Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Tarzan Monologues

See the world (Sex, Religion, Politics, Erectile Dysfunction, Sterility, Finances, Infidelity etc) through the eyes of men -

Starring Bimbo Manuel, Frank Edoho, O.C. Ukeje, Kunle Adeyoola, Paul Alumona, Precious Anyanwu and Kanayo Okani.

Every Sunday in October at Terra Kulture.

3pm and 6pm.


Written and Directed by Wole Oguntokun. Tarzan Monologues

The Girl Whisperer
as published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 20

The Promised Land

For many of us since the earliest days of childhood, we have dreamed of a place in our lives that we know simply as the Promised Land. We have told ourselves that if we can only attain this state of bliss, some might call it Utopia and others, El Dorado, all our troubles are over.

As children, this Whisperer inclusive, the dream was finding the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It did not matter much to us that the pot of gold was reputed to have been placed there by leprechauns or equally unappealing folk. The driving force was that if we could just reach the gold, all our troubles would be over. As a child, I would pick up the shattered remains of car wind-shields and imagine the crystal pieces as handfuls of diamonds. Yes, I had a very vivid imagination as most children had, really no different from the alchemist trying to turn stones into gold.

Age does not always bring wisdom, and as we grow older, we exchange the wild dreams of finding ten billion American dollars lying on the street waiting for us, for the more adult ones like a young girl finding instant happiness in the hands of a fellow she just met at a social function or in church. It is important that the Whisperer is not misquoted here- you may find your dream partner at a social function or in church; a night-club might be a bit more difficult to find eternal happiness in, but it is not impossible. Stranger things have been known to happen. That fellow with glazed eyes and shaky feet you collided with while he stood trying to maintain his balance by the music speakers, and as you tried to find your way down the dimly lit hallway on the way back from the night club’s bathroom, after throwing up the mix of drinks you had placed on an empty stomach, might be your knight in shining armour. Yeah, right.

So back to the night club or church or bus or public library (we do not have too many of the latter here anymore) and the accidental collision with the person who might take you to the Promised Land. You look into his eyes and you know this is the person you have been waiting all your life for. We all know that feeling, don’t we? That moment of absolute certainty as you round the corner and run into this other person; that moment of déjà vu when the whole world stands absolutely still, and you are the only ones moving in “slow motion” as you both fall to your knees, trying to help each other pick up the books scattered everywhere (assuming it is a library) or a plate of food assuming it is a social gathering. Your eyes are locked on each other’s as your hands scrabble for the dropped items. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

That moment also is one of the greatest delusions on the face of the earth. You may round a corner and find a stranger absolutely attractive, stunning or mind-blowing or any combination of all three; and the security detail might have a hard time trying to persuade you not to follow this person home. (Brittany Murphy and Nicole Kidman would probably have that effect on me) but you need intensive therapy if you think that is how long-lasting (and healthy) relationships are built.

You do not build the foundation of relationships on the illusion that your hand tingled when you shook hands, that there was just something in the eye of this person you met, or that your heart knew you had found eternal happiness when you hugged. Relationships are built at the warfront, in terrible weather, through sludge and slit and rain and snow. You hold on to it like a soldier-in-training holds on to his or her gun as the elements batter you, and believe the Whisperer when he says the elements will batter you. You take the good times, when the sun is shining and all the music you hear tells you of the beauty of what you have, and you take the rough as well when your partner appears to be an alien from another planet.

When the Whisperer talks of the elements battering you, he is not talking of a physically abusive partner. If you are the victim of physical battering, cut and run while you can still move (and if you are so inclined, give his address to the Whisperer, and I’ll sort him out for you). There will be pain in every relationship though, no matter what they tell you. Every relationship will have a flip-side as you try to communicate and level out your differences. There have to be speed bumps as you race on to El Dorado.

Remember that if two people agree all the time, it means only one is doing the thinking. People with different backgrounds and personalities will sometimes have divergent opinions and these will cause friction. It is a mature relationship that purposes it is on to something good and will hold on no matter what comes.

The Promised Land is a long trek, across deserts, through never-before-navigated forests, waterless places and some of the most unforgiving terrain this world ever saw. It is a place filled with pain and extreme joy. And it does not happen in a flash, like gold left behind by some leprechaun with amnesia.

Every strong relationship has probably gone through some kind of fire that burnt off most of its impurities and there is no human combination that does not have its frustrations and short-comings. Along the way, people make their minds up that this is who they want to be with and also purpose to work hard at making the partnership succeed. Those who have failed at relationships are not lesser people, sometimes some combinations just do not work.

It is possible that when I finally meet Brittany Murphy, I shall discover a beautiful face does not necessarily guaranty a wonderful, warm person. Maybe. In the interim, it would be wise if you remembered that as well.

