She Loves Me, Not My Music

I recently turned 30. The meltdown has now been and gone, the Prosecco quaffed, the large piles of candles and Kleenex recycled.

Every day I feel lucky and proud of what I’ve achieved. But sometimes, when I’m alone on the sofa, buying a ready-meal for one, or in particular, changing a bin, I think: maybe I could do with having another half around. I’ve heard they’re also pretty useful when it comes to making babies. You could say I’m on the hunt for a man.

‘Their prayers are yet to bear any fruit, though I’m pretty sure God now thinks I’m desperate.’

The urgency of this is never so apparent than when I’m with my family. Nigerian parents have no qualms about laying on thick what they think their offspring should be doing with their lives. They seem so aware that ‘time is not on my side’ they feel the need to reassure me they are praying nightly for me to find a husband. Their prayers are yet to bear any fruit, though I’m pretty sure God now thinks I’m desperate.

Turning 30 for me meant turning honest

AJ Odudu (Pic: Nathan Gallagher)

My mum loves to remind me of how old she was when she gave birth to me (my age) and my dad seems to always forget he’s already told me about his friend’s daughter who’s younger than me and has two kids already. The message is crystal clear: get multiplying.

‘I swallowed my pride and turned to my mother Florence for help and advice on my new realisation’

Turning 30 for me meant turning honest. For years I had convinced myself that I loved being single, that I am focusing solely on my career and my social life, that I just don’t have time for a man in my life. My mother’s big-boned hints were drowned out by loud music and late nights.

But nowadays, with my party shoes more often dusty than dancing, I’ve realised I actually have plenty of time to squeeze in a life-partner. Plus, my bins aren’t getting any lighter. So I swallowed my pride and turned to my mother Florence for help and advice on my new realisation. It was like Christmas had come early for her. “Finally,” she said, “Oya let’s go!”

My mum moved from Nigeria to Blackburn in the early 1970s as part of an arranged marriage. She had never even met my dad before they were married – no kissing, no sexting, not even an awkward handshake. They wound up having eight kids.

I want some of that teamlife

I decided to put my love life into the hands of my mother and went to Nigeria to meet four different Nigerian men she had helped choose for me (Pic: Nathan Gallagher)

Their marriage may not be perfect, but they are a team and I want in on some of that teamlife. So in contemplation of the success of their impromptu marriage, I thought I’d give the Nigerian tradition of the parents doing the matchmaking a go. I decided to put my love life into the hands of my mother and went to Nigeria to meet four different Nigerian men she had helped choose for me.

Each man was wildly different. A prince, a Nollywood star, a musician and a man who lived like a priest. We were a bar and punchline away from the best joke ever.

‘Look, when I think of palaces I think of Bentley’s and Corgies. Prince Joshua’s was more billy goats and chickens’

The first man I met was Prince Joshua. He lives in a town called Badagry and is part one of Nigeria’s many Royal Kingdoms.

His kingdom was interesting. Look: when I think of palaces I think of Bentley’s and Corgies. Prince Joshua’s was more billy goats and chickens. Despite the farmyard kingdom, Prince Joshua did manage to woo me with a traditional drumming ceremony which was incredible and made me feel like royalty.

Everything was going well until he let slip that to properly fulfil my role as his wife I would have to bow down and submit to him as my superior. After that conversation, my fresh prince started to seem pretty stale.

Sadly, this request for subservience dashed any romantic green shoots, but before I tapped out I proposed that might he consider bowing down to me on an equal footing? His majesty declined. I realised the court of AJ and PJ would be less regal romance more royal rumble, so with my mother’s backing, I decided to exit the kingdom.

The pros – and cons – of celibacy

AJ’s mum Florence: ‘The woman wants grandkids’ (Pic: Nathan Gallagher)

In Lagos, I met a 34-year-old churchgoer called KC. After assuring me his middle name didn’t begin with F he described how he had stayed true to his Christian faith and remained celibate his whole life. Yes, KC was a virgin, a hanky-panky free-zone, his cherry very much untaken.

