Conversation With The Barber IV

Previous haircuts   Conversation IConversation II, Conversation III

It was mid-April. The London weather finally acted on the memo it received 3 weeks before and allowed the sun to raise the temperature to just above 200C.

As is the norm, once there is any hint of sunshine, Londoners regardless of the actual temperature outside and their body shape, wear the skimpiest outfits they can find in their wardrobe no matter how inappropriate it looks. All in the spirit Carpe diem, for we know not when the sun will visit us again.

For me, it is my cue to shed my medium growth protective Afro in favour of a low-cut skin fade.  So, I went to the barber’s shop and as usual we have the most engaging conversation.

It was early in the day and the shop wasn’t very busy. It would be my turn after the lady in the barber’s chair. I sat down and waited my turn as I watched gospel praise worship video on the huge TV on the wall, streamed from YouTube.

He finished cutting the lady’s hair and I made my way to his chair. We greeted each other leaning in for a Bro hug before I settled into the chair and told him the type of haircut I wanted.

Our conversation as usual is in Igbo and a bit of Pidgin English:

Emenike (EM): So how are things? How is work?

Me: I am ok. Work is good, I can’t complain.

Em: That’s good.  You still dey do that thing?

I knew he wasn’t asking about my freelancing gig with the now disbanded B6-13, but I had to be sure.

Me: Which thing?

Em: You still dey sleep with man?

Me: Yes. I said I wasn’t going to stop last summer when you asked me; I confirmed it again last Christmas and the situation has not changed since you asked me last time I was here 4 weeks ago. Do you have a guy for me?

Em: He laughs. You are not serious. I will be praying for you. In fact come to my church….

Me: Is the Pastor fine?

Em: Yes now. He is a man of God.

Me: Doesn’t mean he is pleasing to the eye. Does he look like JJ Hairston playing on the TV screen?

Em: No.

Me: Invite me when he starts looking like JJ Hairston.

JJ-Press-Photo-2017

Em: You are not well.

Just then a lady with a pram tries to enter the shop but struggled to manoeuvre it through the door. Emenike abandoned my hair to hold the door open for her. She asked him if he had any other pictures of women with styled haircuts apart from those on the wall. He handed her a hairstyle magazine and she thumbs through while he returned to my cutting my hair. He was less than 10 seconds into cutting when, unsure of what haircut would suit her, asked him a question, followed by another question and yet another. All of which he answered politely. All through their exchange I watched her through the mirror, trying hard not to allow my indignation show in my reflection in the mirror – this woman was wasting my time! Eventually she left claiming she had to go to the cash point to get money to pay for the haircut.

Face palm II

Emenike returned to my hair.

Em: You were looking at her, are you interested? She was looking at you too.

Me: Looking at me in what way?

Em: She seemed interested in you.

Me: Really? What about the father of the baby in the pram? He might interest me more. Do you know him?

Em: This man, you are not well o!! Fine boy like you!! As manly as you are, you prefer men. Women will be dying for you. You need a woman not a man.

Me: I know!! It’s terrible, but then God knows best.

Em: This is not God. You need deliverance.

Me: Ok, I will come with you. But first do you have picture of your Pastor? Is he muscular? And I mean visible muscle,not muscle hidden under fat.

Em: God created Adam and Eve…

Eye roll

 This is Homophobia 101. Having that tiring logic NOT served up by Nigerian Christian folk during a debate about homosexuality is like being served Goat meat pepper soup without goat meat. Sacrilegious.

Me: Yup so you keep saying and yet here we are. God probably got bored and decided to spice things up. You and I have been here before…I beg sing another hymn; Quote another Bible verse. Meanwhile please trim my beard as well.

Em: If your father decided to sleep with men, you wouldn’t be here.

Another well-worn out pointless tired argument used by Nigerian Christian folk, which when not presented during such debates, is like serving Jollof rice without fried plantain –  Pointless!!

Me: You know gay men can get women pregnant, right? Anyway, we will never know. I am here, and I am queer, you will be fine in the end. Please don’t forget my eyebrows too.

Em: I will take you out clubbing one night where you will see many women. I am sure you will be tempted to take one home.

Me: Hmm… will there be men in at the club?  I would most likely take one of them home?

Em: How can? They will be straight. They will be into women.

Me: Oh so you think as you are here trying to convert me, there isn’t some other straight guy trying to convert his gay friend by taking him to the same club? If the gay guy is there and he his attractive I will fish him out. Hell, that is even too easy; I will take his straight friend home. But will we be going to the club after or before we go for deliverance at your Church?

Emenike Laughs. Then he gestures outside the shop window at the bus stop. There was a young couple standing waiting for the bus. She quite pretty and curvaceous and he was good looking too, fit but no bum.

 Em: The lady is fine with a nice ass. How can you not want to tap that?

Me: Quite easily. I am not attracted to her. Now if her boyfriend had more ass I could tap that.

Em: Crazy. Man to man is like Bone to bone….

Yet another worn out gem used by the Nigerian anti-gay brigade….and  I refuse to waste good Nigerian food similes on it. 

