Tag Archives: High school

Let’s talk about sex

How much is too much when it comes to children’s knowledge about sex? I’m under the impression some parents/guardians avoid this topic at all costs, but when you look at the happenings around us, the situation needs to be addressed. As the world is battling coronavirus, and all the untold hardships it has brought upon us, one of the glaring cons is that children have stayed out of school for longer than they should have.

You know some of those old sayings we so often take for granted? Some are proving hard to ignore; for instance, ‘An idle mind is the devils’ workshop’. Children are at home, and as it is, statistics show the number of underage pregnancies have rapidly increased.

These, have been attributed to gender-based violence, where girls are being defiled by male relatives; in some instances some naïve girls are being lured by wealthy men, who are promising them the things their parents/guardians cannot afford…then there’s the larger majority, who are just experimenting, of their own volition because they have so much time on their hands.

The latter is my bone of contention. Thousands of underage girls are getting pregnant…Question is, what are we not doing right? Something had me thinking…majority of guardians/parents are afraid of having the ‘birds and the bees’ conversation with their children; either because they are too reticent, or because in some cultures sex is one of those taboo topics everyone should avoid, except when discussing it with peers.

I’ve watched several movies on various local channels, where basic kisses are censored. Ever watched a Hallmark movie? They are the most family-friendly…they have a very intriguing storyline, which has relatively harmless love scenes. Methinks, the amount of kissing and nudity in these movies is too minimal to be censored.

Thinking of it from a child’s perspective, it feels like one of those instances where I’m watching my parents kiss…and as one would expect, it’s not one of those raunchy moments which scream, “Get a room!’ It’s the subtle type, which doesn’t focus on the physical aspect, but the intense love behind that kiss.

So, begs the question, should we bury our heads in the sand, pretend kids know nothing about sex and let things continue spiralling out of control? Should we let our innocent children get derailed by all the misleading information from their fellow friends, or the misleading pornographic content that’s easily available online?

When looking at a child, it is easy to dismiss them off as naïve, but I beg to differ. Just think of how old you were when you found out about sex. The difference between adults and children is, the former have a good amount of information to help them make informed choices, whereas the latter are still in a stage where they’ve got relatively little information that’s relevant, and ballooning curiosity.

I’ve interacted with children a lot, and one of the things I’ve picked up from my interaction with them is that a kid as young as five, has heard about sex from some older kids…problem is, the information they have is skewed…and that is where, in my humble opinion, parents/guardians should step in.

As a lawyer, one of my areas of expertise is children and the law, and as such, I could use pages expounding on the legal aspect of this conundrum. For starters, anyone found engaging in coitus with a minor should be charged with statutory rape…

However, the greatest challenge is that most of the teens are having sex with their fellow teens. In most jurisdictions, a child is anyone below the age of eighteen. So if both are minors, engaging in consensual sex, who should bear the criminal liability?

In the few years I’ve studied law, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt is that law does not solve all problems. The implication of this is that we need to find non-legal solutions and nip the problem in the bud. When I was a child, the one thing parents and teachers kept repeating was, ‘True love waits’.

From what I gather, most teens engage in coitus due to peer pressure. A kid who wants to appear cool needs to have sexual experience, because this is all kids are talking about nowadays…and the internet isn’t helping either. The way I see it, it’s about time we grabbed that bull by the horns.

Let’s have this conversation with kids…let’s tell them point blank of all the repercussions of teen sex…let’s not wait for them to collect misleading information from the internet, from peers… Let that vital, life-changing information come from a place of love…let’s teach them, that true love waits!

Alternatively, there’s the issue about safe sex education. If they cannot wait, there are safe ways of doing it. I know for most parents/guardians this might be unnerving, because children are angels, whose innocence should be protected. However, avoiding this topic is only worsening things.

The only way a parent/guardian can know the options available to them is by talking to their kids and gauging their position with regards to matters sex. What’s obvious, is that silence is not a viable option; because while we’re busy ignoring this, hoping our kids are still little angels, they are busy having sex…

 

The allure of the forbidden

The other day one of mom’s brothers who’s relationship with his wife is on the rocks at the moment called mom, asking for some advice about what to do about his fifteen year old daughter. Apparently she’s in that stage where hormones override all wits. In his own words, the girl’s spending too much time with men. Naturally he wouldn’t be asking mom for advice, problem is his wife left after a heated fight which left him scarred, physically. He didn’t know how to handle his daughter’s crisis; therefore he resulted to calling mom.

When he called the first time he couldn’t bring himself to explain it so he hang up. Mom was concerned; she wanted to understand the situation so she could help in whatever way she could. Unable to wait for him to call, she called him back. Mom wanted to know what he meant when he said my cousin was spending too much time in the company of men. As it turns out, there was only one guy. The young miss found herself a boyfriend, who’s a few years older; he’s a university student while she’s only in her first year of high school.

It’s that age gap my uncle was particularly concerned about; he was afraid the guy would only use her then dump her. He couldn’t fathom the idea of his daughter knocked up and heartbroken. Maybe I’m weird, because I didn’t find the age gap an issue. The guy’s a few years older, true; but then most of my friend’s back in high school dated guys who were already in college too. The issue therefore felt normal. Nonetheless, I understood his fatherly concern.

