The last time I saw my cousin she was settling down in her student accommodation at the University of Derby. I say ‘cousin’ but she is actually the daughter of one of my parents’ closest friends. She arrived in the UK a few years ago to study for her masters and we communicated regularly via telephone and instant messaging.
I was very pleasantly surprised when she rang us a few weeks ago to arrange a visit to introduce her fiancé to myself and my hubby. I picked the half term holidays at the end of October so I could clean the house and not be a grumpy and tired hostess and I looked forward to meeting our new ‘husband’. To give her some anonymity, I shall call my cousin Tinu, as I am not sure her parents in Lagos have been informed yet.
I suppose I should have known. She told me his name was Tony. When I asked if I could buy him some cans of Naija Guinness from our local African store, she told me he didn’t drink Guinness. Apostle must hear of this, I thought! When they arrived at noon that Saturday I discovered that he did drink alcohol but was more of a Carlsberg kind of guy. He also had a surprisingly good-looking ginger beard and hair. He had an endearing smile and was eager to give each of us a hug. I liked him immediately.
While we went into the kitchen to sort them some hot drinks, my mind worked furiously trying to re-organize the dinner menu and the plans I had for the weekend. I didn’t think Tony would appreciate my carefully prepared wraps of milky- white pounded yam and spinach sauce with dried crayfish and tripe; or enjoy watching some of the Yoruba home videos I had selected from Youtube. I also avoided thinking about the big issue at hand by remaining focused on the task of making my guests comfortable.
We had a lovely weekend and I enjoyed talking to Tony who was charming, smart and very humorous. Our kids warmed to him and he talked to them about his younger siblings and cousins. I could see that he was really crazy about Tinu. Unfortunately, Tinu and I did not have the opportunity to talk in private but I wasted no time in calling her a day after they left to discuss how she was going to drop the bomb on her parents and deal with the blinding fury that would travel a few thousand miles to her from her very close-minded dad.
After Tinu and Tony left, I found myself contemplating what kind of life awaited them after marriage. Many couples have family issues to deal with, usually from interfering or dominating in-laws. Parents on both sides take time to get to know each other and their new sons or daughters. Siblings size up the new brother or sister and friends or foes are made: all this in a marriage between two people from the same cultural and racial background.
Interracial marriages face unique difficulties. They suffer not only from the prejudice of others, but also from inherent problems of differences between their respective cultures which combine with those already present in a marriage. I am sure Tinu and Tony believe they can overcome all obstacles but what happens if they stop valuing each other’s differences and begin to see these differences as obstacles? I expect they will deal with it like all other couples – make up or break up!
I sincerely believe that everyone has a right to decide who they marry. Life is too short to be spent contemplating how parents and family will feel about your spouse. Parents have their children’s best intentions at heart but sometimes make judgements tied to their own prejudices and fears. So what if your child marries someone from another race? Yes, there will be differences and difficulties but nothing that true love cannot overcome.
When I was growing up my dad always reminded me and my sisters that Ibadan men made the best husbands. My sister listened but decided to marry a man from Ijebu, Ogun State. My dad had to accept her choice as she was clearly happy and in love. I also married an Ijebu man. After my marriage my dad changed his advice to ‘at least choose a Yoruba man’. My younger sister listened but married an Edo man instead. I bet my dad would have started advising my daughter to ‘at least choose Nigerian, even if not Yoruba’ if he were alive today. I would have loved to tell him ‘who Naija man epp, dad?’
Times are changing and we have to be more accepting of people’s choices. I say this with quiet expectation that my children will follow my lead and marry a Nigerian. However, I also recognise that happiness is not tied to a culture, a country or a race. I hope to be able to accept my children’s choices when the time comes and pray that they find true love and happiness with their spouses.
People who enter into mixed race/ interracial marriages are able to accept each other’s cultural, racial and social differences and see each other intrinsically as human beings. God created our skin tones with beautiful variety but all of our souls are the same colour. People who disapprove of these marriages fail to see beyond the differences.
Finally, I wish Tinu and Tony the best. Tinu has waited and found the one who would do anything to be her everything. Considering all the troubles in the world and Donald Trump, I think she is a lucky girl to have found happiness. I hope her Dad sees it that way too.
BTW: Just in case you don’t already know, ‘Apostle must hear of this’ is one of the lines from a hilarious prank video on Youtube. Naija boy pranked his dad. Dad’s reaction was priceless.
Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on everything.