When young queer people say “stay away from married women” my heart breaks because married people deserve love too and it feels odd being discriminated against by your kind.
I lost both my parents at nine my siblings were left to be raised by our paternal grandparents. They did a great job with us and loved us to bit. They gave us everything they could but they were ageing and obviously needed help so I grew up faster than I had to so I could relieve them of some of the responsibilities especially after my grandfather retired from civil service. We survived on profit from Grandma’s food-stuff stall in the market, the market was good as I kept improving sales, and our small stall had the biggest customer on our line.
After a while my grandparents couldn’t cope as we got older and our bills grew with us and I watched in pain as my old grandparents went out of their way for us, breaking their bones to ensure we get much out of life they can afford to give us. My grandmother became ill and the responsibilities of the home fell on me and my grandpa. He managed to keep me in school till I could write my WAEC. Wondering where their other children were? My dad had only one sister who is a widow and also struggling to take care of her own end. After secondary school, I became the sole provider of the family as my grandpa had gotten too old to do much but I still watched him sell whatever he could find to help.
Through all these, I knew I was queer but I didn’t have the time to focus on myself at the time, I was doing my best to keep my siblings in school and sustain my old grandparents who had paused their lives for us. I remember I made out a couple of times with my cousin’s friends who came to spend Christmas with us one time. We had watched an LGBTQ movie “Carol” on her phone and I felt an overwhelming wetness in my pant. It felt assuring to see two women make out and from then on we would make out in any privacy we got but I soon forgot about her when she left. I missed her but there was nothing I could do to keep her so I erased her from my mind.
It never bothered me that I had never lived for myself until after I got married. My husband was one of the boys in the market who sold provisions, he grew rapidly as soon as he started and soon became the most eligible bachelor in the market but I never really paid attention to him or his stardom like other girls in the market who were throwing themselves at him. He first saw me the day I came to deliver an order to his neighbour who had called to order some items from me. We exchanged greetings, he asked for my name and from then on he started to be friendlier with me, by this time he had become one of the richest in his line of business, and women introduced their daughters and sisters to him for marriage while the ladies perched around him in their fleet. I didn’t take him seriously when he started to ask me out, Mama Ajibo (our neighbour) would always caution me about him “stay away from Kene o, he doesn’t seem like he can stay with one woman”. But he kept up with his pursuit of my attention.
My grandmother died after battling high BP, Cholesterol, and many other old-age illnesses for three years. It was the most trying time for my siblings and me but Kene did all he could to ensure it wasn’t as rough for us. As soon as he learnt how we are surviving we became his project. He would help me with fees and bills even when I didn’t ask and before long we became an item, I mean, what else was I supposed to do when I met someone who is doing all he could to make things easier for my family? We dated for a year and got married the next year.
I was sure I was going to be a loyal wife because what else should I worry about besides supporting this man who has been the pillar of my family since he came my way? The same year we got married I got admission into the university for a part-time course; it was there I met Benita.
Benita is such a lightweight human, always cheerful and thoughtful. After I got pregnant with my first baby I was worried about coping with pregnancy and school. As I complained to my friend, Benita (who is my friend’s relative) suggested I ask someone in my class to help. It was then we realise we were classmates she became my right-hand person in school. She would help me with attendance on days I couldn’t make it to school, and help with impromptu tests and assignments on days I couldn’t make it to school. Before long I started to think of her more often than I usually would, it got stronger by the day and I knew I was falling for her but I didn’t know how to go about it for a very long time. On her birthday, we hung out with a few friends from our class at a bar, I hadn’t had much fun in my life because I have been a parent more than I have been a child so I embrace any opportunity I get to have fun.
Back in her room, I hugged her, very tight, like I needed to hold her to breathe, I kissed her, was relieved to finally be able to live this moment but was awakened by her abrasive reaction. She pushed me away so hard I fell on her table. I felt so bad. I apologised for not asking for consent but that wasn’t the reason for her reaction as she later explained, it was because I am married to a man and how it is not right for her, a single lady to be in a relationship with me, her reason being my marriage.
I didn’t know how to feel for days but as the days went by I had to find someone I could talk to about it. My friend who is Benita’s cousin confronted me on the topic first; I was surprised but happy to share this with someone. “I don’t understand how you will love someone but can’t be with them because they are married; do I not deserve love because I am married?” I interviewed my friend. She didn’t look happy with me when she confronted me for “trying to rope Benita into a love triangle” but hearing my point had her doing mental scaling on the issue, I guess.
After the lengthy conversation with Benita’s cousin, I realised I needed to listen to Benita on how my actions and affections really made her feel so I called, and we agreed to talk in school. We sat silently in my car for a few minutes listening to the car radio until I broke the silence.
“I just found out from Rose that I was out of line for kissing you and having feelings for you all these while without telling you. I want to apologize” I turned to face her; she had a shallow smile on her face but sat uncomfortably. I felt sad that I might have ruined our friendship but deep in my mind, I couldn’t put my hands on anything I did wrong in particular.
