Married men and unmarried women have very few things in common; but they do share an unusual commonality, especially when examined against the background of Nigerians in America. These two seemingly inchoate sub-groups of Nigerians in America have a linked, but unusual Nigerian in America experience.
In one breath the married man in America is busy, and engaged. In search of the proverbial Golden Fleece he often works himself to death. The American dream to him is a “not ever ending” mirage of shadowy goals whose attainment only waters the ambition for the next conquest. No matter how much he earns, his wife’s (and perhaps his own) insistence on keeping on with the Joneses, means his suffering knows no end. He might be a specialist doctor earning millions, yet never has enough. Thoroughly maxed out on credit cards, he works for his mortgage company half the day, Uncle Sam for a quarter and his credit card company for another quarter of his work day. He hardly stays in the house as he relentless has to pay month in, month out.
Visit, any Naija church on a typical Sunday, and the shiny new cars and absent husbands tells you half the story! This lifestyle as I previously mentioned robs him of the total experience of the society in which he toils. and for which he his taxed. Don’t be surprised that even though he had passed through America, the country had hardly passed through him. His limited worldview is dictated by his spouse: who happily bounds him to the church, her social circle and of course his work. He is the type whose bush mannerism and lack of sophistication will put you to shame when you meet him at the subway or at the airport. Loud, brash, arrogant and pompous- his ego is well oiled by his woman’s daily push for the dollars and his seemingly relentless ability to continue supplying it.
I know one engineer in Houston, he works in Foley’s as well in the weekends at the mall, and holds another job as a caterer for Mexican restaurant where he moonlights after his eight to five work, while his family enjoys the shelter and bed he has provided in his Mac Mansion (whose jumbo monthly mortgage can put a fairly used car under a young college undergrad). Don’t get me wrong, many of these men like where they are: or so they think. They have bought into the age long notion of the relentless provider that (“African”) men are supposed to be. While all that is well and good, it robs them of many valuable life experiences; it indeed, leaves them surprisingly naïve in their environment, and vulnerable as you can imagine. Undeniably, at the end of the pursuit of these bounties- many of them become burnt out, and realize the relentless rat race leads to no where. Rats gets fat, cats feed on them.
He is the type who has been in the US for 30 years and has been to five states for six nights; all for Owambe (he came back overnight to base to continue working). He doesn’t know the joy of watching his kids read; enjoy the beach or even mere playing in the yard. Paint ball, laser tag, white water rafting, hiking, skiing, jet skiing and golf all sound like stuff out of fantasy movies to him. His annual HOA dues that pays for the use of the well stuffed community center at his ostentatious neighborhood is as good as wasted; when one considers his next to no utilization of the facilities therein. Life to him is defined by: work, work, church. The church he has to go because madam also requires it.
His sex life, oh well, let madam answer for that. He is surprised when he finds out that the “brethren” from church had actually being filling the void in his bed while he was away moonlighting and his kids were busy snoring his wealth away. Even his health suffers; last time his new employer (in one of his odds short term jobs) forced him to take a physical, his doctor asked him to watch his diet and exercise more because he is pushing hypertensive and doesn’t even know it! But with three jobs, a good meal is a good sit at Burger King and his flabby stomach “is a sign of good living”, his wife told him. Who is to blame?
The first shock for him comes when he first manages to squeeze his first three day vacation to Nigeria in fifteen years past his wife (who had to take a temp job to cover for him) in order to attend a close relative’s funeral. There he finds himself relative to his peers back home, left behind and much left to be desired. His American dream soon becomes a nightmare as the once confident, cocky medical doctor in America, becomes self doubting, bitter and badly adjusted to the twin contending worlds of Nigeria and America. At the funeral he was a mere wall paper.
In Nigeria, he is a stranger: utterly out of place no thanks to his long sojourn from home. In America, his heavy accent still won’t cut it in the nirvana social circles, and his ability to break into it is heavily hampered by his long unusual work hours. He is a prime candidate for depression, anger and the common place result of drunkenness, wife battering, parental violence and ultimately divorce. He loses it all, and to him life cannot just get worse. Who is to blame?
Well just before you blame his wife, the formerly single Nigerian woman professional in America who finally got lucky with him, well consider her once unbeknown fate. Let us just say, “she frittered away her youth”. Since that last day of college when her mum gazing at her newly minted diploma reminded her that marriage was the next logical step, she had known no peace. She can’t even remember when she was 23 years old, not to talk of mid twenties or when she hit the big three-O. The day she crossed over that magical 30, her mind was totally focused on finding Mr. Right that enjoying life was far from her thoughts. She can’t even recollect where that birthday bash was held.
Her schedule looked like this. Pray, pray at fellowship until mum calls to remind her of her singlehood- then work, work, work thereafter to bury her depression afterwards. In the weekends, she forces herself once in a while to party out with her more carefree friends, but she is more obsessed about spotting and identifying the single men that it soon lost the luster. When she finally hooks up with one good nothing arrogant young Nigerian professional or 419, it is obvious the chase of the booty is more important to him than settling down. No sooner is she acting like the wife-to-be: all caring and motherly, does he push back and reward her with a token of heartbreak. All the while, she had cancelled the trip to Europe, or Florida or Las Vegas with her American buddies who couldn’t figure why she is so hung up on marrying any thing in trousers.
Well, she finally got lucky. She met him at one of those parties. He was unsophisticated, but was hardworking. He loves to work and makes good money she was told by her contacts. She figured out, why settle for less? Why not make up for time lost? He likes the fact that she worked: if only he had asked if she will continue working after they got married. Little did he know that the power of the Joneses “passes’ all understanding”. Well, what can a man do? I am just figuring why the few wise single men out there are running for their dear lives from the hell hole of Nigerian-American marriage, and the legions of eligible spinsters are pushing harder towards the altar. One man’s meat surely is another man’s poison. Go figure.
Michael Oluwagbemi II
Popularly known as Busanga, Michael Oluwagbemi II writes for various electronic and print publications. Some ask him why he writes, others ask him, "why even bother?" Well, to them both he says, "I don't know". "All I know, and am absolutely sure of, is that the written word is an art and a science; and that there is no worse abortion than the destruction of a pregnant idea which is only given birth to in definitive form when such is submitted to the records of posterity. It is my hope that every reader comes away with a refreshing perspective, be it on politics, human interactions or international relations. A world where we all do our part, and strive to leave the earth better than we met it, is one with less not more government. But, more and definitely more, encompassing compassion and empathy: in words, actions and vision". Michael resides in the state of Texas. Visit him at his blog on busanga.com