He was in a quandary; what was he supposed to do? His idea was to do whatever it took to keep the two lovebirds apart. From my perspective, trying to pull them apart would only bring them together. There’s just something about the forbidden; I would love to believe it all started with Eve, when she ate the forbidden fruit, before convincing Adam to partake of it.

the forbidden fruit

One of my high school teachers seemed to have understood the whole concept-the allure of the forbidden. When he was on duty he’d say the opposite of what he meant. During an assembly, instead of asking students to be quiet when they went back to class, he’d just be like, “Go make noise.” Funny thing was students never made noise in class.

I watched an episode of ‘I hate my teenage daughter’, where the two moms were helping their daughters pick out dresses for a father-daughter cotillion (dance). They knew if they said they liked any outfits their kids wouldn’t pick them. Therefore when they saw the dresses they wanted their daughters to wear, one said, “I hate that dress, go take it off.” And the other one said to her daughter, “Who is that Brazilian prostitute? And what has she done with my daughter?” Just like they had assumed, their daughters were thrilled. “These are the ones”, they giggled.

I don’t know what’s with teens and defiance. I was a teen once and I remember feeling like I hated mom because we couldn’t quite agree on anything. I also remember feeling like I was always misunderstood. Nowadays we’re so tight; we’re almost like best friends. I’m not sure if it’s the decision I made to just stop arguing with mom because I’d gotten tired of always being at loggerheads with her, but our relationship improved remarkably. Maybe I just grew up.

I haven’t the basic tips on how to raise teenagers as I don’t have any kids yet, but what I know is that it’s better to show them you understand them. Chances are if my uncle gives my cousin the impression he trusts her, she’ll end the relationship sooner than later if the guy’s got some lousy schemes up his sleeves; but whatever the outcome, she’ll know her dad’s got her back.

If you ask me, many kids mess because they try to do things behind their parents’ backs. With relationships for instance, it’s better to just sit them down and tell them of all the dangers they risk if they engage in premarital sex, than to forbid them from being in relationships. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard on radio earlier this week that kids should be given contraceptives as they start having sex from as early as eight. Yes, eight years; that’s how much we’ve evolved. Babies are no longer babies; they’re not playing with dollies and toy cars anymore; that’s the harsh reality.

Last I checked, all my cousins from my paternal side took alcohol. Dad and his siblings never seem to care when any of us drinks. One of dad’s brothers is always very enthusiastic to have my cousins and I drink. He always insists, “I’d rather buy you drinks and have you drink here where I can see you than have you drinking behind my back.” That’s the kind of environment we grew up in. Ironically, my sisters and I are almost teetotallers. We figured out on our own that drinking has consequences.

When it comes to dealing with young people, I think it’s better to be proactive, than to be reactive; but that’s just my opinion.

 

 

What to wear?

Dressing up for family get-togethers is just a task. I say that because my relatives-most of them-make it their business to openly ridicule anyone they feel isn’t dressed right. Problem is, when it comes to matters dressing, it’s difficult to describe, ‘right’.

If one shows up, say in an outfit my family- extended paternal- don’t like, they will blatantly make fun of it, and if it’s too classy they’ll still make one feel bad about it. A few years ago, my sisters and I showed up at a family gathering dressed in denim pants, stiletto heels and some fancy tops. The next thing we knew, we were the topic of a very unpleasant conversation. “Who were you coming to impress?” One of the cousins mocked, and everyone else burst into a derisive laughter.

Obviously they had never been to our closets, because then they’d know we were actually dressed down. Once, one of my uncles took my sisters and I shopping. It was entirely unprecedented because he had come to pick us home. My sisters and I had turned down his invitation to attend the annual get-together. He cajoled us on phone but it didn’t work; he decided to show up in person. Usually the event takes more than one day but he promised we’d be back that same evening.

Seeing as he’d made the effort to come for us, we couldn’t say no. Mom wasn’t going and dad had chosen to stay behind to keep her company, which happens rarely; normally he attends most of the parties alone. We didn’t pack any clothes because we hadn’t planned on sleeping over. On the way we stopped at a mall. Apparently he had duped us; we were going to spend the night at our cousins’. He asked us to pick all the items we’d need. He seemed happy we were with him, so neither of my sisters nor I wanted to burst his bubble; compliantly, we picked anything we thought was necessary. While shopping, I picked out a cute sleeveless top which was very decent, only that it wasn’t covering my arms.

Light-heartedly, he asked, “Did the tailor run out of fabric or what?” We laughed, but at that point we understood one thing; he was a bit conservative. The last time we had attended any family function was about five years before then. We hadn’t seen much of each other when we were transitioning from girls to young women. The clothes we bought then were clothes we wouldn’t buy on a normal day. They just felt too plain.

Since that day, we were always too careful not to dress in anything which revealed too much skin, or any skin for that matter. The next time we attended a get-together, we had to go shopping for clothes that would be more apt for the function, not because what we had was indecent, but simply because we thought it would be good to wear something that was ‘conservative’.

After wearing denim pants, t-shirt tops and blazers to subsequent functions, we got tired of it and went back to our usual clothes. Normally, when choosing an outfit, there’s that fine line between elegant and skimpy. All short dresses/skirts don’t exactly fall in the trashy category, so one doesn’t have to particularly wear maxi dresses in order to look decent. It’s all about striving to make it all look stylish.

