Dipsika Thakur writes about makeup, the myth of “empowerment,” and tradition: “The daily ritual of Lacto Calamine, Pond’s powder, and sindoor was my introduction to makeup—makeup as obeisance, as conjugal duty, and as habit.”
A girl’s best friend
The distance to Chief Idowu’s office from ours should have been short but ended up being long because of the crawling traffic. We could have walked but it was against the organisation’s policy to go out on calls without the provided cars.
Lana had this far away look. I stare at her thoughtfully. My tongue ready to start its usual sprint race but I decided otherwise and left her to her thoughts. She would tell what was on her mind when ready.
I knew her break up with Bode had affected her more than she let out. I had threatened hell and brimstone to make Bode pay for the way he had treated her. I remember how ballistic I had gone when she mentioned casually that Bode and she were no longer together. But I was dumbstruck when she said me it was her who had called it off and was not ready to give any explanation. We kept going back and forth as I wanted to hear the whole story to help me understand her reasons, but no, Lana would not divulge any details claiming it was not worth recounting. I was more confused than ever. I asked her if she had two timed Bode. That was a ridiculous thought but the secrecy surrounding the story left me thinking crazy things!
Lana smiled and patted my shoulder that day without any disappointment. “Peju I wish I could tell you that was it but sorry, there is no story to tell. Just know that Bode is a much better person than your friend here.”
Three years after, I still was not previewed to the full story and had long given up. The last time I brought it up, she jokingly said she would spill the story for my itchy ears when we both turned Fifty years.There was no point if Lana said something she kept to her word. It was a good trait in a friend but when you were at the receiving end. It was no longer admirable.
My friend, Lana, was one of the few beautiful girls left on the earth but what drew you most to her was how oblivious she was to it. She was completely unaware of her looks and the effect it had on people. She could put on a sack of potatoes and would have guys ogling and ladies ahhing and oohing. That was her. She was the most genuine and friendly person I had come across and that’s quite a number in my short stay on earth. Pretty faces with no substance and when they speak you get a glimpse of their real personality and all their beauty fades right before your eyes.
A girl’s true best friend. What you see is what you get with her. She never saw the bad in people.
She only saw bad moments and responses.
I smile as I recall the first day I met her. It was at the National Youth Service Orientation Camp, Lagos. She was ahead of me in the queue to pick up our kit. It was her gorgeous well-manicured nails, painted and designed in three colours that drew my attention. I was curious and so I tapped her to say lovely nails and I won’t forget that smile. She had a smile ready for a stranger.
“Lovely nails you got there,” I said.
“Thanks, hun,” she looked at it and laughed.
“My cousin’s dream is to have a nail outfit when she finishes school and as many people who offer to be guinea pigs to try out her crazy ideas with a promise for a lifetime membership of free service. I might not be interested but I don’t want to loose out when her place becomes the mecca of nails for the whole world. But I think my fear of her wrath is the real reason.”
She said lowering her voice in comradeship, “don’t tell her.”
I laughed.”I won’t but do you think she would do mine?
“It’s just for you to ask and she is down with her ammunition of nail paints and instruments.”
We got talking like two long lost friends and the rather long frustrating queue became a delight.
Kit collected, we went to the next line to get our meal ticket and then the next line for our rooms. Everything here seemed to be about queues. There were incidences we found ourselves in the wrong line after being on it for hours or having others mostly females like us who thought they were smarter and would join at the front with a miserable, “please excuse me.” On one of the occasions, the girls were close to boxing themselves. The weather was not helpful as the sun shone it brightest and emitted the most fierce-some of its heat mercilessly on us.
The hostel was a large hall with thirty bunk beds to accommodate sixty of us. It was chaotic. I saw Lana did a double take when she got into the room. She’d been turning her cute nose since we got into the block but did not say a word.I had hoped I that our room would be a contrast to the dirt and disarray we saw outside but I guess the situation was bleak and hopeless.Unfortunately, inside our block was no different
We found a vacant bunk at the end of the hall. I offered her first choice. She just stared and shrugged.” You can have any I am not particular.”
I took the up bunk. I hated strangers staying on my bed so being up was discouraging enough for anyone wanting to venture onto my bed.
Putting my bags down, I started sorting my things into the wardrobe. Lana was still standing looking lost.
It was then I noticed she did not have a box or bag so I asked,”where are your things?”
“Not here.” A short answer for someone who had been chatty all morning.
“Do you want me to lay your bed? I have an extra bed set so no one takes your bed.”
“Sure that would be kind,” she said as she smiled her winning smile showing her dimples on the left cheek.
We were done and left for lunch at the cafeteria. Unfortunately, we met another long queue.
“Perhaps we should try the food vendors. There should be less crowd if we are paying”, she said to me but the lady behind me informed us that she had just left there and it was crazy.
Finally, we got to the front of the queue and it was Eba and Egusi soup left. I was too hungry to care. It was not my first choice but choices here seemed to be quite limited. It was survival.
We both took the miserable looking meal and found two vacant seats to eat.
I ate mine. Surprisingly, I finished rather quickly and was left ogling at Lana’s own which I would not have minded if she offered considering how she was picking at hers. My last meal had been in the morning and with all the plethora of queues we had been subjected to, there was no time to look for something else to eat.
After the meal, we left for the hostel but Lana was still without her belongings. I asked her where it was so I could help. It was then she told me sadly she was not staying.
I felt like a fool making the bed for her and asking her to choose where to stay when all along she knew she was not staying.
“ I had plans to sleep in today and leave for my house tomorrow morning to bring my things but she shrugged threw her hands about and said, ” I can’t.”
I knew what she meant. I would have opted for out if I had the option too.
“I will be back tomorrow morning. I will commute from home for the three weeks we are here.”
“Wow! Okay,” I said not to happy.
Out of the blues, she says to me.”Ditch here, come and stay at my place. The house is big and my parents won’t mind. You’ll have a room of your own.
I did not readily jump at the offer. I had just met her at camp. How was I sure that I would be in safe hands. Not with all the gory stories you heard about Lagos. I came from a quiet nothing – happening town in the middle belt of the country. And I was ready to catch all the fun and excitement I had heard went on during the camp. I did not come this far to be a passerby. I must be involved.
“I‘ll think about it,” I said. Although, I knew I would do no such thing.
