Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On Suicide.

I'm not someone who has ever considered themselves suicidal. I never wanted to kill myself, though I would occasionally daydream about life if I wasn't living. You know, who would come to my funeral, what worries would be alleviated, what bills would still have to be paid. Sometimes even how much it would hurt to die. But I never found myself actually driving into oncoming traffic or doing any other risky sort of behavior. And every time, it came down to how selfish I would be if I actually did it.

Who has the money to bury me? Who has the time to deal with the pain my passing would cause? Who knows the effect losing me would have on people for years to come?

I stayed alive because I didn't want to be a burden to anyone in death. And so far, I'm still here. So clearly, it must be working. It must be the best solution.


Staying alive for other people means you're not living your life. You're not here because you want to be here, you're here because other people want you to be. And sort of like the transition from high school to college. When you go to school/class because your parents make you, or do your work only because you're made to, when you have the option or opportunity to make the decision on your own, most likely, you won't do it.

How many of us failed a class (or three) our first year of college? Having that freedom of choice had many of us floundering. Life is the same way. If we are living for the purpose of pleasing others, or because it feels like something that we're just supposed to do, when given that freedom of choice, some people may very well choose to end their lives. We've seen it countless times. After a parent dies, the child soon follows. After a lover passes, their significant other succumbs to suicidal thoughts.

Now, I’m not advocating suicide or that you shouldn't find meaning in bringing the gift of your presence to others. But I feel it's crucial to find meaning in yourself. To find joy and meaning in things that are unique to you. I for example, know that for all the nightmares I have around pregnancy, I most definitely want to have children. I know that I can't have children, I can't squish their little faces, I can't hear my child's first words, I can't excitedly watch them take their first steps or graduate kindergarten, or go to prom...if I’m not here.

I can't experience the joy and sorrow in marriage if I'm not alive. I can't explode in laughter at the newest viral meme. I can't spend hours diving deeper into the wormhole that is Wikipedia. I can't marvel at my good fortune when the temperature hits 90 degrees on a Pacific Northwest summer day, and I can't curse the gods of weather when on that same day, I scorch my leg on a leather car seat.

As much as I know my mother will miss me, as much as I know my passing would affect those in my life, I can't stay just for them. It has to be about me. Don’t let other people be the reason you stay alive, because you'll find yourself unhappy time and time again when people fail you. Or, when you fail them (if you're anything like me). I've learned that when it's all said and done, I’m really all I have. And that should be enough.  

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Please take the time to seek out help if you or someone you know is struggling with this issue. 

If you are feeling consumed by suicidal thoughts or emotions, and/or additional resources are needed, please feel free to contact your local/national suicide crisis hotline. If you're in the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1 (800) 273-8255. In Nigeria and other countries, dial 800 5555 5522. If phone calls aren't manageable, there are online chatlines to help as well. For online chats, please visit this site (in the United States) or this one (outside the US) for more specific and localized information. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Accept Your Defeat

Are you happy? Can you look at yourself, your life, and your circumstances and say that you are really truly content? Are you negative? Are you feeling defeated? Have you faltered along the way?

This post might be for you. 

I'm not a guru or a life coach or an adviser. But over the past few years I've learned a few hard lessons that might help you out.

Learn to be content with where you are, but not comfortable. We must learn to accept the place we are in right now, so that we may have peace. But we cannot get comfortable enough with our current status that we remain in the same situation.

I say we, because I struggle with this reality daily. (I don't know if I'm writing this for y'all or myself, if I'm being honest.)

Let your frustration fuel you, but don't let it burn you out. Don't allow yourself to be consumed with defeat, depression, despair or discontentment with your circumstances.

I, for example, struggled for work after I left school. I wrestled with the idea of going back to school. After months of unemployment, frustration, anger and prayer, I finally found a full-time job. It wasn't in my desired field, but it was something I could do while I looked for something more professional.

I took the job. I applied for others. In my field, in any field. And time and time again, I got turned down. So I stopped. Told myself I was taking a break from applications.

Almost two years later, I'm currently still in the same position.

