email you privately as the pain is so much. I used to listen to that track "what abouts" as well. I will go and fish the cd out now. I can perfectly identify with it. I came across this blog when I typed in the caption strange woman. I also know that there is only so much you can tell those around you or how long you can talk for before getting the feeling tha one is becoming a nuisance! It's not a good place to be. Thank you for this blog.

    1. Dear Teddy teddy: Thank you for writing. I mean that because I nearly didn't post 'Our Song.' I wrote it and then held onto it for another day, thinking I wasn't going to bother to put it up on the blog. I will explain why in another post in the coming days. Sorry for what you're going through right now. Please feel free to email me at

    2. Dear Rmj, How are you? I will definitely email you! When will you book come out and how do we buy it here in Nigeria? I'm really looking forward to reading it.

    3. I'm fine, thank you, Teddy teddy. Hope you're good, too, despite the circumstances. I'll look forward to hearing from you, then. The book will come out later than originally planned. The structural editing was completed a long time ago, but there were some delays with getting a copy editor (apparently, it's hard to find good ones, and the few that work with this particular publisher have all been fully booked). Anyway, we finally got one and it's being copy edited as we speak. All that and other little things should be done by end of Feb. But printing off-shore apparently takes a whopping 16 weeks! So we're looking at sometime around June/July 2014. Once I have concrete news, I'll post this on the blog. The publisher is interested in marketing the book in Nigeria, too, and I'll keep you informed. Thanks.

  2. Hi Rmj, I will definitely keep my eyes open for the book! Thanks.