The three weeks of camp was absolute fun. Lana was funny, straightforward and down to earth. I visited her house one of the weekends and many other weekends during the service year.
Lana was a people person but did not do well dealing with a crowd at close quarters. Hence, the issue of staying on during camp. I recall thinking that she must be one of those spoilt brats born with a silver spoon. However, she was none of that.
Lana was still in dream land whereas I was out of my reverie, snapping my fingers in front of her face with an attitude I say to her, “You are in a far away land. A penny for your thoughts.”
She blinks and stares lost. Then smiles that her trademark smile which spreads across her face lighting the eyes and making you wish you could place the earth in her palms or just give her whatever requests she made.
“Not in a far away land, Peju it was a never – ever land. But remind me to let you know if it ever comes true.”
The car stops and we arrive at Chief Idowu’soffice.
“Girlfriend,” as I love to call her. “We are here, let the Midas touch begin.”
We both step out from the car looking like models stepping out of a Vogue magazine. I breathe in and out. There should not be anything less that the figure I had given my manager.Lana reaches out to hold my hand in a bid to reassure me as we walked into the reception area of the gigantic office complex of Ideal Oil and Gas.
The visit to the company was our first.Our previous meetings had been more on the phone and one occasion at the Ikoyi Club but like most of the buildings in this area, you could almost be sure you were in Europe or America. The furnishing and finishing were top notch.
As we walked to the reception, you could hear the click of our Louboutin shoes on the marble floor. The floor was a picture of rock and stones under crystal clear water. At first, I felt like I was going to step into the water but it was just a picture. I had to take my eyes away to walk on it.
“First time?” The reception asked as she smiled.
“It always has that effect on people but they get used to it.”
“Chief Idowu is expecting us for 9 am,” I informed her.
“Yes, he has asked for you to come up immediately.”
“Thank you,” we both said simultaneously and got into the lift to the 16th floor.
In the lift, we were lucky to be alone.
“Gosh,” Lana exclaimed as she beats her forehead.
“I must have looked like a complete idiot over that flooring. I was so afraid to walk like I was stepping into a rocky place with stones and the water will splash on my shoes.”
I smiled, so I was not the only one and if you had watched Lana walk on that floor no one would believe she was going through that. Looks could be deceptive.
I laughed. “But you walked like you did not see anything there.”
“Peju, in this Lagos, you must represent o! as I was panicking on the inside, my head was held high even if I had to fall on the floor, I must do it with dignity.
“Hmmm, you Lagos people, Eko for show.”
“Stop saying we Lagos people. You have been here since service year and you don’t look like anyone leaving this Lagos so you are one too.” she reprimanded me.
“It should not be that hard learning from you,” I muttered sarcastically.
“I heard that,” she said rolling her eyes.
The lift opened and we stepped into Chief Idowu’s lobby, to be ushered in by his Secretary.
We both curtseyed in the traditional Yoruba way to greet Chief. We might be in a formal setting but seeing those grey hairs over his head did us in. It must have been a reflex action which played to our advantage. We later found out that singular act endeared us to Chief Idowu.
We left his office with more than we anticipated; the N500 million and Lana wickedly got N1 billion call deposit from another of Chief’s subsidiary. It was the heavens smiling on us. She just asked chief if he had any free funds for seven days that he could earn interest on and get his funds when he needed it.
Chief said they were working on purchasing a shipping vessel but the deal did not go through and they had to start bargaining with other company from the scratch meanwhile they had already secured the funds from his bankers.
While we were at his office, we had behaved ourselves like getting that amount of funds was an everyday occurrence.
The moment we stepped back into the lift and alone. We were jumping and dancing like crazy. We returned to our dignified selves as soon as the door opened.
I signed out at the reception and had more chit chat with the receptionist. We probably would be in and out of this building in the coming days.
As soon at we hit the floor again, I did the Lagos girl catwalk without looking at the down, of course, no amount of talk from Lana can get that confidence pose looking at those floors. I’ll have to ask Chief the story behind it. That was the first of its kind I was seeing.
In the car, we were like two crazy girls. We screamed, hugged ourselves screamed again and started fanning ourselves in the cold car with our hands.
Back at the office, I walked in feeling two feet taller. I was bursting with excitement while Lana had this calm exterior like nothing had happened.
“How do you do it?” I hissed.
“Do what?” She asked unaware of what I meant.
“Behave like nothing affects you. I can barely contain myself with excitement and there you are like the ice princess looking so fresh and calm through it all.”
Lana smiled and shook her head.
“If only you knew, I wish I could be like you all emotion and scattered. I have my moments like in the lift and the car but out here my dear, I can’t let loose not because I don’t want to but I just don’t know how.”
Here, I was doing everything within me not to run off to the Managers office and drop the cheque for him to see, I wanted to see the look on his face. Lana and I have just made it for him this week. The regional managers weekly meeting was his time to shine. He had to be more than grateful to us.
On entering his office, he had this frown on his face as he was looking at something on his screen. He did not lift his head even though he knew someone had come into his office.
“So?” he said without even looking at us which was more of a question than a statement.
“Sir, we were not able to get the amount I stated earlier but he gave us this,” I say as I hand the cheques over to him.
He looked at us with that scowl on his face taking the two cheques from me.
In one happy second, there was this huge smile on his face as he read the figure. It was, in fact, the first time I saw him smile. I held my breath because I had never thought that man could be that human. It was surprising how a smile can transform a face. He was human after all and not a monster.
My Manager stood up and stretched his hands to give us a handshake.
“This is a great job.”
“Well done ladies.”
“Please take the cheques and get them booked in.”
As we turned to leave, he called out.
“Lana, let’s go over your report.”
I did not know when I let out a groan that I had to change quickly to a cough
“ Is there a problem?” he asked his scowl back in place.
“No, sir I had something stuck in my throat, I lied.”
I left the office not without looking at Lana and offering her my sympathy with my eyes.
The rest of her morning till midday would be spent doing mundane things for him.
” I am so disappointed and feel like a burst balloon.”
Well, Lana and I owe it to celebrate tonight after work.
If he didn’t celebrate us, we would celebrate ourselves.
I choose my career 2
After a long night, I stood up to leave. I jokingly said if we were not careful we might check the time and realise it’s the morning of the next day. Indeed glancing at my watch, it’s already midnight. He also stood up and the next minute he was was one knee staring into my eyes.
