THE PROVERBIAL BED OF ROSES
By Akorah Chioma Diana
Growing up, I had deluded myself into believing that the reason for my father’s abandonment; for he had abandoned my mother, sisters, and me, was because of our gender. I had gotten it into my head that if perhaps my sisters and I had been boys, if one of us had been lucky enough to be male, maybe he wouldn’t have left. I call it a delusion now, but back then, I had believed in it with absolute conviction or as much will as a child of eight could wield. It started the day I heard my grandmother talking to my mother. I remember how she had sounded that day like she was scolding a wayward child. She had said that if my mother could have given birth to a boy, my father would have never left, and all would be well. Looking back, maybe the tone of her voice, while she gave this reprimand led to my belief, or the indiscernible silence that followed after my grandmother had said it made me draw up my conclusions.
For years, their conversation remained with me; it made me believe that, in some way, my sisters and I were at fault that we had come into the world less than what they had expected. These thoughts plagued me, but I kept them to myself, unsure of how I would present them or express to anyone who would listen that my birth had been a disappointment. What was the point of sharing anyways? What would it accomplish but pity? What was done was done, and I would have to live with a mistake perpetually… these were my young thoughts. I had these views for years till a much-needed science class liberated me. Though the liberation came a bit too late, it freed me of my long-carried guilt and healed me of the blame for my father’s abandonment. It was like inhaling fresh air after years of dwelling in an environment sullied with pollutants. But then, I needed answers. Who could I blame if I wasn’t to blame, and neither were my sisters? Why did he leave?
Had my mother committed an act so unforgivable that my sisters and I had become soiled by association? These questions bothered me. But what bothered me more was the treatment my mother received both from friends and family. To them, she was no longer of import. Why associate with a woman that even her own husband had abandoned? In their opinion, the man who had left his wife and three daughters and suddenly relinquished his responsibilities must have had a good reason to do so, and only she was at fault. Perhaps she was too difficult to handle, maybe she had disrespected him, and it’s quite possible she drove him away. After all, men were not prone to fits of exaggeration and silliness like women were, so he must have had a good reason, and his behavior was surely not unreasonable.
These views were implied, some in pity, some in jest, and some a little bit of both. My mother tried her best to hide it, to keep my sisters and me away from it, but it was too evident to be ignored or misheard. Their comments made it seem like her being deserted was her fault, almost like she was a child who had been unruly and was now getting her just and deserved punishment. It was almost like a witch hunt, or what I imagined it would be.
Remembering those times, I can’t help feeling the same burning anger I had felt then. How is it that society had decided that she was to blame? Had she not trusted and vowed her life to this man? Had she done anything contrary to her promise? Was he not the one who left? Should there be any reason that would justify the neglect of his responsibilities if not as a husband but then as a father? It was at this point in life that I wondered. Was marriage worth all this heartache; was it worth this emotional turmoil not only to me but to my future children? I could not possibly fathom what my mother must be feeling, but I was sure I didn’t want any child of mine to feel as I had felt.
My father had become a source of resentment in my life. I resented him whenever my other classmates were picked up from school by their fathers. I resented him when asked about his welfare and the varying answers I was told to say, “He travelled, He’s fine,” or fictional inventions of him being stationed in some country or another. I hated him when my mother’s hand would hover over the marital status check box on forms, unsure of her status. Then I would ask myself- wouldn’t it be better if he were dead? Wouldn’t it be easier to answer people when they asked of him instead of lying to hide what should be his shame and not mine? Therein lay the problem. It was his shame, yet no one acted like he was to blame. It was my mother who had sleepless nights pondering on her marital state; it was her name they carried about in family gatherings while they gossiped and not his.
I was eighteen when I brought up the idea of a divorce to my mother. A little more exposed to the ways of the world, I had seen and heard about many divorced couples. I felt it would be easier than the uncertainty that we lived in. But born, bred, and wedded in the Catholic Church, my mother decided to seek counsel first from the church as she would not do anything that would sever her relationship with her religion. It was at this juncture, while my family and I discussed with a priest in the parish house of St. Dominic’s, that I came to an epiphany. It was, of course, a truth that had been staring at me for most of my life, but it had never become so clear to me till that moment.
It struck me that everyone, including the priest, who knew the situation, could not regard it as I did. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t possibly see it as I did because they weren’t in my shoes. I was a witness, a spectator, a co-victim in it, and even if a few could relate through their own experiences, they couldn’t understand the despondency I attached to mine.
The simple truth was marriage, a true cultural and African marriage, despite being in a modern century, blessed in the church or registered in the court, did not favor women. On the other hand, men are given all the allowance they could ever need, their misbehaviors and irresponsible attitudes backed up with supposed reasons which most people, who this thought process has so corrupted, have embraced as the norm. If a man beats his wife, they say a true African man is correct in disciplining his wife, it was that way in the earlier days, and it is the way it should be. If he has a secret family or hidden children (children outside of wedlock), it is the wife’s fault for bearing him only daughters. If he cheats, you couldn’t possibly blame him because a true African man was not built for monogamy. He is, therefore, blameless in his actions because his apparent masculinity gives him leave to be.
Why, then, would I, a woman, want to enter into this proverbial bed of roses when it is so glaring at the injustice that awaits me? Why should I desire marriage? Yes, society expects it of me, and my religion states it as my duty. Every second, even by those it shouldn’t concern, I am reminded that my true and only purpose (apart from serving Him) is to procreate and submit to my other half. But what about the men, are they badgered and pestered as the women are? Are they taught and constantly reminded that they have a responsibility to fulfill to their wives and children, or are they given leave to use their masculinity to escape their responsibilities or behave as they please?
