Happy Tuesday! As promised, here is the 1st story in the August Fiction Series announced on Sunday. From the title, Unfriending Mama, you can tell this story has something to do with Facebook. As for the rest, you’ll have to read to find out. 🙂 Enjoy!
Sharon Abimbola Salu
The first time Mama wrote on my wall, I was at work, in the middle of a painfully boring meeting. My phone, which was set to vibrate mode, lay beside a stack of paper I had hurriedly grabbed on my way to the conference room. Although a pen lay within reach, I had no intention of taking notes.
The paper stunt was for my boss. If she felt I was unprepared, she would hound me for days after the meeting, making jabbing remarks about rising unemployment and how disposable junior employees were.
Thanks to a useful tip from Raymond, a fellow colleague and former victim of hers, I had learnt to appear at meetings armed with a small pile of useless documents and writing implements. All this efizi just to prove that my place in the office was not up for grabs anytime soon.
The notification showed that a certain Adenike Omotosho had just written on my wall.
“Adenike Omotosho?” I said, under my breath. “There’s only one person I know with that name,” I thought. And then I remembered the strange thing that happened the night before.
Mama joined Facebook and added me as a friend.
Although I spoke with my mother every day, I had not foreseen her joining Facebook. Ever. And even when she joined, I expected her Facebook name to be “Mama Dekunle,” which is what most people called her, or simply, Mama. Seeing her official name displayed online within my circle of friends still shocked me.
Little did I know that more surprises awaited me.
I slipped my phone under the conference table, while my eyes darted back and forth between the General Manager who was the only person on his feet, and the screen of my phone. After firing up my Facebook app, assisted only by my thumb, I navigated to the single item that had piqued my interest.
“I AM NOW ON FACE BOOK ACCEPT MY FRIENDSHIP”
That the entire message on my wall was written in capital letters, from start to finish, did not bother me. And although we were already Facebook friends, my mother still thought there was an extra step to becoming friends on Facebook.
That didn’t bother me either.
What made me really uncomfortable was seeing my mother use the same social platform I visited regularly, and which I believed was created for the exclusive benefit of a certain generation.
Before her intrusion, my Facebook friends consisted of close friends, acquaintances, the few relatives I permitted and the occasional colleague. Somewhere in the back of my mind, mothers did not belong on Facebook. Crossing that line was as damaging as having my mother ride in the same car with me and my buddies, while we talked, argued and otherwise engaged in all forms of verbal jousting, without thinking twice about foul language or dissecting PG-rated topics.
Make that R-rated when Tunji was around.
But with my mother in that same space, I imagined I would now have to censor everything I said and did to meet her much higher standards.
Like it or not, Mama was my Facebook friend.
Over the course of the day, it became increasingly obvious that Mama did not know the delicate difference between wall and message. Or maybe she knew and simply didn’t care that there was a difference between words “the whole world could see” and “for your eyes only.” She, oblivious of the difference, began to post exclusively and persistently on my wall.
After writing back to let her know we were already friends on Facebook, the next question she typed on my wall was:
“HAVE YOU EATEN”
Since I had not eaten lunch, I replied, “No, ma.”
Another wall post swiftly followed.
“DEKUNLE STOP SKIPPING MEALS YOU ARE TOO THIN WHY HAVENT YOU EATEN”
I decided it was time to start ignoring those wall posts, hoping to discourage Mama from posting so frequently. Plus, I was making it too easy for my boss to catch me Facebooking during office hours.
However, the next message, which was still posted without a lick of punctuation, was accompanied by something else to show me that my mother’s mastery of technology, in the form of a smartphone, was improving before my very eyes.
“MY SON OKO MI WHY ARE YOU IGNORING ME :-(”
Mama had used her first emoticon.
At that point, I quickly sent a text message to reassure her ignoring her was strategic, not cold-hearted. I didn’t want to lose my job over Facebook.
She replied to let me know she understood, and I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking she would abandon Facebook for a while.
How could I forget how addictive Facebook was? Mama was just warming up.
