This is an open letter to the man who sired me
From when I started living with you in Nigeria after Mommy left, you pushed and pushed and pushed me. I know I’m smart, but would it have reduced my I.Q if I just went downstairs and played with children my age for just a half hour?
If I had died at that age it probably would’ve just read Overwhelmed the kid genius. Whatever happened to… “Overwhelmed the girl who was loved by many… who laughed, smiled and LIVED!”
I wanted there to be more to me than the fact that I graduated high school at 13. I would’ve preferred you tell people how nice I was, how sweet, how humorous, how personable. It’s very easy for you to brag that I’m ‘super-smart’ and graduated 5 years before my time… but did you ever ask me how hard it was for me to fit into the regimen? You’ll never know what hell it was to always be in class with people 5-7 years older than me. I constantly had to act mature just to keep up. I was constantly lying about my age… pretending to be 4 years older… cos classmates treated me like shit if they found out I was the same age as their younger siblings. Do you know how painful it was when my teacher whipped 12 year old me like an 18 year old? Do you know how painful it was not to cry just because ‘adults’ don’t cry after being whipped?
You blamed my mom once because apparently if I was in Nigeria right now I’d be a medical doctor… but at the cost of what? My peace of mind, my sanity… my happiness?! I’m only 20 for chrissakes. Yes… I would’ve had a degree but no passion for anything. You would’ve sucked the life out of me with your constant demands for overachievement… I would’ve been too busy reading biology at 3pm to go out and smell the roses. I would’ve been too busy reciting the periodic table to feel the rain on my skin. I would’ve been too busy doing logarithms to smile at the future love of my life. I would’ve been an empty shell… a competent shell… but rather empty!
Daddy I would’ve been a medical doctor who had no life ‘experience’… no human feeling, no emotion. I’d know how to cut open a heart but not how to touch the soul that lives inside. I’d know how to x-ray a bone but not understand the journey of its’ owner. I’d know how to prescribe pills for a cold but be unable to thaw the ice in my heart or theirs.
What joy would there have been in life if I had no social grace… if I didn’t know how to feel the tempo, to sway to the rhythm of life… to enjoy the symphonies … to sweat to the beat… to stomp my feet with the pulse of drum. How great would life have been if I still had not known the love of a good man… the touch of one who cares… the words spoken in the middle of the night to soothe all fears.
How could I have survived if after all this while I still did not know the delight of true friendship… relationships not based on you wanting to get into my friends pants… just on trust, honesty, loyalty… love.
Now I’m 20 and still in university but I’m happy you know. I'm not as focused or as driven as my life no longer revolves around simultaneous equations and labs. I don’t pick up a physics text book when I’m sad daddy… I slow dance with the man who loves me. I don’t view my life as a constant competition with your friends’ children… I view it as a success just by me being able to laugh again. I don’t think I’m a failure when I get an 85 on a test… I feel good that I can balance a social life and an academic one with no effort. I don’t think that life starts after I graduate with honours… IT HAS ALREADY STARTED. I would’ve been a genius who’s only idea of the world outside would’ve been what I read in books. WHAT A SHAME!!!
Oh now… I’ve seen it Daddy. I’ve seen the green grass, I’ve seen the blue sky, I’ve tasted the rain, the snow… I’ve tasted life. I’ve had joy. I’ve laughed at night, smiled in the afternoon and giggled in the morning. I’ve wanted to do things for my mother not because I’m terrified of her and it’s my filial duty but because she’s my mother and I love her very much. We talk, we laugh, we dance, we argue… yes Dad… I actually have a parent that I can share my opinions with and tell my side of the story. I no longer live in a dictatorship. She listens too you know… she doesn’t always do it… but at least she listens. She looks at my face too… not just to see if I have pimples. Remember the day you slapped me cos I had pimples? I was a teenager for chrissake… I asked mommy and she said that she too had had pimples as a teenager… so how on earth are pimples my fault? You slapped me for that daddy… why on earth?!?! Yeah… so she looks at my face to gauge my mood… she cares whether I laugh, cry or sulk. She thinks I’m perfect just as I am… she doesn’t think I’d look better as a boy, sound better as a boy, think better as a boy… no… I’m good enough for her AS A GIRL!