My views, at times when voiced, are mistaken as a Feminist rant, but that’s where most people are wrong. It’s simply a matter of self-preservation. I understand that marriage should be a mutual and respectful partnership between two people, and because life isn’t a fairytale, I know it definitely won’t be a bed of roses. But at the same time, it shouldn’t be a constant source of unhappiness, resentment, or heartache. My first view of marriage was far from happy before and after my father left. Though I am very aware that there are many successful marriages out there and thousands of good and responsible men, I still cannot picture myself taking that chance. I cannot put myself in a position where I could relive the same experience I have witnessed. Though this is my mindset right now, I still hope it changes in time because if other people could find happiness in it, I might as well.
1/3/2023 10:09:31 pm
This piece practically reveals how the effects of failed parenting, due to neglected responsibilities and gender bias, doesn't end in the immediate family but transmits unto the next generation as it leaves the children traumatized.
2/3/2023 04:53:05 pm
“The proverbial bed of roses” shone light on the dark and unequal stance of society as regards the liberty of gender. Patriarchy and toxic masculinity and double standard were the highlights of these writing. We see clearly from this story how a man's insufficiency can be heaped as a wife's fault and the price paid of shame robbed off on innocent children because of their gender.
Abosi Delight Orie
4/3/2023 10:42:39 am
This was a very deep and refreshing read.
Ojoye oluwaseun kikelomo
4/3/2023 10:58:44 am
Even up until now, I have never imagined the kind of trauma that children that feels like the only girl has gone through but all thanks to the writer of "the proverbial bed of roses".
4/3/2023 12:52:25 pm
This short story depicts exactly what most girl child and families are going through.
5/3/2023 02:14:03 pm
This masterpiece illustrates the agony of womanhood and the social bridge between a man and a woman.
6/3/2023 11:00:36 am
This was a wonderful and inspiring read. So many girls around the world would benefit from this novel perspective.
8/3/2023 12:59:17 pm
This! This is the corner light shining on the dark and often neglected aspects of marriage. You have made a clear expression of some of the negatives African women are constantly exposed to when they tie the rest of their lives to a man. Your brilliant piece leaves one thinking. Thank you for sharing.
8/3/2023 04:05:56 pm
The battle of a woman who is always perceived to be at fault despite the wrongdoings of the man is always seemed to be overlooked by society. As a young woman in this present day society I feel my fears and concerns are expressed, received and related by the writer and her distinguished piece of work.
8/3/2023 04:06:51 pm
This is a wonderful piece!
10/3/2023 09:13:57 am
Wow! This is aptly. It was absolutely weaved with aura of perfection, giving the girl-child an opportunity to express their bitterness to the world that doesn't prioritized them.
Kimberly Obayi up
11/3/2023 02:38:21 pm
Well written story I must say. Especially with the beautiful words you used to throw more light on gender equity. Be it male or female all genders shouldn't be discriminated.
11/3/2023 02:57:00 pm
Wow! I can practically feel the reality of this piece, envelope me!
11/3/2023 09:12:34 pm
A very beautiful read. I agree with every word lettered down. It is the "masculinity immunity" mindset that African men/women live with, that throws the unbiased women into a state of low esteem and rejection. Till we learn that marriage never completes a woman, till we see the essence of womanhood beyond that of being a wife and a mother, till we women know our worth and live it, only then can we train our daughters with pride, can we shut the views of the society.
Arinze Daniel Udoye
12/3/2023 08:04:51 am
This piece is something to reflect on as it highlights the effects of failed parenting and a broken marriage. I believe African men should read this piece and understand that their reckless habits, will in the long run, tamper with the lives of their children, especially their daughters.
12/3/2023 06:29:32 pm
Well, this piece somewhat depicts the unreasonable headaches of most African families. But where I don't quite accept is the part where the Catholic Church is presented as an advocate for such mentality. I've lived all my life a Catholic, and sentiments apart, the church I know strongly preaches that barrenness is never a reason to end a marriage. And this is not even a case of barrenness, to start with. I advise the writer to embark on proper research before writing. Defamations like this cannot make one a good writer.
14/3/2023 10:54:56 am
14/3/2023 08:49:51 pm
This was really beautiful to read, very touching. It reveals some of the things faced by women in the society and why some ladies behave the way they do. ❤️
16/3/2023 03:26:38 am
This personal essays like other art works on feminism is a bold and brutal and honest. I could feel the emotions of the writer in every sentence and all that is embedded in it as she crafted down this piece of work.
16/3/2023 11:44:46 am
'It is his shame, so why not he take the blame' that line speaks volume. It is the man who leaves but his wife and children are the ones who have to bear the shame for an injustice done to them. African concept of marriage has never favoured the woman, I feel this can be worked on in the way our boys are brought up so they know they are not some prized possession and learn to treat everyone with love and respect.
16/3/2023 03:32:16 pm
Indeed, traditional African marriage was not built in favor of women at all where men have leave to do whatever, women are scrutinized and blamed, even their husband's actions.
22/3/2023 04:27:56 am
Wow, this is a really powerful and moving story. It's so sad that the narrator and their sisters felt like they were to blame for their father leaving just because they were girls.
24/3/2023 07:32:45 pm
Energetic read, I will say. A short writing in which the narrator was able to tell a lot, based on her experience as a young African woman.
26/3/2023 01:25:06 pm
This piece of truly captures how society often blames women for the problems in a marriage, even when it's the husband who abandons the family. The girl's story shows how this blame game can harm a family, especially the children. The article highlights the need for society to stop blaming women for the actions of men.
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