“What are you doing?” I asked, my eyes wide with surprise. I had always dreamt of being proposed in the old English way and this guy who stole my heart without even trying to, was here, on his knees. “Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being way did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.
“Olulana Oluwatooni, I love you from the first day I saw you but not until being away, did I realise how much it hurts not to have you around. I want you, not as a girlfriend. I want you as my fiancée. The girl I would get married to and who would be the mother of my kids. I will support you to be the best you can be in all your goals, career and ambition.
Now that part of marriage and mother of kids was quite scary but I was enjoying my Cinderella moment. This proposal topped the chart.
Being a Bimbo Odukoya mentee, I had learned earlier never to rubbish a guy who proposes to you. It took a lot of courage for him to walk up to you and if you don’t accept his proposal do not wound him and kill his self-esteem in the process. So I had my beautiful little speech of how I appreciate the fact that they considered me and how it was any girl’s dream come true. However, it was unlikely that I would be the one who would make them wake up with a smile each morning, grateful to God for this blessing in their lives some ten to twenty years later. That the girl is out there waiting for them and they needed to find her.
It was my signature rejection sentence. I never wasted their time and I often hoped that when I was to accept it would be that fast.
However, for some reason, I could not reject his proposal neither could I accept it. So I only told him, “Thank you”, and if he could, please give me more time to think it through.
In my discussion with friends, I had often berated girls who gave months and years for a response. I said you either knew it or you don’t.At that moment, I learnt never be too quick to judge people.
The month I graduated from the University and five months after he asked I gave him my consent.I had come into Lagos during the week. He was at my place over the weekend, to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and secretly I knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him. He brought some chocolate chip biscuits that day which became my life addiction. Lucky me I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.
I had come into Lagos during the week and on over the weekend, he was there to see me. He chatted with both my mum and I.It was surprising how he could hold her attention for so long. I could tell she was having a great time and knew she would be happy if only she knew but I was not going to tell my folks. I would be forced to take him round all my uncles and introduce him.I was not ready for that yet. He brought some chocolate chip cookies that day which became my life addiction. Luckily, I do not have to visit the gym to keep the fats down.
“You will get your answer today,” I said to him as I walked him out.
“Whatever the answer is, please don’t look back just keep going. I am not sure why I opted for that but somewhere I was afraid of any public display of affection.I walked away and shouted, “It’s a yes!” Bode took a leap into the air and was about to turn back and I said,
“No, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
We started our whirlwind romance and I must confess he made me feel like a princess. I only had to cough or sneeze and Bode was doing everything and anything.
I remember a time he came to the house and met my Dad in the living room. The interrogation by my Father was second to none. There behind the doors as I listened I was mortified.
“Where did you meet my daughter?” My Dad asked.
“We attended the same school sir,” he replied.
“You were in the same class?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“Oh no sir, I graduated a year before her.”
“So what do you do now?”
“I work with a bank sir,”
“what bank and as what?”
“Marble Bank, I work in the IT Department, sir.”
The man was firing him questions on a full cylinder but you could see how calm and confident Bode was, not in an arrogant way but in an endearing way. I saw a twitch of a smile on the corners of his mouth although he appeared stern and strict.
“So what are your intentions for my daughter?”
“I love her sir, and with your approval, I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.”
The next question blew my mind.Did I see it coming? Who asks a prospective son-in-law such questions.
“What is the number of girls before my daughter have you said this same line to?”
“None?”, He queried.
“How many of this none girls have you had sex with?”
At that point, I had never been more embarrassed in my life. But the guy took all so well. I guess when you have nothing to hide some issues don’t bother you. But Dad was taking this too far.
“None sir,” he replied.
My father guffawed and told him, “Tell that to the birds. You and I know that is not possible. I am a man and a young one once so you do not need to lie to me.”
It was time to stop this interrogation. I retreated and came in with a presence of one oblivious to their conversation.
“Hi Bode, you did not say you were coming”. I say as I take a seat beside my Dad facing Bode.
“I came to the area and decided to say hello before leaving.”
“Daddy meet my friend Bode Coker. We went to the same school”.
“We’ve already met”. He grunted and went back to reading his newspaper as if he had not been the one interrogating the young man before I came in.
Bode and I chit chatted for a while. We tried to involve my Dad in the chat but he appeared engrossed in his newspaper, which I knew was a facade and everything we said was going through his ears. My Dad did not leave the room. But not too long, Bode announced he was leaving.
Outside I apologised to Bode on my Dad’s behalf.
He laughed, “you mean you heard all that?”
“Don’t mind him. He is too protective of his daughters. When Nekan, my elder sister married, you would think the man was contesting for the Senate,” I retorted still miffed at my Dad.
“I guess that is what any father would do and I don’t blame him”, Bode said.
I thought it was cool of him to take it that way. I sure was going to have a word with him when I went back inside.
Exactly a year, after I agreed to go out with Bode. I started feeling I needed space. Bode smothered me with too much affection and I began to feel I needed my freedom. I had to consider Bode on weekends and I was missing out on much other fun and outing with my girlfriends.
Bode was in his second year of work with Marble Bank. He was very been generous with his time and money. In between the numerous International exams, he was writing he still had time for me.
On a typical day, he could call four or more times. Initially, I loved it but somewhere down the line, I started getting irritated. To top it all, he usually picked me up from work on Fridays without a car.
We would both wait at the bus stop beside my office while my colleagues who had spent the same years in banking with him would drive off in their cars. I couldn’t explain it but after a while, It began to bother me why he could not just buy himself a car. It got to a point that nothing Bode did was right.I saw faults in almost everything.
One faithful Friday, when he called to inform me, he was on his way to pick me from work.I told him not to worry that I would be going home with a colleague from now on. I could sense the shock in the long silence that followed my announcement on the other side of the phone. Then asked when I decided that.
“Last week,” I answered without thinking.
“Lana, you are just telling me. I could have made other plans you know.”
“For reasons, I still can not explain. Perhaps a bad day at work but I still am not sure that was why. I just lashed back.
” Bode Coker, I do not owe you an explanation for what I do or do not do. You are neither my father nor my boss.”
The words were out not the way I meant it but I was too upset to care.
