BY WOLE OGUNTOKUN
A FEW people have asked me recently, “Do you still whisper?” I have answered, bemused, “Of course I do. I will never stop whispering.” The reason for this question is simple. For a while now, I have not pasted these articles on the Internet after publication. That omission has been as a result of the volume of work I have had to do, but it has the added advantage of making you seek this newspaper if you really want to read the things I think of.
Once again, I am in another airport lounge, and I think to myself it is a habit one can get used to. Just moving from one point to another but ensuring there is direction and not just motion. My phone rings but it is not a number I know. I quickly recognise the voice as that of Jahman Anikulapo, the man who discovered The Girl Whisperer. Better known as the Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, he is travelling to Abuja as well but with another airline. Jahman is seated across the lounge looking dapper and I go to sit by him before my flight is called.
We chat for a while and I jokingly tell him how I was asked for identification at the flight desk before an air-ticket was sold to me. I had none and ended up using my bank ATM card to prove I was me. I am not totally certain how that qualifies as identification but it did the trick.
After a while, boarding for my flight is announced and I leave Jahman to get on my plane. When I am seated, I take a leisurely look at the cabin executives (yes, those ones who used to be known as air hostesses). I do not know if it is my imagination but these ones do not appear to be as good-looking as they used to be.
Maybe I am getting older and I have become like my parents who liked to say music died out with certain artistes.
I am still of the opinion that air-stewards should be... well... good looking. I think it helps your flight experience when the person smiling down at you asking if you would like a drink is not a gargoyle.
SO, enough of the cabin-executive bashing. The Whisperer is directing the Tarzan Monologues on stage this month (The male experience concerning everything ranging from erectile dysfunction to sex, politics and religion).
Basically it is the world through the eyes of men. Next month is the Tarzan Monologues versus the V Monologues. These recent activities have brought many A-list actors into my orbit. Bimbo Manuel, Kate Henshaw, Iretiola Doyle, Carol King and several others have sat, rehearsed and talked about relationships in its rawest form.
These discussions, often sometimes heated, have given me food for thought. Is there such a thing as politics in love? Is love just what it is, some emotion beyond description or is it influenced by other factors?
A girl told me many years ago she had to see the bank statement of a prospective partner before she would agree to a relationship.
That might have been because she had a great job then. She worked for one of the stronger oil companies at the time and was probably afraid of bounty hunters, who might have made her finances the target of their endeavours.
At about the same time, another, a news broadcaster and as good looking as they come, half-jokingly told me a potential suitor had to give her a jeep.
I think, however, that for all of us, our relationships are coloured by our expectations. There are very few people now (maybe only besotted teenage kids) who allow ‘love alone’ to be the over-riding factor.
For many people, pedigree is important and the wealth or clout of the family of those we want to “love” is important.
If it is not important to the person who wants to start the relationship, it is important to her mother and the rest of the family. “Where is he/she from? What do his/her parents do?”
In university, the father of a girl I was in head-long pursuit of, asked me one day he caught up with me in his home, “what does your father do?”
Love has politics and plenty of it. It covers religious differences as well. There are many relationships that have been smashed to smithereens because people looked at each other across religious divides. And this split is not necessarily across the two major faiths most of us recognise. There are interdenominational differences in these matters too.
For those who think the days of arranged marriages are long gone, all they have to do is look at the list of influential families that inter-marry. If those aren’t arranged marriages, I’ll eat my hat.
NOW it’s not as if The Whisperer is standing on a platform saying you should never let anything influence your choices. It would be mad to say so.
If you have ever insisted you must marry a graduate, which is a legitimate desire, you have gone political (not that I think some graduates are worthy of that title these days, with the deficit of intelligence they display).
The point of this is to accept that not only have these political influences existed from the beginning of time, but there is a need that “political” loving is done in moderation.
If we refuse to give love some leeway, we will end up stream-lined and unable to fly in our relationships.
SO now, I ask, what are the things you would declare essential if your opinion was important in the choice of a partner another had to make?
What if you stood in the position of a mother or a father? What if you were a sibling who was looked up to, a clergyman or relative that was of influence in the life of the person about to make a choice?
Would your own advice be tainted by your experiences, your own failures and disappointments? Would you let the pain of your past poison the future of another?
We must be careful the rationale behind the things we do. Bigotry sneaks upon us all if we allow it. We like to call it experience but often it is the height of prejudice that makes us what we are.