Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Jennifer, 28 and Emem, 26, have been dating for eight months. In today’s episode of Love Life, they talk about navigating a lesbian relationship in Nigeria and learning to work together as business partners.
What’s your earliest memory of each other?
Jennifer: I was walking back from the gate after seeing my friend off. I saw her from a distance. It was dark, but she looked lovely. She was smiling so much that I knew she was going to speak to me, and she did.
Emem: That day, as I saw her walking towards me, I was like OMG! Who be this fine babe? My friends and I were at a party within the neighbourhood. The party was fizzling out, so my friends and I sat outside beside a car. I spoke to her when she came close and invited her in, but she said she had friends waiting for her and had to let them know where she was going.
I saw her again when the party ended as I was walking home. She was standing by herself, so I sharply asked for her number. I told her she better respond to me when I message her. She wondered why I thought she wouldn’t respond to me, and I said I know fine girls don’t talk to people. She promised she’d respond, and we parted ways. The next day by 6 a.m., I texted her and guess what? She didn’t reply. I had to keep bothering her.
Jennifer: LMAO. I remember the next day when I woke up, and saw her text on WhatsApp at 6 a.m. I was like, who messages anybody at 6 a.m.? I don’t like people disturbing me in the morning, so I thought this girl will be a nuisance.
She called me later that day; I picked by mistake, so I had to talk to her. We spoke, and I liked her, but it was awkward I kept thinking, a tomboy is asking me out. I kept the conversation short and ended the call fast. I didn’t talk to her for a few days, even though she was texting me.
One day, I was at the salon fixing my nails when her messages kept buzzing my phone. Again, I mistakenly opened it, and had to reply because I didn’t want to be rude. I saw that they were long messages, so I sent her a video of the technician fixing my nails and told her I would text her when I was done. She said we should hang out. That’s how she seized me. That day we hung out is the day we started dating.
Emem: When we saw, I just said, you know you are my girlfriend now, right? It was so easy, LOL.
How has the relationship been so far?
Emem: The relationship has been amazing. We’ve had ups and downs, especially because we are both girls. I let her have way every time because I am the man in the relationship. I hate it, but it’s more peaceful when I do. I prefer it that way because I don’t want to lose her. One day, I will catch her, and everything will go my way. Jennifer is a fucking handful, but she does everything for me, so that part is great.
Jennifer: It’s been challenging because of how people perceive us when they see us. Emem is masculine-presenting, so it’s easy to tell that we are a couple in public. We either get admiration or judgemental stares from people.
Emem: Yup, they look at us like we are supposed to be afraid of them. I challenge them in my head like come and beat us now. But at the beginning of our relationship, it wasn’t easy for Jennifer. I have always accepted myself as I am, and everyone around me, including my family, knows it. For Jennifer, it was new.
There are times where Jennifer would be cranky and upset, but she can’t tell me what’s wrong because she didn’t want me to feel like she doesn’t want the relationship anymore. She eventually told me how she had to battle with her family and her friends. She knew she would lose people because she is dating me. But she wanted to be with me, and that’s also why I stayed. I could have left because there are other girls, I didn’t want to be with someone who would be unhappy, and I would blame myself for it. She got over it, though.
Jennifer: It was terrible because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I met her. What started as a joke started getting serious, and I was scared. I was thinking of how my parents, siblings, friends, and cousins would take it. I’m from a very strict home, and I didn’t want to ‘shame’ the family. So there were days I spent just crying, unable to do anything else. I was thinking, why do I have to explain my love to anybody? Emem would sit beside me helplessly. I felt terrible for making her feel bad, but I think I had to go through all that to get here. Also, I think the fact that we became each other’s best friends helped us stay together. We would fight over the littlest and silliest things but also laugh over those things. That helped our bond and helped us overcome the societal pressure of being in the relationship.
So how are things now?
Jennifer: So far, my siblings are in love with Emem. Funny enough, they already knew who I was before I told them. In secondary school, I always had pictures of studs on my phone. I would make them my wallpaper, but I didn’t think much of it. So when I told my sisters, they were not surprised. My mum knows Emem as my friend. She comes to my house often, and they exchange pleasantries. My family is always pointing out how we look alike.
What’s the best part of the relationship?
Emem: Food! She cooks for me every time.
Even if I’m hungry at 12, Jennifer would get up to cook for me. It blows my mind how much she cares about me. With her, I’m free — I could be anything with Jennifer. I love that she trusts me, and no matter what anyone says, she would talk to me first. It’s that bond for me.
Jennifer: The best part for me is having the best friend I can be intimate with.
What was your biggest fight about?
Emem: We run businesses together. There was this time we fought for two weeks straight because we couldn’t understand each other. We are two different people, so it took a while to navigate. I am pretty stubborn so getting me to be on the same page with her was difficult. She was so angry at how I was handling things. I thought we would break up, but eventually, we got through it.
Jennifer: I didn’t think we were going to make it too. I broke up with her twice during that period. I don’t think we sat down to resolve it. It just passed. Emem found a way to let me do things the way I wanted. When I do, and it doesn’t work, then we can talk about it. These fights were about decision making in our business. Emem is slow and steady; I’m not that patient. Also, we figured that we never came up with solutions when we fought.
Emem: Yeah! So we decided that we must talk about every fight. She tells me, hey, I’m upset, and I promise not to do it again. Jennifer’s head is very hot, so you have to let her have her way.
What is your favourite thing about each other?
Jennifer: She’s kind. That’s one of the things that pulled me to her. You would never hear Emem say anything bad about another person. She is tough on the outside, but she does that to shield her softness. My favourite thing is that I am the only one who gets to see that part of her— she can be mean to everybody and nice to me.
Emem: She knows how to love. She makes everything easy for me. She reminds me every day that she is on my side. On Saturday, I went to play soccer, and I won a medal. Jennifer hangs it beside her bed so she can look at it every day. I don’t deserve her love, but I’m grateful. She is interested in my well-being. She’s the sweetest woman ever.
Rate your relationship on a scale of 1 to 10
Jennifer: Yes, 10! I am so here for this love. We have regular relationship issues, but most times, we’re goofy.
Emem: Plus, we wake up beside each other every day, and it’s just so beautiful.
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