The Girl Whisperer
as published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 13

The Departure Hall

For the past half-hour or so, I have lain on my back and watched the day break through the windows. I have also placed Ibiyemi’s new single, “Don’t Leave Me” on repeat. Her rich, strong voice sings with all the pain of a girl who, in spite of the misgivings she had from the start about the fellow who came cruising into her life, starts a relationship with him. A relationship which appears enjoyable for a while, before hitting turbulence. She plaintively begs him not to leave her standing all alone. “Don’t go” she sings to this fellow who’s had enough. “Till the end of time, I will love you, don’t do this to me.”

At some point in our lives, and hopefully while we are still quite young, we all will stand in a departure lounge and be left behind, knowing as our partner walks away, he or she is never going to return to you. This is where the really young or those that are in denial are going to say “it’s never going to happen to me”. There’s very little chance of you running through an open field like the young Mayan in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” and think you are going to dodge all the spears and javelins thrown at your bare back. One’s going to nick you, draw blood, cause you pain; the prayer would be for it not to impale and incapacitate you permanently.

What is it about relationships and a planet that has five billion people that makes us think the departure of a single person will bring our world crashing down? What is it that makes us sing like ‘Ibiyemi’, “When you walk out through the door, you’ll mess up my life...I won’t let this go”?

Why can’t we just shrug and say “there are many fishes (sic) in the ocean” or whatever other mundane cliché would be appropriate? It is obvious that the synchronization of one’s life with that of another human, creates something, an entity, a corporation, an existing structure, that to pull down would tear the soul apart (or at least cause that kind of pain). Instead of the business structure that requires hard-headed common sense, what you have is a structure built from love (or some similar substance) and two members of the board that are guided by their hearts.

The best way to prepare for pain, some would say, is to have it at the back of your mind that anything can happen to a combination of two people. However, if one enters a relationship with the mind-set that it is certain there will be a rainy day, isn’t the potential for immense pleasure and joy taken away from the relationship from the very beginning?

Should we, because we are afraid of heart-break, not take risks? Now if the ‘risk’ becomes one that shoots us in the face, do we walk away from it or like Ibiyemi, sing the words, “Don’t Leave Me”? Years ago, the yet-to-be Whisperer received a letter. In it, the girl he felt he had found happiness with wrote, “I love you with all my heart but you can’t give me what I want”. Somewhere along the line and before the letter came in, I had come to my senses and prepared myself for such a day as that, still it did little to temper the pain. However, the preparation made it certain that I did not plead with her to stay. Years later, as she and I laughed over it, (well, I did the laughing, she was too busy being pained by how far I’d come), I realized that sometimes it is best not to hold on to someone who is insistent on leaving or a “love corporation” that has fallen apart. If a member of the board is bent on dissolving the company and there is a stale-mate, better to yield to the person who can no longer see the vision or you will go bankrupt.

The best revenge is living well, and if like the Whisperer, you are like wine, getting better with age, the last laugh should be yours. How many of us have come across people who “dumped” us and have thought with an inward sigh of satisfaction and the words of Sunny Nneji’s song in our heads “I’m the little bird that couldn’t fly, now see me high up in the sky”. I apologise, but yes, I have had the opportunity to sing those lines in my head after a separation in the departure lounge.

People will leave you because they do not see your potential (you should let those go, they are likely to become impediments to your development) or because they think “you do not have what they need” (whatever that might be). One of my favourite people, J, was left behind at the departure lounge by some chap after she had gone ahead to start a relationship with him despite serious opposition from her friends (and they were a tight lot). He left her for someone he considered more glamorous but she, in turn, found happiness and incredible advancement elsewhere. In retrospect, it was a good thing he got out of her life; he would have cramped her style.

The well-worn saying is true in this case, “if you love something set it free. If it comes back it is yours, if it does not, it never was.” There are many reasons why we so strongly hold on to those who are in turn, desperate to get out of our lives- We wonder where we will start again, from; how we can find the strength to wake up the next morning; how we will ever be able to make the pain go away. The Whisperer thinks we should let those who want to leave, leave. “A person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” We must find the strength to say goodbye, to get on with our lives and above all, to continue to add value to ourselves. It is the loss of anyone who insists on walking away. Life is too beautiful to spend it in misery because of someone who does not want you. Tell the person, “get up and get out” and make your life continue the way it should, positively.

This Whisperer likes Ibiyemi’s song for many reasons apart from its superb melody. One of these is that the lines made him think, and there are parts of it that remind him of the all-time heart-break song, Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on by”. In affairs of the heart, well, you must follow your heart but remember, don’t let another human’s actions or omissions be what give the meaning to your life.

