One particular sunday at church, the minister addressed the issue of clothing. ‘A woman mustn’t wear men’s clothing’. I was there, seated like the C.E.O of heavenly affairs nodding my head in agreement like a soon-to-be pastor’s wife, not forgetting the next day was Monday and of course, I’d always go on trousers to work. Not because I was too addicted to disobeying God or I had treasures to dig in hell but because I loved to wear trousers especially to work. It was my perfect definition of a smart/elegant look.
Somehow, I thought I could keep that sunday holy and not wear men’s outfit but the moment I got home from church, I changed from my attire of long gown, head tie and shoes to comfy jeans and singlet. It was barely 2hrs I heard that gospel but that part of me I couldn’t carry to church, embraced me at home.
Now if that minister was asked to say something about me. Judging from how he saw me that sunday, he would most likely begin with ‘she is a very decent young lady’. Decent isn’t because he knows me or all my ancestors. I’m decent to him because I wore a long dress which literally swept the church floor and had tied my head scarf so tight that no strand of hair escaped to get any air. Decent because I had complied with his accepted standard of morality. Decent because he didn’t know I would wear trousers every other day and long skirts/gowns were just church/sunday tradition. He would call me decent but I knew deep down, it was pretence.
–pretence is an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true.
– decency is a behaviour that conforms to/complies with accepted standards of morality or respectability.
It is only wise to conclude there’s a thin line between these two words. Everyone pretends to be decent. We all want to meet up to society’s standard, and inorder for us to feel accepted, we feign decency but when society isn’t watching, we fall back to being our real selves.
If only I wasn’t expected to meet up to ‘church decency standard’, I would have worn my comfortable pair of jeans to church to show them who I really was but hey, I was only doing things required of me as a ‘Christian’. My church doesn’t permit ladies to wear trousers and if I did, I would be an outcast. The church wouldn’t accept me. When they are casting out demons, all eyes would be on me to see how many evil spirits I was accommodating because of my outfit. Whether or not I was pretending to be their definition of ‘decent’, all that mattered to me was acceptance. I wanted to be accepted. I didn’t need a sermon to change me from who I originally was, not when I could do an abrupt about-face on my outfit.
I remember when I was younger. I didn’t know if it was something on my face or the way I talked or walked that made society forget i was growing and should be aware of certain things. My family didn’t want me to know boys liked girls. I wasn’t supposed to know I had a vagina. I wasn’t supposed to know its use. I wasn’t supposed to be interested in movie scenes where a man and a woman undressed. If my mom asked me the reason they were undressing, she expected me to say ‘they are preparing to pray mom’. They didn’t expect me to know what condom was or the fact that all men had balls. It was an abomination for me to know all of these but I had known a long time that sex was euphoric and awesome. don’t ask me how I knew! Everyone expected me to play dumb and because I could pass for an actress, I acted really dumb to everything. They would look at me and tag me a decent young girl because I had complied and met up to their standard of morality but deep down inside of me, it was pretence! An unapologetic pretence!
I went to the chemist to get a drug at age 10 and this man walked in and demanded 4 gold circles(condoms). In my mind I screamed ‘a whole 4’? and laughed out loud. The chemist who was more like a family friend then said ‘why are you laughing, do you know what gold circle is’?
Me: No ooo! Gold circle ke? do circles have colours?
The society didn’t permit me to know these things at that time. Should I have said I knew what it was so they would bundle me to the hospital for a virginity test? Or tag me to the list of kid prostitutes? No way!
What about you who has been nicknamed chimney, fela, the Piper, because you can smoke anything. You can drag 10 cigarettes at a time and smoke weed till thy kingdom come amidst folks who are not interested in reminding you how Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you but when you are home with family and that anti-smokers T. V programme comes on, you feign innocence and join the community of those who believe smokers are liable to die young. It’s not your fault you pretending to be in enmity with smoke. You wish to tell your family about that side of you but you aren’t sure they will not judge you. They will not want to hear your nickname ‘the piper’. you know if you show them that side of you, there will be little or no acceptance at all. You need that acceptance. You don’t need any sermon. That’s why you pretending to be their definition of decent. And truly, they see you as decent because you have complied with their standard of morality even though inside of you, you know it was pretence.
What about you whose entire lecture hours are spent in one club or the other. Your father is an A list member of the church but you are an A list member in all clubs around you. You know every worldly artiste and song lyrics Infact, you are a snake on the stripper pole but when you go out to a party with your parents and despacito comes on, you drop all your stripper moves and embrace atilogwu. What are you supposed to do? Show them you are a stripper behind closed doors? Ask the MC to give you the microphone so you address a speech to your parents titled ‘Fuck church and morals, I want to be a stripper’? you know that shocking revelation can send an unaged father to an early grave so the best option is to show them that part of you they want to see. When you are far away with people who accept you for who you are, you embrace your original self or Am I wrong?
What about you who is a staunch lesbian within the four walls of your room. You find girls attractive. You don’t want to know the usefulness of a penis, not when you can use cucumbers and vibrators but when you go out and hear people crtiticizing a lesbian whose act was recorded and shared on social media, you join them to judge her. You can’t choose to support her because that group of society will judge you. What is easier is to be an angel and monster when the need arises.
Truth is, without pretence, society cannot fully accept us for who we are. They will try to judge us, preach to us(and do we really have that time?) , criticize us until we fit into their own definition of Decency, which is the password to acceptance. Pretence not decency, is the reason a stripper cannot come unclad to church. We all want to be accepted. There are tons of characters we cannot advertise amidst some group of people. We tuck those characters in and behave the way we are expected to behave. When all critics are gone and it’s just us, we become our real selves. There are things we do in secret we cannot show to the world. We can only show to few people who are like us in that aspect. There are particular ways we would want to live our lives if given the chance and nothing is at stake. There are lots of things we are decent about because society wants it that way. It is in pursuit of society’s acceptance that we adopt their standard for a while then, go back to our real being when coast is clear. There are things I have done that my parents, friends,lovers don’t know and would never know unless on judgment day. I can’t tell them because I want to feel accepted with no one looking at me like I’m an indecent freak. There are things you are doing that society isn’t aware of and would never be aware of because you know how to camouflage. We know how to pretend and since we get accepted for whom we have deceived them to be, what’s the point in too much story?
If you are a thief and one day you walking down the streets and see people beating and taking out jungle justice on a fellow thief, what do you do? Do you tell them you are also a thief and face the consequences or feign innocence and start quoting that verse of the Bible that says ‘thou shall not steal’?