Me: Well I don’t know the kind of men you come across, but me I like them with flesh and better fine nyash (ass)

Convo Bum_3

Em: So you won‘t tap me, as I don’t have a big nyash? (Ass)

Ok, that threw me. No matter his sexuality, in my experience the most devastating thing you can say to an Igbo man (third after telling him he has lost his money and he is not well endowed) is that he has a flat ass. Emenike has a nice set of cakes which are proportionate to his slim frame, but by no stretch of the imagination has he got a bubble. Visible yes, but not bubble. And for me, it’s bubble or nothing. I had to break the news to him gentle, especially as he was about to shape my eyebrows and one slip, they could end up being asymmetrical.

Convo~_Bum1

Me: You have a nice ass for your frame, but I can’t tap you as you are a happily married man with young kids and what God has but together, let no dick put asunder. But I think women find a firm round bum attractive on men. If you do more squats in the gym, it will improve your already nice ass and your wife I am sure would be delighted.

Em: God forbid! What does a woman want to do with a man’s ass?

Me: For starters, something for her to grab hold of and a few other tricks to ginger up things in bed.  If done correctly, she could lift you a higher ground. But there is no time to go through details now.  I can send you a few links for you and your wife to go through and if you have any questions, ask me after you get your Pastor’s blessing.

Em: Yes, you need prayers.

And with that he finished off my hair. beard nicely trimmed and eye brows in sync, I paid and said good bye.

Who knows next time we could discuss the Joys of Anal sex.

Watch this space

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Dear Nigerian Homophobe II

Hello fiends,

I throway salute o!!

It’s been a minute.

In my previous  letter I said I’d try and help you look less asinine in the World Forum of Homophobes (Click here to recap). Not an easy task and I am under no illusion that it will happen in my life time. But as the saying goes “The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.

This one is directed at the Bible thumping ones among you.

In Chike Frankie Edozien’s brilliant memoir “Lives of Great Men” (or as I like to call it, “Naija Homophobes fear God – Stay in your lane or be run over), he said “……In recent times many Nigerians have embraced a rabid religiosity that veers towards conservative and literal interpretations of religious texts…..”Read More »

Coming Out – Mother’s Woe

“……Yes Mum. I am gay”

Those words knocked the wind out of me; like a sack of garri had fallen on me.

Chima. My son. Gay?!?

How?  

When?

“I can’t exactly explain the “How”, but I have been aware of my attraction to men for a long time now. For more than half my adult life and I have come to terms with it” He responded. A bit defiantly too.

And you didn’t you say anything?

“Mum”, he said calmly, “Growing up we never discussed anything related to sex. You and Dad never gave me the “talk”. Sex was a mute subject, but I knew what the expectation was. As a young adult coming to you with those thoughts would not have been well placed.”

“If you had said something, we could have gone to see somebody. A doctor; Maybe even the Pastor.”

“I don’t think it is a sickness and I don’t think you can “pray it away”. Believe me I tried” He said. “The feelings, for me at least, will always be there. However to act on those feelings is a choice. I have chosen not to repress them just to satisfy what society deems as normal. It would be living a miserable existence.”

“Did you try?”

“Yes, I did. It wasn’t for me. I was unhappy.”

“Maybe it was the wrong woman.”

“There were several” He replied.

“Jesus!” I exclaimed

There was a sermon on TV the other day, by an American Televangelist, I forget his name. The sermon was about homosexuality, I did not pay too much attention to it, as I thought it would never affect me. I wish I had. Now Chima my son, says he is gay.

“You know it’s a sin. You know what the Bible says about it.” I quoted a few Bible passages for him. He said he had heard it all before and quoted just as many if not more, Bible verses for me that advocate love and God’s compassion.

We talked some more. I told him I was worried for him. I was concerned about his well-being and future. It will be a lonely one. He assured he was fine and that he was far from lonely. He understood that the news would take awhile for me to process and that we will talk some more.

We hugged and he left for his house.

I cried. Not sure why. Mixed emotions. Was it because I know he will never get married to a woman, have kids and continue the lineage? Or that he went through this without being able to confide in me? His brother and sister have known for a long time. He told them, but he couldn’t tell me.

Had I failed in my duty as a mother? As a mother you want the best for your children. To protect them from harm; Pray that they grow up accomplished and be a continued source of pride to you but with this now, I am not so sure.

How do I explain this to my sisters? His cousins? My in-laws will say it’s my fault, that I should not have shunned our cultural values when raising him. Now they will say he is an efulefu – a worthless man, because he has no children.

There were no signs. He does not present the stereotypical effeminate look used on Television to portray gay characters. He is quite the opposite; he is manly and ruggedly handsome just like his father. Or maybe there were signs when he was growing up and I ignored them.

I remember when he was 3 years old his father and I lived in England then. We used to take him to a child minder to look after him while we were at work. The first one we took him to had a daughter around the same age. We thought it would be good company for him as he would have another child to play with. He did not take too well to that child minder and would not look forward to going there in the morning.