“Are you okay? Did something happen at work?”
I raised my voice, “Don’t patronise me, Bode.”
Why does he know all the right things to say and do. With Bode, he was just this perfect guy and at this moment. He was holding back whatever he felt to get the situation resolved.
I for one must have gone crazy. I was not sure what I wanted in the relationship anymore.
He asked if we could still see during the weekend. I said I wanted to be alone.He further inquired if he had done anything to offend me.
The truth was he had not but I was beginning to feel suffocated in the relationship. We had our first major fight that day. I was the one raising my voice. But you could hear his smooth, soothing voice enough to melt a candy. But it had no effect on me. I seem to have become steel or a rock.
He gave me my space for a whole week. He would call, I won’t pick his calls, he sent dozens of text messages that I had stopped reading so that there was no need to reply.
Sunday evening, the next weekend, I met Bode at the door of my house as I came back from an outing with some of my girlfriends. I was surprised to see him. We had not spoken in seven days. Although my heart was bleeding, I joked that I survived without him. I missed the text he sent on Friday that he was coming as I had stopped reading his text messages.
We sat outside the house. The sky was dark speckled with tiny stars appearing as white dots just like the night he proposed.
The first thing he wanted to know was if I was okay.
I loved Bode and still do but I was chasing my demons. I was the problem, not him.
Then he said we needed to talk.
“Lana, have I done anything to offend you?” He asked.
I said no. How do I explain the mirage and paradox of feelings, all battling on the inside of me?
“You say I have not offended you but you are upset with me and don’t want to see me. I don’t get it. You are acting strangely,” he said.
“I am not acting strange and you are taking the matter more serious than it is,” I argued.
There were arguments. I said hurtful things I was not proud of and it was out.
“I need a break from this relationship.”
I saw shock and then slowly pain in those eyes.
And he asked,” Is there someone else?”
“No,” I reassured him and didn’t know why I did. Maybe it was because a part of me still wanted this relationship.
“I am not asking for a break because there is someone else. I am asking for a break becauseI feel like I am losing myself. I don’t know who I am anymore. Lana is gone.The Lana you see that is your ideal Lana and that is not me. I need to find and keep myself. I love you Bode but I need to do this for me, for us.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I willed them to stay put. A drop was the excuse Bode needed to hold me and I doubted if I had the strength not to recede on the breakup and something worse might happen in the future. It was better this way. Now is the time we get to stay apart and reassess our relationship.
He was quiet for a long time.
“How long do you need this break?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know but I will call you. Please don’t call me. I need to think this through. I will call you.”
” You sure this is what you want” That was Bode even at that moment, he was looking out for me.
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“Lana, remember all I said the day I asked you out. I do not need to reassess this relationship to know if I love you enough to marry you. I want you in my present and future. I have made a life commitment to you. I will give you all the time you need. One month, three years, ten years. I will be waiting. I won’t look for you. You know where to find me.”
He stood up and walked away never turning back. I saw the sadness in those eyes. He suddenly seemed to have aged before my eyes. I was hurting. I could feel pain in my heart which must have been one tenth of what Bode was feeling.
I asked myself what have I done. My stubborn heart said to me, I needed to do this. I wanted to call him back and apologise but I also knew that as much as I loved Bode, This was for both of us to find out if we wanted this relationship or not.
The tears that were threatening to fall fell freely down my face like a dam of water let loose. I got into the house and met my mum in the living room.
She was alarmed when she saw my tears.
I just sat down beside her tired. How do I explain to her what I could not explain to myself?
“Is it Bode?” She asked
“Is he cheating on you?” she inquired further.
“No,” I answered. That was a preposterous thought. If only she knew.
” Bode seems a very responsible guy. Give it time then call him and talk things over. There are issues in all relationships which are very normal but how you handle those issues are what matters. You’ll be okay my dear. Don’t let it be too long. Never think because just 21, you have all the time. Men like Bode are hard to come by and he seems just the right guy for you. You both are just right for each other.”
My mum’s words just added to my misery and confusion. Was it not better for Bode and me to break up than to end up getting married and looking for a way out.
I thanked my dear mum and left for my room. I just needed a break it was not a total breakup. I tried to convince myself.
I never called Bode. Six months later, I called him on his birthday but his phone was off. Then four months later during the Christmas holidays, his phone was still off.
I visited his office.I learnt he had been moved to the London office four months back on a six months training course.
I fumed and was upset that he had moved out of the country without getting in touch with me I was too angry to bother trying to find him and I felt it was just a good excuse to move on. If he wanted the relationship, he definitely would have called.
A little voice in my head reminded me that I specifically told him not to call me. Bode being the perfect gentleman he was, obliged my request. He had also told me I knew where to find him.But the other part of me argued. It was silly of him not to have contacted when he was leaving the country for six months.
I do not know why I always thought that Bode will be there forever and I could always go back at any time.
In the period we had separated, I did not start any relationship. I was not looking for a relationship. I was too in love with my career to think marriage or to settle down. The husband and kids will slow down my advancement on the corporate ladder. I was an all for or nothing kind of person. I did not do anything in bits and I feared that marriage would tie me down.
So being without Bode was not a licence to look for another relationship right away.I guess in another ten years when I have made senior manager. I would be considering settling down and hopefully, the right person would come my way. If not adopt a kid or two and become a single mother. I would have considered getting any guy to sire the children for me. Although, I know I had wandered away from God since my first year at work I was not too far gone, to go about having children out of wedlock. It looked like charity to adopt. The kids needed a home and I needed kids. That is if the state would give them to a single parent.
I had my life planned out as I had always done. My life has been together the way I wanted.There was nothing out of control and no surprises. My relationship with Bode was great while it lasted. There had never been room for a relationship in my plans. Perhaps I was too selfish to think of others but myself and what I wanted.
In School, all I did was read and study to distraction. My love was my academics, my goals and my aspirations. I let my guards down with Bode but his love was not enough to satisfy me and make up for where I was heading to in life. I know he promised to back me up on my career but it was a whole more than words. Pregnancies will come and knock you one step backwards; perhaps two or three if you decide to have that many kids.Then the guilt you would feel in leaving them behind with helps, nannies and chauffeurs. I see older colleagues at work juggle and seem to balance it but I also the failures too, mishaps and near disaster stories.
