Little man, big drama

I’ve wanted to write about babies and the delightful quirks associated with them for some time. It is fitting in a sense that this post coincides with the end of a week in which my wife – for the first time since Oluwadamisi, our son, was born – has been away from him for an extended period of time. In the two nights that she’s been back, boy, have we seen some drama! Here’s some insight – from the perspective of a 10-month-old father – into the complicated, mind-boggling world of babies.

Toys

Look at this poor fella...
Look at this poor fella…

Let me give parents-to-be some free, useful advice: don’t waste your hard earned money on those things they call toys. As far as babies are concerned, they are an utter waste of money. Invest instead in durable and inexpensive mobile phones, remote controls and laptops, for these are the things babies find most attractive. They ignore the splash of red and green easily within their reach and instead gun for the TV remote control – in all its majestic blackness – that you had tucked away where you thought they wouldn’t notice it. It is as though they can tell that all those brightly coloured toys are cheap and worthless. Having a baby is expensive enough, save some money on toys until they are toddlers.

Sleep

Don’t be deceived by those cute pictures of babies in blissful slumber; it is often hard work to get them to sleep. Generally, with adults, the more tired one is, the easier it is to fall asleep. Not so with babies. The more exhausted they are, the crankier they are. The crankier they are, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. Twisted baby logic. There’s a lot of drama with babies, but the drama that comes with sleep trumps them all. They want to be rocked and nursed to sleep, and they don’t care if it’s 3 in the morning. On other days, they wake up at 4 am, wanting to play.

IMG_1362
Don’t I just love when he is like this

Picture this: after two uninterrupted hours of turning the living room upside down, it looks like Damisi has finally worn himself out. I pick him up, sling him over my shoulders and begin pacing about the room. Ten minutes later, I spy his shut eyes in the mirror. Just to be sure, I pace about for a few more minutes. I go up to the bedroom and place him, gingerly, on the bed. He is now fast asleep. I shut the bedroom door gently behind me and go back downstairs, already relishing the prospect of an hour or two of serenity whilst he is asleep. Five minutes later, I return to the bedroom to get my internet dongle and there he is seated upright on the bed, wide-eyed. My wife calls them “power naps” – short, intense 5 – 10 minutes of sleep that leave him reinvigorated, fully charged for another couple of hours of wearing himself and everyone else out. If ever there was a misnomer, “slept like a baby” is one.

Living on the edge

It is true that the intrinsic nature of man is to be disobedient and it is that which is forbidden that we are most drawn to. Damisi has convinced me that much. I’ve already talked about how babies are drawn more to remote controls than to their toys, but their proclivity for danger and the forbidden goes beyond this. Enjoy those first few months when you can leave your baby somewhere and return to find her in exactly the same spot. As soon as they can crawl, babies are all about living dangerously. I find it perverse that it is the things that pose the greatest risk to them that they are most bent on playing with – wires and electric sockets are easy examples. They never stay in the middle of mum and dad’s king-sized bed to play; rather you are most likely to find them precariously at the edge of the bed, one turn away from falling over and landing on the floor with a thud. The edge of the staircase; the top of the center table; the base of the standing fan: these are the little ones’ favourite places to play.

Crying

They say babies only cry when they are hungry, tired, frightened, upset or in discomfort. That is not entirely correct. They also cry for no reason at all; or if we must attribute a reason, because they are babies and crying is what babies do. It is this last category of crying that tests my patience the most. The others I perfectly understand and can accommodate. On those occasions when I am convinced Damisi is crying for no reason at all, I sometimes wish we could leave him to cry, just so as to find out how long he can keep it going. Luckily for him, his mum would never give me a chance to see this evil experiment through. Come to think of it, why didn’t I try this out whilst she was away?

… & some more drama

As a general rule, babies are most comfortable, when adults are in the most discomfort. How else does one explain the fact that they find it easiest to fall asleep, when someone is carrying them whilst standing or walking about? In some cases, the instant you attempt to sit to rest your aching back, they begin to fuss. You return to an upright position, and they go back to being quiet. You can almost hear them say: I’m not asleep yet; how dare you sit.

They also seem to have a knack for disrupting intimacy. I’m sure a lot of couples can relate to this. If they are not waking up whilst you guys are just about to get it on, they make sure they successfully wear you out beforehand. Why does it have to be the night you put a bottle of wine in the fridge and are looking forward to having the missus to yourself that your little one decides not to go to sleep without creating a fuss? Almost as if they have an inkling that what you guys are up to could result in another baby that would take their place in the pecking order, and are not prepared to take any chances.

