“FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION HAS BEEN BANNED IN NIGERIA”
Lulu’s head bobbed to the sound of Kevin Gates’ Trap Girl, as she read the bottom thread of the news bulletin. She watched as the women danced around a male journalist in their midst. One face after the other she traced out the crow’s feet forming at the corner of their eyes, the creases from their laugh lines pushed into their cheek bones and their asses shake with each celebratory stomp their feet made. They looked so happy, genuinely, appreciative of the majority men that helped them achieve a right that was always theirs in the first place. It was laughable, ridiculously so. The mutilators were somewhere saddened that they wouldn’t be able to use their knives to case a few deaths each year, all female by the way, she thought. While here was a man who with just a stroke of his pen protected the woman’s sexual drive. They had it all wrong. It wasn’t the woman’s sexuality that needed to be controlled.
Her head quickly snapped to the right when she felt her earphones being pulled from her ear. She looked up and stared into her mother’s sunken, misty eyes. Lulu picked up the ear phone, with every intention of drowning out her mother’s words even before they left her mouth. But then her mother grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her to her feet. It was laughable actually, this woman who gave birth to her, mourning over a son she never bore. Her brow furrowed, her eyes slit and her lips curled up, her mother gave her the ‘do as I say or else look’. It was incredible what her mother had learned from the thirty year marriage she had with her husband. It was a pity that he had taken her mother’s beauty with him to the grave.
Her mother’s head covered with a scarf, hiding the evidence of her new beginning. New beginning, she thought as she chuckled. What they should have done is given my mother a new jaw, a different arm and a skin transplant. Instead the only thing she received from her thirty year of marriage is blame for not taking proper care of her husband and a razor blade to the head. Her mother’s cherished hair, fell around her face, one kinky chunk at a time. However, her mother had finally found her happy ending. Lulu wasn’t quite sure who to thank for that, God for finally elevating their oppressed lives or the tree her mother’s husband’s car wrapped itself around.
And now it was Lulu’s turn.
Her mother ushered her to a mat laid done in the middle of the elders. She looked around, her escape, her phone confiscated by her mother. An interrogation where the judge and jury where all men she had only met once before. They knew nothing about her or the man that had brought them together. Their voices buzzed around her ears like an annoying little mosquito that wouldn’t go away no matter how much she tried to wave it off. Salt and pepper hair thinning at the top, wrinkling skin and eye bags that drooped to their chins, brown teeth and blood shot eyes, voices and reason drowned in the beer they chugged down as water. Their brains rattled in their heads like a stone in a tin can. Nothing that they said made sense to her. However, that didn’t matter. Her gender dictated that she was the listener with no choice but to follow what her elders said.
It hadn’t been too long ago when this same group, sat down with her. At the time she had that man beside her, tightly holding on to her hand as if saying he would protect her from his elders. They didn’t glare at her in condemnation at the time, they praised her. Her beauty, her intelligence and how her hips were perfect for birthing. They never could find one fault in her. However, today those positives quickly turned into negatives. Lulu was not that precious flower they wished to pick from her father’s garden anymore. She was that girl who couldn’t give their family a descendant. Her beauty made temptations to other men, her intelligence allowed her to disrespectfully engage her husband in a battle of words and her hips, not a single child had come from them. There reasoning was she was either barren or she disgusted her husband to the point he didn’t want to touch her. They probably knew it was the other way around. He was the one that disgusted Lulu.
After three months with that man Lulu quickly discovered that romance needed to remain in the pages of the Mills and Boons books and that happily ever after only existed as words at the end of every story book. That man challenged her womanhood, loaded his sexuality to be superior to his. His wife was not enough to fulfil his sexual appetite, apparently. Lulu’s ego was bruised her heart broken. The silly girl inside her would have rather he raised her hand to her instead of embarrassing her in that manner. However, there wasn’t much she could do about it. Overnight, her prince charming had turned into a stranger. Nothing kept her in that home, other than the fact that his family had herded fifty cows into her family’s homestead. Her mother’s husband giving the world a final bow was also one of the things that had kept her from leaving that man. Her mother not having given birth to a boy, the son in law was the only man left in the family. For a while, Lulu resigned herself into playing the role that had been given to her as wife. Little did she know that her father’s death was like a rabbit’s foot? Two months later she was free.