Oh what a jumble things would be now if the only memory I had of parenthood was yours… that a slap meant love… that a whip meant affection. What if I’d grown to hate my mother cos of you constantly putting her down… then I never would’ve known genuine love… someone willing to put down their life for me just so I can live… someone willing to give the clothes off her back so I can be warm, someone willing to deny herself companionship if her partner did not accept her children. I never would’ve known that not everybody thinks women are ‘second rate’ citizens, a waste of space, less intelligent, less capable of success, ambition if not pushed to the limit. I never would’ve known that there’s love in a glance, in a hug, in a word, in a meal, in a surprise. When was the last time you hugged me dad?
Every time I heard your voice, my heart jumped cos I knew you’d find fault in whatever I did. The vegetables were always overcooked, I was always too slow, the food always had too much salt! I never did know that love and fear are two distinct and separate feelings.
I never questioned the reason why I was always scared in my own house and uncomfortable in my own skin. There were tons of times I wanted to be ugly you know. I remember when I started growing breasts, I wore tons of shirts underneath just so you wouldn’t notice… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it… but I was wary. I knew what you did to other people’s children… so imagine yours… I mean you fed me, clothed me, housed me… I belonged to you right?
I was very good at the school work. I always came first or second in class, got 80’s and 90’s in every test… but my heart wasn’t in it as I wasn’t learning for me… I was learning for you. Now I learn for me… I read for pleasure… just because I can. I remember when I started reading novels… I did it to escape my life… it was just too rigid, too scary, too hard… the life in the novels were fantastic… girls had great parents, great friends, great lovers and eventually great children… why couldn’t we be like that? We reminded you too much of our mother didn’t we? I was so sneaky about everything then… But guess what- I no longer have to sneak around for stupid little things. I listen to Celine Dion now on full blast which I never could do with you. I mean you’d never told me not to listen to her but I just knew you disapproved of everything I did except bring in A’s.
I lived with you for years but you could probably count how many times you ever saw me laugh right? Well I had this whole universe planned out in my head… in it I was loved by all, treated kindly by all and did the same in return. In my daydreams, I was happy. Outside the house, I laughed a lot actually… everybody in school loved me cos I was so nice, funny and cute. All the girls wanted to be my friend and all the guys wanted to date me. I bet you never knew that at 12 I had a boyfriend. RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE!!! I dated Jimmy cos he was so nice, he smiled at me with his eyes. He held my hand all the time and hugged me a lot. He walked me home from school and told me how pretty I was. It was a good change… all guys weren’t the same. Remember those times I told you to give me money for some special evening or weekend lab at school which you encouraged cos you’re in love with ‘education’… I SPENT ALL THAT TIME WITH JIMMY... AND YOUR MONEY FUNDED MY OUTINGS! I BOUGHT NEW CLOTHES AND PAID FOR RIDES WITH YOUR ‘LAB MONEY’!!! oh and guess what… I went over to his house and we played computer games, went for dinner and made out… YUP… WE MADE OUT… KISSING, TOUCHING, GROPING… ALL THAT GOOD STUFF!!!
See daddy I’m not your little genius anymore… Sometimes I get 75’s, 78’s, 80’s on tests and midterms… hardly ever 92or 95… but I’m happy. I could always do better but at least I’m in a good place. I have a life outside the classroom and it’s pretty great. I have friends who love me and whom my mom doesn’t want to have sex with. I have a boyfriend who understands and respects me. I have a great mom who will do anything to ensure my happiness and success, a fantastic sister that’s funny, pretty and smart. Oh I know you like her even less cos she looks even more like mommy than I do… but you know what… YOUR LOSS!
I’m no longer your little genius
Overwhelmed Naija Babe