Oluwadamisi
Oluwadamisi

It has to be one of life’s great mysteries how one so little has turned our lives completely upside down. But I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything else on earth. To my little man: here’s to loads of more drama.

Photo credits:

1. “Look at this poor fella” – Olutola Bella

2. “Don’t I just love when he is like this” – Olutola Bella

3. “Oluwadamisi” – Olatoun Okunnu

Ehen, who kom carry last na?

The parable of the workers in the vineyard is one of the stories in the Bible that baffles me most. For the sake of those who don’t know the story, here’s a quick narration: a landowner goes out at the break of dawn and hires some workers for his vineyard. They agree a daily wage of a penny. He sends them off to the vineyard to begin work. A few hours later, he runs into another group of people standing idly in the market. He hires them and sends them off to the vineyard to join the first set of workers. This sequence of events is repeated over the course of the day, with the last group of workers hired late in the evening. Nothing remarkable, I agree, but only until the day is over and it is time for the workers to be paid their wages. For some reason, he decides to pay the workers in inverse order of the time of their hire. He pays the set of workers he hired last a penny. Those he hired first also receive a penny. Predictably, they are upset, and not unreasonably so. Surely, it was unfair that those that had worked longest should receive exactly the same wages as those who had worked for less, right?

***

Life too, as many of us have now found out, is often not fair. We like to imagine that people always get their just deserts. That the smartest guys end up at the top; hardworking people achieve success in the end; and the wicked will eventually get their comeuppance. It doesn’t always work out like that. If there’s one thing life seldom gives, it’s what we think we or others deserve.

***

Remember Bayo that was in our class?

Bayo…? That had two extra semesters?

Yeah, that’s him. I ran into him at the bank. He’s done very well for himself o. He’s into real estate development.

Really?

Yeah. I saw him off to his car. The guy drives a 2013 G550 mehn.

G what! You’re joking. The same Bayo?

Many of us still react with an emotion that ranges from mild surprise to utter disbelief when we are confronted, in later years, with the success of people from our past. They might be a former classmate at secondary school; a fellow analyst at the firm where we got our first job; or a girl that lived on the same street as we did twelve years ago. Whoever they are, there’s that common denominator – we knew these people when they were nobodies, and not just that, at the time we knew them, there wasn’t the slightest indication they would turn out any good.

Remember that efiko† in your university days; the one who won all the prizes at the Convocation and was the darling of all the lecturers? Where do you think she is now? In a top job at a big multinational earning twice the pay of her contemporaries and higher up the ladder than co-workers twice her age, right? Wrong. Majority of the career high-flyers I have come across in my professional life were not top-of-the-class students. Wait a minute, don’t get too excited, they were not stupid either.

Well, here we are, all these years later, comparing notes, unpleasantly surprised by how well those we had written off as ne’er-do-wells have fared.

***

Rotimi was that guy every girl wanted to be with and every guy wanted to be like. He was a good looking bloke – dark and tall, with an athletic build and boyish looks. His parents were well to do. He lived in a BQ in the Staff Quarters, drove a very clean Corolla and was always impeccably dressed. He had swag – not the in-your-face type that some of us find obnoxious – but a charming, likeable kind. As you’d expect, Rotimi had the pick of the best chicks during his undergraduate days at Ife. When I found out that he had been with Solape – a sweet, pretty 100 level law chick I was weighing a move on – I was very upset at how life and circumstances made it so easy for some guys to have all the chicks whilst the rest of mankind roasted.

Fast forward to present day. Wole – a friend from Ife – is getting married and I’m at The Haven, the venue of the wedding. I am threading my way down a narrow aisle – distracted by a girl in a red dress across the hall – when I bump shoulders against someone coming from the opposite direction. I look up to apologize and recognize the face. It is Rotimi, as devilishly handsome as ever.

Wassup. How you dey? I say. My tone is measured. I haven’t completely forgiven him over Solape.

Hey! How’re you doing man? he replies, clasping my hand enthusiastically. Long time.

Yeah I reply, noticing only then that there’s a woman standing behind him.

He draws her closer. This is my wife.

I burst out laughing. Okay, seriously, I don’t laugh, but I don’t know how I am able to keep myself from laughing.

Your wife I say aloud, stretching out my hand. What! How? Why? But I don’t say these aloud. Hi, I’m Tola.

My name is Fisayo, pleased to meet you she replies. Her voice is laced with a distinct Yoruba accent.

She is all smiles as she shakes my outstretched hand. But the smiles do not help the situation. I know that not everyone is pretty and I do not – okay let’s change that to try not to – judge people or discriminate against them on the basis of their looks. But I think everyone should look a little nicer when they smile and no one should turn up at a wedding slovenly dressed. I cannot believe my eyes.