While I worked, my mother graduated to taking selfies and posting them to Facebook. Before the close of work that day, Mama had posted eight different selfies of the same angle of her face, a mischievous child-like grin in each picture. Each had its own caption.
The first one said, “BLESS THE LORD O MY SOUL,” and the second one said, “I AM A CHILD OF GOD.” The third caption read, “SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY.”
I stopped reading closely after the third selfie.
On my way back from work, Mama had posted another message on my wall:
“DEKUNLE LIKE MY PICTURES.”
I ignored that request, noting with horror, that I had new friendship requests from people I couldn’t even stand. I saw Mama’s hand in this attempt at reconciliation because most of them were uncles, and male relatives, members of my father’s family who I had deliberately refused to add as Facebook friends, because a part of me was still deeply resentful towards them.
I deleted their friend requests.
Reconciliation, my foot!
When my father passed some years back, these men, like birds of prey, had swooped down on my father’s sizeable estate and like greedy hyenas, divided his property among themselves. I was still in secondary school at the time, but I was old enough to understand what they had done.
I never forgave them.
One by one, they gave my mother all sorts of flimsy excuses as to why they couldn’t provide financial assistance in caring for me and my younger sister, Ojuolape. To these men, the fact that we were their own brother’s children made no difference.
But thank God who had mercy on us.
My mother’s industriousness paid off, and the profits from her small business where she bought and sold ready-made clothes, was what saw me and Ojuolape through school.
Ojuola, or Lape as I called her, was still in her third year in the university. She occasionally came home for the weekends, and I had no doubt that she was the one who had helped my mother set up her Facebook account, and shown her the ropes.
As far as ropes go …
“Lape better not teach Mama how to really use Facebook,” I grumbled, as another notification popped up on my phone, just before I got home. When I checked Facebook, I saw that Mama had essentially repeated the same message she left earlier on my wall:
“LIKE MY PICTURES CANT YOU SEE THEM”
To avoid round three of the same wall post, I liked all of Mama’s selfies before the day was over.
But for the rest of the week, Mama tortured me further on Facebook. And the funny thing is she didn’t even know it.
She started using Facebook to continue discussions of topics she had raised with me in one-on-one conversations. In particular, the topic that made repeat appearances centered on one thing: marriage.
Mama started with prayer points.
She would post prayer points on my wall, of the “Locate your Spouse” variety. Then, she would follow them with phone calls in the evenings to make sure I had said the prayers. All of these things gained momentum because earlier that year, I had turned 27.
The day after my birthday, I noticed that my mother’s evening phone calls took a dramatic turn. She would spend almost the entire phone call telling me all the reasons why as a 27-year old guy, I was more than qualified, and in fact, overripe for marriage.
“At your age, your father already had a child. That child was you,” said my mother during one of those long, marriage-themed phone calls. “And your father – God rest his soul – married me at 24. We were just managing one room in his father’s house with that his jalopy that was always breaking down. Dekunle, what are you looking at? You are 27. At 27, you have a car, your own flat, and a good job at a multinational company. In this Lagos! So, tell me, Dekunle, what are you still waiting for?”
“Mama, mi o ti i ready, ma. I’m not ready to settle down,” I told her. And that was my answer over and over again to the same question. While she thought I was ripe for marriage, my perspective was different. I felt I hadn’t even seen enough of the world to consider settling down for marriage. To me, marriage was for guys in their ’30s upwards. My ’20s were for maximum enjoyment of the kind of freedom I believed marriage would undoubtedly snatch from me.
Of course I didn’t share my philosophy on marriage with Mama. It would simply have prolonged the already lengthy phone calls.
But no matter how many times I said I was not ready for marriage, Mama just ignored me. Her Facebook campaign continued tirelessly, with as many as six posts on my wall on daily basis. All attempts to discourage her or show her how to send private messages instead proved futile.
