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#Opinion: Lovers Day Special and A case for titling your relationships – By Ucheoma Onwutuebe

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A long while ago, I liked a certain man. Our friendship blossomed to the point that it beggared the boundaries of mere acquaintances, for he was beginning to enjoy privileges not availed to other male friends: extended phone calls, unabashed attention and frequent meals at my place made from the contents of my pantry-  which is the harbinger of all privileges. This carried on for a while until my curiosity could no longer stay piqued forever and I decided to take the bulls by the horn and find out what was really going on between us. Moreover, did our elders not say that, he who asks questions will not miss road? So I asked him even though with a twinge of embarrassment, What are we?

Here is his answer and I quote, even though not so correctly. “Once we give this a title, unnecessary jealousy, scrutiny and the pressure of performance would set in. We are cool the way we we are. What we have is beautiful and it does not require a title to validate it.”

For a moment I believed him and I was sold to his line of thoughts because they made some sense and I remembered how other people ‘s friendship went awry once they acknowledged that they were dating.

But I only had to sit longer and alone with my mind before I realised that what he said was what my secondary school teachers would call “arrant nonsense”.

Over time, I have known that the reluctance or blatant refusal to lay claims on someone whom you enjoyed regular favours from and whom you spent a great deal of time with- time ladden with romantic innuendos- was a red flag in a relationship. The eagerness in people to welcome special graces from their significant other or a member of the opposite sex should match their ability to lay claims and to call a relationship what it obviously is.

I am not making a case for people who go ahead of themselves to confer titles on a relationship that is just but burgeoning, those overzealous folks who start planning the names of the kids you will have with them the moment you say hello. I am not speaking of those hopeful suitors who call you girlfriend whenever two of you happen upon their friends and their quick tongue leaves you confused because you’re wondering, when did this one happen, when did I become your girlfriend? Some people are just wont to be five million steps ahead of themselves and we forgive their eagerness.

But all I am saying is, I love to count my teeth with my tongue and ask myself some pressing questions , This person that pays me undivided attention, that buys me jewelleries, that buys me unsolicited lunch, that is thoughtful and stays involved in my everyday life, what does he want from me? Can I afford to reciprocate? Am I wasting his time? Is it not high time we conferred a title to this?

This does not mean that all things become bright and beautiful once a title is conferred to a relationship. Some folks have the uncanny ability to string along tens of people in romantic relations, completely furnished with flourishing titles. Titles mean nothing to them.  But giving a relationship a title is a step to somewhere. At least you have the right to query actions that do not augur well with you and your expectations are channelled in the right direction. Your labour of love are no longer seeds scattered abroad. You collect them in the soil of this relationship.

I have heard of pitiable circumstances where some men would say to their woman whom they have enjoyed an extended period of favours from, You cannot be my girlfriend until I show you to my grandmother and she must approve of you before we proceed. And the poor woman slaves away at impressing an extended family during Christmas, hoping to meet the criteria of his aged granny. If someone loves you and wants to lay claims on you, you do not need to work this hard. These things cannot be forced.

So this valentine do not build another man’s castle in vain. In our local parlance, we would say, Shine your eyes. For you are deserving of an honest title. Except for more loose arrangements such as ‘friends with benefits’, on which you too mutually agree upon not saddling your friendship with the heavy weight of expectations. But apart from that, let he who will not confer a title be refused privileges.

Happy Valentine.

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