A wife, her capability to play the role was now coming into question. Lulu loved her job as a Public Relations Executive. It brought in more money than the teacher’s salary her husband had brought in, and still the man dared to flaunt his arrogance before her. Lulu’s successful business didn’t allow her to take the weekends off. Her late nights didn’t accommodate sexual adventures. She did her part in the bed, to the best of her ability. However, that effort, thankfully, didn’t allow for a child to be conceived. His inability to present a descendant to the elders had become his point of shame, and Lulu’s cross. However, Lulu tried her best. But her best wasn’t enough. In a marriage, the wife gives, the husband takes. Her mother’s philosophy. Ignorant, to the point of stupidity, however that didn’t stop Lulu from loving the woman who had brought her into this male dominated and chauvinistic world.
It was time, Lulu’s mother helped her to her feet and led her to a different room. I’m not ready, Lulu cried inside. There was no escaping what was about to happen. All she needed was five minutes. Excused herself and ran into the bathroom.
Till death do we part, Lulu found herself looking forward to that part as her marriage dragged on. Her fists clenched, she told herself that it was a small sacrifice to make. She was going to embrace the traditional meaning of her hair being shaved off. She stood in front of the mirror and stared at her perfectly kept hair. Silky between her fingers as she caressed it, like one would tender to a new born baby. Her hair had been the only thing she looked forward to every time she went home. Her dresser was perfectly arranged, her leave in conditioner was next to her, essential oils that was next to the red lipstick. Her treasures, neatly kept beside each other. She would sit in the mirror hours on end, paying attention to the one person that mattered to her. That day she walked up to her bedroom, dog tired, looking forward to a moment with her hair. On her bed was that man and his latest conquest. The fact that they were sweating all over her cotton sheets didn’t bother her. Her glare was fixed on her vanity, her treasures toppled over. Her bottle of conditioner, broken on the floor, its liquid spread around it. It looked like a crime scene from a CSI episode. What she needed now was white chalk. Lulu’s handbag slid of her shoulder and dropped onto the tiled floor with a loud thud. Her feet dragged into the bathroom where she got a cloth to clean up the mess. It pained her to see a new bottle wasted. After disposing of the broken glass, she moved to the vanity, rearranging what they had bulled through in their lust filled coupling. Settled in the chair in front of the mirror, she shed her jacket, and removed the tie that held her hair in place. With her fingers she raked through her hair, enjoying the caresses her hair made to her flesh. It fell perfectly like black gold on her shoulder. She smiled in the mirror, proud of the accomplishment she made with her hair. Celebrating the long term, un-betrayed commitment she had with her locks. Subconsciously she reached for where the conditioner was supposed to be. That’s when she remembered. Her eyes trailed to where it had laid destroyed only a few moments before, her gaze lifting to two sets of eyes staring at her one bewildered, the other irritated.
The woman she was faceless. She could barely make out where her ear and nose were located. It was the man that sat behind her that she saw clearly. That face, she hated it each time her eyed closed to go to sleep, and when she woke the next morning, she often wondered how she could make its ugliness disappear from her life. Eyes closed she could pick him out of a crowded room. All she had to do was follow the pungent odor of his ego. How could he? He knew I worked late, he knew I don’t go shopping until the weekend. It’s Monday, what I’m I supposed to do about my hair now? Lulu looked at her watch, it was ten at night. She had no choice but to get another bottle. She turned back to the mirror and there their gazes locked. That was when she recognized it, hate, one that would live with them until the day one of them left this world.
Lulu chuckled, she had the last laugh. In the tiny bathroom, the sound of her victory bounced off the walls and echoed in her ears. Only one disappointment came from that man’s death, she couldn’t see his reaction. She wondered if he knew, wherever he was that she had won. The bathroom door cracked open and her laughter froze in her throat. A sigh of relief escaped her pouted lips. Her man, the other reason why letting go of her hair wouldn’t be much of a disappointment. Yes, she got off work late, six pm, and for the rest of the evening, he occupied her time. Her man understood the hierarchy of things in her life. Lulu came first, that meant her work, her hobbies and any other interests she hard, no matter how trivial they were. Her man understood that he would always come last, he was fine with it. He wasn’t as greedy as that man, and that was why Lulu didn’t mind losing a couple of inches off her treasured hair. Someone else stepped into the frame of the mirror, her mother. Her mother’s gaze wasn’t as adoring as her man’s. She chastised her with just one look. I won’t be you, Lulu promised herself. She remembered when her mother was sat in the middle of the women during her father’s funeral. His relatives hacked at her hair, each snip bearing an accusation that she had been a failure as a wife. Her mother hang her head each time she was around them. Lulu didn’t understand that self-depredating character flaw that her mother refused to shed. Was it wrong to hate a husband who cheated on you, beat on you, insulted you all because he believes he earned the right when her ushered a herd of cows into your father’s compound. Her mother did nothing wrong, Lulu believed. All she had done was set the table with her husband’s favorite drinks, help him put his coat on and handed him his car keys. Her mother’s husband hadn’t been gone ten minutes when a stranger rang their phone.
