A guy told me that I am a ‘buhari material’ (buhari: daughter-in-law). I had never been called so before. It was hilarious. Took a screenshot and circulated it among my friends to share a good laugh. And behind those giggles, somewhere deep inside, I felt good.
A month later, that ‘compliment’ still lingered somewhere in the back of my mind but this time I didn’t find it funny. It bothered me a bit too much.
Why did he call me a ‘buhari material’? Because I cook and do household chores? Or because I study well-enough and am career-oriented? Or because I’m a people’s person and would please his family well enough? Would he still say I’m a ‘buhari material’ if he knew how much I argue with people, how much I talk back? Would he still call me so if he knew that I love politicizing everything? Would he still call me so if he knew I barely call my parents or relatives while I’m abroad? I call out people, family members, friends, and random strangers on their sexism, racism, homophobia, and everything that screams ‘INEQUALITY’. I call out power structures and ageism in the family.
Would he still call me a ‘buhari material’ if he knew that I’d write an entire article about a phrase that he merely used to describe me with?
Marriage material. Buhari material.
There’s a certain checklist that I have to fit in. Be nice. Tolerate. Don’t talk back. Shush. Feed people. Do the chores.
Guess what? I’ll fit in your checklist perfectly and I’ll tickmark many more boxes. Your checklist is just a tiny subset of all that I offer as an individual. So, don’t confine me within your checklist and call me a ‘buhari material’. I go way beyond.
But then, it still felt good to fit in. To fit in within those traditional norms set for us. Well I still have a long way to go then, don’t I?
You see, I never thought in my head whether he’d be a good ‘jwai material’ (jwai: son in law) or not. Is it because he wouldn’t have to come to my home and do the chores? Or is it because he wouldn’t have to feed people or do the laundry or the dishes? Or is it because he would barely be expected at my parents’ place?
Then again, my friend reminded me that I called her a ‘wife material’ years ago. I have made the mistake in confining her within gender roles. I made that mistake in trying to squeeze her in the ‘perfect’ collage of our society. I’m sorry for saying so, love. I’m sorry for dehumanizing you into a mere set of a checklist. Maybe I’ve called my guy friends ‘marriage material’ or ‘husband material’. I sincerely apologize to all of you out there if I’ve done so.
You’re a human being, not a material. You are not a checklist.
Let’s stop looking at one another through a gendered lens, through narrowed perspectives. Emphasize the beauty of human qualities instead of materializing them. Love, only love.