Saturday, August 25, 2007

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.

14 comments:

mack said...

compromise methinks. May they adopt? artificially inseminate? remain without kids? there are a thousand other options to get around the SS trait. they don't necessarily have to break up, except the primary aim for the relationship is procreation, not their mutual love.

catwalq said...

You have to go into relationships with your eyes wide open
No, putting stupid clauses like ethnicity, height, etc arw wrong but No, blood type and medical history are not isssues to be taken lightly.

laspapi said...

compromise, mack? Adoption's a very laudable thing, but personally, I'd like to produce from my own factory. Artificial inse...? Seems the same as No. 1 if you're "accepting material" from other people. Remain without kids? Nah! The primary aim of a relationship might not be procreation but wanting kids is a legitimate desire.

@ catwalq- I agree with you totally.

Nonesuch said...

all you have spelt out is my reason for frowning against inter tribal marriages. I say even with the 'Ojos' next door they have hidden issues you will never know till its too late not to talk of the 'Obis' form across the Niger.How much can you see even with thick coke bottle lens? Marriage is hard on its own and when the other 'hidden issues' begin to raise their heads then you are very ON YOUR OWN.
I doubt if LOVE 'conquer' all cos then BETRAYAL and TRUST will be in the mix.

Uzo said...

Romance,butterflies,euphoria,breathlessness. Then real life hit you in the face. Honestly, life can be quite sober and such a spoilsport...

Sherri said...

i concur regarding "full disclosure, but can't seem to shake the stigmatizing effect which i think is the underlying reason to not disclose in the first place.i still hold on to the notion that a true and abiding love does conquer all.

when do one demand for full disclosure? right after hello?on the the second date? or is it just before the first intimate entanglement? i have a feeling some would say when the relationship get to a level of seriousness or before proposing marriage,if thats the case, should the result of the disclosure make any difference at this point if the ties that bind are strong? how then does one deal with non disclosure items i.e.unforeseen issues such as infertility, terminal illness,loss of limb,sight or disfigurement?
(i know, i think too much )

Aijay said...

I agree with you on the idea of disclosure, being alert, wearing glasses & looking out for certain signs.
The sad truth is that human beings are never 100% honest. Life is full of surprises!!

laspapi said...

rethots sent e-mail to say:

"disclosure, yeah, but then, what do you disclose? Do you know that until you actually marry someone there are somethings you'll never know? Even if you claim you know all 'cos you both lived together for sometime before walking the aisle (the relationship between you both wasn't marriage then, that's a big difference).
Eventually, what matters is why you want to get married?
In fairness, you don't lead someone on and not disclose whatever you know (or even think) will eventually be known and might cause a problem.
Oh yes, you wear glasses; you don't like a particular trait, you simply might not be attracted to persons with that trait. So, you don't go ahead hoping that eventually 'love' will conquer your personal taste (of not liking such trait)."

36 INCHES OF BROWN LEGS said...

ive been trying to leave a comment for days now ont his post, but the words have refused to come, u know why laspapi. compromising isnt so easy. adopt ke?? when its not like theres nothing wrong with either of u. artificial inserminations is not only expensive but ridiculously painfull and i hear dangerous. trust me its not all about love yes Love is a good foundation but as important as a foundation is, there are other things that you should place equal emphasis onwhen u get to the point where your children are going in and out of hospital so much you have to have a bag on standby just for efficiecy sake trust me u will start to wonder where the love that you were so sure about took a walk to, cos it will beccome such a distant memory that u will begin to wonder why the hell u stayed together in the first place. Wo, its just best to open ur eyes wide, not as easy as it sounds but it will save u a lot hearthaches in future.

laspapi e ma bi nu, my comment is rather long, so much for not having anything to say.

laspapi said...

@ rethots- I agree that until you marry another, there are some things you will never know of that person, but it shouldn't stop one seeking as much openess as possible, before the great step..

@ 36"- I'm glad you spoke your heart, 36". Thank you.

R said...

My immediate response echoed Rethots':

how much can one really know?

In the end, we all walk in blindly because we're accepting a great deal that we do not, perhaps even cannot immediately know about a person. Some that we may never know.

That's why the institution of marriage fascinates me, especially among Christians for whom divorce is not an option.

Up till now, I've been too much of a cynic to subscribe.

But I also see that because of it, I'm probably let go of some good opportunities to be relatively happy, maybe even giddily so...

laspapi said...

@ r - you brought in another angle, r- Christians not being allowed to divorce- I'm not sure how strong that practice is, these days. I see your point and rethots though, one might never be completely able to know another, and a part of it is just winging it and hoping for the best..

My 2 cents said...

Very strong points especially with the spate of divorce these days that has made marriage ery unappealling.

I know for a fact that a man and woman coming together to marry must be spiritual before physical for so man reasons and I'll explain why:

1) They have to have an ethereal and mutual understanding of their persons and what they are getting into.

2)Technology is able to help these days in the case of couples with sickle cell traits, the deeper thing in a relationship is not the genetic mutation but our attitudes.

3)When a marriage is contracted there has to be very genuine reasons for it and not for fictitious lies and vanity.

4)Everyone involved must realise that love, patience, tolerance and wisdom is the spice that should carry the day till God calls them home.

olaoluwatomi said...

disclosure about certain things is essential, eg schizo is not something you hide under the carpet, its an issue that can end a marriage, non disclosure about what end of the tube from which to squeeze the toothpaste is on the otherhand something both parties should get used to.

I think the genotype issue is important and people wearing rose colored glasses should take them off if this is an issue. The problems a child with sickle cell can cause, are enough not just to ruin a marriage but remove every trace of romance.

The pain a child with sickle cell goes through is enough reason for couples 'so much in love they are moonstruck' to have a rethink.

In conclusion olorun a ran wa lowo to make the right choices