Foreword: One of my favourite songs of 2006 was Idlewild’s Original Soundtrack song, Hollywood Divorce featuring Outkast, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg. The hook is quite self-explanatory.
“Starts off like a small town marriage/Lovely wife and life, baby carriage/Now all the stars have cars, success of course/but it ends in Hollywood divorce, Hollywood divorce.”
Here is a fictional excerpt, enjoy:
What are they for?
They are, in Yoruba culture, a union of two families, not just the bride and groom. Emphasis on the word, union. And in my description of this cultural event, see how the fingers of both my hands merge together. Fusion is the ready synonym.
But if you, a 21st century Yoruba groom, think, for a minute, that your wedding is about you or your overweight friends in white danshiki and papal caps and leather loafers, I wish you well. It is a cameo for you all. You are not required to say much beyond bleating in a prostrate position to promise to care for her during the engagement. Then, of course, the exchange of marital vows. The illusory narcissism of the church wedding often gets cleared during the reception.
I was a guest at my own wedding reception. My wife and I. Both in white. Bespectacled. She almost ditched her thick prescription glasses for contact lenses, but I had to pay for some Chrome Hearts. And they fitted her so well.
She looked like the truth, man. If you were me, you would have been thankful. And while waiting outside the reception hall venue, inside the confines of a chilled black SUV (her father’s) we were suddenly alone for a minute. No sign of the chauffeur, the flower girls, the attention-seeking chief bride’s maid and the groom men and best man (they had repaired to a nearby bar for lager).
We were alone.
I tried to kiss Torera.
She was grouchy and silenced my pout with a phalanx.
Don’t ruin my make-up, she said.
For a minute, I asked myself if this was the life I wanted; if this was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This woman so vain as to turn down a kiss from me for make-up’s sake.
The famous you-may-kiss-the-bride section had not quite panned out as we wanted it to. We were behind schedule, blame the Vicar for his lengthy drivel of a sermon, and the choir had begun their cantata the moment our lips touched. Something about us being married today and tomorrow no more. Then they gave us two huge plastic bowls to hold in front of the church while people danced towards us and dropped money into it for the new church building.
So the kiss after that, the one in that brisk moment of solitude between Torera and I was the fix I needed, the quick contraction of lips to reassure myself that this indeed was a celebration of our union but she could not be bothered.
She fiddled with her phone with her manicured talons, asked about what was happening in the reception hall, fussed all over. You know Briggs, my best man, once said that weddings were the same for every woman and that they were at best ambivalent about how it pans out. It was a script they had revised and rehearsed in their heads for so long that reality could hardly beat it, so they get nervous and grouchy and edgy.
Bullshit. Or so I thought then. His wife, Aniedi, is now asking for a divorce. She cheated on him and he went all emotional and shit. She ruined his manliness, squashed it to a fine mush and asked to leave him. She cheated and asked for a divorce.
I felt like a beer. Torera was bickering with herself about her chief bride’s maid’s whereabouts. She felt like a late guest at her own wedding. I felt like being transported back in time to that V.I restaurant just before I popped that question while Joe was singing I Wanna Know.
I don’t wanna know anything anymore.
I wanted to tell her to fucking stop cussing. Then her chief bride’s maid turned up. She gestured that we come.
Torera looked at me and asked where my friends were. For a minute, I wanted to respond to her in my most offhand I don’t know, but, again, she looked beautiful, the most beautiful I had ever seen her and I knew this tantrum was because she had brought these lofty expectations upon herself.
I could not be bothered. Briggs knocked on the door.
We were arranged, the entire bridal train, to make our triumphant entry into the hall. There was thumping loud music. Olamide’s Shakiti Bobo. D’Banj’s Banga Lee. Lil Kesh’s Efejoku. The D.J was showing off.
The confetti ladies were armed. My friends had paired up with Torera’s friends. The procession was as deliberate as the one in front of Noah’s Ark. The door opened and there was uproar.
Surprise and pageantry. Everybody in the hall stood up and everything was blurred in the beauty of the moment, the beauty of glamorous lace fabric, the sheer beauty of diffuse excitement.
The crowd urged us to dance. Torera took my hand and I, having fought the reflex impulse to push her hands off, took hers too because that was what was expected. I raised her hand up. Her wedding band gleamed and she smiled. My bride smiled.
It was the perfect Kodak moment for a living room wall. I looked at the two halves of the reception hall. My family was on the left side. I could tell from the rather drab Ankara they had chosen which my mum had insisted upon because there must not be too much finery since my father had not lived long to see this. And also of course, the sparseness of their tables, the grim look on their faces because it was not quite difficult to see that the other side was the place to be. Hennessies and cakes. Samosas and springrolls. Huge chunks of fried meat competing with room on the plate with jollof rice and salads.
As we danced our ways to our seats, I knew I had made a mistake.