“Apology accepted but I wasn’t angry that you didn’t tell me your feelings earlier than last week. I suspected it but didn’t want to assume anything”. She said with a straight face. “I’m not a child nah, I see how you look at me and how much you want us alone and sensed your emotions” I still couldn’t make out her emotions but I had to stop myself from trying to pin her emotions.
“What I didn’t like was the fact that you took it for granted that I jump on the ship without talking to me to find out if I was comfortable with your plans or if I like you back at least, I mean you are married, to a rich man for that matter and I am wondering if you intend to tell him about me and the true nature of our relationship but I know you wouldn’t and so I am curious what my role would be with you, your side chick or you sex buddy because the story of being in love with me, your husband and kids doesn’t settle well with me because compartmentalized love isn’t the dream I have for my own happily ever after” I didn’t respond immediately because I still do not understand her vex with me.
“I understand if you don’t want to share with someone else but my heart is large enough to love all the special people in my life and NO, I will not tell my husband about us but it won’t remove from the fact that I like you and will like to do what I can to make you happy. I deserve love, despite being married to a man, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a part of me that wants to be with a woman and someone who would see me as a lady who wants more from what life has offered her. I am sorry I acted the way I did, I was wrong to kiss you the way I did but I am not sorry for falling for you because I saw that you care about me and my well being especially in school, I am attracted to kindness and attention and you showed me that”. I broke down in tears as I became overwhelmed by my emotions and the influx of all the times I’ve had to take care of others and not bother about myself.
“Not all of us were lucky to experience life like you or were offered the opportunity to know life and discover ourselves like you and Rose, life happened to me and I am trying to make as much as I can from it but don’t tell me I don’t deserve to be with a woman because I am married” I continued to defend myself, there was no need for the defence, it was just me convincing myself that I deserve love that nobody has the power to deny me the love I crave, the kind that I want. I was fighting for my place, the place of people like me whose choices were taken away by the universe and events beyond our control.
She sat still and listened to my frustrations and the rage I was feeling and still, she said nothing, then she realised I didn’t deserve the things she had said to me either. We sorted out our issues and agreed to be friends but I knew my feelings for her would never go away. I tried my best to keep up my end by not mentioning my affections to her but I also told her I won’t live in denial of it but will do my best to not let it get in the way.
Not long after her birthday Rose celebrated hers, I went from home and I was sure to have fun and I did. Rose introduced her friend to me and asked if I could drop her at the next Bus stop which I agreed to do. There was crazy traffic on the road, a trailer fell on a bridge causing a gridlock so we just sat in the car and talked about mundane things. Bunmi turned to face me with a geeky smile and said “Rose invited me to her party so I could meet you, she said you are married on one side and single on the other” I busted into a long hearty laugh. “You are crafty with words huh?” I said still laughing with a streak of tears down my right eye. She joined me to laugh.
“She said you recently got heartbroken by someone you had feelings for” At that I turned to look at her face for the first time since the ride and asked in dismay “had? Rose said that in past tense like so?” she jumped to defend herself “Nooooo, she said you got rejected and that’s all,” she said with a look of defeat. “You guys have really talked a lot about me abi?” I rhetorically asked
There is something corky about Bunmi, she makes a lot of jokes and likes to have fun but I don’t know how I feel about her boldness, because it’s quite intimidating.
“Let me tell you about me since you didn’t ask,” she said amidst smiles “My name is Bunmi, born and brought up in Lagos, married with a cute son, he’s four years. I am 34years old and I am bisexual, not from the feminist point of view though” she smirked hard.
“What is the feminist and non-feminist point of view of bisexuality e jor,” I asked, hungering for answers.
“Well, there are the privileged bisexuals who get to choose the life they want and then there is us who have to stay breathing through life, those of us who have to keep fighting for love because we might not be strong enough to stick to a gender in love”. She made her case effortlessly as if well rehearse and for the first time I saw what her serious face is like. She is really beautiful with a baby face and a tiny set of teeth. “May I know you more Ma’am?” she said with a dramatic gesture to me and a corky smile.
“Well, since you are forcing me to introduce myself, my name is Eno short for Enobong, I am from Cross River state, married with two adorable boys, 37years old, bisexual but from a non-feminist perspective” I finished with a proud grin, we both laughed.
That was how two women who are married to men found a rare type of satisfying love in each other. We understand the demands of our relationships with our families and marriages and we do our best not to compromise on our marriage vows but I don’t want to imagine my life without Bunmi, she makes my life so much easier and joyful.
Our families are best friends now, both our husbands do business together and our kids feel at home in either of our houses.
I refused to accept the narrative that a woman who is married to a man should be denied the love of another woman without giving her the option to her choose sides. Being with Bunmi has actually helped sustain my marriage for me because the more I grow and explore life I see things I want to do but can’t because of my marriage and severally Bunmi has helped me make the right choices, the best confidant in the world. Best kind of love I have known.
I want to tell people in my situation to not take the narratives they have been given but to hold onto the passion in their hearts and keep looking. I have come to find there is a type of lover for any kind of love. Don’t stereotype us out of finding love.