This is in no way novel. I've written about it before. Kemi Adetiba once penned a similar rant. Many a woman certainly have written something similar in a fit of rage. And if you haven't written about it, at least you've experienced it, if you're female in Nigeria.
Last night my friend called me up and asked if I want to accompany him to a birthday party. I had other plans but I hadn't seen said friend in a while and the party venue was somewhere I'd always wanted to visit so I asked him to come and get me. On getting there we had difficulty finding a place to park, the only slot was really tiny and would require focus and expertise to squeeze into. My friend who had already been partying had the expertise but lacked focus. Well, I had both so I offered to do the parking which he gladly thanked me for, put the car in Park and handed me the keys. We both stepped out of the car so that I could take the driver-seat, and then I heard them guffaw, "Nawa o, why him go give woman key to drive". "Wetin woman sabi do? Him nor no say that woman no sabi drive?" "This one go just scratch him car".
I ignored them.
As we walked into the party, and when we walked out, I noticed that all the staff; parking lot attendants, ushers, waiters/waitresses, greeted him. Nobody greeted me, not one. Now bear in my mind that in size I'm more conspicuous than this male, for all they knew I was probably older too, still I was insignificant. What I also noticed, which really bothered me, was that even the female attendants failed to acknowledge me, while being excessively genial to him. This is really worrying. If men treat women like fixtures, it's sad but not unexpected. But when a fellow woman does same? Now that's pathetic.
We left the party and went to Cubana. I'd had this chicken there a few days ago and I was dying to have it one more time, there's NOTHING like it in Lagos. On getting there I needed to alight from the car before my friend could park, otherwise I wouldn't be able to after he did. As it was drizzling I went and stood under a shed just beside the bouncers. When my friend approached the gate, I walked to the gate from where I'd been standing beside the bouncers and tapped one of them, asking for passage. He turned and looked at me. "Where you wan go? No entrance. The place don full!" He said gruffly, immediately turning his attention to something else.
I stood there staring, a frown already forming on my face, I'd done nothing to deserve being spoken to that way. "Oya open your bag!" Another one ordered, this is standard procedure so I handed him my bag but still not smiling, because I was still being barked at.
"Why you dey squeeze face? Oya go house, no entrance. Dey go!" another one said in my face, and then I blew my fuse.
"What rubbish? What are you saying to me?" I shrieked.
"I say you no dey enter. Dey go!"
"Are you ok? Is there something wrong with you?" I asked.
"She's with me. She's with me" my friend quickly cuts in. Immediately the bouncers make way for me to pass, without even checking my bag. But I wasn't having it, I faced the other bouncer squarely and asked.
"Wetin you been dey talk? Say am again make I hear"
"I say you no go enter because you dey frown", this, he still barked at me, as though that was a really legitimate reason to deny someone entrance into a lounge.
"Is it my face I'm frowning or your own? What if I want to frown my face?"
"Madam but why you dey frown? Na because you dey frown we say you no go enter. Oya Oga say na una two follow come, make you enter" another said, placatingly.
"What that actual fuck? Oh. Because a man has come to claim me, you people now want me to enter? You people can now talk to me like a human being abi? Before I couldn't enter because I was frowning?" I was still pissed.
"Madam sorry nau" one said, not necessarily apologetic but because I was causing a scene.
"Woman. Abeg carry your wahala dey go! Women, una too get wahala" The other one barked.
"No, I'm not going anywhere until you tell me how whether I smile or I frown is you people's business"
They saw their manager (I think) approach and then began to apologize, my friend was also tugging at me, trying to cajole me so we could go in.
"Nawa o! So those ordinary bouncers can make you this angry" he said teasingly when we were finally seated.
"That's not the point, it's not the bouncers, it's the principle. But I don't expect you to understand, you're a man. Maybe one day if you have a daughter she would explain it to you better; what it feels like to be treated like a second class citizen".
So like I said there's nothing new here. This has happened to me before and most of us, in one form or the other. Isn't it sad that it's almost shocking when I go somewhere alone and I'm treated with courtesy. I mean, I should be treated with courtesy, I'm a paying customer. But it's rare that it's shown to me when I don't have a man on my side, whether I'm the one paying or not.
Speaking of payment, last night I tipped the waitress that attended to us. I love to appreciate people who manage to smile under pressure. So when we were leaving, I, on my own volition, reached into my wallet and took a crisp 500 Naira note and handed it to the waitress. And collecting it, she turned to my friend and thanked him. How surreal is that?
Equality between man and woman is a concept that might never actualize, but I pray that a day will come when women would be almost equal to men. A day when I don't hear news of a man scratching a woman's car and insisting she call her husband on the phone so that they can talk, because he cannot talk to a woman. A day when I don't need to work twice as hard to get half the respect accorded to a male counterpart. A day when I, being female, is treated better than a second class citizen.
Do you think that day could ever come?