First of all, I in no way believe in generalizing and saying this is THE experience of an African immigrant (or even a Nigerian immigrant) and an American spouse. This is the journey of two people, who happen to be from different cultures and if you can identify with the cultures, the love story, or the familial situations, wonderful!
This love story began almost fifteen years ago, when a nineteen year old boy left Nigeria to go to college in America with only a backpack. While, it wasn’t love at first sight, we quickly became close friends. Partial credit for our interactions goes to my lack of a television, campus wide power outages our freshman year, and an aversion to underage drinking. This left us with hours to just sit and talk, while most of the rest of campus was partying. I was fascinated about his childhood and life in Nigeria. I would listen for hours to stories about extended family members living with his immediate family, football, frequent power outages, and of course musical life. I would tease him about his accent when he would say “harm” for “arm” and he would tease me for my American English, as opposed to proper British English. When Thanksgiving break came, it finally occurred to me that this was only a United States holiday, so I brought Wole home to experience the feeding frenzy. This led to more sharing, including dragging Wole out of his dorm to experience his first snow fall. After that we grew increasingly closer, until finally a week before I turned nineteen and we had known each other six months, Wole kissed me.
College found us madly in love and also frequently clashing, as our own ideas of what a relationship and partner looked like came together into an often mismatched, haphazard quilt. Some of our clashes were due to cultural differences, while some come down to our very different personalities. Our real relationship problems began our senior year, when my mother started violently fighting against the idea of Wole for a son-in-law. I have often pondered her violent reaction that included threatening to have him deported and I have a few theories.
One is just plain racism. The polite racism that runs rampant throughout American society, where all races say they are not racist, but cling to stereotypes and generalities to judge people they have never met. From the age of eight, I was told I was never to marry a person of color based on stereotypes of black male violent and domineering personalities.
Another theory: Wole and I were planning to marry our graduation weekend, in hopes that some of his family might get a visitation visa and already be in the states. To my mother, this meant missing the last summer with her daughter. Silly as it sounds, I believe this was enough for my mother to violently fight against the marriage. Part of her also believed I would marry him and move to Nigeria and she would lose her only child.
My last theory involves the killing of an ideal. My mother, like most mothers, had some vision in mind of what her future in laws and grandchildren looked like. I was presenting her with a different picture, one she had never envisioned and could not immediately adopt.
I was willing and took efforts toward marrying Wole anyway with no family present. Wole, ever sensible and good natured, refused and gave my family time to come around, which most of them eventually did. We married a year later and have been together ever since. This blog is our story along the way and adventures yet to come!