I am glad or so I think to leave home each day without the baggage of family – work life balance and come back every evening to sleep. For weekends and holidays, I hit rock bottom wishing for a family to share the moments with but all that is out of the windows by Monday morning. The cycle continues.
I never heard from Bode and the years have ahead. I progressed in my career beyond my dreams and was pleased with myself. Somewhere the key to that part of my life was locked and thrown away. I was the architect of my misfortune and there was no one to blame but myself.
Your thoughts and comments on Lana are welcome.
I would love to read from you. You can tweet, post comments on our Facebook page or use the blog.The links to our twitter and facebook are on the blog page.
1.What could have driven her to push out something so significant in her life?
2.Should Bode have just walked out without fighting for the relationship?
3.Do we believe in love at first sight? Please share.
Life is a paradox; we want what we don’t have, hold no value for what is before us and within our reach. We have misplaced values and priorities that shape our choices. We have myths that are what they are myths but seem to be a force that controls and guides our decision making.
It might not be relationships for us. It could even be a career we let go because we felt we could not balance up or cope with the stress. It could be our kids, our relationship with our maker because we felt we had wandered too far to come back. It could be a dream that we have given up on because we never bothered to try.
We make mistakes, but we should not sit and keep crying over spilt milk. We clean our eyes, dry those tears and ask what can I do now? How can I make my life better? What can I do differently?
………………………………Simply just us, women.
Precious Kofi reflects on some of the challenges mixed-race couples face… The post Precious Kofi speaks out about being in a mixed-race marriage appeared first on All 4 Women.
I choose my career
It was one of those mornings you wished you could sleep in and suddenly realised that it’s a Monday and you have a 7:00am meeting with a presentation. The alarm rings, and in an attempt to put it off, I catch a glimpse of the time. It’s 5.30am. That must have been an error. I was sure I set it for 5.00am. I make a quick dash to the bathroom and out in a record 7 minutes. I wear my suits, grab my shoes and bag an additional 5 minutes. Hair, makeup, and all others would be done in the cab. BJ is currently on his annual leave so I use a Taxi cab in the morning and at the close of work, I join any colleague going my way.
My phone buzzes, it’s the cab driver. I dash out of the house on a sprint to the Estate gate. Taxi cabs are not allowed into the estate. I am lucky to make it to the meeting at 6.55am.
“Phew! That was very close”, I mutter to myself as I take my seat beside Peju.
“Girl what happened to you? You look scattered”, she says.
“Ore, I woke up late, dreamt I was dining in the white house with George W. Bush and did not want that dream to end” I tease.
She chuckles and said reverting to Pidgin English, “gist dey after the meeting.
We ease off on our chit-chat as the moderator starts the meeting.
My presentation went well. Luckily there were more pressing issues that morning than the need to scrutinize my report. As soon as the meeting was over I was with Peju. Once Peju says there is gist be sure it is hot and sizzling gossip.
“So girlfriend, what is the gist?” I walk beside her as we leave the meeting venue. Peju laughs, “you and this your ears for Kwongosa, I know you won’t rest till you have heard it all.”
“Spill jo, don’t make me beg,” I said.
“We are leaving for Chief Bola Idowu’s office this morning. He called me last night to pick up a six-figure cheque.” “Woop!”I shout. I throw my hands in the air, do a jig and turn around. I see colleagues starring but who cares.
“Shhh,” Peju gestures placing are her index finger over her lips. “I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag till we have brought the cheque in.”
Chief Idowu is a very good friend of one of my uncles and I had dropped his name for Peju in one of our meetings. I just never thought he would.
“Wow! Peju, I should have gone there myself o!” I say to her. She hisses, “Who do you think has the account. Me?” she asks.
“Yes, it’s you, he called,” I answered.
“Girlfriend, he is your uncle’s friend. It’s your account,” she says.
I am dumbfounded. In this, our job of dog chop dog, I never saw it coming. I gave her the name because she needed two more names on her list to make ten prospects as I already had my ten.
I say to Peju, “I am really touched and I know you are my friend but take it.You went to him I doubt if I would have gone.”
“Are you sure?” She asked.
I say to her, “Girl, you must be crazy to think of giving me.”
“Hmmm, Lana, I am only wise to know that before Maple Bank you and I were and after Maple Bank, you and I will be. I can’t allow a simple account to come between us.”
I place my hand on my chest over my heart and roll my eyes dramatically, “This is so touching.”
“Get out”, Peju says giggling and playfully shoving me forward.
Unfortunately, yours truly missed a step and fell flat in front of the Boss.
The hardliner never ever smiling boss. It was like if he did smile his face would crack or something terrible would happen. Between Peju and I, we nicknamed him Buffalo.
“Ladies, is this the right place for this sort of behaviour?” his voice thundered.
Peju with a remorse face says, “No sir,” She is trying hard to stifle her giggle as the look of me sprawled on the floor before the boss was hilarious.
“You could take your lack of seriousness out of here. If you put as little as half the effort you put into your giggling to your work, the Bank’s bottom line would be smiling.”
Looking down at me, “And you, see me in my office for that your report,” he barked.
Oh now, I certainly would kill Peju for this. I give her a look of “you are gunner girl, you got me into this you either get me out or you would pay for this.”
Peju steps in, “Sir, Please can Lana see you later for the report, we have been called by one of the prospects we submitted the last week to pick up a cheque.”He asked us to come before 9.00am this morning.”
I looked at her, oh girl you have just bitten the lion’s tail.
“How much is this cheque we are talking about?” he asks with a look of disdain.
“N100, 000,000 sir”, she says with a straight face like she was calling a Five Naira note.
“And you are still here?” he barked, “leave this minute and don’t come back here without that cheque.”
I was up from my feet now and we both scramble away from his presence.
“I thought you wanted it as a surprise?” I asked her.
“Yes, I did but you and I know you won’t be out of that office for the next two hours, from making tea to writing and reviewing one memo or the other. I had to do something. Not with the way you were shooting daggers with your eyes. It was clear, I was a gunner.”
“Chief Idowu had better keep his word”. I say to her laughing. “Or else Buffalo will so knock you down you will forget your name.”
We both go to the ladies to work on our makeup and appearance before setting out.
On our way to Chief’s office, my phone rings. I ignore it.
Peju looks at me. “Pick up your phone girl.”
