IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

singles 23I parked and climbed out of the car with a sigh. I’m not sure I can ever get used to this crazy Lagos traffic, especially around rush hour. I like the vibe and energy of the city as well as the fact that there is always something going on somewhere to catch my fancy, never mind that it often took a huge battle with traffic to get to most places. I am eager for this six-month training to be over so I can return to the relative calm and peace of Abuja. I miss the fact that I could lie in bed till 7.30 or even 8am, wake up, shower and dash to the office in time for the official 9am resumption of work. Here in Lagos, if I dare to leave the house anytime after 7.15, I am guaranteed to spend at least two hours sitting in snarled traffic. This usually means waking up shortly after 5am!

I walked into the bar where Jide was waiting; he smiled when he saw me. He has such a cute smile. He has large white teeth which makes him look even more handsome whenever he smiles. We shook hands and I sat down. We were soon engrossed in deep conversation over drinks.

Jide and I met three years ago when he was a corper in Abuja. We had actually sorta, kinda dated for a few weeks before he confessed that he really wasn’t the dating type as he could never see himself being faithful to just one man. I was deeply hurt then, as I had grown to have deep feelings for him; the sex was good and he was always ready to give it in abundance. He had said to me then, “How old are you now? 25, 26? Well, one day your tight pretty ass will sag, your firm abs will grow soft, and one morning, you’ll wake up and realize that men no longer want you. Just make sure you’ve fucked your fill by the time that happens.”

His words had sounded so funny that despite my sadness at his revelation, I couldn’t help but burst out into uncontrollable laughter. From then on, we had become really good friends, more like brothers (or sistas, as I liked to tease him). We could share a bed for days and no thoughts of sex would cross our minds. When he was horny, he called me and I hooked him up, and vice versa. After his Youth Corp year, he remained in Abuja for a few months hunting for a job, but all he got were promises upon never-ending promises, especially from men who sought to take advantage of his jobless situation and exploit him for sexual purposes.

Eventually, he decided to pack up his things and move back to Lagos where his family lived. “At least, there’ll always be food in the house and fewer bills for me to pay,” he’d said. “I can’t afford to live in this outrageously expensive city without a job.”

So, one cool morning, I climbed into a cab with him to the bus station where he boarded a bus back to Lagos, and a few months later, he managed to secure a job with a media company. He thoroughly enjoyed his job and seemed to be rising very fast. In just two years, he was promoted to head of a unit. We still got to meet up every few months when he flew into Abuja on some weekends or when I was in Lagos. I thoroughly disliked the city and was always in a rush to leave whenever I was there. Jide always teased me: “Lazy Abuja girl, its 5.30 am, you no go wake up, hian! You dey lucky say you no dey Lagos, dem for don query you tire for late-coming.” And I would hiss into the phone, “Bitch please, I’m still in bed, I need my extra two hours of sleep, I have to look pretty and fresh-faced always, unlike you stressed out Lagos bitches.” And he would taunt back, “Abuja Queen, rest! We don see you, Madam beauty sleep.”

My worst horrors were confirmed when, a few months ago, I arrived at my desk to find out that I had been selected to undergo an intensive six-month training at our Insurance Company’s headquarters in Lagos. I was speechless. How on earth was I going to survive six months in that choked, congested, humid, steaming urban jungle? The fact that it was only six months long was very little consolation.

Later that night, Jide stuck his tongue out at me when we skyped and I gave him the news. “Calm down joor, it’s not that bad. Besides there are way more clubs and way more boys here, you will get to make your pick from a wide variety of men. It’ll be fun, you’ll see.”

I arrived Lagos shortly after and commenced training. It was hectic and often required long hours. So I hadn’t had time to meet up with Jide, who was also insanely busy with work. On this Friday evening, we had decided to have an after-work hangout. “Just us girls, a sistas hangout, then later we can hit a bar or club for a bit.”

Jide turned twenty-nine a few weeks ago. And from his accounts, his party had been one of the hottest in the “gaybourhood”. According to him, he had guys from as far away as Benin at his birthday. The party had been at the home of his expatriate friend, who lived in a large duplex with ample grounds and a swimming pool. The party had been hot and raunchy. “Just the way I like it,” he said with a salacious wink at me as we sipped on our drinks.