In the last function my family and I attended a few weeks ago, one of my cousins showed up in a print maxi skirt. Another one of my cousins ridiculed her, “Is it the skirt that’s big or it’s just you who’s big?” I wasn’t the one under attack, but I thought some comments were better left unsaid.

When my big sister was in high school, one of her classmates told her, “One doesn’t always have to say what comes to mind.” Basically it’s all about applying brain filters. Essentially, when it comes to matters dressing, no one wants to be ridiculed about what they wear; one’s physical appearance has a lot to do with their self-esteem, and again, it’s always upon an individual to choose what they want to wear.

People have different tastes and preferences; that’s given. One’s idea of indecent or elegant might be viewed differently by another person. It therefore becomes an issue if one has to pay attention to everyone else’s opinions when picking out an outfit. I’m thinking, maybe when my cousin was dressing up for the party, she thought everyone would be okay with it, but as it turns out that wasn’t the case; she was ridiculed for it.

If you ask me, one should wear what they are comfortable in. Obviously the occasion dictates the dress code, but one should own their style, so that if anyone was to raise issues about it, one would defend it. In my opinion, it’s better to fail for being you, than to fail for trying to do/be what everyone else thought you should do/be, because even though I consider it wise to pay attention to other people’s opinion, sometimes those people aren’t always right.

 

Damaged

depressed

Ever since I was seven, I’ve been watching my parents fight; I would wish it wasn’t that way but unfortunately it is. One thing I’ve gathered over the years is that parents should settle their ‘beef’ away from the children. If I’m anything to go by, parents should never fight in front of their kids. It’s just destructive; it messes a kid up on so many levels. That’s a vital lesson I’ve learned.

When I was nine-by then I had gotten used to seeing my parents fight; it felt normal- I got caught up in one of my parent’s wrangles. I don’t remember how it started, all I remember is finding myself in my parents’ bedroom; I had heard mom shouting. When I walked into their bedroom, I was horrified to find mom pinned down on the bed beneath dad. He was hurting her.

Instinctively, I rushed in and started pulling on dad’s pants. My hands were tiny at the time, so I just got hold of one leg. Furious, he kicked hard and I staggered a few steps back, falling on my bum. I don’t remember getting hurt; I was reeling from the shock of seeing mom calling for help. That was all my mind could register; mom needed help, and I couldn’t help. So together with my sisters, we started wailing, asking him to let her go.

I don’t remember how long he went on, or when he stopped. The next morning, I was still distraught from watching the scathing scene. I felt like a lifeless zombie as I walked on the school corridors. That day I talked to my class teacher about it. I just couldn’t take it anymore; I had to tell someone. I can’t quite remember what she told me but I remember feeling relieved.

Since then I have witnessed so many similar scenarios, but that one refused to go away completely. It torments me; I guess because it was the first time I saw mom so helpless.

Unconsciously, as I watched them over the years, I started building my defense; even when I didn’t jump in to help I’d start contemplating the best counter attack; if someone said something nasty, the best thing was to lash back. If someone hit, hitting back would happen almost naturally. It all happened in my head and as it turns out I’m really good at visualizing stuff; that’s how I learn most of the practical things.

When I learnt how to belly dance for instance, I just watched my big siz doing it, visualized it when I was in bed at night, the next morning when I got out of bed I just tried moving my hips and voilà, I was doing it like Shakira; it just took a little practice to smooth out the rough edges. That’s how it was as I watched mom and dad fight, hurling expletives at each other; it is those same obscenities I would hurl at other kids whenever I found myself in some altercation. Coming from a kid, the words were X-rated.

Naturally I have a quiet demeanor; most of my extended family only know my calm and composed side, because I always prefer to take the high road even when I feel they’re driving me nuts. The upside is I sleep comfortably at night, without any guilt troubling my conscience…and for that peace of mind, I always opt to walk away from heated scenes. It does get unbearable sometimes and inevitably I lush out, but nowadays such moments are rare.

The longest time I stayed home was after leaving high school. Normally I’d just be home for a few weeks on holidays but at that time, I didn’t have the option of taking a break from all the drama while away in boarding school; I hated life there but it did break the monotony of watching my parents fight. Watching them at it, tempers flaring, constantly brought back the violent side I had tried so hard to bury while in high school. Worse still, as I watched them go on and on about matters I wished they’d deal with out of my sight, I started building my defense again, countering them in my head.

At the time, mom’s regular run-ins with dad also made her snappy; her words were ever clipped and she just felt cold. I wrote a lot at that time, because I realized it felt therapeutic. Sometimes I would just cry it out. I grew tense from all the madness; I didn’t want to say/do anything I would regret, so I held it all in.

I fell into my first bout of depression at that time; I didn’t know what it was then. I just felt miserable; like life had lost its meaning. Everytime they started fighting I would get muscle spasms from all the anxiety. I ended up getting medical treatment for it, after developing an incessant headache and insomnia, which stayed with me for one and a half years.

After recovering, that’s when I realized I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. If they decided to fight, I would just watch impassively. Going with barely any sleep for close to two years had taught me a tough lesson. I wasn’t going to live their life anymore. That was one of the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life. I reset my thoughts and focused them on the positive things in my life, and to date, that’s how I deal with it.

My baby siz however, hasn’t mastered the strength to be indifferent; so everytime she hears people-even outsiders-talking with their voices raised, even when they’re not necessarily fighting, she stiffens with fear, her heartbeat rapid. If she’s asleep, she’ll suddenly wake with a violent jerk, perturbed by the noise. I sympathize with her a lot. I don’t like to hold my parents responsible for it, but as much as I hate to admit it, this could have been avoided.

