Memoirs of a Naijamerican Bride IV: A Prayer For Badly Behaved Women
Whoever said a wedding is about the bride has either never been married or is not Nigerian. From the number of people in your bridal party (or bridal train as we Nigerians call it), to the wedding colors, the number of guests, the location and the budget- a wedding requires a series of negotiations with your parents, in-laws, and your fiancé. My mother was often a tough nut to crack, and she let me know quite a few of my ideas were non-starters. Once, I asked my mother, “So what about this wedding is purely me? What is left?” My mother replied: “Your underwear! You can wear whatever underwear you choose!” I laughed so hard.
Alas, there was one thing I saved for just me: my reception outfit. I had always dreamed of wearing a jumpsuit to my reception but didn’t have the nerve. I am convinced that the fashion gods created jumpsuits specifically for me. I wear them in the spring and during winter. I wear them in spite of the fact that my sister often jokes that my derrière is too flat for them-or perhaps because of it. When the epicness that was Solange’s wedding photos were released, I said to myself: “Okay, Solange says this is okay, so it is!” Isn’t it funny how often we don’t feel we have permission to do or be something until some celebrity does or becomes it?
The very next week I went everywhere in search of a jumpsuit- from Krikor Jabotian’s website to Saks Fifth Avenue- but nothing felt quite right for me. One day, while strolling through my Brooklyn neighborhood, I happened upon a boutique display case with lots of glam dresses and body suits. I was blown away by the pieces I saw in the boutique, and at ease when I gathered their client list includes Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Taraji B. Henson, and Mary J. Blige. I trusted my vision in the boutique owner’s hands, and a few disagreements not withstanding, we created a custom piece that was the right degree of Blessingcentric.
On my wedding day, I was making a public statement about private feelings, and it was important to me to be able to show up at least once in my element. Coming to my reception as me, allowed me to enjoy my reception as me. I was sparkly and sweaty. I jumped and danced and laughed. My make-up bled and my curls fled. I probably broke all the rules of well-behaved brides, and I had a heck of a time doing it. In fact, when I reflect on my life, some of my happiest moments have been the times when I was bold enough to enter and leave situations as myself. In a world that constantly prescribes who and how a woman should be, being ones self can be an act of activism.
I would be lying if I said I authenticity always comes natural to me- there are still times when I give a couple more darns than are necessary. As I seek to live an authentic life, I draw strength from my Mother. I have learned a lot about audacity from her. In the early years of her career, she was often criticized, in part (I think) because she wasn’t the typical pastor’s wife. I could tell my Mother was often saddened by the fact that she wasn’t accepted, but over the years (particularly following my Father’s death), I’ve watched her evolve and come into her own. Now, as the Senior Pastor of a large church- her life has become an act of resistance. She has sought approval less and yet gained it more. Too many times I have seen my mother fall flat on her face in church in a moment of intimate worship- caring nothing about whether it was ladylike, or what anyone thought. And then there was the time in the middle of a sermon when I realized my mother had completely run out of what little ‘chill’ she had left: she took off her wig. I was mortified. It broke every rule of well-behaved women. To my surprise, however, women all across the congregation started screaming and taking off their wigs too. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Many more times, I have watched my Mother’s boldness to embrace the messy real and live in her truth, inspire women (and men) to do the same.
So here’s a prayer for us: the women who sometimes color outside the lines society and culture prescribe. The misfits. The members of tribe weird. In small and big ways, from the ways we dress to the careers we choose, may we find the courage to know our core and live from it. May we find kindred spirits. May we find the purpose and power that comes from authenticity. May we find the strength to love the person that exists beneath our layers. And may the permission we give ourselves to be ourselves, inspire others to do the same.