I got comfortable. I got complacent. I got nowhere. And I got mad.

I looked at other people achieving their goals. I saw people reaching the goals I was struggling toward. I realized that somewhere along the line, I had put my goals on hold while I worked to help others reach theirs.

I got so frustrated with myself that I became unable to focus on anything else. My unhappiness invaded my personal and professional life. I couldn't get through a single day without complaining.

But nothing was changing. Nothing was moving. Nothing had happened, except I had become the kind of person I can't stand to be around. I had become so negative that never actually got around to making the changes that would help me be happy.

So I decided to make a conscious effort to turn things around. It wasn't (and still isn't) easy. But I had to try. I thought about my goals. My dreams. I tried to map out the steps I'd have to take to reach them. I reached out to people doing things I wanted to, I made connections.

But before I was able to do any of that, I had to accept where I was. I had to accept that I had faced defeat. I had to accept that I needed help. I had to accept that I wasn't happy. And after I accepted those things, I became content with them. I embraced my defeats and my unhappiness. I celebrated the fact that I could recognize that needed help. And then I became content with the fact that it was all temporary, if I allowed it to be.

When I accepted my reality, and allowed myself to reflect without feeling shame, I became to act, and act purposefully. I put out applications. I revised my resume. I saved my money. I networked. I researched. I got turned down. I got denied. I got discouraged. And then... I started it all over. And over. And over.

As I write this now, I'm entering my last week of work in my current position. After almost two years of absolute madness, I finally got a job in my field. I got accepted into a (minor) program at a great school. And I'm over the moon with excitement. But I still struggle. I'm still not where I imagined I'd be. And I'm still trying to make it through the day without absolutely losing my whole entire Black mind at work. But I'm not where I was. And I'm content with that.

If you're like me and struggling with something that's hanging like a dark cloud over your life...let me let you in on a lil' something. It's something that I try and tell myself every day.

You are more than the sum of all your defeats. And you're going to do great fucking things. 

Now, let's go get started.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

For Colored Girls Who've Considered Moving Back Home After Graduation/ When The Curfew Is Enuf

Memorial Day has come and gone. Spring and summer are upon us, which means...summer break! Hooray! You made it through another year of classes, exams, tuition...and you're alive! 


To those of you who graduated, congratulations! To those of you going back again next year, pele. To those of you who aren't sure...welcome to the club.

Now that you've finished your exams, the real test begins. Can you make it through the next three months at your parents' house?

Sure, you missed Mom's cooking. You missed their internet. You missed not having to scramble for quarters on laundry day. You missed the sweet, sweet relief of a long shower with hot water paid for with other people's money. But can you survive being back under their rules after a year of freedom?

Unless you're lucky enough to have found a place for the summer, you're going to need to readjust to living back at home. And fast. As you pack up your belongings and tearfully part from your roommates...

Here are ten tips that have helped me get through the past few *redacted*.

Tip #1: It's their house. Not yours.
Their rules...rule. I know you're used to stumbling back to your dorm/apartment at 5am on a Saturday morning with a Smirnoff bottle in one hand and a bag of Cheetos in the other, but those days are over.

No more loud study groups that turn into louder Scandal parties. No more Margarita Mondays. No more bloody mary's and boozy brunches, Saturday mornings are now for church music and deep cleaning.

Tip #2: Drinking will decrease. 
It's just not good manners to be in someone else's house and drink until the closet seems like a good place to take a nap. This will be good, as you will cut back on hangover headaches. This will be bad, as dealing with parents is often a lot easier after a drink. Or six.

Flasks. Flasks are very important.

Tip #3: For my natural ladies, I know you've become accustomed to using grocery money to make DIY hair masks and hot oil treatments, but try not to flip out when your mom mistakes your avocado pre-poo for garbage...or worse, guacamole. She didn't watch that Hey Fran Hey video with you. (Also, if living with roommates hasn't taught you to label what you put in the fridge by now...girl, God bless.)

