Love Life is a Zikoko weekly series about love, relationships, situationships, entanglements and everything in between.
Did you know you were in real love when you met in JSS 1?
Juliana: What’s “real love” at ten years old? I just knew I had butterflies in my tummy, and a strange urge to giggle whenever he happened to enter my class.
Dozie: We were both in JSS 1 but in different classrooms. After I saw her for the first time during our lunch break on day one, I started going to her class anyhow to catch a glimpse of her. I even made friends with one of her male classmates just to have a valid reason to enter JSS 1b. Most times, I wouldn’t even talk to her. We’d just make eye contact with straight faces.
But what did you notice about her that caused all this confusion?
Dozie: I can’t really say. She just stood out to me from the 40 or so girls in our set. Maybe because of her pale skin. She’s always had the lightest and clearest skin. When they made her yellow house queen at the end of first term, I just knew I had to try and ask her out before anyone else did.
Juliana: He didn’t have much to worry about though. The few other guys who were interested in dating that young were going after girls with big butts. I was as flat as paper. LOL. I thought he was really cute. We were the same height then, but now, he towers over me.
He finally approached me after months of prolonged eye contact, with the cutest white plushy toy; a lamb. Everyone in class hailed us; he must’ve told them he was going to do it. I thought it was really sweet, so I said yes.
What was dating like as pre-teens in junior high?
Juliana: It was fun but came with a lot of unnecessary drama. The highlight was the surprise gifts and grand gestures on Val’s Day. The lowlight was the constant teasing from our classmates. Every small thing, “Her husband is here. See how she’s blushing?” Or someone would make up something false about him unprovoked, just to see how I’d react.
Dozie: Secondary school was so overdramatic. Guys would be like, “They tie your head inside Juliana’s pant?” Pardon my language. Besides that, it was a lot of meeting in corners or by the staircase to whisper our love or make plans for the hals or ask each other what we like.
Juliana: Basically, an everlasting talking stage.
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What did your Nigerian parents think of their innocent children falling in love though?
Dozie: Ahh. They didn’t think anything because they didn’t know until at least SS 2 for my mum.
Juliana: My parents didn’t know a thing until after NYSC.
Dozie: Our school was full boarding, so that made it easy to keep our relationship from our parents. I also had two older brothers who used to help me out with gifts and stuff like that. During the holidays, we only ever hung out with other friends. So she’d say she was going out with her friends, and I’d tell my parents I was going out with mine.
Neat. And you never broke up throughout secondary school? Don’t such relationships last a term at most?
Juliana: We broke up o. We broke up at least five times, but we always came back together. He even dated a junior for some months when we were in SS 1.
Dozie: I think my mind just wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing out on something that particular time. I wanted to be sure I liked Juliana as much as I thought. And I did because the whole time I was with the girl, I was always thinking about what Juliana was doing. I compared them to each other the whole time, which was toxic as fuck.
But other times, we broke up just because we needed space or a break or because the teasing from our classmates was too much, so we’d just agree to tell everyone we’d broken up. And because as a secondary school student, you’re naturally dramatic, we’d tell ourselves we had to make it look real by not hanging out during the hals.
Juliana: We really fought and broke up one time in SS 2 though.
Dozie: Oh yeah. I made a statement she thought meant I was taking her for granted.
Juliana: We were going for an excursion and had to pick partners because everyone had to move in twos at all times. I quickly moved to him, happy to sacrifice my girlfriends so we could spend the whole day together during the trip. But he just said, “No, I’m with Olatunde*. We don’t have to go everywhere together nau.” He said it with this tone that made me so mad.
Dozie: I didn’t think about it too deeply. I just thought we were always doing everything together, and I wanted to be with the guys that particular time because we had something planned.
Juliana: They planned to sneak off during the trip to get weed.
Juliana: We didn’t get back together till the next term. He came to me on the first day of school with a big shopping bag of UK cookies and sweets from his family trip abroad that break. And just like that, he was forgiven.
Well, I’ll never sacrifice my friends for a guy sha. Never again!
Yes, girl. How did y’all navigate university and come out together still?
Dozie: Easy. We didn’t attend the same uni, so it was a long-distance relationship from 2015 till around 2019.
Juliana: It’s giving “I had the chance to explore without feeling tied down”. Are you sensing it too?
Dozie: I didn’t say that o. I just mean it made it easier to navigate the relationship given our age and how far we’d come together. I think we trusted each other a lot considering, so we didn’t have any issues during this period.
Juliana: Yeah. Our relationship happened via WhatsApp messages and video calls and on social media. But I never felt alone because we talked every single day, sent each other gifts to mark birthdays and Valentine, and there were the occasional cash transfers from him.
We were both present in the relationship, and I guess like he said, we could avoid the strain that usually comes in when you’re in the same space as your partner. My roommates were always jealous of how sensitive he was during our calls.
Dozie: We actually met a lot more during NYSC than in uni because I served somewhere in Akwa Ibom, while she was in Calabar. It used to take over six hours to go from one to the other, but we did that at least ten times during our service year. I’d go to her most times because we were scared for her safety as a girl. At first, we’d explore the towns together. Then later on, we stayed in more, eating and watching online shows on her laptop in her corper’s lodge room.
Juliana: I always looked forward to his visits. It was refreshing for us to still be so close now that we’d grown up. It was like we’d grown up together.
Dozie: Now, it remains the “growing old together” part.
Juliana: He was still his sweet, loving self, only that he was taller and manlier. I really grew attracted to him during his NYSC visits, and it helped that I didn’t have to go through the “finding your person” phase most of our mates were at during that period.
Dozie: I thought I’d have gotten tired of her, but we really just knew each other too well, and I hated the idea of getting to know a new person to that level all over again. We had so much history together, so there was always a world of things to talk about.
That feeling has followed us into the present. We did NYSC in 2019, and that’s almost four years ago. Wow.
Juliana: Yeah, navigating work and our careers has definitely shifted the focus off our relationship a bit. We’re thinking about finding ourselves and becoming stable adults right now, trying to enjoy ourselves but also make wise financial decisions. As much as you can with less than ₦200k salary sha.
Even ₦400k salary sef. Looking at how far y’all have come from childhood sweethearts, what do you think worked for you?
Juliana: I honestly don’t know. Maybe we’re just one of the lucky ones.
Dozie: I think it’s our intentionality. We make an effort every day. I’ve always made sure to call her every day, no matter how tired or irritated I am.
Juliana: True. I also made him my safe place very early on. So he’s the one I want to talk to when something is irritating me, and he’s never disappointed me on that emotional level. I guess he became my best friend as soon as he became my one and only boyfriend.
Dozie: We’re practically family now. My mum knows and loves her, and all our siblings are very close. I’d say we’re soulmates.
So “become bestfriends”. Noted. What’s the most unconventional thing about your relationship, besides the obvious?
Dozie: We always hang out together. Like, our social life is so heavily intertwined, I can’t even imagine going to the club or any party without her. I don’t know if that’s unconventional sha.
Juliana: He also got me smoking weed. I don’t know how many boyfriends get their girlfriends hooked on weed. Other people bring their weed-smoking partners out of the habit, but we did the opposite. That has to be unconventional, right?
No comment. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your Love Life?
Dozie: We’ve been together since childhood. I’m pretty sure we broke the scale.
Juliana: We definitely destroyed it. I’d say 1000.