Tissue, please? The lady beside me asked as tears rolled down her cheeks after the speech ended with that amazing standing ovation. Now that I think of it, it was funny, as she tried so hard to keep her composure during Lola’s speech. Oh well, she had to join us, the weeping wagon.

Lola thought her life was perfect, I mean perfectly perfect until she met Uzor. She was young, ambitious, intelligent and very beautiful. She was also a good home maker, a keeper and a ‘wife material’ as they say.

She saw life quite differently from others and this greatly influenced her decisions and actions. She had dreams, goals and desires. She wanted to make a difference, to leave footprints on the earth after she was gone. Though very young, she was very old mentally and was called a grandma for that. The usual partying, boys, clothes and all weren’t really of much importance to her as she wanted something more from life than the usual.

Oh, I forgot to mention before you are swept away by Lola’s fairy tale life. Lola had a somewhat troubled past, her path wasn’t always smooth. As a teenager, she struggled to fit in. She never felt beautiful and all the features that are celebrated today about her were once her sources of sorrow. She didn’t have so many friends because she didn’t have the confidence. The only boys that liked her were the ones in her journal that her ‘dear diary’ knew so well.

So, she began the journey to self approval, the journey to talk a certain way, act a certain way, ‘be cool’ just to fit in and please people. She wasn’t living yet, she just existed. Things turned around rather swiftly as she gained exposure, experience and faith. As she acquired knowledge, she began to become more confident, well grounded and even surprisingly given her history, very fashionable. She had an amazing father that told her she could conquer the world and for years, she actually did.

Then Uzor came along, he just had to. A fine young man with great prospects and a good job. “Just my type, she thought to herself. I’d pursue my dreams, and he would his. He’s enlightened, he’s well educated, he will definitely let me be me without trying to change me. Even if he wanted to, who is he sef? Does he know who I am? I’ve been single way longer than I’ve ever dated and I have God as my companion, nobody owns me! nobody owns me she said again, faintly this time trying to reassure herself as she stares at her own reflection in the mirror. Hmmm, but he’s fine sha”.

Though she had her life figured out with a great job following her passion, the path she knew was the path to please him to gain self approval. Lola was a beautiful ebony complexion. Skin so evenly toned and shiny you could see your reflection in the sun, but Uzor liked the ‘fairer things of life’ so she embarked on the journey to lighten her skin though she hated every bit of it and would never admit to doing such a thing. Not her, she knew what the bible said about being beautifully and wonderfully made but she also knew what Uzor wanted.

He wanted her to dress a certain way, and wear specific hairdos. Lola had an enviable afro with beautifully defined curls but she was bored of it and decided to switch things up and try on weave for a change the day Uzor met her. Ah, Lola what happened to your hair, I can’t believe you relaxed it. You said you will never do that, not in this lifetime, Kemi reminded her. Yes, my friend she said, but Uzor likes it straight so I have no choice if I want to keep him.

Months became years and she finally had the ring on her finger. She quickly packed up her life and moved back home without a second thought to be with her husband. She thought this would be the best opportunity to start the NGO she had always dreamt of establishing. Uzor, the very supportive boyfriend during their courtship, suddenly changed and wouldn’t let her work, why? because he didn’t want any competition and wanted to be ‘the man’ at the expense of her passion.

Slowly, Lola, the good wife became the house wife. He knew quite well when they dated that Lola wasn’t the ‘house chores’ type but the ‘career driven’ type. That never seemed to be a problem to him. He even cooked and did the dishes when they courted.

Of course, Lola was ecstatic and bragged about him at every given opportunity to her friends. Things became different as Lola became the ‘help’ literally after marriage, like she suddenly developed cooking and cleaning genes and it was her duty to him as a ‘woman’ to serve without ever being served. Whenever she wanted to rise up and kick against the situation, she would be met by the wise advisers, “it’s our culture, if you want to keep your marriage young lady, let him be the man. Your duty is to make him happy”. At this point, I reached into my bag to grab my bottle of water, “this can never happen to me”, I thought aloud without realizing it. Lola must have thought so too.

After four years with no child, career and cancer as a result of the harmful chemicals she used to please Uzor which by the way, resulted to the famous ‘coke and fanta complexion’, emaciated Lola was abandoned on her sick bed by her beloved husband who relocated to the UK to pursue his own career.

At that moment, after hearing her speech and being moved to tears, who wouldn’t be? I decided I’d live for what I believe, I wouldn’t change to fit into someone’s criteria, I deserve to be happy too. If our culture is the problem, here’s a solution, cultures change! I walked out of that hall differently, the sun didn’t suddenly mysteriously shine brighter but there was certainly a sudden new found hope.

I am a woman and it’s my world too!