Tip #4: They may treat you like they did before you left for school. Or, they might get even stricter.
Obey your curfew. Yes, it sucks. Yes, you're (legally) an adult. Yes, I know parties don't really even get good until midnight. But, it's way easier to deal with missing a couple hours of dancing in the corner with your girlfriends (and your handbags) than it is to deal with your parent b*tching and moaning for the next week over you being 45 minutes late. 


Tip #5: Maintain your sanity any way you can. It's crucial. 

Find a job. Or a volunteer opportunity. Now, jobs aren't exactly falling out of the skies for all of us. So if the job search is yielding little to no results, find a hobby. YouTube, blogging, sewing, hair, nails, sports, working out...something. Find something constructive to do with your time...and hold tight to it.

Tip #6: Have a plan.
How long are you planning to stay? Are you back home for the summer? Six months? Two years? Sit down and have a (tentative) plan. Trust me, it's a lot easier being able to swallow being forced back into the sibling dish washing schedule when you've got an idea of just how long you'll be home. And T-R-U-S-T me, those plans will change. So be flexible.

Tip #7: Try and put things in perspective. 
You're an adult now, you (hopefully) have some understanding of the economy, the workings of the world and so on. It could be worse. Your parents could very well not afford to have you back home. You could have fallen out with them, and they may not allow you back home. You could not have parents. I mean, there are a lot worse things in the world than having to do chores again.

Tip #8: Be considerate.

You've spent a whole two semesters doing what you wanted, when you wanted. But now that you're back home, try and be a bit more thoughtful. Especially if your parents are nice enough to foot the bill while you're back. Hopefully this lends itself to you understanding why they complain when you take 30 minute showers. Or wash your clothes twice a week. Or forget to fill the tank. Or leave the lights on. Or blow-dry your hair with the music going and your flat-iron plugged in. get the point.

Tip #9: That taste of freedom that's still fresh on your tongue? Don't let it fade away. 
Go on vacations. Plenty of them. As many as your budget will allow. Whether it be week-long trips to a tropical beach, or a one-nighter at a local bed & breakfast, take some time away. Or just plan them in your head. Some times, just the thought of a vacation is enough to put your mind at ease.

And if all else fails...

Tip #10: Find a good group of friends. With apartments.


Here's to hoping you all have a safe and fun summer. Be sure to let me know which was your favorite tip! And if you've got any more to share, comment below, or find me on Twitter (@Chinaija)!

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's My Anniversary!

Today is our anniversary!

Well. Wait. Not our anniversary like...well it' Maybe it'd be better to start from the beginning.

On October 16th, years ago, on a cold windy day somewhere in America, a young girl was jejely entering the worst relationship she could ever imagine. But for as wrong as it was, it was so, so right.

To get the full picture, you'd need to go back before it's inception (conception?). So let's go back. I was a ripe old 19. And when i say "ripe old", I really mean "ripe old." See, from childhood, I had this idea in my head of what I wanted my life to be. You know, that pressure you put on children to determine what their life trajectory will be before you allow them to decide what they want to wear to school in the morning? Yeah, that. So while other children were smartly proclaiming they wanted to be doctors or firemen or weave sellers or whatever else, me I decided I wanted to be a mother. 

Imagine. Classroom full of children. Firemen. Doctors. Dentists. Teachers. And me. A mother. 

And not just any mother o! Mother of all mothers. After all, I'm a Nigerian. I cannot carry last, if I'm going to be a mother, I must be the best. First in class. Eight children. Biological. Adopt at least three more. Household run like nothing you'd ever see again. Sweet mother tinz. Best of the best.

And I wanted it all by 30.

You know how kids think 20 is ancient? Like, ask a seven year old how old they think their grandparents are. I just spent a week in Texas. My nieces straightfaced told me they figured their grandparents were like...48. know, old. 

When I told them I was 23 the look that glazed over their faces ehn, it's enough to make you really doubt yourself. Twenty-three is really, really old to a five year old. But at the same time, you can't help but look over your many...many years on this earth and examine what exactly you've done for yourself in that time. I mean really. It took this kid like a month to learn to swim. In almost 24 years I still haven't managed to master not getting a run in my stockings.