I couldn’t do much to change that part of my life, but I know one thing for sure, I wouldn’t want my kids to go through that…no one should. Parents should remember kids rarely forget; they could block it out, but most of the time the memories haunt them into adulthood. It is damaging. I feel damaged.

I’ve grown up with so much violence around me, I’ve become naturally defensive. Even when I walk away, I do it consciously, fighting all the urge to lash out. Sometimes it is difficult to hold back, especially when it’s a recurrent issue; when one keeps pushing all the wrong buttons because they don’t see me snapping. In such instances I just let it out.

I hate it when I do it, but sometimes it’s just inevitable; one can only take so much. I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to the life I’ve lived, so every day I strive to find the peaceful way out when faced with a challenge. As it is, I feel damaged, but I already resolved to make different choices…to ‘make love’ not war.

My peace-deprived childhood makes me crave serenity so intensely; that’s my ray of hope; that after all, I won’t be extending the emotional turmoil from my past into my future, God willing.

 

Violent…Am I?

parent's fighting

Recently I read an article that highlighted tell-tale signs that one’s partner may have abusive tendencies:

a)      He or she was physically abused or psychologically abused as a child.

b)      He or she has previous involvement with domestic violence.

c)      He or she saw one parent beat or dominate the other

d)      He or she witnessed one or both of their parents abuse alcohol or drugs.

According to the article, it would appear I’m a violent person, but I’m I really? No.

On why I could be a teetotaller, a good friend Jowal posted a very insightful comment; he quoted a story about two brothers who turned out so different from watching their father abuse alcohol; one became a teetotaller because he didn’t want to be like the father whereas the other became an alcoholic, just like the father.  Basically, in life one can’t always choose what they go through, but one has the power to choose what path they take afterwards.

As a child, I was introverted, but I didn’t miss the chance to ‘dig my claws’ into anyone who crossed my path. Students knew I was a walking time bomb, even though I managed to hide behind a façade of equanimity; but I was fine, as long as no one tried to ‘detonate’ me. When I was far from my mom, where I knew she couldn’t intervene, I’d take matters into my own hands; standing up to anyone who dared offend me.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my mom resulted to have us-my sisters and me- shipped away to boarding school to save us from the daily violent attacks dad put us through when he and alcohol became best buddies. The attacks weren’t really aimed at us, but somehow we got caught in between.

I remember one time, while away in boarding school, I got into a fight with a girl I shared a bunk bed with. It was late at night. The matron on duty came rushing to our dormitory when the other girls started screaming. By the time she walked in, some girls had managed to tear us apart. One big girl had pinned my arms behind my back. As I stood there panting heavily, I took a moment to access the damage I’d made; I realized my adversary had scratches on her face and somehow I’d ripped her night dress from the neckline downwards.

I couldn’t recall doing it; I had done it in a heated moment…incandescent with rage.

The matron matched us to the headmistress’ quarters, but as it was late she asked us to see her in her office early the next day. The following day, during our Friday assembly, we were paraded before the whole school, with the furious headmistress branding us the two bulls of the school. We spent the better part of that day carrying out our punishment.

I wasn’t one of those kids who picked fights with anyone for no apparent reason; whenever I got into fights it was to defend myself or people I loved. For instance, when I got into that fight, it was after stomaching prolonged tension inflicted on me by my bed mate, a girl others feared because no one understood her background.

When clearing from primary school, one of my friends, who was the school’s headgirl at the time signed my leavers book; she added a P/S, requesting me not to start the third world war. I laughed when I read it, but I wasn’t oblivious to what she meant.

When I joined high school, I didn’t like the school at first because my dad had forced me to go there. I spent the whole of my first year contemplating my transfer. My mom was behind me all the way. She didn’t want to see me suffer and she understood I wasn’t comfortable in that school. The situation was even worsened by the fact that I’d gotten off on the wrong foot with the school’s administration; I had my long hair relaxed, which was against school policy. I spent the first term in and out of the principal’s and the guidance counselor’s offices explaining why I wasn’t going to shave my hair as was the required punishment.

The other girls loved my hair; they sympathized with me. Slowly, I came out of the shell I’d retreated into and I realized the school wasn’t that bad. During that period, I also realized I didn’t want to retaliate. If anyone crossed my path I’d just ignore them. I realized it was easier to be indifferent towards them than get myself into more trouble with the administration. My conscience also felt light; I wasn’t tormented by the memory of hurtful stuff I’d said to someone during a heated argument. I enjoyed the tranquility.

The students I went to high school with never got to meet my wild, untamed side. I had realized violence didn’t solve anything; it just aggravated things.

It wasn’t easy to remain graceful under pressure, but I tried. When I went back home I would find myself in the all-too-familiar scene; dad driving everyone up the wall. I would sermon all my strength, restraining the anger burning inside me; sometimes it would work, but at other times I would succumb to my rage. I would speak my mind out; in most cases the words felt like dagger stabs to those on the receiving end; I just didn’t see the need to sugar-coat things.

I knew I had only said what needed to be said; nothing was untrue, but even so, I couldn’t stand the guilt of knowing I had intentionally/unintentionally hurt someone. I learnt to bite my tongue. It was a struggle bottling up all the emotions, which were a combustible mix of raw anger and frustration. I fell sick in the process from all the stress; but I never looked back. I pressed on, determined to change my violent ways. After a few years, I learned to control my temper.