I shook my head. I did not feel up to it this morning. Ever since I started work with the bank, my uncle calls me every Monday morning under the guise of checking up on me. The call always ended the same way. “Lana remember the family you came from, never compromise your values for a career”.
I was not up to his call this morning, so l let the phone ring enjoying the Lagbaja’s all hit Konko below I used as a ring tone.
Uncle Sege is my favourite uncle and I am his favourite niece. I remember his prayers when I bought him the Paco Rabanne 1 Million Cologne with my first pay. The prayers were heaven bound and the counsel top grade with marriage first on the agenda.
“Ehen, what about that your friend who was calling you three Christmases ago?” He asked.
“I really liked that young man. He seems very sensible and responsible.” He concluded. I lied through my teeth that he was fine.
The Christmas, Uncle Sege was referring to was the one I spent with his family the year I graduated from University. My parents chose that year to go to the village and I decided to stay back but they insisted I moved over to my Uncle’s place rather than be home alone.
Uncle Sege, as we fondly call him is the youngest of my Father’s four siblings. He is a modern man. He is what I call updated. There is no latest music or film show he’s not knowledgeable off. He was one never to miss the AY comedy show since it started. “Uncle mi to bad,” we dare not speak our slangs in his presence, he would decode. We all loved, respected and feared him. He was easy to talk to, fun to be with and generous to a fault. He spoilt all his nephews and nieces without exception but I was sure I was top on the list.
If you loved Uncle Sege, wait until you met his wife, Auntie Bimba. She is an epitome of loveliness. Auntie Bimba is not the usual robust Yoruba women you come across as aunties. She is modern, updated like her husband. Growing up, she was the only Aunt I knew in my large family who would turn up in Jeans or an English outfit for family functions. There were always snickers and comments by my other Aunts but either she heard or she just did not care enough to bother. We, the young ones felt she was the coolest of all the Aunts. She was also a Barrister like my Uncle.
Uncle Sege always joked that he never wanted to be on the other team when Auntie Bimba was prosecuting. He would joke many times that he stepped down at home so that the day they ever had to be on opposing sides in court, she would remember his love and devotion. Aunt Bimba, would shake her head and say to him laughing, “Not in your life”. We all knew and saw how much how much they both loved each other. Uncle Sege was the only man to kiss his wife full on the mouth in our family meetings much to the chagrin of the other women.
I once heard Auntie Kemi, the wife to Uncle Kunle who was second to the youngest of my father’s siblings, saying, “Did they not leave the house together, so why the public display of affection? They are corrupting the younger ones”.
I could swear that Auntie Kemi wouldn’t have minded if her husband had done the same. I think I did see a look of longing in her eyes, but it was gone in a flash.
Aunt Bimba was neither robust nor slim. She is about a size 12 for her small frame. She was dark in complexion, a full mouth that was always in mulberry shade lipstick, perhaps one of the reasons why Uncle Sege could not stop kissing her, beautiful cat shaped eyes, the kind that would put Cleopatra of Egypt to shame, a cute nose that was neither pointed nor round and her short well permed and styled hair. She had everything put together that my other aunts would have wanted. A good career, a nice body that did not require the gym, dieting, or jaw locking, good looks and an adoring husband.
The young man Uncle Sege had been referring to was Bode Coker. My first love. Bode and I met on campus. I still remember that day like yesterday. The day started like any other Thursday in June. It was a special fellowship programme termed love feast where food and drinks were shared, and different people come up the stage to share words of inspiration and encouragement in special songs, drama presentation, and comedy. It was one of those events that drew crowds on campus without a barrier to your race, department, ideology or belief. We both were on the committee for this programme and had worked hard to make it the successful one it turned out to be.
Due to behind the scenes logistics, I came in late enough to be ushered to a seat. The guy at the entrance of the hall welcoming everyone in was definitely the most handsome guy I had ever laid eyes on. I recall smiling and saying to myself, “That’s one handsome guy there, wait till I get back to my room to gist the other girls.”
We had engaged in a discussion earlier in the week as to who was a handsome guy and started calling names. I just kept saying “Nah! No!! Nope!!!” That night, they came to the conclusion, my definition for handsomeness was out of this world.
It must have been a divine encounter for my eyes to be opened to see him in a light that would make him stand out that day. This was because we had both been in this fellowship and faculty for three years and I never noticed the face. We were on the same committee for three weeks planning a programme, and if I had passed him along the road, I still would not have recognised him. He was just any other face but on this day, he stood out.
I did not get see him again till sometimes in July. I stopped a cab in town heading for the campus, and he was already in the cab. He said, “Hello,” and because I knew the face, although I still did not know his name. I said, “Hi,”and got into a conversation and we introduced ourselves.
We got to the campus, he paid my fare and walked me to my hostel. I was an undergraduate but staying in the postgraduate hall. A room of two people turned to a room of four. He stopped at the entrance of the hostel and wished me a good evening. I could swear, I fell in love with him that very moment. The norm was to ask for your room number and offer to come visit.
We began running into each other frequently. We fast became friends as we realised we had mutual friends and activities. He had a group of two other guys and they were fondly called the three musketeers. I had dealings with the other two guys not knowing all three were connected. They were all a year ahead of me with just some few months to leave. Those moments were one of the best memories of campus. These guys were incredible and fun to be with. They left school the following year for their national youth service. The first month was terrible. I missed them as everywhere and everything reminded me of them. I could not remember how my life was before they came in.
The days went by and I settled into the routine of lectures, getting my project ready and fellowship.
One day, three months after they had left, I was in a stationery store that also served as a call center. Students paid to either make or receive calls. I heard the name Bode Coker over the phone, without so much of a please excuse me I grabbed the phone from the attendant and I am like, “Hey you, this is Lana. What a coincidence I am here”. I was too excited and firing questions if he had heard from the other two, where he got to work and how the work was going.
I remembered my manners, “Wow! Sorry, please, who did you want to speak to?”
He said he called to speak with me.
I was surprised. “How could you have known that I would be here?”
“I took a risk,” He answered.
“Wow! That is sure some risk” I replied.
He asked if it was okay to call me regularly and I said, “No Bode. It would be nice but I don’t want to send the wrong signals”.
“Okay,” he said and asked me to say hi to some other people and the call ended.