On the morning of his birthday, however, his parents came into his room as he prepared for work, it was barely daybreak. They sat on his bed, gave him some words of advice and prayed for him. Then his mother said, “Jide, we thank God for a hardworking and obedient son like you. You have never given us any trouble or heartache. Today, you are twenty-nine years old. Thankfully, you have a good job with good career prospects. Your father was only twenty-seven when he married me, after three years of courtship. By the time he was your age, you were already born, and shortly after that, your two sisters. We think it’s time for you to settle down with a good, homely woman who will bear your children and help you in building a good home. Jide, your father and I are getting old and we want to play with our grandchildren before we leave this world.”

Jide’s heart sank as the blood drained from his face. He was sure that if he had been light-skinned, the paleness of his face would have been clearly evident. He had always known that this day would come, but no matter how prepared he thought he would be, the impact still hit him like a speeding truck loaded with rocks.

Jide had no interest in females. All he knew was that he liked men and it had been so from as early as he could remember. He began exploring his sexuality in his senior secondary school days with a young youth corper who was posted to his school then to teach. They were drawn to each other and became friends. After school before he went home, Jide would stop over at his house to watch some TV and hangout. One day, the corper – Marcus was his name – had looked mischievously at Jide, and then popped a pornographic disc into the DVD machine. As he watched the muscular, well hung, black men heave and grunt on top of the moaning and screaming mostly-white women, Jide developed a huge hard on; even then he was focused mostly on the sexy black men, largely tuning out the moans of the women. Marcus had noticed his hard-on and felt it with his hand, and slowly, one thing led to another. After Marcus, there was a string of other guys – some students from his school, other corpers and other guys from elsewhere. In his second year in University, he fell deeply for a medical student, but the relationship fell apart after they graduated and went their separate ways. In the university, he had attempted to have sex a few times with a girl he was dating, but it was an experience he preferred not to remember.

Eventually, Jide realized and accepted his sexual orientation for what it was. He came to embrace and thoroughly love his wild, gay side. He became adept at hiding his sexuality from the outside world by using his busy schedule as an excuse for his inability to maintain steady relationships with females.

At this time, as the bustle of the joint swelled around us, Jide was wearing a worried expression on his face as he continued narrating his story to me. Apparently, his mother with the active support of his father had decided to be proactive. She had been making serious enquiries about a suitable wife for her eligible son who was ripe for marriage and who had a bright future. Eventually, her efforts had paid off as she finally found a “lovely wife” for her beloved son. The young woman was a fresh graduate of Accounting and was currently carrying out her National Youth Service. She had expressed a desire to proceed to Canada for an MBA, her parents were willing to finance her education, but were keen for her to get engaged or married before her studies. Her parents were well-to-do, and had met Jide’s parents, whom they genuinely liked and got on very well with. Everything went as planned, all was set up and the only thing left was for Jide to meet the girl. Fadeke is her name. Jide was expected to meet and court her for a few months and shortly thereafter, the traditional wedding, as well as a lavish showy white marriage ceremony would hold. His mother was already making serious wedding plans including aso-ebi colours, reception venues, number of guests et cetera. She had said to her son, “You don’t have to worry about a thing, we will package a very colorful and lavish wedding for you, my son. Fadeke’s father is a successful businessman. Between the two families, we can easily put down ten million naira for the wedding.” His mother looked so excited. In her mind, she was already envisioning the flamboyant wedding ceremony with hundreds of guests, the bright colourful attires, and having all her friends from all over attend the lavish nuptials.

Jide bit on his straw and continued, “Ugo, I honestly don’t know what to do. I love my mother so much. My parents have always been there for me and my sisters. But the truth is I honestly don’t think I can develop love and affection for a female. I am simply not wired that way. I frankly can’t stand the sight of a pussy, the thought of having to fuck it continuously repulses me.”

He was considering applying for a visa to Australia and fleeing there, for he had heard that the Australian embassy was more willing to grant visa applications than the American or British Embassies. He was anyway not willing to go to England, he had lots of relatives there, he had visited once and had found that his trip was taken up by numerous cousins and uncles and aunts. He knew that relocating would mean giving up a career he loved, friends and family he genuinely cared about and facing an uncertain future in a strange new land where he could never be sure what he would encounter. Above all, he worried about the devastating consequences his actions might have on his dear mother.

A few of his friends had suggested hooking up with lesbians, but the thought of that height of deceit turned him off from the whole thing. For the first time since I knew Jide, he was downcast and forlorn, he had lost his usual bubbly personality. That had been replaced by a deeply burdened man.

