The Day I Learned To Be Angry

A lot of us fear the word, anger. I did. I hated being described as angry because it felt synonymous to uncontrolled. I felt out of touch with my emotions as I believed that the one who had done something wrong to me had ‘won’ by making me angry. I made a conscious effort to avoid being labeled as an angry person until I got tired of trying.

As a 66% Nigerian girl living in Nigeria, there are very many things to be angry about.

Why, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world and yet senators are put on million-naira salaries.

There is the fact that the age of consent is still debatable as perverts still advocate for an 11-year-old to be deemed as a ‘woman’.

I could also be angry at the way every girl seems to have a harassment story. If not about her, then about her friend, or her sister, or the friend of her sister.

I could be angry about the fact that women have to protest in Yaba Market to not be touched. They must come out and ask to be free of groping hands.

In the words of Maya Angelou today, I tell you that you have every right to be angry.

You must be angry. You must not be bitter. -Maya Angelou

Funny enough, bitterness comes as a result of not being angry enough. In the average Nigerian setting, the woman is praised for her silence and meekness. She is upheld for being with the average man for as long as possible regardless of the atrocities and failure of the man. She is taught that anger is not a good emotion for her. After all, no man wants a noisy woman in his house. You must ‘be his peace’.

You see, the Nigerian girl is also not spared of this suppression of anger. It is observed in the subtle things. The last six years can be described as the best of times, and the worst of times. I remember a fateful day after supper. You see, the first few minutes after that are quite rowdy. My friends and I liked to linger and waste ten precious minutes for no reason at all.

It was during our usual lingering and time-wasting episode that it happened: a guy had walked up to one of the girl’s desks. As she was about to sit on her chair, he slid his hand right under and felt her up. While it was obvious that what he did was done on purpose, he feigned ignorance and looked at her like “What?” Knowing what he did, she confronted him about it, and he simply convinced her that she made it all up in her head. Made what up? Something we all saw? The denial made her angry, she began to speak up with more effort-cue the aggression- People started looking. He said that he was just playing with her. Why was she getting angry? After all, she was not ‘that fine’. It didn’t matter that we had all witnessed it happening and that he walked away with a smirk. He had successfully shamed her anger. A few hours later, we all sat down in our private spot and talked away our bottled anger. The life of harassed women.

And so, the suppression of anger starts.

But you see, that is the thing about anger. Regardless of how hard you try to bury it, it will surely come out. If you do not set it free on your own accord, it will eat its way out of you and come out in an unrecognizable form: bitterness. Unlike anger which is targeted at one subject, bitterness is blind. The bitter woman spares no one of her rage except, surprisingly, the one who has caused that bitterness.

Sometimes, it is the children who feel the heat. All of a sudden, it is a major crime to put fork before spoon and not the other way around.

Sometimes, like I have commonly experienced, it is taken out on younger girls. You see, bitterness gives birth to misery, and misery loves company. The most atrocious ‘advice’ is given to brides at weddings. There was once a video of a married woman telling the new bride to always be available for ‘duty’ every night for the next three months whether she wants to or not. Ah, the oh-so-familiar advice of learning to be a master chef and coming home early to cook every day so as to not allow the maid ‘snatch’ the husband.

It can be anyone. Random outbursts at domestic staff, unnecessary lashing out at the workplace. Whatever.

It is everyone but the one person who truly deserves it. The one who truly causes this anger gets the least of it. Rather, the bitter woman trains herself to suppress her anger and puts up forced smiles and awkward giggles at horrible jokes (which she could be the subject of occasionally). I have seen this play out so many times and I cringe every single instance.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.

When I was a child, I observed this attitude and I wondered what it was. I couldn’t place my finger on the sudden dim in the eyes of women or the newly formed wrinkles. I just concluded that women were just weird. My ‘uncles’ (such a funny way of calling older people uncle and auntie) were always joyous. They bellowed and drank beer and ate food in front of the tvs while their wives were always ticked off by how the food was not served properly or little things that never mattered before. I learned to stay out of their way.

As I grew older, I asked more questions- most of which were not answered- and I observed things more. One thing that I have promised myself is to never be afraid of anger, but of bitterness. If there is a need to shout, shout it out loud before you lose your voice. If there is a need to vent, take a trip with your sister friends and cry your hearts out with cheap wine and The Notebook. We, women, must never be afraid of our anger. Rather, we must use it for our benefit and the benefit of the girls who come after us.

So use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.”-Maya Angelou

Put your anger together, nurture it and let it give birth to progress.

Write it in a book.

Sing about it.

Shout it to the heavens.

Pray about it.

Do something with it.

Do anything.

Cést fini.

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66% Nigerian, 33% Ghanaian, 1% vacuum. There are a million women in me that question the world.