ANYWAY. I wanted to be super mom by the time I reached old age. Also known as 30 years old. And instead of to grow with and hold on to the dream as I got a reasonable person would do, I held on the age. So by the time I reached 19, I was PANICKED

I mean seriously. That's no time at all! Nineteen and not even a husband to speak of. All the steps that needed to be completed! Study your books. Meet a man. Meet a nice man. Study your books. Meet a nice Black man. Meet a nice, straight Black Nigerian Igbo Catholic man from a good family. Date him. Study your books. Hide him from mummy and daddy until he's ready to marry you. Introduce him to the parents as a friend, Engagement. Planning a wedding in and of itself takes at least a year if you want your mother to survive it. (All that, "You didn't invite Auntie Nkechi that you haven't seen since birth but she's my friend that I'm super close with and essential to my life and also maybe a governor's wife but is that important, no! Please, you want to embarrass me? You don't want my friends to come? You want me to die? You know God does not promise tomorrow!" takes at LEAST eight months) Then, marriage. babies. Babies on babies on babies. 

I was losing a race I hadn't even started!


So...there's a bit of my mindset. A bit of what I carried into my relationship. Honestly, I...I can't for the life of me figure why out it didn't work.

Nineteen. And in he strolled. If I'm being honest and generationally/regionally correct...crip walked into my life. All of everything that I didn't need. And yet, I dropped my guard, ignored the warning signs and gave in to the sound of what I thought was the ticking of my biological clock but in reality was most likely the drum beat of  the College Hill intro. 


I went through hell and back, and then back...and then back. It took me almost two years to get out of that relationship, and another year and some change to fully get over it. All because of what I thought I was supposed to be, supposed to feel, supposed to live. I was "supposed" to be a lot of things. I'm not actually any of them.

What I am is happy. Whereas this day used to remind me of my failings a girlfriend, it now reminds me of how far I've actually come. A few years ago you would have found me cowering under my sheets, groaning over what I could have, should have, or would have done differently. What should have, could have, would have gone differently if such and such had happened and if the stars aligned right and the chakras were...chakra-ing better that week or whatever.

Now, I'm just happy I'm alive. I'm happy that I made it through in one (mostly?) sane piece, I'm happy I was able to leave it all behind while still growing from it. I'm happy I learned I learned what love is not. I'm happy I learned what I can and cannot tolerate. I'm happy I learned to lean on God when things seem rough. I'm happy I learned to go to Him even when times are good. I'm happy for all the sad ass breakup songs and delayed-onset teenage ass angst and weird fights. I learned so much about myself. 

I learned that in the heat of the heat of the heat of the moment, I'm not above a low blow. I learned that I am extremely slow to anger, but once that match is lit...I'm taking the whole house down with me. I learned that I have little to no capacity for PDA. I learned that I have no interest in pet names. I learned that communication is absolutely key.

So for all the bad, there was so much good. 

Yesterday, Anniversary by Tony! Toni! Tone! came on the radio on my way back from work, and I was jolted into the realization that today is a day that used to mean so much to me. But instead of crying or trying to find a way to sneakily picture message a shot of myself looking like a visual interpretation of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" to my ex, I sat and laughed about how far I've come. And so I decided to take back my anniversary...and my happiness. For once and for all.


So today is my anniversary. Not "ours". Just mine. Because today is the day that started me on a journey to loving myself. On my own terms. At my own pace. And it's the best relationship I've ever been in.


Monday, September 8, 2014

I've Stopped Trying

I love trying. 

Such a beautiful word. Try. Say it, feel it fill up your mouth. Trrrrrrryyyy. Mmmm. Good, right? It’s like…your favorite flavor of doughnut, in word form. Delicious and yet, so, so empty.


Do you know what try means? According to Merriam-Webster, it can be either a verb or a noun, meaning an attempt to do something.

You know what that means in my life? Nothing. Zero. Like the hole in the middle of that your favorite doughnut (unless your favorite is like…jelly filled or something, in which case, leave this page immediately and never return. Savage.)