We found him another one. This one had a son, Simon I think his name was. He was about 4 years old. Chima got on well there and would look forward to going. Whenever we approached Simon’s house, you could see him looking out the window waiting to catch a glimpse of Chima and I coming down the road. As soon as Chima walked through the door, Simon would take his jacket and put it away and take him over to his toy dinner set and they would play. Little boys don’t play with dinner sets. Was that a sign?

As a teenager in Nigeria, though he played football with all the other boys in the neighborhood, he was not crazy about football like his father or any sport for that matter. Instead he would watch TV soaps like Dynasty and Dallas. But there were hardly any gay characters in them.

He was into the popular music artists and their videos at the time – Michael Jackson, Prince, Wham, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Tina Turner (But come to think of it , he spent lot of time watching Tina Turner walking in the music video “What’s Love Got to do with it?” I thought he was admiring her legs. But most of his mates liked these same artists and they turned out ok. They are married with kids. What happened to him?

He was a very obedient child. As a teenager he did not give either his father or myself any trouble. While his mates were causing trouble for their parents, like staying out past curfew; selling their mothers’ jewelry to fund parties or what not; Driving the family car without permission and being generally irresponsible, Chima was very level-headed and attend to his chores and school work. He was very helpful when his younger siblings arrived and could be trusted to keep things in order while we were at work.

My friends had only high praise for his behaviour and would frequently congratulate us on how well-mannered and responsible Chima was.

“Why can’t you be like Chima?” They would say while meting out punishment to their errant children. I am travelling to Nigeria in a few days and they will ask after him and when he is getting married? How can I tell them he is gay? What will people say when they find out? I bet they wouldn’t wish their children were like Chima now.

But I should have suspected something was amiss , when in the last 20 years he has not introduced any lady to us, not even as an acquaintance. Always men.

Maybe growing up I was too strict with him having female friends coming round to the house. I didn’t want any problems with an unwanted pregnancy. There was an Igbo girl from his university he was close to and she used to visit during the holidays. She was very beautiful and was studying Economics or something similar. I made some discreet enquires in case they were going to get serious as she had marriage potential. I found out that her family was OsuSocial outcastes. I discouraged their friendship. Is that what caused him to swear off women?

Was he born that way or was he turned gay? I know the bible abhors it and it is not in our culture. But he is my son; my own flesh and blood, my firstborn, I cannot disown him.

I will keep praying for him. With prayer and faith, despite what he says, he will change. Or at least be chaste.

God will do it for me.

 

Coming Out

“…Mum. I am gay”.

How did we get here?

You are gay. You have known for more than half your life. You struggled with it at first but you are at peace now. But you are also a Nigerian; culturally both don’t inherently go well together.

You grew up in a moderately Christian home – your mother being the fervent church going parent and your father being phlegmatic about the whole Church going thing.  Sex was a taboo and any talk or depiction of it was frowned upon. “Children came from God and He provided them strictly only within the Holy sanctity of matrimony.

In your early teens you learned about sex from straight porn supplied by very resourceful mates. When you watched it, your attention seems to be focused more on the male form rather than the female one, but you thought nothing of it. You regarded it as normal. And when you took matters into your own hands, it was the male form that nourished your imagination.Read More »

It Takes A Village…..

“It takes a village to raise a child”

Villlage children

I love this African saying and its practice in the community has huge benefits to a child’s formative years and indeed all the way into adulthood. But like everything in life there are disadvantages.

Everyone in the community contributes in whatever way they can to the child’s upbringing, from looking after the child for a few hours while the parents are away; Collective admonishment when the child misbehaves, then pleading for the child when punishment (flogging) is about to be meted out by its parent; To giving advice on and approving choice of schools and career path and so on.

However there is payback. Read More »

Hell or High Water – A Short Film

A few days ago, a friend sent me a YouTube link to this Nigerian gay-themed short film titled, Hell or High water  presented by The Initiative for Equal Rights (TIERs), a Nigeria based NGO.

Though the film is only 30 minutes long and void of the usual Nigerian gay stereotype characterisation, it is quite incisive, emotional and audacious in addressing a topic considered very taboo in Nigeria. It was also brave of the Nigerian actors who did a stellar job in delivering the various emotions in the film, knowing only too well the assumptions most viewers would make regarding their sexuality and the impact it may have on their respective careers.

It is a long road to stamping out legalised homophobia in Nigeria. But like TIERs, I hope this short film kick starts the journey by instigating intelligent conversation (albeit initially laden with vitriolic homophobia) about recognising and accepting homosexuality across in Nigeria.

Please enjoy and catch the moment the Pastor’s wife alludes to wanting to get fellated.

Conversation With The Barber III

Previous haircuts – Conversation I & Conversation II

Tired of looking like I was auditioning for the title role in the sequel of Django and also tired of my mother thinking I was heading to Turkey to cross the border into Syria, the other week, I decided to have a long overdue haircut and a beard trim.

The following conversation took place with my barber, Emenike. As usual it was in Igbo language.Read More »