Monday, November 2, 2015

Strong and Weak

It's a celebration.
She wakes up early in the morning to prepare for tomorrow’s festivities
Preparation takes days.
All hands on deck. She calls some of her friends to help
Washing the meat with her rough hands
Years of physical and emotional and sexual labor.
To be woman is to please.
To be woman is to satisfy.
The women laugh and sing Christian hymns.
They talk about how their husbands are always out.
Never home. Never supportive.
How they caught their husband in the act.
But for the good of the home they were told to deal.
Well they weren’t told, because they never told
Anyone
But somehow in their childhood, they got the message
To be woman is to forgive
To be woman is to gift
The giver of life.
They say.
9 months of torture. Hours of pain.
They forget how many lives have been lost in this process.
To be woman is to be a womb.
Full of fruit to be plucked. Until she is barren.
Winter tree as autumn leaves.
Sweet and spicy aroma.
Nutmeg, Grounded Pepper. Grounded Tomato and Onions.
It’s a celebration.

He walks in. She says, "Good evening di’m"
It is now nighttime and the circle of friends are hard at labor.
Peeling black eyed peas. Washing fresh cow and packing them in freezer before it spoils in the morning. Goat skin carefully seasoned and boiled.

Dry fish washed and mixed in with the cow’s intestines.
A true Igbo delicacy.
Plucking vegetable in the backyard. Trying to wash the bitterness out.
7,907 miles away from home but physical labor continues

My mother is strong they say. My mother is resilient they proclaim.
I am not sure what strong means.
What is strength to a woman who can never be vulnerable.
What is strength to a woman who is afraid to cry.
What is strength to a woman who is afraid to fail.
You say she is strong. I say you make her weak.

Superhuman nnem. Do you rest?
I know you keep praying to your god asking him to relieve you of this stress.
I see the unpleasant joy in your eyes.
It’s a celebration.
Husbands drop drinks at her house .
To be man is to pick up drinks from the store and drop them at a friends house.
To be man is to lift a box in a house.
To be man is to be man.
Because we will never know what it is to be a man.

But she. They. They are defined by what it is to be a man.
They bear the burden because to be a man is to be a man.
She hires workers to carry food to the hall.
It’s a celebration.

One by one, girls, young ladies, and women enter the hall.
Many know their place. They have almost immediately stood up after sitting down, trying to wave down someone to get a drink and chin chin for their dear husband.

Because to be a man is to be a man.
To be a man is to be served.
To be a man is to be fed.
To be a man is to be satisfied.
To be a woman is to satisfy

One by one , girls, young ladies, and women assume their positions.
Having cooked in their homes all week and having prepared the food for the event, they were also expected to  serve.

Because well. You know.. to be a woman is to ..
The night passed by. The women danced and danced, entertaining their dear, dear husbands.
Even those without husbands, danced, danced, danced
Entertaining their dear, dear men.

The single women danced and danced, hoping to find a husband.
Because to be a woman is to be married.
To be a woman is to be wanted by a man.
Even if you don't want him.

The night was coming to a close.
These women packed trays of food in their handbags.
I wondered if they had even eaten anything all day, the way they trampled over each other for the last piece of chicken.

I wonder about them, I do.
I wonder about the shame they carry.
The guilt.
The sadness.
The anger.
His woes. Their woes.
I wonder if she’s in a completely new life form.
Removed from reality.
Simply going with the motions.
Begging for an out. 

She tells me to go to the backyard and pick a switch.
Bitter leaves. Water leaves. Utazi. Ukazi. Uziza.
They all looked green. They all would do the same thing.
The little Igbo I knew came from plucking plants.
I closed my eyes. Spun around and chose one.

I came back inside.
“ Here you go,” I said.
She told me to bend over .
I cant remember anything after that.
All I remember is she hadn’t eaten at the party.

And then I remembered someone telling me that my kind is strong.
We are resilient. We must endure. We must. We have to. We ought to.
So many demands , I wonder how they do it.

Remain so strong .

To be woman is to be strong and weak.
To be woman is to be treated like a weakness but be expected to be strong. 
To be woman is to be woman. 
Because that is just the way it is. 

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