Lulu met her mother’s gaze, don’t judge me. All I am is my mother’s daughter.
Lulu walked into the room where she would be bidding a few inches of her hair goodbye. New beginning, she told herself. Like a baby born into this world, that had its hair shaved of as an initiation, or a way to welcome it into the world. Taking off all the hair the baby had in its womb and giving it a chance to grow a new head of hair. A second chance, a new beginning. Lulu grabbed a fist full of her black dress as her feet froze at the entrance. Facing it, seeing the lethargic, scowling woman who held the scissors like a weapon, in front her she hesitated. Maybe it wasn’t all worth it, that man dying and forcing her to bow down to traditions she abhorred. The idiot, even in death he was making my life miserable, she thought. A woman walked up to her, an ogre of a human being. A woman who worshipped her son more like a mother than a lover, completely obsessed and blind to his faults. There was absolutely nothing that monster did not criticize Lulu for. Even with her son dead and buried she still insisted that Lulu call her mother. That man’s mother, just didn’t know how much Lulu despised her and the man she brought into the world. Individually they were a nightmare, and when they tagged teamed on her, criticizing her work ethic, the state of the house and the fact that she hadn’t given his family a son to continue the blood line, it made murder come to mind. Lulu thought of this as a favor to the world. She didn’t give the man a chance to get her pregnant, permanently putting the break on that disastrous bloodline.
The woman held onto her hand, and it took every single ounce of Lulu’s self-control not to pull her hand away. It will be over soon, once she had her hair cut, she would say goodbye to that family. Not having children also meant that she wouldn’t be inherited by some other buffoon from that family. It was quite unfair. That a woman, all because she was married to an idiot, would have to be handed over to another moron, all because she made the mistake of not locking her knees together. In the name of protection of the deceased husband’s wealth and children, a woman’s hands are tied behind her back, or above her head as she is forced to take a brother, uncle of cousin between her thighs. True, it will all be over soon, Lulu reassured herself as her heart smiled. Move, she commanded her feet. The sooner she got her hair cut, the sooner she and her mother could leave that homestead for good. Lulu wasn’t even planning to glance over her shoulder, looking back and whatever had led her into their home in the first place.
She sat on the floor, the rush of blood in her ears drowning out the women’s somber singing. Her barber for the day, ran her fingers through Lulu’s hair. Instinctively, Lulu’s hand rose with every intention of slapping the woman’s hand away. But her mother knew her best, catching her by the wrist before she could attack. Through clouded eyes she caught her mother’s comforting gaze and reassuring smile, its okay, they said, it will be over soon, they promised. Her fingers digging into her knees, Lulu braced. Her eyes closed and the first mournful tear fell. Her ears rose, the sound of metal grating against each other, the warmth on her back as the barber woman came closer, snip, the cry of betrayal. Lulu opened her eye just in time to see her hair fall into her laps. Snip, snip, snip. Her eyes trembled in their sockets, her fallen hair glaring accusingly at her. She wanted to look away out of shame, but she couldn’t out of grief and respect. Her long term friend, the best and most successful commitment she had had in her entire life, come to an end. Lulu stopped her mother in law’s hand when she went to collect the hair that had formed a dark halo around her. The woman looked at her surprised, Lulu didn’t understand why. She took care of her son’s body before burial, never leaving his side until the moment they put him in the ground. Wasn’t it Lulu’s right to take care of what was most precious to her?
Wrapping her hair in the pink color paper she had brought with her, Lulu walked to the backyard. She breathed in the fresh country air telling herself it was useless to cry anymore. She crouched on the ground and took out a matchbox. Laying the wrapped paper carefully on the ground, she stared at it saying her last goodbye. Lulu struck the match and lit the paper. She watched as it slowly curled as the fire slowly consumed it. Turning the pretty pink into an ugly brown. She heard the slight crackled of her burning hair, as the stench wafted into her nose. This was how saying goodbye to something you loved looked like. Her back turned to the homestead, her eyes fixed into the darkness that held her freedom, her arms went around her, hugging herself as she silently listened and watched her hair rise in a tiny cloud of smoke, goodbye.
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