The Girl Whisperer
published in the Sunday Guardian
of September 6, 2009

The Autobiography

I receive mail all the time from people around the country who read this column, people who have been touched in diverse ways by the things I write, and mostly in a positive manner, I would like to think. There are people with very serious situations out there and in some way, this Whisperer who has never laid claim to perfection or being anywhere near it has been of help at times. However, just a few days ago, an e-mail arrived in response to the Whisperer’s article titled “The Ugly Truth” from a lady I’ll call C.N. I found the mail quite inspiring and I thought I should share it. She wrote: “For all the subtle truths. Thank you. For all the whispered lessons. Thank you. For all the 'in your face' daring advice. Thank you. Thank you for being my true friend (even if you didn’t know me...)
You've been there for me(through the back page of ‘Life’ every week.) in good and bad times, in times of discontent and almost hopeless despair. I appreciate the fact that you know you are not perfect but you 'try'. And so I pray that you never lack for someone to share a smile with. That you never lack a true friend especially when you need one and that you will find fulfilment in the things you do.”

All the “Thank you(s) were written in capital letters and the Whisperer spent a while reading and re-reading the words. For some reason that I cannot find words for, the mail came across as a very profound one and I thank C.N. whom I have never met before, wherever she may be at this moment, and whatever she might be doing, for taking the time out to let me know the impact of my words on her. The Whisperer considers it a privilege that others allow his words into their lives and he’ll be treasuring that mail for a long while.

Many have asked, “Who is this Whisperer that talks with such boldness” and sometimes like C.N. wrote, states “in your face daring advice?” This then is the Whisperer’s autobiography as he chooses to reveal it.

The Whisperer has been there, done that and gone round the block several times. He talks from experience and scenarios he imagines (being a playwright is a great help in such matters). He has been cruel to women in times past (Is there any man who hasn’t?) as they have been cruel to him. He has learnt that life is not about cruelty, and happiness in a relationship is not just a distant and unattainable mirage as some might like us to think.

The Whisperer tells his truths as he knows them. He knows if you enter a relationship and make your life an open book; fools will write their autobiography in it. The truth is simple. You must guard your heart and be very fussy about whom you allow to leave an imprint. When you finally get to write that autobiography of yours, there are some people that should not be blips on your radar. They should not be able to say with a smirk that “I caused her pain” or “I was the subject of that amount of distress”.

I have known females who have not expected to hear me say anything that might put that gender in a bad light. In a singular case, one female I had made acquaintance with, said I hated women on account of these writings. That came from reading a column which apparently struck home in her case, but if I was giving examples of females to emulate, she would be at the bottom of the rung. The aim is to tell all parties the truth, and even if he leans in favour of the “Girls”, he will still tell it like it is. The Whisperer has always been thankful for the opportunity given to tell others of his experiences and his thoughts.

The Whisperer has never claimed his words to be a Bible or the Talmud. His word is not law, it is advice and as in all things, you must weigh the things you hear and balance it with the reality of your life. There is such a thing as commonsense however, and you do yourself a disservice when you do not do things that are sensible.

There are many people who write me privately with issues that you can tell they should know the answer immediately to. You start a letter with “He and I were together and now he is with someone else but I still love him”- You’re asking for trouble. The aim of whispering is not to rubber-stamp situations you should not get yourself entangled in. Why cause yourself further pain? If a partner falls out of love with you, walk away from this person. Don’t grovel, don’t beg. If he changes his mind out of pity, remember that “a person convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”.

Isn’t the truth obvious in these cases? Dump the sucker and get on with your life. Life is what we make it, usually. You shouldn’t be afraid to live your life as you see it. There are many things that militate against us making decisions for ourselves- They are family, friends, loved ones, religion... the list is endless. However, if you sit and consider that the life you have to live is yours alone and that no one signed the lease for your life alongside you, you’ll grow up quickly and become an adult. There is a reason the voting age is eighteen. If your society believes you are old enough to choose who will lead your government at that age, why does it consider you brain-dead in your twenties, thirties, forties and even older when it comes to relationships? Like the song in that eternal movie, ‘The sound of music’ goes, “Your heart, little girl, is an empty page that men will want to write on”. Hold the hand of the writer before he starts to scribble, stare deep into his eyes and if you have any doubts or you meet shifty eyes, twist that thumb till the pen drops from his slack fingers.

It’s an autobiography, baby, write the chapters yourself.

Theatre@Terra presents "Sizwe Banzi is Dead" written by Athol Fugard and directed by Wole Oguntokun every Sunday in September featuring the world's first-ever female 'Sizwe' - Kemi "lala" Akindoju, Paul Alumona as "Styles" and Precious Anyanwu as "Buntu"

Every Sunday in September at 3pm and 6pm.