While it’s a lovely word, I find it all too easy to hide behind. I’m always trying. I try and get out of bed. I try and do my homework.  I try and write a post every week. I tried Kanye’s workout plan. I try not to speed. I try not to roll into my job’s parking lot blasting Wande Coal on a daily basis. I try not to be upset that Wizkid is really and truly stepping on each and every last nerve releasing cover art for this damn album and giving us a track list but NO. DAMN. ALBUM.


….I try a lot of things.

But I don’t seem to ever actually get around to doing them.

See, try is such a beautiful word, but like the word “sorry”, it doesn't hold a lot of weight. At least, not if there isn't any action behind it.

I often find that when I tell myself I’m going to try to do something, I never actually seem to end up doing it, most often because I get so caught up in the planning and the thinking behind it. I end up so overwhelmed by making an action plan that I never actually get around to the action. But dreams don’t work unless you do.

So I’m going to stop trying.

I have to start putting action behind my words.

I have to start doing.

So starting from today, I’m going to do. I’m going to eliminate the word “try” from my vocabulary. I’m going to stop making excuses, and start working. Less talking, more doing. I've found one way that helps me straighten my life out, is making lists. I'm a list freak. Everything in my life has a list. I find that when things are all up in the air, floating around in my head, that I can't concentrate. When I write them down and organize my thoughts, I can relax a bit. But I can't stop there. 

Now when I make my lists, I set a deadline for my items. If I want to clean my house, go to the gym and watch OITNB after work, I make sure they each have a time slot in my day. Each thing should be completed before I move on to the next. So far, I haven't been entirely successful, but the effort and the action were there. So it's a win in my book.

Quitting trying is probably the hardest thing I've done this year. Is there an AA for triers? Are there Triers Anonymous meetings somewhere close by? Is there a 12 step programs and TA sponsors available anywhere? I need help y'all.  Kicking this's not easy.

I will admit, I'm exhausted each and every day now. But I go to bed feeling a bit more fulfilled each night. I've quit trying, and it is so, so worth it.


What’s something you’re going to do today? Give yourself a task, set a deadline, and go for it! Let me know how it goes down below!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is Long-Term Love Still a Possibility?

First, I apologize deeply for my absence. Things have gotten a bit more hectic since my last post, and though I've wanted badly to come back and write, my timing and scheduling just always seemed to be off. *sigh* Pray for me y'all...between the craziness at my job (story for another day), school, family, friends, recovering from Boosie's release, Beyonce's concert and VMA performance, and waiting with bated breath on bended knee for that godforsaken Wizkid tape...I might don't make it. (#BringBackOurAlbum)


As for the actual subject of this post, it's something I've had on my mind for quite some time. I've had this post saved in bits and pieces in my Twitter drafts, my many composition books laying around the house, my notepad on my phone, napkins stashed in my purse...just...everywhere. After losing all my drafts a couple Twitter app updates back, I decided to go ahead and just put it all in one place, and publish it once and for all.

Over the past few months, as holidays flew by, and another cuffing season left many of us (read: me) un...cuffed, I've had the chance to have some very interesting conversations about love and relationships with family members and friends. You know, family reunions are prime time for those, "Nne, are you seeing anyone? ...No one? Surely there must be you want me to help you look?" type conversations.


Now, as much as I love being reminded that all my mates are getting married and most, if not all of my aunties were married or seriously involved by this time in my life and aren't I a bit behind and what of having children and yes, school is good but will books and degrees keep you warm at night and always #bridemaid never bride and woz d meaning of bae and...okay. Okay...let me chill. As much as I loathe those conversations, being around my family has actually allowed me the opportunity to talk out my feelings on a few issues. Mainly, as our biggest get-togethers centered around weddings, love.

Are we going to be able to find relationships like our parents? Do we even want that? Surprisingly, I was met with a lot of the same reactions. It dawned on me, maybe we're all facing the same reality.


Is long term, romantic love, the love we see in movies and in books, the love that's thrust into our faces when we turn on the television, is American/Western love a possibility for us, the children of immigrants?