I also felt a flicker of unease because I was only two years younger than him. But unlike him, I was not an only son. I had two older brothers; the eldest was married and had two kids, while my other brother had a fiancé and was getting set for his wedding in about six months. There were already some funny comments by relatives about why I never attended any family event with any female company. It was mild banter and I simply laughed it off. I knew that as the years went by, the spotlight would be beamed more intensely on me. But I preferred to push this thought aside and leave it for a future date. Jide, however, did not have this luxury; he was the eldest and only son. The dynamics of his family greatly differed from mine.

I tried everything I could to cheer my friend up, but it was obvious that he had changed irreversibly. The evening eventually ended, but not on the happy note I’d anticipated.

Since that day, I have been doing a lot of intense soul searching about what it really means to be gay in a homophobic and conservative country like Nigeria. It seems to me like being born gay in Nigeria is an almost automatic guarantee of constant unhappiness. If – like me – you are an early bloomer, who realized at a very young age (in your early teens or younger) that you are different, you battle with feelings of guilt and confusion; isolation and depression are soon your steady companions. If you are a late bloomer (perhaps in your twenties or thirties), chances are you might escape the severe depression with which the early bloomers are beleaguered by reason of your greater maturity, however, you are likely to grapple with the psychologically exhausting burden of living a double life. The end result: true happiness will be far away from you as you keep up the charade of a happy marriage or heterosexual relationship while suppressing and desperately hiding your “gay tracks” and living with the perpetual fear of ever being found out. I have a few friends in their forties and fifties who resisted societal pressure and remained single rather than succumb to living a fake life they couldn’t stomach. I honestly can’t really call them happy; they face constant criticism and torment from society, one has even lost a previous job because his then boss could not understand why a 44-year old man was unmarried and childless. It was clear that his boss hated him for his effeminate and lonesome ways, and had simply entrapped him with impossible deadlines which he predictably failed to meet, following which he had fired off a recommendation for the termination of his employment to the board of directors.

Ever since my discussion with Jide, I am increasingly starting to believe that it is impossible to retain your happiness and emotional wellbeing as a gay man in Nigeria, especially once you approach your late twenties and thirties. No matter how closeted you are, you will eventually be outed, not by what you do, but by what you don’t and aren’t doing.

I’d like to have your comments and thoughts on how to assist and advice my dear friend Jide. It’s heartbreaking to watch such a bright handsome man, who is additionally good in bed, be slowly destroyed from the inside out, all because of an intolerant society which is unprepared to support any form of diversity.

Written by Khaleesi

24 thoughts on “IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

  1. This is depressing, and every gay man would eventually face this. On the one hand, if you Damn them and remain single it will be interpreted as callousness. Bearing in mind also that being single into your 40s is considered abnormal in these climes.

    I will be 28 in a few months and getting older has done one thing for me: it has taught me to be selfish. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it has taught me to do only the things I enjoy, to write my own script. So I script, produce and direct the movie that is my life without allowing someone turn it into some horrible nollywood movie. I have dated women, they don’t repulse me but I will not be part of a sham marriage to an innocent woman. Since I am not really fond of kids, I’m guessing it will be just me and three German shepherds always.

    Now even if your friend was going to get married, he should not give his parents the satisfaction of planning everything including picking the bride. He should decline, and tell them he will marry, but not this girl. Start to assert yourself.

  2. Perhaps, he should consider that lesbian faux relationship ish. Becos, in my opinion, he doesn’t have the luxury of being turned off by the deceit implied by ‘dating’ a lesbian. After all, going ahead with this marriage would be the worst kind of relationship deceit.

    • If I could find a good-natured,straight-acting lesbian who is looking for a cosmetic marriage,I aint even gonna lie; I’ll scoop her up b4 another lucky gay niggah(who is also under immense pressure to get married and doesn’t want to hurt his family) finds her!

