I remember that growing up, perception was a big deal. Still is. What other people thought of you, was so important that pretending to be someone you were not, was inevitably encouraged. Even without meaning to, we were taught to lie because “You don’t want people thinking such and such about you, do you?” And people thinking badly of you – especially if the said people were nameless and faceless – would affect your future earning power, your happiness, your potential, and how long you could live. And if you (and/or your parents) attended church, it was worse for you because “a good name is better than riches.”
Being thought of as ‘nice’ was more important than anything else … particularly if you were female. An African female. For some reason, some African women in/of my generation haven’t received the two-part memo.
a) Being yourself is the definition of ‘freedom; and
b) Nice, African girls finish last. Always.
I am not a fan of being ill-mannered – as a black woman, you’ll come off looking like you’re auditioning for the role of the most deranged character in the remake of Diary of A Mad, Black Woman.
But sometimes, in order to be happy, you do have to grab life by the … balls. And (black) women who do, are never called ‘nice’. Words like ball-breaker, b*tch, angry, un-submissive (the list goes on) are thrown about, where such women are concerned. You could be one of the most decent human beings around, but you will get labelled for displaying even a modicum of initiative, strength, talent, or intelligence.
However, what is the point of choosing to fail, or setting yourself up for failure – because you don’t ‘people’ saying you’re not ‘nice’? The lie you’re telling yourself (and others) isn’t even making you, happy.
You can do better in school, but because someone has told you that “Boys are intimidated by clever women”, you deliberately fail – so that they’ll like you?
You don’t even know who you are, because you’ve allowed church and society to lie to you – to tell you that you can’t have opinions of your own, and you need to be a mindless yes-woman to that man that you like. However, not all men are stupid. If you think I’m lying, watch Coming To America. Again.
You don’t know what you like – because you’ve been told ‘good African girls’ aren’t supposed to show that they’re angry, hungry, horny, stressed, frustrated, or anything that indicates that you’re not ‘floating in the Holy Ghost 24/7’. Which is why you’re in your 10th year of marriage, and have no idea what an orgasm is. And your poor husband, has no idea.
You have no investments, because your church fellowship leader has told you that it will chase away Mr. Right. As a ‘nice girl’, you don’t want that, do you?
You won’t even apply for a promotion that you’re fully qualified for, because that’s ‘too forward’. And ‘nice girls’ are reserved. You get overlooked (your boss isn’t psychic); and you spend the next seven days, perfecting your “I’m really happy for them” look (you know that look/smile that Oscar/Grammy/Emmy/Tony/BAFTA losers, have?)
You don’t ask for the pay-rise that you deserve, because you’re one of the ‘nice’ girls. Then, you start praying for a miracle to stretch your five loaves and two fish(es) at the end of the month.
You like a guy who’s totally into you. And you don’t say a word because you’re a ‘nice girl’. And your bitter (sorry, ‘experienced’) aunties have told you that “if you tell him that, he’ll think you’re cheap.” So, he goes and marries someone who’s not interested in people’s opinions. And you start wondering how to drown yourself at the bottom of a vodka bottle. But you don’t tell anyone that – because … well, ‘nice girls’ don’t have such thoughts, do they?
Then, when another woman kisses her own husband, you think “She is such a s**t, else she would know that ‘nice girls’ don’t do that.”
Or another woman becomes CEO of her own company, you wonder aloud, “Did she sleep with someone to get there? I bet she’s a nightmare to work with/for.”
You can’t even say that out loud, because … ‘nice girls’ aren’t supposed to gossip. So, you fester and pretend that you’re not gossipping. Or wishing her, evil.
And you miss out in love, career and life – because you’re determined to be known as a ‘nice girl’.
All Rights Reserved, Chioma Nnani