What Losing My Father Taught Me About Womanhood
Golden Okoye | United Kingdom
“Welcome to the club of the fatherless; now you will see the true colours of humans.’’
I got this call from my friend Ijee a few days after I lost my father; when family, friends and well-wishers called in to send their condolences, I was still in shock and in denial that the most important person in my life - the only one that loved me unconditionally - had suddenly been pronounced dead.
I knew that the death of a loved one was difficult, but nothing prepared me for the change in human behaviour that I experienced immediately after my dad died.
It was like a veil that had covered my eyes was suddenly removed, like a shell that protects my eyes from seeing the true nature of humans was mercilessly knocked off with full force.
Suddenly, I was forced to grow up. To realize that I was no longer a girl (a daddy's girl) but now a woman. Of course, physically I was already a woman years before I was forced into being a woman psychologically. But a transition is never complete until it takes its full course such that the person experiencing the change acknowledges that change has taken place.
My transition into womanhood occurred at 25. So while some girls completed their transition into womanhood when they were just children, or at the earliest onset of puberty, or as young adults, some completed theirs as 20 or 30-year-old adults.
For instance, some girls lost their innocence when they were raped, forced into an early marriage, or manipulated into having sex by their first love and later abandoned with harsh words. For others, it happened when they were abused by men (father, brothers, cousins, uncles) on the streets or in their own homes while their mother turned a blind eye. For some, it was when they were exposed to vile older men in the streets and marketplace; I have personally experienced how vile, older men in the streets and marketplace grope girls' arses and pinch their budding standing breasts so that they feel pain for days afterwards. Some, like me, are jolted into womanhood when the person that protects them from the harsh realities of the world is no longer there.
No matter how a girl transitions into womanhood, the prevailing pattern seems to be that most girls are often forced to make that transition not primarily because of changes in their bodies at the onset of puberty, but majorly because society forces them to grow up.
In my own case, it was the reality that people who showed me kindness and empathy immediately turned on me displaying unbelievable behaviours alien to me because my father was now dead. It was like people (family and family friends alike) around could not wait to drop their masks and show their true character. Years back when my friend Ijee lost her dad while she was still a teen, she experienced this phenomenon, so she knew what I was going to face - making that statement was her forewarning me of the new phase of life I would be exposed to.
I menstruated at ten and my breast began developing a year before I became a teen, and immediately after these changes came, I faced all the lecherous gaze from undisciplined men and boys. I remember feeling the rushed blood pumping and my racy heartbeat as I pass roads where groups of boys were standing and most times catcalling. I already formed a system of resistance and had sort of accepted that these are challenges any young girl growing up in Nigeria will face. Despite all these challenges, I was never unshielded nor did I lose my girlhood innocence until that morning that I lost my father.
Womanhood is not essentially a bad thing, especially when a woman unlearns the “learned helplessness” the society has attributed to being a woman and learns she has an inner power and relearns how to wield this power to make her life fulfilled. The challenge is that most girls are forced into womanhood that they have no chance to discover themselves apart from the definition the society has bestowed upon term, which is indeed sad.
Golden is an entrepreneur and self-development coach passionate about girl child education as a way for the girl child to discover her potential and break free from societal limitations. Intelligent conversation brings her out of her introvert shell. Connect with her @unlearnwithgolden on Instagram and firstname.lastname@example.org