I would attribute my violent outbursts to the fact that I was subjected to so much domestic violence, but I made a choice; to not be like my father. It was difficult, and still is; sometimes I run into people, who get my patience running awfully thin, but I have mastered the art of walking away; nevertheless, dad hasn’t changed; he’s actually more violent than ever, but watching him just strengthens my urge to be a better person. That’s a choice I made. Everyone has a choice to be what they want to be.

Following Multitudes

making decisions

It was mid Sunday morning. My fellow students and I were sitted in church. We were listening to the Bishop giving his sermon. I don’t really recall what it was about, but I remember vividly that the particular day was a special one. The bishop rarely visited. So even as we sat, eyes glued to him, we felt special he had paid us a visit. Later, the father-in-charge informed us he and the bishop would be headed to town to hold another mass there for the rest of the town folks. There was a grand occasion, only I don’t remember what they were celebrating.

The father-in-charge, who every girl in my school adored, invited us to accompany him there. He said it would be worth our while. We were thrilled by the idea. We were always confined in the school compound. The only time one got to leave the school premises was when one was leaving for a medical check-up at the health center, which was located in the heart of the town, about five kilometers away from the school, or when leaving for symposiums,  game tournaments, drama competitions, music festivals, debates … in other schools, or just the usual trips.

The occasions were rare, so whenever the opportunity presented itself we would pounce on it unhesitatingly. When the father-in-charge invited us to attend the grand mass in town, we didn’t care to run the idea by the principal, who was also in attendance. Naturally, she was given the chance to give a vote of thanks as the mass was mainly for girls from my school. When she took to the lectern at the far end of the altar, she began her speech. “Your Lordship the Bishop, the father-in-charge…”

Basically, she told the bishop how honoured we felt that he had graced us with his presence…and in conclusion, she merely said it in passing that we were required to go back to school after mass; the church was only a stone-throw away from our school. That simple command put us in a quagmire; we wanted to go to town, had already been invited even, but the principal wouldn’t allow us.

After mass we dutifully walked back to school in a pensive mood. We had to go to town; if only we could convince the principal-a strict woman, who was zero-tolerant to crap. Instead of heading back to class for our thirty minutes preps before we went for lunch as was tradition, we assembled on the parade ground to device a way out of the conundrum we were in.

After a unanimous decision, we-a group of atleast three hundred girls-asked the headgirl and her deputy to see the principal at her quarters; ask her if she would be kind enough to let us attend the grand mass in town. The two left. We waited with baited breath, hoping she would consent to it.

About fifteen minutes later, the two came back, raw disappointment written on their faces. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell she had nixed them…or us for that matter.

The father-in-charge, the one person we thought was brave enough to cross the principal, had given us the green light. We banked on that. If the principal dared counter him, he would personally take up the matter with her; besides, we were too many to be punished…or so we thought.  After a relatively long deliberation, we made our decision. We were going to town. And since we didn’t have the principal’s blessings, we would walk all the way to town. It was a long walk, but for the sake of leaving the school compound even if only for a short while, we would trek.

The road was dusty, very dusty actually, because it hadn’t rained for a while and it was cold too. The clouds were grey; I thought it would rain, but as the minutes ticked away, the grey clouds scudded away, unveiling the azure sky. The sun came out in all its glory. When finally we got to town, the townsfolk had already gathered at the makeshift stadium. Beautiful gospel music was playing in the background, amplified by the speakers, which were placed at strategic locations.

Given the risk we had taken to leave the school compound against our principal’s orders, the mass wasn’t all that. Most of us had only taken it as an opportunity to indulge our cravings for junk food, touring the small town… it wasn’t really about the mass; we were only yearning to breathe some fresh air away from the school.

The function ended a few minutes to four. We started our long walk back to school under the scorching sun. When we got back, the few girls who had opted not to follow the multitude were still in class for the afternoon preps.

Sitted on my desk later that afternoon, the magnitude of what trouble I had gotten myself into hit me. I had willfully, against my better judgement, followed the multitude. Now that the party was over, I had to face whatever dire repercussions ensued.

I hated myself for my poor judgement.

I had always known following the masses rarely had happy endings, and I always avoided doing something because everyone else was doing it. This day however, I had let the thrill of getting out of the school compound derail me. In the heat of the moment, we had defied our principal, thinking we were too many to be punished. We had ruled out the idea of being punished because we had figured she wouldn’t have the guts or the energy to punish an entire school.

The next day, during our usual Monday morning assembly, the principal, wearing a stern face, instructed all the class prefects to forward the names of all the girls who had left the school premises the previous day. In our defence, we argued the father-in-charge had given us his consent; “But is he your principal?” She had countered vehemently. Blazing eyes darting across the assembly ground, she promised us a torturous week; one that would be ingrained in our memories for years to come.

True to her word, the ensuing week was everything she had promised it would be. Some months before, all the trees which outlined the school compound had been felled to pave way for the wire mesh fence, which was being erected. We spent the whole of that week moving enormous, moss covered logs from far corners of the school I didn’t even know existed, to some field adjacent to the school’s kitchen.

By the end of that week, my arms and legs were covered in bruises, where the logs had scraped against my bare skin. And the sight of the termites, which had started eating away at the logs just made me feel itchy.