Well...okay, I think that's actually a bunch of questions in one. Let me break it down into a few smaller pieces.

Are we capable of romantic love as we see it now? Can we build the type of relationships our parents have with the Disney/romantic-comedy ideologies we've been raised around?

Can we have our cake and eat it too? Can we be drunk in love off palm wine?


I don't think it's possible to achieve the same kind of long-standing relationships that past generations had with the mindset many of us have learned in modern times.

We can't have an "Ashton Kutcher meets Demi Lovato at the turn up function and first she friendzones him but then Demi meets Chris Brown she loves him, but he cheats on her with Karukacoo and she's sad and Ashton kisses her in the rain and tells her a funny joke and then they realize they were meant for each other all along and walk off screen and live long and prosper," type of relationship.

Or, if we do, it usually doesn't mesh well with the "Nkechi sat at home in her father's house and studied her books and learned all the best recipes from her mother and one day when she was in class with her head bent over a book, Emmanuel came and saw her and thought she was beautiful and had nice birthing hips so he called his elders and made an offer and then they got married and had you and that's why you must read your Bible so you can also marry" type of stories we were raised on.

There's a divide there that I just can't wrap my head all the way around.

And while the relationships our parents had/have are far from perfect, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of rom-com love is superficiality. Dizzying, dazzling, Hollywood ass superficiality.


Now, superficiality is all well and good. Everyone is entitled to a fantasy or two. (or ten, whose counting?). And standards are a given. But it seems we've come to think of our ideals as absolutes. We can't date men who are less than 6'9. We can't marry women who wear weave. We must marry Idris Elba, or at least his identical twin brother. We won't date big/skinny/dark/light girls. We can't be housewives, but we want to marry men who have no need for a working wife. We want career women but want to marry women who will stay at home with the children. We want, we won't, we want.


Now yes, we're (for the most part) young and able to be picky, but a lot of this superficial weeding out blocks us from getting to know people on a deeper level. And most times, when we find what we supposedly want, it really isn't what we need.

For example: when I was 12, I wanted Lil Fizz to be my husband and we were going to get matching back tattoos with Bible verses and love poems. Can you imagine what life would be like today as the (probably) ex-wife/baby mother of Jhene Aiko's fake play cousin?! My bridal colors were going to be baby blue and more baby blue. I....y'all remember going to dances/Asian photo studios where they would have the airbrushed graffiti backdrops? That was hot to me.


I was a trash ass kid, my God. My point being, the things we think we want now, aren't necessarily things we need. And a lot of the things we think we need now, are things we may eventually grow out of.

This post isn't to disparage or discourage anyone, simply to start a discussion. I think I'm stuck somewhere in the middle. I want it all, but none of it at the same time. I does that kind of love even work for a girl like me?

This notion of romantic, kissing in the rain type love really doesn't work well when your twist out is in danger of getting wet, and running your fingers through your girl's hair might leave her wig-less. Can a snapback brim shield two people from the elements or are my eyebrows going to wash away by the time I come back up for air?    (Side note. Have y'all ever seen a movie with a full black girl with non-permed hair who was getting segzual and a man ran his fingers through her hair? I always cackle whenever I see an actor try it, and then his fingers get so twisted in her new growth that he no longer knows if he's kissing her or sending gang signals through her scalp...but he still has to keep kissing her for sake of the scene so he just keeps his hand right behind her ear area. Cuz like....that would be me. That really would be me.)


I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments/concerns on this, and trust, I know I haven't spent much time discussing the merits/downfalls of a "traditional" relationship. That's because 1) I have no idea if this is something of interest to anyone else but me, and 2) I'm trying this new thing where I write things and actually publish them instead of leaving them in my drafts for 8 (eight!) months until nearly all my pop culture references are old, but then Beyonce saves you by giving you the performance of life and Jay Z tells you ( yes there were thousands of other people in that damn stadium but he was talking TO. ME. TO MY SPIRIT) to achieve your dreams and so you decided to go back to writing.

