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THE JOURNAL: Saying ‘I Love You’

Dear Diary,

I observed the sweetest thing this morning.

I shared a keke napep ride to the junction with a family of three – a mother and her two sons. The boys were dressed for school. Different uniforms, implying that they attend different schools.

Just before the junction, the mother called for her stop. The driver pulled up and she got down with her sons. However, it turned out the stop was just for her and the younger son, because the older one did something I’d never seen brothers do in Nigeria, before he climbed back into the keke.

He reached for his brother, held his head in his hands and kissed his cheek. Then he muttered, “I love you,” before letting him go.

I was startled by this. Startled and touched. Such displays of affection, whether public or private, is something you rarely find among brothers in Nigeria – actually, scratch that, among males in Nigeria.

But here was a boy so unselfconscious over his affection for his brother, so secure in their relationship, that he wished him the sweetest ‘Have a good day’ ever.

I remember the first time one of my brothers told me he loved me. It was just a few years ago. We were grown men having a conversation. And just as we were winding up, he said, “I love you, brother.”

My instinctual reaction to this was panic. My brother is this quintessential masculine man, and to hear those words from him was so out of character, that it unleashed a series of panicked thoughts in me. What was the problem? Was he sick? Was he dying?

I didn’t pose any of these questions to him though, and it took a moment after he clicked off for me to realize the magic of what had just happened.

Oftentimes, we take it for granted that those we love, especially family, simply know of our love for them. We have rationalizations like how saying ‘I love you’ is just unnecessary, and how such things are for oyibo people and not Naija-rians like us. But you see, actions may speak louder than words, but there is so much power in the physical expression of love. The kiss on the forehead, that effusive embrace, the simply utterance ‘I love you’… Whether from lover to lover, husband to wife, sibling to sibling, parent to child, they are the little things that contribute to the great differences of our existence and the beauty of living.

I am @Walt_Shakes on twitter

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. I agree
    Sometimes, all I wish for is to hear those words. But then, I’ve wished for a lot of things in my days and am still waiting for much them to come through

    • shakespeareanwalter

      🙂 When you don’t get what you’re expecting, be sure not to deny someone else what he or she is expecting.

  2. MMS never disappoints.. . We’ve been brought up in an atmosphere of strive or should I say “obvious love” that’s never actually obvious enough. So we leave the “I love you” for the chyking, dating and very early marriage part. After that you’ll never have to say it again. It’s pretty sad because such display or lack of display of affection could actually affect a person’s perspective in life.

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Two things I picked out from your comment, Thia.
      this one made me laugh so hard at the sheer truth in it: “So we leave the “I love you” for the … very early marriage part.” Like seriously though, the struggle for saying those words begins with being a newlywed and ends after the honeymoon phase, generally speaking of course. It’s quite sad that we equate the harder life gets with the diminishing of romance.

      And yes, saying those words, no matter how minimal they seem, how innocuous, how uneventful, they have the power of affecting the hearer’s perspective in life.

  3. This post reminds me about me. There are days im so happy, i want to just hug my friends, my siblings etc. and tell them those powerful words “i love you”. But on the few times i tried it, i had to clarify what sort of love i meant. The other day at work, i ran into this boss whom i havent seen for ages, someone i respect and admire to the highest heavens. I blurted out “Boss, i lack the words to express how much i have missed you!”
    His response: I no be woman ooo! Then everyone burst out laughing at his joke. While i harbour absolutely no hard feelings, and i totally understand where he is coming from, it just goes to show the kind of world we live in. A world where people are afraid and even threatened by expressions of love…

  4. As much as I beleive actions speak louder than words,I still beleive in the power of spoken words.This really touched me. We undermine our loved ones because we feel our actions prove our love but those words may just be the only thing that brightens someone’s day.Thanks Walt.

  5. We pride ourselves on being too Nigerian for certain things deemed weak or (in the case of men) too in touch with your feelings. Too mushy. But mushy is good, especially when you are getting by in a world so tough and hard.
    Great writeup, Walter. Thanks for this.

  6. This is so heart warming. Reminds me of the day I was baby-sitting my niece. She had been crying all day, at a point I got feed up and left her in the room with her brother. I returned few minutes later to see the three year old boy patting her gently on the back and singing a song to her. My annoyance vanished instantly.

  7. it all still boils down to parenting. Children learn by what they see and not really what you instructed them to do. so if a mother will sincerely tell is child “i love you” then it won’t be hard for that very child to do that to is own siblings or friends. My mum never told me that, she has never hugged anyone of us we don’t dare even try to do the mother and child play like every normal parent should. And most kids this days don’t experience that imprinting and love from their parent and that ill parental mannerism will keep flowing from generation to generation. I and my elder brothers don’t even relate well i can hardly even call them because of the way we where brought up by our parent my Dad and my Mum will always encourage my brothers to beat the fuck out of me when i was much youger and that affected me till today. That is the basic reason why i discourage capital punishment or what you call “using the rod” it create FEAR and there is no fear in love. it also teach the child to use violence to get whatever he wants. This very attitude have disconnected me from my elder Brothers in specific and i don’t feel loved by them. Am 24 now but i can’t still relate well with them and that is very pathetic. I really don’t want to train my Kids like that. the African method of parenting just have too much issues that need to be addressed. Peace!

  8. Awww..
    That’s a boy from a home full of love.

  9. I’ll pay to watch the look on Walter’s face on seeing that. I told my dad that I loved him on his death bed, that comforted me after his death.

  10. Lovely piece… I admit, if I were there, I would have been a wee bit taken aback. But then thinking about it, very impressed. My mum was the disciplinarian in the house. Wasn’t close to her at all… until my 2nd year in uni. I realised that she was just doing her job (my dad was too easy going). The first time I told my mum I loved she responded with a shocked “thank you”.. lol. I was disappointed but I didn’t give up. Kept on telling her until she came out of her shell. Now… so so ‘I love you’ every second from the woman…:)
    My point… These older people. .. They do what they know. We also can break the cycle for/ with them!

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