The Girl Whisperer
as published in the Sunday Guardian
of August 26
Should Love wear glasses?
My friend was getting ready to marry, detailed plans in an advanced stage being made to make the ceremony itself a success, every girl’s dream, and then one day she thought to compare notes with this man that suited her in so many ways. One little problem…they both had the sickle cell trait, not enough to hinder them from living very healthy lives as individuals and as a couple, but enough to affect their children yet unborn.
In the minds of a lot of people and with very good reason, people bearing the sickle cell trait must never share genes. Their children, if unfortunate to inherit sickle cell genes from both parents, sometimes suffer horrendously and joy may be marred by the pain that follows such children. So, when an African is born with the faintest traces of the sickle cell (It doesn’t affect Caucasians), this person often marries another without any such traits. Common sense. But isn’t this the same thing as someone loving with the head and not the heart? Should love scrutinize, wear magnifying glasses, inspect a potential suitor? Should passion ask questions, not allowing itself to be swept by the tide of sheer pleasure at being in the presence of another?
Not so long ago, in the Nigerian society, it was common for each family to have a sleuth, an informal detective, whether male or female, sent out to inspect the family tree of any potential suitor. This person would travel long distances to the home of the suitor, asking questions of those whom knew the family. It was important that the family seeking to be engrafted unto theirs, wasn’t related to them in some way, didn’t have men that died young, or had a history of mental illness. Extreme? Such examinations were considered natural. Others might have considered it a way of keeping the stock “pure”.
I heard from a female friend many years ago that men in their village never took a wife from her family. It had something to do with an act committed by her great-grandfather which the community never forgot. Females amongst her relatives had to find spouses and partners far away from home.
These days, except in families where there are older people who hold on to those customs and insist, these matters are overlooked. People randomly meet others at clubs, supermarkets, in minor car collisions (that happened to me), on the internet and then start relationships, unaware that sometimes, the bottoms of the most placid lakes are homes to reptilian creatures. There are many dangers when we do not open our eyes to warning signals. This equivalent of a background check in a serious relationship (to be distinguished from malevolent snooping) should not be brushed aside without consideration. It might save all the parties involved, a lot of grief and pain in the end.
Clinical psychologists say there is a chance that schizophrenia is sometimes passed on to children. I was informed of a female recently who had no idea her husband (born into a prominent family) had a record of mental illness and had been institutionalised until they’d been married two years. When he lost his reason again, she ran to her mother-in-law who told her without blinking that she had to "accept her lot".
This piece should not be mistaken for one that stigmatises. The point to note instead is that there should be full disclosure to the other party on all issues or the relationship is based on fraud.
There are people who understate the problems they might have- their physical. emotional and mental states, their inability to function in a world that is going at full tilt. A relationship not based on disclosure is one that will not last the course.
It is a good idea to wear glasses sometimes in matters of the heart, to pay close attention to the set-up you’re being invited to join. When the euphoria dies and you’re left with the business of living, what will keep you going is the fact that you know almost all you need to know about your partner and that there can be no surprises.