Later on, I am seated at a table with friends, exchanging banter. But my mind is elsewhere. I am thinking of what on earth could have made Rotimi – the bad ass, smooth talking ladies man from back in the day – end up with a wife like that. Did she get pregnant? No, it couldn’t be: what would he have been doing with her in the first place. I am generally not superstitious, but I can’t help wondering if she had laced his food with a love potion, the way they do in movies on AfricaMagic Yoruba. I shake my head in disbelief. What was the point of dating all those gorgeous girls at Ife if this was going to be his last bus stop? I can make no sense of it.

Surely, I’m not the only one here that has a story like this to share. I know you must have run into an old flame at some social event, hand in hand with her beau, and come away from that encounter immensely pleased that she didn’t, if appearances are anything to go by, get an upgrade after dumping you.

There was a spring in my step as I left The Haven later that evening. It had nothing to do with the Moet I’d had at the wedding, even though I’d had quite a bit. It wasn’t the pleasure of catching up with old friends and former classmates. This is why I was thrilled: I may not have had an illustrious record in the dating game, but if there was a Girlfriends and Wives Contest that day, I could decide to show up without my babe and still finish ahead of Rotimi.

***

Would you have imagined, back then, that that your roommate at Idia Hall who was notorious for being an aristo‡ would be happily married today, with a devoted husband and two adorable kids?

She didn’t contract HIV?

Nope.

Her womb wasn’t damaged by all the serial abortions they said she’d had?

Nope.

Her husband doesn’t know or care about her sordid past?

Sorry, darling, no again.

It’s not fair!!!

Say hello to life.

***

I am no Bible Scholar, but I’ve been told that the meaning of the parable of the workers in the vineyard is this: the decision of the landowner – who represents God – to pay all the workers the same wage was an act of mercy – to the workers that were hired later – and not injustice – to those that were hired first. In other words, it is up to God who He decides to show mercy.

Perhaps there’s logic to the events in the other stories after all. Bayo may have struggled to remember what he had just read the instant he flipped the page, but what does that have to do with an eye for opportunities and good judgment, which are integral to succeeding in business? Here’s what I tell every young, bright-eyed student that asks for my advice: read your books, but don’t imagine for one second that good grades would give you anything in life more than bragging rights amongst your peers and a shot at a decent first job. It was possible that Rotimi had finally realized that meaningful relationships didn’t have to be hinged on physical attractiveness. Perhaps Fisayo had some extraordinary virtue I knew nothing about that compensated for the sloppiness. Plausible, hmm? To be honest, not that I care. The next time I see Tony at a client meeting dressed in an oversized suit – the same Tony that made some of us not want to come to school on Out of School Uniform Day because his older siblings that lived in Yankee sent him box loads of baffs♠ – I will still smile smugly, adjust the lapel of my tailored jacket and say to myself ehen, who kom carry last na?♦

I am on twitter @bellanchi

Efiko – Slang meaning “nerd”.

Aristo –  Slang for a young girl or woman (usually a student) who regularly has sex with older married men for money. Could also be used to refer to such men.

Baffs – Slang meaning “nice clothes”.

Ehen, who kom carry last na? – Roughly translated, spoken cheekily: “so who finished last after all?”

if you must eat a frog

Meet Jide, a company executive, who works in Lagos. He is in his early thirties and is happily married with two kids. Jide travels to Nairobi on business. He gets to meet Rahel, a tall, beautiful Ethiopian woman at a meeting and strikes a conversation with her during a tea break. They find out that they are both staying at the Crowne Plaza. They meet up for drinks at the hotel bar later that evening. She’s wearing a short dress that shows off her svelte figure and slim legs. The banter progresses into very engaging conversation. Jide thinks there’s something flirty about the way Rahel intermittently brushes, away from her face, her dark, lustrous hair. He orders a second bottle of wine. We can all tell where this ends.

Before we go any further, let’s establish some ground rules: we would leave morality out of this conversation. I took off my moral hat before penning the first word, and I expect that – if you subscribe to any moral values – you’d put them away for just a bit. This is going to be a purely rational enquiry into infidelity.

If you ask me, I’d say I perfectly understand why Jide cheated on his wife. If the circumstances – the person, the place and the time – are right, any man OR WOMAN (deliberately emphasized so that we can immediately discard that silly notion that men have a greater predilection to infidelity) would cheat on their partner.

