Love is omnipresent in our books, our movies, our television, and of course our songs, so it’s no wonder it is often on my mind and probably yours as well. I’m well settled into my love at this point having been with Wole for over fifteen years, but I still examine how we got here and how my idea of love has changed. I know my story is different from most people’s experience, as according to a recent article in Brit and Co,. the average age most people find their soul mate is 27 and I found mine at 18. That has allowed for a lot of emotional growth since we first met.
Much to my consternation, in high school I had many guy friends, but all of them loved me in a sisterly fashion. Looking back, that was all for the best, but at the time I had read and watched so many Romantic comedies I was waiting for one of two things to happen. Option 1: One of my friends realized he was madly in love with me and made a grand confession and romantic gesture. Option 2: The universe plopped a guy in my way, who would also make grand romantic gestures, while I passively received the universe’s gift. (What can I say, I blame Meg Ryan movies.) In college I made a discovery. Both of those options come off as really insincere and annoy me.
Since I didn’t know anyone at college option 1 was not really a possibility at first, but option 2 began to pop up. A few guys that I had been warned hit on every girl that moved offered to help carry things for me and told me how beautiful I was. Instead of being flattered, I just felt icky and irritated. Being slightly more pro-active, I joined a praise band, because church musicians would be the perfect gift from the universe right? The guys in charge let off an undefinable aura tinged with arrogance and self-righteousness that made me nauseous.
Then there was Wole. There weren’t instant flirtations, just two people interested in what the other had to say and who genuinely enjoyed hanging out together. I won’t say dating wasn’t a thought, but we spent months just getting to know each other. When it finally turned into something else, there was no grand confession, just a natural and slow change to a love that was beyond friendly. For years I thought he didn’t love me enough, because there weren’t constant lavish confessions of love, but again I think an oversaturation of romance would have seemed fake and annoyed me. (When those confessions did come from guy friends after I started dating Wole, I know they angered me greatly.)
Once again culture differences do have a part to play here. I spent a great deal of time studying and listening to the music of the Nigerian Afropop king, Fela Kuti, a pan-African activist who sought to maintain African culture and fight Western influence. One of his arguments was against the Western idea of love, in which he cited there is no Yoruba word for Romantic love. This is debatable, but “Ife” certainly has a different connotation than the European idea of love established by the Romantics. The Nigerian culture has a more practical view of love and while things happen and the Western concept of love has crept in more and more, everyday struggles take precedence. A great deal of coupling doesn’t happen until after college and the requisite year of youth service, because life is just too unsettled before than.
So where does that leave Wole and I? Well, when the sweet words are spoken, I know he means every word to the core and that this love truly runs deep. As I watch my inordinate amount of single friends struggle to find romance, I wonder if they have taken the time to find the deep earned words of love or are focusing on the beginning raw attraction with no roots. Everyone is different and needs to find their own ideal, but I hope no one misses the ocean, while being blinded by a flashy creek that dries up when the rain takes a break.