Bode was a cool guy. A perfect gentleman, I fondly called him but I never gave myself the luxury that he would seek me out. I had this image of the kind of girl who he would go out with and that image did not come close to mine. We were great friends and it would stay that way.
It was that Christmas I spent at Uncle Sege’s place that we were both constantly on the phone. During one of our conversation, he told me he had a surprise for me. I love giving surprises but could not stand receiving any. I was curious and asked him to spill it.
He said, “Never,” that he would bring the surprise in January when he came to Campus. Immediately I don’t know why I had this fear but I asked, “I hope you are not spending all that hours on the road to come and see my face, there must be something else bringing you.”
“My fingers are crossed, just wait and see when I come.” He said laughing.
He came the third weekend in January. I was away for a friend’s wedding in town and came back in the evening. I was told by my roommates and they were smiling mischievously.
“Bode was here, he said he would check back at 7pm.”
“What?” I asked, looking at them suspiciously.
“Nothing,” they both said bursting into laughter.
“You tell us,” Toke said.
We heard a knock on the door and since I was still standing by the door, I was the one to open. I smiled when I saw him.
“Surprise,” I say as I allow him to come in. I excused myself to change into comfortable blue jeans and a yellow top from my earlier Buba and Iro with gele.
“Did she not look like a bride just know?” Toke was asking Bode when I came in.
“I am here o! Please don’t talk about me as if I am not here,” I said.
“Yes, she did, and that’s what you guys will be doing from graduation”. Bode continued only acknowledging me with a smile that sent butterflies in my stomach. I was sure it must be something I ate at the party.
“How’s Bayo?” he asks Toke. “He is fine I should speak to him this evening.”
“Please do send my regards,” Bode said.
Toke and Bayo had been an item since our first semester 300 level. I was the chief teaser. How Toke took all my teasing was just a wonder but I was sure I could not take a quarter of the fun I had at her expense.
We left together to go out and Toke whispered into my ears, “I am waiting here”. Whatever she meant I had no clue but I was going to have a great evening, which I promised myself. It was not every day a friend from out of town came to see you.
That evening outside the student union building under the dark cloud with white specks of shining stars we talked about everything, the service year, his new place of assignment, his family, hopes dreams aspirations. It was a talk like you probably won’t see each other again and that was the reality. We probably won’t see each other after now. I was soon to graduate to be posted to any of the thirty-six states in the country…………..
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Kwongosa – A slang for hot gist
Buba and Iro – The traditional yoruba attire
Gele – The traditional yoruba headgear
It was the last day of the induction training at one of the prestigious Financial Institutions and an excursion had been fixed. It was to be a surprise. Hopefully, we should be going to the office of the Central Bank.
Cladded in a two-piece navy blue suit with a white frilly shirt and turquoise blue scarf designed in the logo of the financial Institution. A Gucci bag and a nameless pure leather stiletto shoe my sister had bought from Paris, the year before. Nameless- because it’s not any of the known designer brands you are familiar. A tiny white pearl earring on my ears with a Rolex watch I technically borrowed from my Mom, her 50th birthday gift from my Dad. I use the word technically borrowed because I took it without her express permission and that cannot be classified as stealing I hope. I am no thief, honest, truthful and transparent.
My kinky African hair perfectly combed and oiled with Adi Agbon – coconut oil I bought from Iya Risikat down the road. I love to think that in her local extraction she has failed to add chemicals and any other additives used in the ones at the Superstores. Now we all know the noise on coconut oil for skin and hair care. Be sure I have been using it for decades thanks to my sister and her numerous beauty regiment.
Taking a last look at the mirror, tells me I am armed for the day. Off I go to wait for BJ at my Estate gate. BJ is a senior colleague at work who lives on my street. Ever since I saw him one weekend around my area. I was not shy the next Monday to ask if I could join him to the office and back. A good idea because I got to save on transport fare, reduce the number of times I get late to work due to a broken down bus and other associated mishaps with going on a bus. Like the day, I was coming down from the bus and got my jacket torn as it got hooked on the door or other days when my suit is all wrinkled and I am looking scattered before getting to work resulting in an extra thirty minutes in the ladies doing repair work to hair, makeup and clothes. Most days the buses could be so hot that I am practically soaked with sweat before the day’s work began adding to my cost on deodorant and perfumes.
I arrived at the training center, which is a huge white building in the shape of a dome, the front is all glass and I love the effect it has on the inside sending in a light that brightens not only the room but your spirit. The reception unit is made with dark mahogany in the form of a live fallen oak tree but designed into a table. I place my staff Identity card on the sensor unit on the wall beside the hall entrance.The door opens and the first person I see is Peju Phillips.
She is quick to tell me our excursion is to Kirikiri Maximum Security Prisons. You mean the whole trouble I went through to get ready was for the Prisons! I’m scowling and harrumphing in disgust. My friend Peju, is having fun at my expense.
“Lana, who knows you might snag a husband there”. I am looking at her like she’s gone bonkers. “This one wey you dress like say na Aso Rock you dey go, you for tone down small now”, she changes to pidgin English.
“The way you dress is the way you will be addressed. Looking good is good business”. I retorted back.
“You sure are looking good today for KIRIKIRI.” She said laughing and holding her sides. I eyed her with the death sentence look.
“They’re calling us to go into the bus, MISS KIRIKIRI – you have won the pageant for the day”. Peju whispered into my ears as she walked away laughing.
I am not one to go about looks but I was no fool not to realise that God had extra favoured me in that department. However, I might be a sight for sore eyes but Peju Phillips would hold a room full of a thousand people to a standstill. I could not light a candle beside her but she was always ahhing and oohing how I looked and dressed. What girl won’t love a girlfriend like that? For whatever reason she meant me today and the earlier I gathered my act together and shrug her comments off, the faster she would lose interest and look for someone else’s life to make miserable.
We filed into to the air-conditioned bus which pulled out of the training center and headed to the Mainland. It was a smooth uneventful ride with the usual traffic. I enjoyed the banter going on with other colleagues. I am seated beside the class clown who has just shared a joke that sent us laughing hysterically. There was never a dull moment with my set when we were not taking lectures or going over our study notes for the continuous test being meted during the eight weeks course, we were catching our fun to the fullest. I am not the proverbial clown but do have a lot as friends who I adore unabashedly. I do love a good laugh, who doesn’t.