But whilst I get the randomness and spontaneity of anonymous sex with an attractive stranger, there are some types of infidelity that I struggle to comprehend. One such example is Wedding Eve Infidelity. Stories abound of grooms-to-be that bed anything from their fiancée’s best friend to a stripper on the night of the eve of their weddings. Like a testimonial match, such rendezvous are supposed to be a Player’s farewell to the Game; the final act before the curtains fall – a swan song of some sort. In reality, such guys would probably only last their honeymoons before they cheat again. In my view, there’s something fundamentally wrong – and by “wrong” I do not mean a moral wrong – with a groom-to-be shagging, the night before his marriage, someone other than the woman that he is to marry. I mean, what’s the point of entering into a legally binding monogamous relationship when you have no intention to ever be with one woman? You might as well stay single and free. Why complicate things by getting married? It’s plain stupid.

That’s why I have a certain admiration for players and hustlers in their purest forms; the ones that are self aware enough to accept that they are not cut out for monogamous relationships and do all that they can to avoid them. Joe Player who is upfront enough with the naïve, beautiful girl that has been crushing on him by letting her know he’s only after a good lay, and ravishing Tina Hustler who would screw anything if the buck was right. I love such folks for their honesty. Next to them, many of us cut poor, pathetic figures: the analyst who lies unashamedly – going as far as swearing by his forefathers – that he does not have a girlfriend just so that bedding the Youth Corper recently assigned to his office is less complicated; or the businessman who religiously removes his wedding band the instant he boards a plane on a business trip and stows it away. Really, how low should one have to go in order to get laid?

Another variety of infidelity that bewilders me is that which does not discriminate. It is true that some folks have unusual levels of libido, but even that cannot be explanation for the Company MD that sleeps with everyone from the front desk officer to the service girl at the beer parlour across the road.

There should be loads of women (and men) in the world every man (and woman) should find not even remotely attractive. And their zero sexual appeal should have nothing to do with them being your fellow chorister, a friend’s husband, your girlfriend’s best friend or falling into any of those other categories of the opposite sex that are by social norms ordinarily out of bounds. It should be because they do not – and simply cannot – appeal to you. Finish.

I went for a friend’s bachelor’s party sometime last year – I have since decided it is the last I’d ever attend. Everything was fine until the girls that had been organized for the bash arrived. I have seen a lot of ugliness in the world, but never in such numbers all at once. I made a quick exit. I don’t think the other guys shared my sentiment. For many of them, not taking a girl – any kind of girl – home from that party meant a night wasted.

Indeed, there is evidence that not all men or women possess the capacity of being able to discriminate in their attraction to the opposite sex. I sympathize with the women who are unable to feel completely safe leaving their boyfriends or husbands with any other woman and the guys that are constantly worrying over who their trophy girlfriends might be screwing. It must be quite distressing to a wife when even Comfort – the housemaid who you can tell from the lingering body odour where in the house she’s been – is a potential threat.

Similar to infidelity that doesn’t discriminate is that which involves a downgrade. I’d share with you a friend’s philosophy on adultery: she must be such a babe that if my wife ever runs into her, she (my wife) would be like hmmm, I see. In other words, he or she must be such a hottie that your spouse wouldn’t have to struggle to make sense of why you done it. If you can manage to rein in your self-righteousness for just a second (can I hear indignant protests of cheating is not justified under any circumstances already?) and not burst a vein, you too would see the beauty in this principle, which I’d brand Thou Shalt not Lower the Standard.

As much as we are led by music videos and fashion runways to believe that there is an infinite supply of beautiful women in the world, in reality there are only so many of them. Thus, if (i) your spouse is a dead drop beauty herself and (ii) you are faithful to the commandment Thou Shalt not Lower the Standard, your chances of being unfaithful to her are as limited as your options. And that, my friends, is why you should marry a Halle Berry. Admittedly, there are some things that rank higher than physical attraction in the choice of a spouse, but if your reasons for marrying him are nothing more than that he is caring, or you had to console yourself with “well, she’s the homely type” before you could pop the question, then you’ve signed up for a lifelong struggle against flesh.

So was there any other way Jide’s night could have ended? Certainly. At the end of the day, everything – including whether or not to walk away from the titillating prospect of a one night stand – is a choice, and we are responsible for the choices we make. The easiest way was to never have suggested hanging out in the first place. From there on, it was only going to get more difficult.

Now do I expect this commentary would result in one cheat less in the universe? Of course not. That was never the object of this piece and it is fantasy to imagine that a half-serious take on infidelity would turn a serial cheat into Guy Faithful or make Miss Slut turn from her easy ways.

I only ask one thing: if at all you must eat a frog, pick the juiciest of the lot, okay?

I am on twitter @bellanchi