Dinner with the parents wasn’t exactly Ade’s ideal idea of passing the Friday night, but on this occasion, it was somewhat unavoidable. For quite some time they had been accusing him of abandoning then since he moved out, and when they weren’t doing that, they were harassing him about not being serious with getting married. On a few occasions, he tried to point out that their constant hounding on the matter of getting married was probably the reason he didn’t like coming to see them. Every time, his protests fell on deaf ears.
‘Mummy, this your fish stew still tastes exactly the same as it did when I was small. I think even after I marry, you will be coming to cook for me.’
‘Shut up, it is somebody’s wife’s food that you can compliment. You won’t go and marry your own. In fact, I think I will ban your mother from cooking for you when you come here. You don’t know your mates…’
At this point Ade had already tuned out, rolling his eyes so hard he thought he would see his brains at any moment. ‘You don’t even have a serious girlfriend.’ That was the last of his father’s ramblings he managed to catch.
‘Daddy, you see why I don’t like coming here. Someone can’t just make a light joke without it turning into a sermon on the mountain. And if you must know, I have a serious girlfriend, but I didn’t want to bring her here before you people start asking her twenty-one questions and sliding in marriage talk left, right and center.’
His mother looked up at this point.
‘Ade, that is not fair. Your father and I can behave ourselves in the presence of guests. We are not stupid you know. But this girl, please where is she from?’
Ade had been worried about his parents accepting him dating an Igbo girl, but he had not imagined it meant so much to them as to constitute their first question about who he was dating. He thought perhaps they would ask about what she did, or if she was a graduate. He even anticipated them asking him if she was from a wealthy family, but no, they had to ask about her tribal origins first. For the briefest of moments he considered completely avoiding the question, but he knew his parents. He was more likely to get away with side-stepping a question under interrogation by the CIA than he was under his mother’s gaze.
‘She is an Igbo girl. Her name is Nkechi and she is an architect, a qualified one.’
He was hoping that last piece of information would somehow cushion the effect of the first apparent disappointment from the looks on their faces. He was wrong.
‘Ade, why are you always like this? Why don’t you ever listen? You did not see any nice Yoruba girl, even Hausa, Akwa Ibom, anywhere but Ndi Igbo. Why do you like being in the news for bad thing like this? I will tell your brother about this.’ His father had abandoned his dinner at this point.
‘Jesus, so this is really going to be a problem? To start with, this whole tribe thing is so fake these days. We are just tribe by name. Culturally, is it not the same thing they teach us in school, the same Christianity in church, the same channels we watch on tv? In fact, no young couple converses in a local language anymore. She even pretty much grew up in UK, so I really don’t see what the problem is.’
As Ade went on to explain how sociologically the concept of a tribal identity was disappearing and only kept on life support by reinforcing stereotypes the older generation had refused to let go of, his parents carried on shaking their heads in despair. It didn’t matter how grounded in logic his points were, at this stage in their life he wasn’t going to convince them of anything they didn’t already want to be convinced about. He could only hope that the younger generation was aware of the emergence of a national culture that shared more with the world’s global culture than with old-fashioned African culture. Whether it was a result of globalization, eurocentrism, or whatever multisyllabic term or phrase the dictionary had to offer, an Igbo girl probably laughed just as hard to Kevin Hart movies as a Yoruba girl, and they both probably wished they owned Olivia Pope’s wardrobe with equal intensity. The notion that the young African’s worldview was somehow skewed by tribal affiliation was simply losing its place in reality. It was only a matter of time till sociologically, it was a mono-cultural country.