I never thought I’d have to weigh up the pros and cons of marrying a virgin, but I did. A strong pro was he would keep it in his trousers. If he didn’t cheat on the man in the sky, he probably won’t cheat on the girl in his bed. A strong con was he literally reads books about how to have sex. Whilst no-one wants to find their man in bed with another woman, finding him under the sheets with an instruction manual was equally unappealing.

I explained this to mother, and whilst she rejoiced at the thought of a faithful man, she was very wary of any reproductive roadblocks. The woman wants grandkids and whilst KC could deliver a mean sermon it was a riskier bet on whether he could deliver her a baby.

When is the food ready?

I think my mum wanted to prove a point to me by sending me to a very traditional host family in Benin City. She believes that she’s taken the best of Nigerian culture and the best of British culture and applied that to her parenting. She’s a very proud homemaker who loves to cook and is never happier than when she’s eating at home with all her children. At the same time, she has always encouraged her daughters to take education seriously, follow their dreams, and if the kitchen isn’t part of that equation then you have to believe God knows his math.

‘My suspicions proved correct as musician Isaac’s first words to me were, “when’s the food ready?”’

This family, on the other hand, whilst they had a wonderful home, it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t made by the men. My suspicions proved correct as the first words from Isaac, a musician, to me were: “When’s the food ready?”.

Not wanting to write him off at the first hurdle, I tried to see his hunger-inspired opener in a positive light. It was very sincere at least. I confirmed that feeding was imminent and took Isaac into the dining room, where we had a long heartfelt chat and he opened up to me about the death of his mother and how the family have been coping since. Throughout the evening with Isaac I started to see that he was just a nice guy who knew nothing other than the fixed traditional roles of men and women. It was clear with such different values Isaac and I would be a very bad fit, but I came away with perhaps a less judging eye on those who look at the world in a different way to me. Three down, one to go.

My last hope

My last hope was Nollywood star Timini, who is based in well-to-do Victoria Island in Lagos. He’s hot, educated, well-travelled, funny and confident. Crucially, he’s also ready to step outside some the Nigerian cultural norms I had found concerning so far. As an actor who works alongside many successful women, he doesn’t feel daunted by females who have strong career aspirations and therefore was not intimidated by me (something I usually hear a lot of). He also can take a mean Instagram picture, and whilst not a dealbreaker, it would definitely be nice to look forward to a future without a lot of cropping and brightening.

Our time together was wonderful and we ended the experience by exchanging contact details. We’ve been in touch since, though with bitter irony it seems maybe the combination of our two busy careers is too much as it has been very hard to build up any real momentum. We’ll have to see what the future holds.

My new love

One of the most cherished loves I have in the world is the love for my mother (Pic: Nathan Gallagher)

So, alas, I returned home to Blighty without a new lover, though it wouldn’t be true to say I returned without a new love. My Nigerian manhunt really nurtured the love I have for my roots and the birth country of my ancestors, as well as reminding me of one of the most cherished loves I have in the world: the love for my mother.

‘I look forward to celebrating it with whichever lucky suitor that I meet down the aisle. I just really hope they can accept me also being a Northerner’

As well as love, I came back from my trip with a full baggage allowance of knowledge. I learnt so much about Nigerian cultures and traditions, and that they not only change from state to state, but from family to family. I learnt I am definitely not ready to be submissive but with an understanding partner, it would be possible to find an amalgam of Western and Nigerian values where they both can exist in harmony.

Most of all I learnt that my Nigerian heritage is important to me and I look forward to celebrating it with whichever lucky suitor I meet down the aisle. I just really hope they can accept me also being a Northerner.

Manhunting with my Mum airs on Channel 4 at 10pm

Source : https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/what-happened-when-i-asked-my-mum-to-find-me-a-husband/

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