  3. This is my worst fear. But I’ve promised myself that I will only get married to a woman who knows about my sexuality and can afford to live with that.. I’ve dated a girl who knew about my sexuality and still loved me very much and No, she is not a lesbian. But am still very young and am not sure am going to mary her so hopefully, I’ll find someone like her and slightly better because her wahala sef na wa! Lol.. Anyway, I really sympathize with Jide. I totally understand what living a sham life can be. Am a ladies guy. Lots of ladies come around me a lot because well, as “THEY” say, am cute.. Lol.. And most of these ladies want something more than just friendship.. If I don’t give some of them what they want, everyone starts asking questions. I have lots of straight friends cos of work and anytime we hangout, they are always like, “Micky that girl dey look u. Go talk to her na”.. This happens so often and I am always repulsed but most times, I keep up the charade cos I just can’t stay away from these guys.. We must always meet.. Only if they knew about the real me.. Lol

  4. I am subtly going thru Jide’s problem. I’m a first son. But I’ve told myself I won’t live a lie just because I want to make family happy. In the end, it would be about me when they’re (parents) gone. I plan on going to start a life outside Nigeria, hopefully the farther I am the less talk, but that doesn’t remove the sadness that I have to cope with cos they don’t just understand who I am!

  5. Hey y’all. I’m an only son. Will be 25 in November. And I just signed a deal with my folks 15months from now I’d be hitched. I’m not sad. Rather I look forward to it. It’s all bout ur mindset. I believe. Peace y’all

    • umm, wow! thats mighty brave of you! I sincerely wish you find happiness with your “deal” with your folks. But, arent you, a little too young to get hitched, marriage is serious business ooo. At your age, you should be enjoying the peak of your “wild,loose and awesome” years, I do hope you wont feel you’ve missed out by the time you’re hitched and its too late … Think hard over it and always put YOU first!

  6. I chuckle when gays say they don’t want to marry if they’ll end up cheating on the “poor clue less” lady. In a way, they kinda see it as black and white. Marry and never cheat on your spouse or never marry and keep screwing men.
    Here is the thing, its never black and white. Even if you were heterosexual, you probably would cheat on your spouse and vice versa. Marriage is tough and not the Hollywood fantasy its been made out to be. If your parents are/were truthful to you, they’ll probably tell you they’ve stepped outside their marriage, the husbands most especially.
    Now I’m not advocating promiscuity, god forbid, no. I’m only saying its time to be a realist and not peg it under the black/white category. Its one thing if you can’t stomach the sight of a cunt but for those that can and do have occasional Sex with women, even if it was years past, what’s the fuss? Settle down, get married, live your life, have kids, love your woman and if you’re pretty smart enough, live your gay life as minimal as possible.
    We look at the way the western world are living theirs, out and free but we forget the way they lived it when it was all oppression and kill the gays era. Kinda the same way a lot of married gay men are living it now.
    Tell your friend to battle his depression by having a talk with himself, a good long gut wrenching talk seeing as shrinks are a no no in this part of the world. After that, I’m pretty sure clarity would set in.
    Remember, battle the depression first and everything would fall into place. I should know, i battled mine and won.

    P/S : This is like the 5th or 6th time I’m commenting. Felt i should announce it since some guys are announcing their first comment. They might be a prize they’re collecting, no?

    • Hi Colussus, while you make some valid points, something about the tone in your comment comes off as somewhat condescending. As though those “gays” who choose not to marry based of fidelity is not legit enough. While certain things can be looked at in shades of grey, others are black and white. Cheat or don’t cheat. Steal or don’t steal. Blurred lines would only give room for personal (mis)interpretation and probably leave things messy (like what is the yard stick for a minimal gay life?)
      I don’t think that the fact that I can stomach a cunt every once in a while (I can’t by the way) would/should be enough reason for anyone to marry, unless you can tell my spouse this is who you are in totality. And he or she agrees. I won’t advise you get into it otherwise. But what are the odds we find people who know the true us and are still willing to slug it out?
      Like you said, Khaleesi’s friend should have a long hard talk with himself and decide whatever path he would like to travel on. Neither of them would be easy. But just as long as he trusts his gut. I’m sure he’ll be okay.
      Personally, I don’t see myself getting married. I like to believe it has nothing to do with my sexuality though. Like Dennis, give me a nice house and a couple of German Shepherds and I’m good to go.

      • Yeah it was slightly condescending, a hereditary problem I’m working on.

        It all still boils down to choice on how any one individual decides to proceed, a ‘solution’ per se that brings the most minimal discomfort to all parties involved. Some prefer the house filled with great loyal dogs, some others want one filled with men while some others want the wife and kids. Whatever each man can stomach, he braces up and powers through. Like someone said on this comment thread, every man has his cross, living a gay life is ours. At least in this country.

