I went to make my hair the other day. I had a weave earlier but took it off because the lady that plaited my hair did it so tightly and gave me a boil on my scalp.
After I healed, I went back to the salon to have braids done instead. The lady who plaited the hair was an apprentice and known as Iya Misturah. (forgive my spelling of Misturah if it’s wrong). I playfully told her that she owed me a bottle of malt and she laughed, replying in the same vein that she would buy me a whole carton instead. She washed my hair and dried it while waiting for my hairdresser to finish up with someone else’s hair. We got gisting in the salon and we were on the topic of overbearing mothers-in-law. Iya’s Misturah’s husband’s mother was one of them.
Now, remember that question you probably came across on Twitter or on Facebook where it says:
“What would you do, if you returned home from work or a journey only to find your 3 months old baby re-branded this way by your own mother or mother-in-law from the village?
Well, I never thought I would meet a living example of that question until I met Iya Misturah and her daughter, Misturah.
As the story goes, a short time after Misturah was born, Iya Misturah went to buy some things in the market and returned to find her baby all marked up. Not like the picture above but she was left with three big tribal marks. One on her chin and two each on her cheeks. Iya Misturah, as you guessed, was devastated. Her husband was not in but when he returned and saw what happened to his first born child, he went livid – only for an hour or so. Because his mom drew him to a corner and he came back subdued. He called his wife aside, apologized on his mother’s behalf, telling her it was tradition and that if she loved him she would forgive his mother. Iya Misturah didn’t know what to do. And as much as she was pained and angry, she had to let it pass.
But I asked her, as she told me the story, how do you let that type of thing pass? And she shrugged and said “wetin I wan do? My husband love im mama pass anybody for dis world.”
My hair dresser hissed. “It is you who allowed him to become like that.”
“Aunty, wetin you want make I do? Na so God take dash me my own.”
I was silent for a while. The story shocked me. I had always thought Misturah’s tribal marks came from the hands or consent of her own parents. I couldn’t believe it had been done to her in such a criminal way. I was upset. I mean, if it was me, God knows I wouldn’t be speaking to my mother-in-law till date. And she would never be welcomed in my home. You don’t disfigure my child’s face in my absence, without asking me, and do it so callously and you expect me to welcome you with open arms because my husband came out of your womb. If my own mother did it, her punishment would even be worse. I cannot trust such a person.
So at this point, I voiced my opinion and my hairdresser added a “gbam!”
Another woman there laughed at us (because she was quite older) and said, we were just talking because we were young and had heady ideas about such situations. She said if it happened to us, we would forget the incidence as the years go by.
“How can I forget when I’m looking at my child’s face every day?” my hairdresser asks. “Aunty forget o. I no fit. Even Jesus sef go understand.”
Later on, Iya Misturah asked me if there was surgery that could be done to correct her daughter’s face. I gave her hope and told her to work hard and earn money for the surgery. Something could be done. Meanwhile I advised that she looked around for other remedies to reduce scarring.
Looking into the mirror, I saw the sadness on her face. Again, I put myself in her shoes and wondered. What if it was my child? How would I have felt? Especially knowing that the criminal who disfigured her face in the name of a barbaric tradition is going around without as much as getting a scolding because I have a husband I love who loves her more?
See, I don’t just get men whose mothers control their lives. Or men who see their mothers as the only specimen of good women out there. I used to know this guy who felt all women were useless and deserved to be controlled by men and equality amongst the sexes was shit. But when you asked about his mother, he would go “she’s an exception”. And yet he was a married man. It made me wonder what his wife was going through.
We see the scenario in Nollywood movies a lot, where mothers-in-law come into homes to wreak havoc. I was in a bus the other morning and a preacher woman, after talking about the fornicators, smokers and adulterers, begged mothers to go easy on their son’s wives. And I was laughing. If the matter has become a topic for preachers, then it’s no joke.
But you can’t help but wonder why it is so. The answer is simple: The sons of these overbearing mothers are to blame. Would a mother-in-law enter a woman’s house and be a source of sadness for her if the woman’s husband had not made that happen either by commission or by omission?
This tweet is a good example of what I’m talking about: “I don’t care how beautiful she is,I can NEVER love a girl even after marriage more than my mother.”
When I read that, I considered the person a kid who was yet to see life or to experience the true meaning of love. But I immediately corrected myself on the ‘kid’ part. Wasn’t the person writing this adult enough to know the difference between a wife and mother? Wasn’t Misturah’s father a grown ass man? To be continued
Writer: Sally is 360nobs in-house Editor. She loves to write. She has written so many plays and short stories. She is the author of the Fish Brain series and has written other online series like The Immortals’ Code, No heart Feelings, To Tame a Virgin and In Pursuit of Kyenpia. She lives in Lagos with her husband and daughter and loves the occasional bar lounging with friends. She blogs on www.moskedpages.com or you can follow her on Twitter @moskedapages.