I think that’s why we are the most resilient people on earth. How we are able to see a joke even in our pain, see hope when all looks hopeless. We believe “e go better”. The thought to commit suicide does not come close. Unfortunately, it is that same resilience we have, that is also applied when a public officer who has failed to perform refuses to resign. “Resign ke?” Nope, we will stay put and address the issue.
The journey was over before I felt it began. We arrived at the KIRIKIRI Prisons. I had never been there prior to this day. I know it is a notorious prison and where Fela Anikulapo – Kuti, the late Nigerian Afrobeat musician and human right activist was incinerated at a time.
We were greeted by one of the prisons staffs who introduced himself as our guide. I wished I had not taken the pains to dress up for this outing. I remove the borrowed Rolex and slipped it into a small compartment in my handbag. No way would I risk that getting lost while on this tour. “You would not be going in with your handbags, phones or any other instruments please leave them behind. You would also be searched. It’s the procedure”. Our guide went on to inform us.
We went through their cave like sleeping quarters which required you to bend to go in. The walls were well marked and dirty. The beds were iron double bunk beds with several mattresses stacked on the top and lower bunk. The floor had a telltale of once being concrete but now sandy. Nevertheless, I was impressed on the neatness of the rooms were neat amidst the dirt and oh the stench! Although, this might have been due to our visit.
Then we were then taken to another room, a classroom with desks and benches serving as chairs. There were about four students on each desk with scanty notebooks that had about five sheets. A teacher whose English was impeccable stood at the front of the class beside a blackboard with some mathematics sums on it.
It was surprising to know he was also a prisoner. Some of my colleagues engaged him and we found out he was knowledgeable and current. What neither of us asked, was why he was there.
Our guide informed us that people from all works of life were here in that prison. He boasted that the smartest brains were here. I do not know how he came to that conclusion but it was depressing.
I was intrigued by the look of the prisoners, they all had this black soot complexion. My first question as I wondered aloud. The guide did not seem to give a satisfactory answer but I came to the conclusion that taking a bath was a luxury here. Oh! how we take for granted, simple soap and water.The excursion came to an end after about an hour of moving around the prison facility I was the first to be out, glad to inhale fresh air. Hmm! another luxury I took for granted.
As a parting note, our guide told us that as young people starting our career, we should see ourselves as wealth custodians and the wealth a working tool. The day we began to see that wealth in our custody as something we could use or take out from for ourselves, that we would be taking our first step back there not for an excursion but behind bars.
For weeks, I had nightmares from this encounter waking up soaked in sweat. Perhaps in another country I would have opted for a shrink and sued my employer millions of dollars for psychological trauma but since I was a Naija babe, a passionate God lover who goes to church and knows her identity in Christ Jesus. I had to use prayers and deal with it. Best to say I got over it after six months.
So why the choice to work here? At age 15, I knew I wanted work in the Financial Industry. I had this very nice neighbor who happened to be the only person I know in the industry at that time. Growing up, I was surrounded by Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, and Professors, very noble and prestigious professions but I guess I was looking for something different out of the norm and status quo. I remember my Father saying it’s Doctor for Sciences and Lawyer for Arts. Like every other teenager who feels his or her ideas are the best. I told him that was what I wanted to do and my mind was made up. He made sure I studied sciences with further mathematics, I made sure I took the only social science subject allowed in pure science class.
Getting this job was a dream come true. The neighbor who inspired this profession tried talking me out of it when she learnt I had been offered this job.She said, “The Financial institutions are the highest employer of labour but that the stress on the job is on red alert. Young men and women dropping dead from heart attack, the impact on the children where both parents work in similar institutions. The risk on the job although is as high as its returns but it might not be worth it in the long run.
I smiled, “Auntie, don’t worry this is what I want to do”. What I never told her was she was the one who inspired this career choice. And as far as I could see she had done well, with her kids, husband and family life. So I could do the same and do better.
This is the 21st century, women must work and find a balance. It is the challenge of our times. We can’t go back to the 17th century we must and would find a way around it and make it work. Either you work as an employee, employer, entrepreneur or for charity. You need to find something to do and stay relevant.
Needless to say, I chose this. The best thing any of us can do for ourselves is to remember we will only live once. To be honest with ourselves and chart our own career or life mission playing to our strength. Take risks if we can. For those who have strength purpose and stamina to carry on a certain type of career, do so shining. To others who clearly realise that this might be a wrong choice, seek other alternatives. Whatever the choice is as a woman you have to be doing something. It’s simply just us being who we are – women.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Omo washe omo rishe – You seek work and you found it.
Every woman wants to be beautiful, feel loved and appreciated. The 21st-century woman is both lucky and unfortunate to have existed. She is arrayed with unlimited choices sometimes used to her detriment and if chosen wisely to her advantage She is her own best friend and enemy. She is creative and destructive. She is as many times good and bad simultaneously. She could be anything and is what she has decided to be and show the world.
A woman can be loved desired and admired or shunned and hated, a society’s outcast. Whichever of this she has finds herself, she is to the outsider, a bold, fearless, feisty and confident but to her inner -self the one no one sees, closed and shut away by dark curtains of past or experiences that plagues, taunts, and waltz with her insecurities. Not until she comes to that place of acceptance of who she was is and is to become, she would always struggle with the demons on the inside while smiling for the world to celebrate her. A tale of two different women yet the same person. She must come to that place where she understands her Maker loves her completely for who she is, not what she is or what she can offer, then comes contentment and a flourish not just on the outside but on the inside as well.
The 21st-century belle is a beautiful girl or woman. She is confident and at peace with her looks, her achievement and the people around her as she journeys through life, aspiring higher and conquering obstacles, being the best she can be, and enjoying every moment of her life.
I am excited to start this journey of mine, and welcome you to join me as I share my thoughts and stories that would make you, laugh, cry as you identify with these wonderful characters. I hope that through these stories you will see that we all face challenging situations in our lives and how we deal with these situations and relate to the people in them is the plot that spins a good story.
Our lives may or may not make headlines on the tabloids or become a reality TV show but each life is connected to another life with ripple effects we can’t imagine. We live, we love and love connects all the dots.We add laughter and luxury in the mix. We dream till it becomes our reality. It is simply just us being who we are – women.