...As for me? Right now, I think I'll just continue to remix Beyonce lyrics until I forget that this woman gave me "Crazy in Love", "Dangerously in Love" and "Drunk in Love" and I woke up like this...***Baeless.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nigerian Parties: Then and Now, A Two-Part Series

Happy Holidays everyone!

With Christmas Day fast approaching, we're all gearing up to wind down with family and friends. The holiday season is bittersweet time for me, because as much as I enjoy spending time with my nuclear family (read: parents, siblings, and a few nearby cousins) I miss spending time with my extended family. 

And with what seems like the majority of my Twitter timeline leaving for Nigeria the past few weeks I must admit...I'm hating. Hard. I see y'all posting about packing and passports and parcels and I'm just...jealous. (Also, thumbs up for that alliteration, and another for me remembering the word alliteration! Alright freshman English!) 

So to cheer myself up, and those of us not lucky enough to be spending time with loved ones back home this year, I've decided to share a few memories I have from the best part of the holidays, the parties. I'll do it in two parts, this week discussing parties when I was younger, and next time, present day parties. 

Now, I touched on this very briefly a few weeks ago on twitter, but I've got a love-hate relationship with Nigerian parties.

I can remember going to them as a child, and being so excited to see everyone. The entire process of going to a party was just buildup of suspense and excitement. First, you had to hear about it. Usually from a family friend or parent, sometimes from another busy bodied child. Then I would pester my parents about their weekend plans and whether or not I had been good enough to go. I would carefully make sure all my homework had been done and my chores completed satisfactorily. No speck of dust or uncompleted math homework was going to keep me from a tray full of my Auntie’s meat pies.

Then, once I had received the okay from my parents, it was time to pick out my outfit. It didn't matter if it was the day before the function or a week before, as soon as my parents said we were going, I went to my closet. Sometimes, we were lucky and got to get new clothes for the party, but usually, I had my own pieces to mix and match and play fashionista with. Chei, if you could see my room those days, I don’t know if I thought I was Barbie or Princess Diana or Foxy Brown. I wanted to wear all my clothes to the party. Sometimes my mom would come in, at the last minute imagine, and try to “help” me pick my outfit. I don’t know which dictionary Nigerian parents learned from, but help means guide, not force.

I would have my outfit laid out, ready to wear. I would go and bath, washing carefully so as to not disturb my hair which had probably been pulled and twisted into some style by my older sister earlier in the day. After scrubbing up, I’d apply a generous layer of Vaseline, so as to look healthy. I don’t know what it is about Nigerians and shiny kids, but apparently a dry kid is a sickly one. Anytime we were to go out in public my mother made sure to smear our faces with “crème” so that people will know that we were healthy and well taken care of. I remember a friend of mine and I laughing years later as we shared stories and she told me how her father used to glob on the Vaseline on picture day so that they could send home pictures of their “healthy” children. Whatever shoddy doctors the British brought to Nigeria that told them health meant looking like a Thanksgiving Day turkey need to be brought to trial and made to answer for their crimes against comfort. But, I digress.

By the time I slipped and slid my oil covered feet down the hall (don’t ask me why I lotioned the bottoms of my feet…just…don’t.) and got back to my room, my mother would have changed out the outfit on the bed. Sometimes I’d "Risky Business" my way through the door just as she tried to slink out and I'd just stare at her. With respectful yet astonished disbelief. (Which meant I looked at the floor and tried not to blink because Jesu Christi if she even got in her mind to think I was rolling my eyes at her…*looks to the heavens*)

“That clothes doesn't look good,” she’d explain, pointing to the new outfit she’d picked. “Wear this one,” she said as she’d close the door and go check on the status of my little sister’s bathing.

Cheiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!” I’d mutter as I sank to the door. “This dress is not going to look nice! No one is wearing this! I don’t want to wear Nigerian clothes! You can’t play in lace!” I panicked. How would I run? How could I jump? I mean, when was the last time you saw someone win the Olympics in Vlisco? It’s not possible!

Mommyyyyy! This dress is itchyyyy!” I’d cry out, hoping she’d take pity on me.

