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Man shall not live by bread alone

I just read a post on Twitter (I’m still finding it difficult to refer to it as ‘X’) about a young woman whose relationship fell…

I just read a post on Twitter (I’m still finding it difficult to refer to it as ‘X’) about a young woman whose relationship fell through because the man (with whom she’d reached talking stage), and for whom she’d cooked and baked despite her tiredness when he visited began to ‘complain’ about her not being thoughtful enough to bake enough loaves of banana bread for him to take home as gifts to his nephews and nieces. Fortunately, she recognised that this wasn’t the sort of relationship she needed and dropped him.

Good on her! If banana bread is so important to his nieces and nephews, they should have placed an order or looked up the recipe online. I’m really sick of the asinine posts which I see often on Naija twitter encouraging women (never men) to learn to cook, to inconvenience themselves to cook for boyfriends and husbands to show that they (the women) are “worthy.” Whatever the prize is, they can keep it.

Even if that prize includes boxes of Indomie, air conditioner to cool you down while you cook, a fridge to store all that food you’d be making, and cash donations. Nothing beats the peace of mind of a healthy relationship, one in which if you are pregnant you don’t have to cheat yourself of sleep to cook for a grown man because you are afraid that if you don’t feed him, he’d stray to any woman who would.

If it smells like patriarchy, walks like patriarchy, talks like patriarchy, feeding it more patriarchy will only consume you, the insatiable monster that it is. If you don’t get the reference, forget about it  

Anyway, I am glad I wasn’t raised to think that whatever else I could bring to a relationship, that my ability to cook was anywhere on that list. It never even occurred to me to pretend to want to cook for the man I eventually married.

As a student at UNN, I knew of male students who would flock to the female hostels in the evenings to eat dinner prepared by their girlfriends (fellow students who cooked because they felt obligated to feed these men who were sometimes their classmates, burdened with the exact same workload.)

Whether or not they enjoyed cooking (and all the prepping for it including okadaing it to Opi market to buy the ingredients needed) or had the time to do it was out of the question. It didn’t make sense to me why any student would be performing domesticity they didn’t enjoy. I’m not a good cook, I’ve never enjoyed cooking, and had I fallen in love with – against all odds –  someone for whom me not ever cooking for him was a deal breaker, that love would have died right away. Oil and water no dey mix.  

My appeal is that we raise our young ones to want better for themselves. I don’t know who is raising these young men and women who believe that a man cooking for his family/wife/girlfriend (in a country where men proudly wear chef’s hats in kitchens) is that man becoming less of whatever he thinks he is, and that a woman who cannot cook or will not cook is a deeply, terribly flawed woman.

It’s the 21st century, the kitchen shouldn’t be a space of gendered tension. Like the sitting room and the bedrooms (I hope), it is an ungendered space.  It’s not the woman’s place. It’s everyone’s place like everywhere else in the home.  Our men should stop acting as if they cooked themselves, they’d lose a limb. And our women should stop forcing themselves to perform labour that they don’t love, or want to, or have the time for, just so they can keep their men. Any man who’s led by his stomach, and his stomach alone is perhaps not worth keeping.

Also, can I say that anyone who tells you that if you don’t can’t/won’t cook, you will never have a relationship is lying to you. I’ve been in a happy, successful marriage for many, many years now, and my husband will be the first to tell you that I don’t like cooking, that I rarely cook,  (and that I’m not a good cook).

I’m not embarrassed about it. It’s boring work.  He’s a much better cook than I am, and does a lot of the cooking. A healthy relationship doesn’t hinge itself on how often or how well you’re able to cook. It does though on how respectful you are of each other, on how well you are able to meet each other in the middle on things that matter (if you don’t agree on it), on how well your values align. You know, the things that really do count when you love each other.  


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