Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 26-year-old Nigerian woman. She talks about the trauma she faced growing up with her mum, her dad leaving and how therapy improved her relationship with her mum.
Tell me about your earliest memory.
Growing up, I was very stubborn. I used to get into a lot of trouble, and my mum would beat me. There was a phase I was convinced she hated me. I used to ask if she was really my mother.
Does any incident come to mind?
I wouldn’t do my chores, so I would chop beating for that. If she asked me to do anything, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t remember my siblings getting beaten as much as I was.
Tell me about a striking memory of your mum.
I remember three distinct memories. When I was in primary school, I was smart. First to third — that was usually my position. There was one term I came tenth; my mother wanted to kill me. We lived in a face-me-I-face-you compound. She pursued me around it. I had to run for cover to my neighbour’s because she was going to beat the living daylight out of me.
Another memory was in secondary school. After school, I would wait with my friend for her parent’s car to come pick her; meanwhile, I’d take a bus home. School closed at 3 p.m., and I would wait till 6 p.m., so I usually got home late. My mother would warn me, but I ignored her. One day, she got home before me. When I did, the beating no get part two.
The last memory I have is traumatic for me. I think I’ve forgiven her now. When I was 13, my landlady’s son had an older friend or family living with them. I and the guy were close. It was nothing sexual, and I know that a lot of adults cannot fathom when the opposite sexes are chummy with each other — for good reason, with all sexual assault stories we hear. Anyway, someone told my mum that I said I wanted to have sex with him. According to this person, I said: “I’m going to be 13 soon, so he can disvirgin me.”
She believed this person over me. At night, she came to room and asked me if I planned to be anything in life. She said other mean things. It affected our relationship and how I saw her.
I’m sorry you experienced this.
It’s funny because I didn’t even have sex till I was 25.
What’s something that changes when you feel like you can’t trust your mum?
Our relationship was fraught. Since she didn’t trust me or believe me, I couldn’t confide in her. I confided in my sister or dad instead. My dad didn’t live with us — she did — so you’d expect she would know all my shit. But she didn’t have any idea, and it was largely because of that.
Where was your dad?
He was with his other family.
He had two wives, and he lived with the other wife and kids. My mum is the second wife but she had the first child so she’s regarded as the first. My dad was really desperate for kids. People say the other wife jazzed him because he decided to stay with her. He used to visit occasionally.
I— Tell me about your relationship with your sister.
Haha. We used to fight a lot, but we were close. I’m outspoken and she’s calm. It made other people think I was rude. Though she’s secretive, we share things. I told her when I had sex for the first time. She knew when I had a sugar daddy. She knows everything about me.
A particular memory is when I was a teenager, there was an older guy asking her to meet him in a funny place. She was going to go, and I followed her and stayed around.
Love it. Walk me through how you landed a sugar daddy. I’m asking for a friend.
In 2015 my friend, who was a runs girl, introduced me, but it never really took off because I was not sexually active. He literally just kissed me out of the blue and I was like huh? Last year, he reached out again, and I told him his actions were rapey. He apologised and we hung out. People get cars and houses from their sugar runs, but I got mostly change.
How did your relationship with your mum affect you?
I only saw her as a provider. I loved her because she was my mum and she got me things.
How is your relationship with your mum now?
It’s better. I had to get therapy in 2018 because there was a period I resented her — everything she did irritated me. I see her as a person now. I’m more open with her though I didn’t tell her when I started having sex because I was trying to protect my good girl image that she had. We’re consciously building our relationship.
When you say we, did she get therapy too?
No. But she was willing to admit she’s not infallible. I berated her for a lot of the mistakes that she made, especially with my dad. We also have a lot of conversations. I was going to organise therapy for my mum, but she doesn’t believe in it. “I go just sidon dey tell person my life? I no fit.”
How did you decide on therapy?
I was working in a coaching organisation and I had free access to therapists. I’d used therapy for other issues and decided to try it with this.
Tell me your happiest memory of your dad.
I don’t remember. When I got older — 17 — we started fighting a lot because I realised his shortcomings. It wasn’t just my mum with issues; he had his faults too. He died when in 2015. Now that I think about it, I may have daddy issues.