Apparently she was right; my mind always goes back to that day. It’s been a few years since I left high school, but somehow, whenever I’m in a situation where I have to make my own independent decision or follow the multitude, I always opt for the former. I would rather be accountable for my own choices than get into trouble for getting swayed by other people’s opinion. That day always serves as a reminder.

I always think it was sod’s law, that the one day I chose to throw caution to the wind; the one day I went against my better judgement, to follow the multitude, was precisely the day I landed myself in unmitigated trouble.

All the World’s a stage

all the world's a stage

We were sitted in church one Friday evening. It was our usual Friday devotion session. Normally we would sing, learn new songs, read bible verses, then the teacher who headed our devotion session, and also doubled as my netball coach, would expound on the readings. This particular day however, he chose to do it differently. As he paced right-left-center at the area between the altar and the pews, he focused his teachings on one of William Shakespeare’s pieces-All the world’s a stage:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages: at first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shinning morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of a formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I had never read the poem before, but as I listened to him talk about it so passionately-he also taught literature-I understood what he was driving at. His explanation was basic; a child is born, that’s when he enters the stage…he grows up, lives his life-good/bad-grows old, then he dies; that marks his inevitable exit. In his own words, “One only gets one chance to give a wonderful performance. When the curtains fall, the person exits and they never get a chance to redeem themselves. It’s only while on the stage that one can give the performance of their life.”

Referencing Shakespeare’s poem, he likened the world to a stage. Normally, when one gets on stage, it’s only protem, because either way they will have to exit. Such is life. When one gets off stage, they resume their normal life. He delved deeper; if the world is only a stage, what happens when one exits? Which is the real world? He was implying that this life we live is not permanent. We’re only here for a while, then after that we transit to the ‘real world’-eternity, that’s the real world, and we only get to live in eternal bliss or damnation for that matter depending on the performance we gave on stage.

Where we are now, we’re only here to play our cards, to determine where we end up, when we exit this stage-world-which apparently is inevitable. His words gave me so much to think about…

Understanding ‘Maturity’

bullying

I watched an episode of gossip girl-In the realm of the Basses- season two, a few years  ago, where Blair Waldorf was trying to impress members of the Colony Club-an exclusive Upper East Side women’s social group- who she was hosting in her house, in an attempt to gain entrance in the club…  the sophisticated ladies turned out to be snobs; they set a few ground rules, which Blair realized she couldn’t keep as she realized they were literally asking her to turn her back on her friends Chuck Bass and Serena Van Der Woodsen.

According to the colony club ladies, Chuck and Serena were too scandalous for Blair’s good. Their names were splashed on tabloids for all the wrong reasons. So it-the ultimatum- was quite simple, if Miss Waldorf wanted in, she would have to sever ties with her amigos.

Blair really wanted to become a member of the elite group, but she realized she couldn’t ditch her friends for a group of women who seemed old; mature even, but in the real essence were just ‘girls’ who hadn’t graduated from high school-behavioural wise. Even though they were all grown up, Blair realized they were just acting like high school brats. “I thought I was living high school behind, I guess you never do”, she told them.

As I watched that episode I had a few people in mind; those who totally refused to part with their young selves, whose reasoning hadn’t evolved.

This brought me to the realization that maturity is not about boobs getting fuller with advancing age or one growing facial hair…all of nature’s effects that characterize the stage when a child is morphing into an adult; simply put, maturity doesn’t just refer to physical growth; it actually refers to mental growth, which is attributed to God-given wisdom and knowledge.

Knowledge is information acquired through reading mostly…and it’s not something that everyone enjoys because not everyone goes to school/ learning institutions. But with wisdom, anyone can get free access to it, if they will it. Wisdom is enriched by one’s personal experiences or learning from other people’s experiences; wise people learn from those experiences and make the right choices in life based on that.

There are things I see grown-ups doing that remind me of the things I did as a kid or that I saw other kids doing, and I just shake my head. When I was a teenager, I was exposed to so much-people’s characters and all- and it is precisely at that stage that I realized what I wanted to be and what I didn’t want to be. I reckon it’s at this stage when some of life’s important decisions are made, though many people don’t seem to realize that at the time.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental, but I find it shallow-for lack of a better word-when grown-ups start dissing someone; laughing in their face because of their physical appearance: because they’re too scrawny for their liking, or because their bum’s a little bit saggy, or because they have scars or deformities…I could continue but I bet you get the picture…honestly, I find it juvenile.

I thought some habits fade with time, but apparently, there are some people who insist on clinging on to their puerile selves, because I simply fail to understand how someone in their right mind would tease someone because of their physical appearance…? And I mean the intense ridicule which shatters the victim’s self-confidence.

Perchance I had a different childhood from everyone else, but kids my age indulged in that kind of absurdity-making snide remarks because one’s dad didn’t ride a cool car, or because one’s sense of fashion (if any) left so much to be desired, etc.- when we were teenagers or younger; many seemed to regain their ‘humanity’ right after high school. I would think it’s because that’s when life starts to feel real; new responsibilities…realizing that in life nothing is definite.

For many, the first few years of their lives are a somewhat clear path; one’s goals feel well-defined, finishing high school being the ultimate goal. After that, life starts to feel daunting at times, because that distinct path vanishes, and it dawns that each decision made counts, and inevitably, for life to continue, many decisions must be made.

