We live in the era of renewed women empowerment and as is expected with movements of this kind it trickles down into our everyday life. Women have been encouraged to be unapologetic for being female at work at church everywhere and I am here for it. I am a huge fan of the movement for women empowerment and as a young woman in this century who has suffered her fair share of sexism I know for a fact the time is right for women to speak up help each other and support each other. But how does this translate into our lives as young women who are getting married and encountering in-laws. How do you combine this empowered status with making a good impression. Should making a good impression even matter to you at all, after all we are not in the ice age….
Now, I witnessed an interesting scenario, I was over at a friends house visiting one day and a strange thing happened. At the time he lived with his older brother and their mom had come in from out of town to visit them; he was so excited (No he wasn’t my boyfriend he was just a friend). Anyways, the moment I walked into the house I greeted her asked how her trip was and how she was finding it hanging with her bachelor sons……. etc… nothing extraordinary just the regular pleasantries one accords a person who came visiting from out of town. As soon as we finished exchanging pleasantries, she smiles, faces her son (my friend) and says in a very Nigerian mommy accent; “Ehen!.. this is how you know a girl that is well brought up not that one that has tied your brother down”. Wow! you can imagine my shock and discomfort. I didn’t stay there for more than 20 minutes ‘cos personally I am not a fan of hanging with people parents, its too awkward made worse by the fact that I had been placed on some sort of pedestal I ran away quickly.
As the “amebo”( busy body) that I am, I had to find out what the fuss was about and I did find out from my friend. Apparently, his brothers girlfriend had moved in with them and was staying there as at when their mother arrived (already for an African mother that’s a bad sign: “why should you live with a man you are not married to?”). But he told me his mom said to him that what pissed her off, was the fact that she said she felt disrespected by this “small girl”. This girl friend didn’t even try to converse with her and acted like she wasn’t even around. She had visited them for 10 days and saw the girlfriend once(the day she arrived) during her entire stay. This girlfriend was unemployed and therefore was home all day but stayed in her room watching TV and never cared to ask the mom how she was doing if she had eaten etc…… and even he felt it was rude. The mom had gotten into several huge misunderstandings with the elder brother over this girlfriend of his and he had defended her blindly. Some may argue that she has a right to her behaviour after all she is an adult but then again…..
His mom then said something that got me thinking she said “I am not a troublesome woman, I had a very difficult mother-in-law and so I understand the mother-in-law dynamic and how hard it can be but this girl is badly raised”. She said, “what I did was pretend until the woman herself declared me her favourite daughter in-law”. She explained that she understood it wasn’t easy but sometimes you had to do what what you could for peace to reign ans so in her case when all the other daughters-in-law were fighting and resisting their mutual MIL, she simply did eye-service to win her heart and according to her, the woman would even tease her saying “I know its eye-service you are doing” but it made peace reign and eventually she and the woman got along so well she ceased having issues with her and they became like mother and daughter. So, all she expected from this “small girl” was a little respect even if it was eye-service.
I read another story recently about a young woman who made herself “overly” available to her “supposed” boyfriend and his family. I can’t verify the authenticity of this, but according to the story she would clean and cook and do house chores in her boyfriends parents house so much so that she was conscripted to wash dishes during a “family meeting”. Now ordinarily it shouldn’t be a big deal if your boyfriends family/potential in-laws trust and like you enough to have you around during a family meeting and if you are Nigerian, you know that when you are invited to do dishes along side his sisters and his mom it can even be seen as a sign of acceptance into the family i.e. basically you could “assume” that they consider you “wife material” and want you around enough to fraternize with the family in an informal setting. However that was not the case for this young girl because as the story went, her friend ( who was the story teller) further said she found out the next day via Facebook that she was actually doing the dishes at her boyfriends introduction ceremony……what?!!!
Introduction Ceremony : For those who are not Nigerian the introduction ceremony is the first step taken during the marriage process.Usually at this point the groom has proposed marriage to his bride and the are engaged but this ceremony is more like the official engagement and is usually hosted by the brides family. It is a sort of “meet the parents”and is most times when the parents of the couple officially meet each other for the first time.
Basically the grooms family comes to formally ask for the brides hand in marriage and then start planning the wedding. The bride price is set and the marriage rites are told to the grooms family especially if the couple is from different tribes so that the traditional wedding pattern is agreed on and bla bla bla…… In the usual African fashion these things can be quite dramatic and some tribes are known to go overboard with these ceremonies making it as as big as a wedding with up to 200 people(I think that’s the largest I have seen). But most times it usually just the groom his parents a friend or two and about 2 or 3 relatives and the bride, her nuclear family a couple of cousins and maybe a friend or two….. about 15 people in total. They meet, the girls dad does the usual dance of “Do you know this man?” even though he has seen him a thousand times……It’s usually a fun activity…which brings me to my point.
How do you behave when you meet the in-laws? Do you do eye-service or not?
I do not know because the truth is what works for A may not work for B. However, I think you have to find a balance, ask a lot of questions and be very observant and pay close attention. Ideally you should be free to be yourself but I’d suggest you be on your best behaviour and gently ease into your relaxed mode/true self. I personally feel just the way when you first met your boyfriend you eased him into getting to know the real you until you’all became so close you wanna live together forever and ever, I suggest you do the same with your In-laws. Be careful not to do too much and don’t start what you won’t finish, be wise. And definitely pray a lot ‘cos sometimes that’s all you can do.
Have a good day