  7. There is no simple answer to this. But we all know what the choices are. First, he can stay single and endure the lashing tongue of society for the rest of his life. Second, he can marry a straight girl and endure the marriage. Third, he can marry a lesbian. Maybe there are other options but they aren’t too far from these. From the write-up, none will make him happy because he doesn’t feel comfortable with any of these. The fact of life is that most people are currently enduring terrible situations and yet they are able to laugh and go on. Life will give everyone a cross and for the homosexual, his sexuality is his cross. Anyone who is waiting for his life condition to be perfect before he or she can reward himself with happiness will wait forever. Like they say, happiness is a choice. It is an inside job.
    Tell Jide to face the facts. Time waits for no man. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he should make a decision (not like he can escape doing so) and DECIDE TO BE HAPPY WITH IT AND WITH HIMSELF NO MATTER WHAT.

  8. Has anyone ever thought about surrogacy? The end justifies the means – I think – its the reason why parents pressure us into getting married in the first place; so they can carry their grandkids before they die

    So for those not wanting to live the lie, how about you find a surrogate and skip the whole marriage charade and become a single dad. Of course you’ve got love kids first and foremost as well as keep the whole surrogacy thing hush-hush.

    So worse case scenario, you tell them you got a girl pregnant but she did not want to get married or have a baby. You asked her to keep the baby and leave the child for you and go her own way once she’s stopped breast feeding.

  9. This problem is indeed a deep and complicated problem.

    I don’t think any gay man who is not married to a woman or who is not still single at the age of 60 is competent to advice Jide on this.

    I’m 32 now, still single, looking younger than my age, and the pressure from my family is still subtle. I know the pressure will intensify with time. Yet I can’t say I have a viable strategy with which to handle the pressure when it does get more intense.

    So, at the risk of writing like a deplorable theorist, I’ll say Jide has these options:
    1. Get married to the lady and live his life one day at a time. Life with the woman may not be as horrible as imagined. Even if it turns out to be that horrible, oh well…
    2. Explore the lesbian possibility. (I too am currently entertaining the thought ) or
    3. Reject the lady, insist on choosing your own wife. Keep being choosy for many years just to buy time. (though this would mean postponing the evil day ) or
    4. Tell them you are not interested in getting married. The heavens may or may not fall. But then life will be boring without challenges.

    There you have it. My 10 kobo’s worth of advice to Jide, to everyone else here, and to myself as well.

    I must add that it is a serious mark of selfishness to get married to someone you are not physically and emotionally attracted to, especially when that other person is in love with you. I’m not talking about restraining from marital infidelity here. I’m talking about that particular species of deceit that seeks to use others as human shield. What kind of value will both parents pass to their kids? I shudder to think about it.

  10. You think yours is bad? How about mine… Only child, only son and getting tips already from my mom about marriage irrespective of the fact that I just turned 22. The thing they hungry my parents especially now we moved to the USA. My mum keeps chipping in marriage every now and then and even said by 25 she wants me to be married. 25! Fucking 25! I can count the number of times I have had real sex on one hand and I wouldn’t even finish the fingers. My plan was to come to US, go for my masters, meet a fucking awesome guy and have a surrogate even if we don’t marry but with the way things are going eh… na only God go save person. I just pray my mum has another child so she can take her obsession off me for a bit.

      • She has definitely reached menopause but with the huge advancement in medicine, that doesn’t really matter anymore. Moreover it is just a wish I have which may never come to reality.

  11. I’m gay and married with 3 sons.i love my wife and she loves me.d only time I feel repulsed is when she does something wicked or unreasonable but aside from that, we are cool

  12. I feel u feel u feel u big time!!!! Was just like jide but u got over it coz I was first son and had a junior step brother who was gunning to always challenge my first sonship so that helped in giving me a tough skin and consciously wanting a female to Marry and dat u did with a doctor!!! Who u bless God that sex is not a big deal with!!!

  13. well, it can be a depressing state to be in. Early bloomers (me included) already face a constant moral compass dilemma, so when your family start pressuring it really just makes the shit (sorry for language) hit the fan.
    I don’t think it’s a matter of fidelity of the marriage itself but the fact that to cover up (which you’ve been doing like forever) yourself, one would be be taking a life time lie in that direction.
    Then again, Jide, I honestly cannot tell you what to do because you know your situ best, but hopefully, whichever one you decide, brings you happiness and rest.

  14. Am an only child and gay which is really….. but my mum is quite calm about this whole marriage thing. she prefers I graduate, get a job, work for sometime before marriage which is not going to be accomplished before my 35th birthday….

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