I often wonder, one laughs at someone because they are too big, who’s to guarantee them that tomorrow they won’t be walking in those same shoes? One laughs at someone because they are dirt poor, who’s to guarantee them that tomorrow they won’t be waiting around street corners with their arms outstretched, asking for handouts? After all, it’s only a given fact, life is unpredictable.

I KISSED MY FATHER? part two

storm in a tea cup

When the two teachers had interviewed me enough, they asked me to go back to class.

I walked back to class, deep in thought… how could the seemingly learned teachers interrogate me intensively about such a trivial issue. What if I had brazenly french kissed my beau? Would that have triggered my expulsion?

I was perplexed by the whole scenario. I only hugged my father… and now they were forming a united front against me. By the time I got to class I was bordering on outrage. Girls were asked not to hug or kiss men, to avoid situations where one situation led to another…

But this was my father we were talking about- an innocent father/daughter hug. He would be grossed out- like I was- if he knew what the teachers were insinuating.

Nonetheless, I went back to class…glad they were done with the peeving interrogation.

My classmates were wondering what the fuss was all about… so I briefed them on what was happening. They just sympathized with me. I took out my books and went on with my revision. I bet the teachers didn’t have anything important to do, as minutes later they were pursuing me again… this time round I was supposed to see the principal in her office.

You know, the good thing about knowing you’re innocent is that even when things seem to be getting out of hand, one feels some inexplicable calm, because they know that they will be found blameless eventually. That’s how I was feeling as I walked down the steps from my class and on the corridor to the principal’s office.

When I reached her office I knocked on the door with some trepidation, I couldn’t help wondering if she would suspend me or something of the sought, depending on what she had been told. She asked me to go in. I had been there so many times before (not for mischievousness); when I walked in I felt Zen flow in my veins; I felt calm…as I looked at the principal, seated behind her desk, with all the trophies the school has ever been awarded sitted on shelves, I realized she didn’t look vengeful; she simply wanted me to give her an insight into what had actually transpired.

“Good afternoon Madam,” I greeted her.

“Good afternoon to you,” she replied softly. There wasn’t a hint of anger in her voice. That boosted my courage.

“I was told you called for me?”

“Yes,” she said, almost harshly. “I’m made to understand you kissed a man,” she paused waiting for her words to sink in. “Care to explain? Who was that man I’m told you kissed?”

Confidently, I looked her straight in the eyes as I replied, “That was my father. And I didn’t kiss him; I only pecked him on the cheek.”

“But I’m told you kissed him on the lips”, she looked amused as she said those words.

“I only pecked him on the cheek Madam,” I reiterated firmly.

The principal didn’t know whom to believe; a teacher or a student… “Go call him,” she ordered. Obediently I walked to the staffroom… the two teachers were still seated there, possibly discussing me… I didn’t care…

I knocked on the door then walked in, and went straight to the teacher who had created a storm in a tea cup. “The principal would like to see you in her office”, I told him, feigning humility, because my insides were waging war against him. I have never been one to castigate people, but as I looked at him, I realized he was the diffident type. He was soft spoken too. His personality had everything to do with the matter at hand. I deduced.

I didn’t know him much, as I had never been to any of his classes, and as an individual, he was one of those who were too reserved to be the subject of any scandalous gossip among students. I had never had a one-on-one encounter with him, until then. We had definitely started off on the wrong foot.

Compliantly, he stood and left for the principal’s office. I walked behind him. He sat on one of the guests’ sit while I remained standing.

The three of us were in the principal’s office, the truth would finally out.

The principal set the ball rolling. “She says she didn’t kiss him, she only pecked him on the cheek”. She looked at him quizzically, “So what happened exactly? Did she kiss him or she just pecked him?”

“Madam, I don’t know the difference”, he admitted, almost abashed. Maybe I saw wrong, but the principal smiled amusedly.

“It’s ok, you can leave now”, she dismissed him.

The principal wanted to ensure she was making the right judgment…so she asked for my mom’s number, and she called her as I stood there. “Hello”, she answered when the person on the other end of the line picked up. I assumed it was my mom because that was her number.

I couldn’t make out what she was saying; I could only hear my principal’s side. She asked her if she was my mom and obviously she (mom) affirmed because the conversation went on.

“There’s a man who came here to see your daughter?” she said inquisitively. I didn’t hear what my mom said, but when the principal hang up, she dismissed me too.

“Have a lovely afternoon”, I smiled before leaving her office. It was all over. I had been found innocent.

Even though the principal cleared my name off such preposterous allegations, the matter never died down. Teachers told the story in the classes…I became the principal subject in literature. My friends from other classes would tell me how a teacher in their class told them about me- the girl, who kissed her father. Everyone in school knew me pretty well, as I was a prefect; I was well aware that they wouldn’t have any difficulties putting a face to the despicable, corrupted, version that each teacher told-altered to their liking.

The ensuing week, as I passed by the staffroom, my history teacher asked me to see her later that day… I agreed, but I didn’t go; I assumed she wanted to discuss matters kissing men…I had had enough of the appalling palaver.

My netball coach, who was awfully loquacious, also partook in the lunacy as he spread the gospel; how I kissed my father. Once, he brought up the issue as he conducted our Friday devotion in church. I hadn’t been privileged enough to hear any of the twisted versions, until I heard it from him-one of the horses’ mouth.

