While growing up, I never saw the beauty in stilettos and cut heels. In fact, I never understood why anyone would love to be so uncomfortable in heeled shoes. I saw them as a sort of punishment. Weird, right? I grew up as the only girl amidst four boys. So, you can understand why I preferred sweatpants to skinny jeans and sneakers to stilettos. I’ve always had an obsession with shoes but while growing up; it was Adidas and Umbra all the way. My hair was always in a tapered cut and my definition of fun was having a rap battle with my brothers.
My parents never saw anything wrong in my style of dressing. I was a child and should be allowed to grow. I’ll forever adore my parents for that, especially my dad who took me to the best Tom Ford stores to get baggy jeans, anytime he had the chance. He was and indeed, is still my role model. I literally adored how meticulously he drew thin fine lines while designing people’s homes. Dad was an architect who had good taste in interior decorating and cars.
After my university education in the UK, I unexplainably felt a certain urge to come back to my motherland to establish a business venture. I wanted to add the foreign touch to Nigerian grown content to see how far it will go. I always believed all that was needed to succeed in Nigeria was hope and that, I had. So, I packed my bags and came to Nigeria to establish ‘Vivid Imaginations’ with some financial support from my family as well as some money I had gathered while engaging in little jobs like being an eatery waitress, transforming people’s faces with makeup and creating YouTube videos, back in the UK. I was 21 then.
I’ve always been an avid reader of books, particularly Christian novels. I ditched all the harlequins while in high school after I saw how it made girls giggle. I was a tomboy so I wasn’t fascinated by how girls gathered under the big oak tree in high school, reading with eyes wide open, an eagerness that could make millions for a barber and giggles that could warm a heart of stone. All for what? Romance novels? Chiiish! So, with reading and an eagerness to adapt to my environment, I successfully created a landmark in the entertainment industry. This attracted a lot of sponsorships and awards. It was at one of these numerous award ceremonies that I met Femi Johnson. Whoop whoop!!!
Femi was into social media marketing and he covered the media aspect of the event. I saw his works on Instagram and we got talking. Sooner, we got fond of each other and went on a few dates. To say I never really dressed up for these dates is an understatement. I still hadn’t left my sneakers and sweatpants life. Though, to my delight, Femi didn’t mind. He actually claimed to like my look. However, his family never did.
After dating for about a year, Femi wanted us to get married and we scheduled a date for him to introduce me to his family. How excited I was. I went shopping for the most simple and yet classy sweat pants and sneakers I could find since the date he picked was only two days away.
The D-day was here and I had my Nike Perforated Jogger track pants, jean jacket and Valentino open sneakers. I really was elated.
So, Femi came to pick me up and we had a one hour drive to his parents’ at Ikoyi. The gold and black plated medium-height gate opened to a garden of beautiful and sweet- smelling flowers; orchids, daisies and golden daffodils. Those daffodils reminded me of William Wordsworth’s ‘I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud’. As we went into the beautifully adorned white duplex, Femi’s family stood, just outside their security door, eagerly waiting and immediately they saw me, I had the greatest shocker of my life. They rolled their eyes at me like I had done something wrong. Everyone was just so cold and I did not understand why. I could only look at Femi and he too had a puzzling look. His dad simply carried his Punch newspaper and walked into a room. Sooner, his mum called him to the terrace of the house and they had a bit of an argument. I had no clue what had transpired. All I know is that Femi stormed in and dragged me out before I could say a word. My teeth almost hit the large blue flower vase that graced the left side of seat his sister reluctantly offered me. My Yoruba parents will say, ‘ko m’oju, ko m’ora afii bi…’ (If you can complete the proverb, I owe you something). If such a reception happens now, I’d probably simply walk back out.
Anyways, when we got into the car, he was visibly shaking and I had no words of comfort.
‘Femi, is everything okay?’ I asked.
‘baby…I…b.b..but..’, he stuttered.
Heaven knows my temperature at that moment was like that of boiling water made ready for Eba. I couldn’t fathom what the whole hullabaloo was about. Femi just started the car and started driving. After about fifteen minutes into the drive, he parked. And then, he explained why his family was so cold. My pupils were literally dilating as I listened to every word he said.
Birthdays come with such joy to some and are ordinary to some. For me, I am always thankful for life. A best friend could be dead before anyone says Jack Robinson and what can we do? We’re mortals. We can’t bring them back but we can make sure to have good memories with them.
It was three weeks to Femi’s birthday when he took me to his parents’ for the first time and I got the worst treatment ever. Till date, I still can’t conceive the best words to express my experience that day but that’s by the way.
When Femi pulled over fifteen minutes away from his parents’ house, he let the cat out of the sneakers and my sweatpants!
‘Rike’, he said, almost like a whisper.
I knew something was up anytime he called me my name; he usually addressed me with ‘baby, bae, dear’ or some of those other sweet names.
‘My parents don’t like the way you are dressed. Mum especially. She even asked me if you’re related to Denrele’
The way my fear gave way to laughter at that moment is incomprehensible. I laughed so hard, it seemed I was watching Bishop Umo and that funny Calabar lady in ‘Calabar Maids’. I couldn’t even hide how cracked up I was despite Femi’s troubled face. He certainly didn’t find this funny. I could see confusion marks dancing along his fine forehead as he wondered what was so funny.
When I finally calmed down, the first thing I said was, ‘you’re so funny, darling. You should go for stand up comedy. How would your mum be bothered about my dressing? I’m totally covered, no skin out, nothing! And asking if I’m related to Denrele? Hahahaha’. I laughed again.
He simply smiled. He could tell I hadn’t gotten a groove of how serious the issue at hand was. ‘ I’m serious, baby. She has asked me to call it quits with you and even dad supports it’.
The laughter vanished. ‘Seriously? Because I’m in ‘sweats’ and sneakers?
I went quiet. The silence that followed was deafening. None of us uttered a word for the next five minutes. Femi started the car and as the sound of the Lagos breeze hit my eardrums, I woke up from my five minutes of silence and simply said, ‘take me home…please’.
I couldn’t wait to tell Remi. It was my first heartbreak and I vowed it would be my last.
After about what seemed forever, Femi’s car finally pulled over in front of my home and I couldn’t even say good bye or give him a kiss like I usually did. I just wanted to talk to my best friend. He sped off after staring at me as I walked in to the house for about ten minutes.
Just then, my phone rang. It was Remi; just who I needed at the time. I hit the receive button.
Photo credits: mytheresa.com, Jimmychoo.com, farfetch.com, cheatsheet.com