YOU HAVEN’T EVEN TRIED IT, TELLING ME YOU’RE ITCHING! OYA, MA ISUGHI YA I GA ESO ANYI AGA (wear it or you’re not going with us)!” she’d answer. (Looking back, I don’t know why I tried that lie so often, like she was a new woman each time. She birthed me; I've literally known her my entire life. She didn't care if I was itchy or not, red tulle was just going to be the move that night.)

After fighting with myself (and my mother, in my mind) I got dressed and headed out, pulling on my stockings the whole way. …Which devil invented pantyhose anyway? And who was evil enough to make it in children’s sizes? Why? Why would you do that to us? What did we do to you? If Africans ever get reparations for colonization, I’d like to request that in lieu of currency, I’d like every pair of pantyhose removed off the shelves. Which royal do I need to talk to to make that happen? Does George have power yet? Or is it like the Lion King? Does Mufasa need to be sacrificed? Who’s the Mufasa of Windsor? Eya confusion dey.

After ripping my pantyhose in several places and sliding around on the cold leather seats of momsie’s old-school Volvo, we’d finally arrive at the function. And what a function it would be. You could always tell a Nigerian party apart from any other celebration on the block. Children would be milling about in the parking lot, playing games and running random 100 meter races around the block, until someone’s Big Auntie came and shut the fun down. Teenagers would be sitting on cars, making moon eyes for each other while chugging Fanta after Fanta. The sounds of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Brenda Fassie, Magic Systeme, Awilo Logomba and others could be heard down the street, willing mamas and papas to shake nyash from the car door to the dance floor.

If the party had a gate fee, there’d be a line of adults at the door trying to argue the price down, as if they themselves didn't set the price at their last meeting. All types of stories were told at those tables. “Ahn ahn! You see these children! They cannot feed themselves, you want me to starve my kids for dance party?” or “What is this? This price na Naira or dollars? Which president is here that you can charge this price?” One time I heard an uncle yell out, “Pahdin?! 20 dollars just to dance? Two-zero dollars? For simple party? I don’t have that kind of money!” he said, as if we didn't all see him pull up in a brand new Benz.

After muttering their way through the line, we’d shuffle our way through the crowd at the door and make our way to an empty table, all the while eyeing the food line. When it reached a suitable length, my sister and I would shuffle our way over to the tables, scanning each offering thoroughly before allowing any auntie to put it on our plate. It's not everyone who can make good jellof, you know. After snarfing down plantain and goat meat and sneaking a few sodas, we'd make our way outside. 

Now, I don't know if it's just the parties we frequented, or if it's a worldwide thing...but the parking lot at a Nigerian event is just a breeding ground for danger. Kids would be playing tag around the parked cars, teenagers would be sitting in or on said parked cars, and someone always ended up running straight into the street after a ball or to escape being "It". Or somebody got in a fight cuz some one's shoes got stepped on or tagged out too quickly or accidentally on purpose got mushed while getting tagged...

...inevitably right as some Big Auntie looked outside. Then we'd all get herded back inside and had to begin our fun inside.

Kids mehn, kids can have fun anywhere. We played in parking lots, bathrooms, waiting rooms, hotel lobbies.....churches (don't loud it)...anywhere we had enough space to play a hand game or throw a ball...or some one's shoe. Someone always lost a shoe.

I think that was my favorite thing about parties growing up. Besides the fact that I was surrounded by family and friends, good music and better food; I got to have fun with other kids who were just like me. I got to be carefree and throw my head back and laugh and tell stories to kids who wouldn't judge because we lived the same reality.

I miss that feeling. Being able to talk without fear of judgment, to laugh with abandon, to feel that sense of home, not because of where I was, but because of who I was with. I don't know if it's because of how old I am, or because of where I live, but things just aren't the same. I've spent years searching for that feeling and haven't found it yet. I'm left cherishing memories of events long past, and people long gone.

The holiday season is a time to reflect on and review the past 12 months and spend time with loved ones as the year draws to a close. It's a time to spread joy and happiness, to bond over nostalgia as you create new memories. Here's to hoping this finds you all well, and that you're able to find your sense of home this season.