Apparently, they had understood that it was my dad I had hugged, but it’s that kinda lifestyle they didn’t seem to agree with; fathers hugging daughters?

As I listened to him speak, my fists clenched tightly as anger welled up in me. They had no right to dishonour my family with such scathing words… how could he? I almost stood from the pew I was sitted on, to lash back at him; to give him a piece of my mind…but at that moment a thought crossed my mind; if I let the words gush out of my mouth, he would feel so emasculated, he would instantly instigate my expulsion. I had only a few months left before I sat my final exam; I wasn’t going to taint my reputation over such trifles…

It hurt me a lot, that people could be so unfeeling… but later on, long after I had cleared from that school, I found it in me to forgive them. It is their values that made them judge me so harshly…I understood that.

I KISSED MY FATHER? part one

hugged father

If I was a conformist, if I did what others expected of me, or what everyone else was doing, I probably wouldn’t get into so much trouble, like I have so far. I believe it’s right to break some rules, if it’s imperative.

The high school I joined was an all-girls Catholic sponsored school. Teachers were strict. The principal and her deputy were zero-tolerant to any form of misbehaviour.  If on closing day any of the two bumped into a student engaging in inappropriate behaviour outside the school precinct, say hanging out with boys, while still in their uniform, the particular girl would receive her punishment when schools opened.

I remember my high school a lot…mostly for all the wrong reasons…

One Saturday afternoon, when I was seventeen, in my last year of high school, I found myself in the principal’s office, in a situation which I thought was pretty awkward.

“Who was that man I’m told you kissed?” The principal asked sternly, her serious gaze fixed on me. She was looking straight into my eyes, I guess to sight any traces of insincerity… I returned her gaze; I had nothing to hide…

Almost two hours earlier I was sitted in class, revising for my final exams. The sun was out, and even though I was sitted in a brick classroom, I couldn’t help feeling the heat. It was making me feel lethargic… I was sleepy.

The mention of my name by the teacher on duty that week as he stood on the doorway alerted my senses. I sat upright, wondering what offences I could have committed. Before I could complete a mental review of my conduct that week, the male teacher asked me to follow him to the office.

“You have a visitor,” he told me before I could ask why I was being summoned to the office. That was quite unexpected. As I walked slightly behind him, my focus shifted to the person who may have deemed it necessary to visit me that hot afternoon. After a meticulous elimination I was left with two options…it was either my dad or mom.

My guess was right, it was my dad. He was standing outside the staffroom. It was a Saturday, so I knew that there were only a few teachers in there, and whoever they were, their eyes would be on us. The thought made me uneasy. They were whizzes at scuttlebutt.

I was so elated to see my father, I couldn’t contain my emotions. I almost hugged him, but then I remembered all the counseling sessions the other first years and I had been taken through three years ago, when we joined the school, cautioning us against hugging and kissing males. When the head of our counseling department had taken us through those sessions, I found them misleading and I knew one day breaking that rule would land me in unmitigated trouble. It was all smooth sailing; my voyage had been uninterrupted by any stormy waves, until now…

With those particular sessions pounding at the back of my head, I realized I didn’t want to get myself in trouble for something I could avoid; I only extended my hand in greeting to my father, who was equally happy to see me. He didn’t pull me into his warm fatherly embrace either, he understood- I had told him about it earlier.

His visit was brief. He had just come to bring me pocket money as the previous term I had used my tuition fee on miscellaneous expenses in retaliation when they failed to show up on visiting day. He didn’t want a repeat of the same, so he opted to check up on me in advance, to see if I needed anything.

Twenty minutes later he was on his way back… When parting with him, I realized I wasn’t going to pass on a tradition-hugging my father- just to please others. It felt like I was turning my back on the essence of who I was; I chose to do the forbidden, and let the chips fall where they may. I threw my arms around my dad, and pecked him on the cheek. He enveloped me in his loving arms, in the perfect father/daughter hug.

I went back to class, reveling in the joy of being with my father. Not everyone admits it I know, but take it from me, being in boarding school is just hellish. The first half of the term is spent nostalgically, reliving memories of the holiday that was, and the last half is spent, with one planning the fun things they’ll do when schools close. That’s pretty much how I felt about the ‘boarding’ issue… Personally, I found life in boarding school almost unbearable because it felt oceans away from home; it was really far, and life there was so different from what I had been used to. It was literally, world’s apart.

When I went back to class I was busy sharing my excitement with my deskmate, who was my bestfriend, when barely five minutes later I was summoned by the same teacher on duty. This time round he didn’t tell me anything; I just followed him silently, waiting for hell to unleash. I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know it was because I hugged my dad…

He asked me into the office, where he sat beside my chemistry teacher. I was in the grip of ‘don’t give a rat’s ass’ mood. I had hugged my father, and I wasn’t sorry about it. If I was given a second chance, I would still hug him…

As I stood there in front of the two-teacher panel, I laughed in my head…it was just preposterous.

“Who was that man?” “Where does he work?” The questions kept trickling in. If I didn’t know better I’d think they were vetting me for the school’s headgirl’s post.  I answered each one of their questions, unambiguously, leaving nothing to chance.

I couldn’t help wondering why they were asking me all those questions… maybe they just wanted me to clarify what they already knew because I couldn’t fathom how they would let me see him if they didn’t have answers to all those questions they tabled in front of me…