Slowly, but surely, I began to resent Mama’s joining Facebook, because I saw it as giving her unfettered access to scrutinize my social life in a way she had never been able to do before. Yes, it occurred to me that I could mute her posts, or open another Facebook account to add her and anyone else I didn’t want breathing down my neck.
But I knew that would never work. For one, she always cross-checked to make sure I actually read her posts. There was no escape.
One day, an evil thought jumped into my head.
Why not simply unfriend Mama?
No! I pushed that thought aside quickly. How could I do such a callous thing? I just didn’t have the heart to pull it off.
Although it was pushed aside, that evil thought still resided in my heart, and kept floating to the surface of my subconscious like a bottle with a written message.
Fast forward to Tunji’s birthday party, a few weeks later.
Yes, R-rated, trash-talking Tunji. I had had a little too much to drink, and of course, access to my phone. I don’t even remember what I did, but it must have been something terrible, because before 7:00am the next morning, a Sunday, there was a loud, urgent knock at my door.
A sharp headache threatened to split my head open, as I staggered towards the door. Still recovering from my hangover, I looked through the door viewer peep hole, and satisfied myself that the person at my door was not a stranger. I unlocked the door, and opened it.
Before I could open my mouth to say, “Good Morning, Mama,” a hot slap landed on my face.
The lingering effects of alcohol immediately vanished from my eyes, once the second slap landed in quick succession.
Staring with my mouth open, hand on my smarting cheek, I said:
“Mama! But why? What did I do?”
Dressed in her Sunday best, consisting of a silver lace iro and buba, with a dazzling purple gele, Mama didn’t miss a beat. She was ready for me. Thrusting a phone in my face, she glared at me as my eyes scoured the phone screen.
Right there on Mama’s phone, my eyes beheld undeniable evidence.
Add Adekunle Omotosho as a Friend
Crap! I had unfriended Mama, acting out my deepest desire in my uninhibited, drunken state.
And Mama wasn’t taking it well.
“You removed me from your Facebook? Why?” she demanded angrily.
“Yes, Mama, I errr … unfriended you, but it’s not–” I began, scratching my head, taking several steps backwards.
“Shut up! Da ke!” she roared. I obeyed. “I don’t care what you call it, or how old you are, Dekunle, some things are just not done. You don’t have to agree with everything I say, and you may not live under my roof anymore, but I am still your mother. And because I am your mother, you cannot, never ever remove me from your Facebook! You get me?” she asked.
I stood there dumbfounded. Did she really come to my flat on her way to church solely to reprimand me for unfriending her?
Oh yes she did!
“Dekunle, it’s you I’m talking to. Abi, didn’t you hear me ni?” she said, walking menacingly towards me, hand upraised ready to give me another heavy-handed slap. One glance at that upraised hand loosened my tongue.
Her hand dropped, but she was still livid. The next thing she said was,
“Where is your phone?”
I handed it to her without a word, still shocked by the slaps, and reasoning behind them.
Before my eyes, Mama navigated to my Facebook app, and re-added herself as my friend on Facebook. Then, using her own phone, she accepted my friend request.
But she did not hand my phone back to me. She started fiddling with it, elbowing me and threatening me each time I tried to retrieve it from her busy fingers.
The entire time, she spoke in angry tones, making comments.
“656 friends on Facebook! Only you! And just a handful of them are men. So you can’t pick any of these fine girls, abi? Don’t worry. Shebi I’m your mother.”
By the time my mother gave me back my phone, she had added a certain “Lola Adeyosoye” to my friends’ list. We had gone to primary school together, but weren’t Facebook friends.
As my mother turned to leave, she said:
“By the way, I have been chatting with Lola on Facebook. She’s single and so are you. And I know her parents. Dekunle, do the needful.”
As irritated as I was with my mother’s overbearing actions, I took her advice, and contacted Lola. As it turned out, Mama’s assessment was spot on.
Two years later, Lola became Mrs. Omotosho.
Looking back, I would never have guessed that unfriending Mama would lead me to the love of my life.
Be the first to know when I publish a new story
More Short Reads: