Growing up, I pretty much lived a “caged” life. Weekdays were for school; weekends were for extra lessons on Saturdays and church on Sundays. A few weekends, I would be allowed to visit my friends or have a friend over, but even at that, I had to pre-inform my dad, so that he could verify and be sure the friend is from a “good home”, then the driver would have to take me there, wait for me and bring me back after a couple of hours.
At the time, the criterion for being from a good home, for me, was your parents being wealthy enough to be known/acknowledged by my father. It had nothing to do with how religious your family was, or how well-bred you were. In fact, I was not allowed to visit my friends from church and they were not allowed to visit me either. My father made sure of that. One time a friend from our church’s youth fellowship came to visit my immediate older sister, and my dad screamed at my mum after she left. He instructed that the girl (my sister’s friend) never visit again as she was nothing like his child would be. He had screamed in Igbo, and at the time I thought he meant she was not good-looking, but thinking back (now that my Igbo is better), I realise his words actually translated to the girl not being from a “good home”.
My father passed away when I was 15, and while it was a trying time for me, one of the silver linings was my social life blossoming. There was no pressure to befriend only those from “good homes” anymore. I explored new “markets”. I lost that “good home” consciousness and let my hair down. Although the phrase has since still come up from time to time, I have never really paid it any mind, until a few days ago when a male friend of mine used it as a justification for ghosting a girl.
“She is perfect, but she is just not from a good home. I can’t marry her, there is no point moving forward” he said.
This girl, who he had seriously “romanced” in the last 6 weeks, is a beautiful and hardworking entrepreneur. She is well-mannered and focused. Actually, the first time he introduced her to me, I had wondered what she had seen in my friend and thought to myself: “Gozie*, this girl is settling with you” … but ironically, he is now the one refusing to go further with their relationship on the basis that she is not from a good home.
She was raised by a single mother who was never married to her father. This was his definition of not being from a good home.
Please, what is the yardstick for a “good home”? Or rather for what makes a home good or bad? Why is someone’s family background a huge factor when it comes to defining who they are? Is it really a solid factor?
Some of the friends counted amongst the chosen ones (based on the fact that they were from “good homes”) did not turn out to be “good” people. Yet, they are from good homes.
One, in particular, is currently battling with drug addiction in New York…but he is from a good home, isn’t he?
Another got pregnant while we were in high school and her parents adopted the child to cover up the “shame”…yet she is from a good home.
In fact, I recently met a 30-year-old man who is from a wealthy home, has had the most elite education (B Sc. and double masters from the UK), but is still living with his parents. He lacks ambition, is poor, but feels he is the best thing that happened since slice bread. He even had the effrontery to assert that he cannot marry an “outcast” – such a woman is beneath his family status… whatever that means.
This man is generally regarded as one from a good and wealthy home. And that very fact also blinds and then attracts the myriad women who fail to see him for what he really is. He will probably get a beautiful, flashy and high-class wife faster than the son of their cook, who has cleaned up from his humble background, is more ambitious, focused and forging on better in life.
Why is there so much ado over a criterion that cannot be explicitly defined or that is susceptible to change with time? And even if we insist on this “good home” requirement, what is the guarantee that the person from a good home will further create a good home?
Isn’t it time we started to look past pedigree, culture, traditional beliefs, religious affiliation, level of education?
We should actually see people for who they are, and what they have made of themselves… in spite of their family background or the opportunities, they may have had (or not) growing up.
Written by: Nkem Ndem, a dynamic freelance writer and editor who can be reached for online writing(web content and blog) and editing, screenwriting, ghost writing, copy proofreading and reviews. She has since worked with Jumia, SpiceTV Africa, Bella Naija and Glam Africa. Check out her Instagram: @kem_dem, twitter: @ndemv and snapchat:@ndemv. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org