Beard growth – Nothing is easy, nothing comes easy too, I tell you, but as much as I have come to accept it. Being a Nigerian is not anywhere near easy, I can almost wager my money that if we, as humans have the power to decide where we are to be born and knowing what we know now, Nigeria would be a much-deserted territory. But we are here. The drill starts after we are born.
The life of a boy, all we have been taught is maturity, we have been made to grow before time, there is a little time for childhood, we are constantly being put in that position where we have to behave appropriately. You are young but you are taught and expected to make adult decisions at a tender age. Tough love is everywhere so mostly we can’t wait to become one (adult), you are taught to be an adult and then you are constantly reminded you aren’t one (yet).
That age you can make a decision or contribute to one, there’s a saying then that you only have a say when you bring to the table. You have to provide for your family, you have to hustle to contribute to the family’s earning. In a country where uncertainty is the truth. Some of us do have it easy. But how do you prepare for uncertainty? Here the average family makes their young ones learn a trade. Which is usually around the senior secondary school age or much earlier, you have young people learning to be mechanics, Vulcanizing, Tailoring, hairstyling, printing press and many others(just to clarify, education comes in different forms may be formal, informal and non-formal).
The High school age is when a lot of things happen, make or mar decisions. Because for most of the young child life he hasn’t been told to live but a certain question has been repeatedly asked of him, “what would you like to be when you grow up?”, I was asked this particular question at my primary school, secondary school, at home, church everywhere. It’s at high school you have to make a decision depending on the path you intend to travel, should it be Sciences, Commercial or the Arts? Some people actually have it figured out, while some have their uncles, daddy, mummy, neighbors’ recommendation as an answer. Some student will even end up in a place because of their friend, in public schools, it’s hard for you to be bright and end up in Art, they reserve this classes to the students full of expression.
Secondary school stage in Nigeria is another ball game. Peer pressure, seniority, showmanship, disrespect, and disobedience being considered fashionable. That bad guy season begins. Or the struggle for it depending on the atmosphere or the type of school you are in, or maybe it’s just mine.
The race to puberty
To us then, facial hair was a sign of maturity. You’ll be in your class jejely (Nigerian pidgin slang for calmly) and you’ll see some early boomers rubbing their chin, oh! They already got beards. While you, though older can’t brag of it yet, the painful part is that we are all made to shave at the end of the day but those few patchy days are glory.
The race to puberty starts at junior high, every guy that hasn’t grown their private hair wants it by all means, so boys start applying all sort of substance back then, mostly methylated spirit, you can see boys during break period showing themselves armpit hair, opening their shirt to reveal the growth of hair in private places, you see the ones raised in religious homes are always shy about these things, reason being most are not being educated about what it is that is happening and how to react to this change, while the kids raised loosely do have an idea even if it’s not a hundred percent accurate one(by “loosely” in this context I meant; not so religious family, that type of people that just tick the religion box but do not practice it, do they even close their eyes during assembly prayer time?).
Then out of school during the long break to senior secondary you start growing mustache, goatee, and sideburn. The girls like it, some people are not so cool with it, stereotypical analysis. Ok, let’s stroll back to the school setting, not for those who attended the private, missionary or fresh schools. This one right here is for those who attended the schools, the government schools dubbed the public school, free education gave way and opportunities to a lot of people and other things, you’ll be in a class with someone you dare not call by name, if you are not careful your classmates will send you on errands during break time. You cannot even write noise-makers (because as tradition the class teacher makes the more brilliant students the class captain, monitors that record activities of the class pending lectures. Mostly to reduce noisome activities)
The noisemaker list be looking like – Goke x10, Aliu x5, Adio x3
But it is a list you dare not submit because these people won’t feel pain from the class teachers’ cane, and also the class teacher isn’t walking you home.
You could almost hate yourself for being the right age for your own class. So one day you wake up and notice some hair are growing on your chin and that’s that wave of excitement, to you like Dayum!, finally!!!, you go to the barbers shop later to cut your regular school hair and make sure to point it out to him not to touch those two strands of hair, the holiday is over, you want to go show your beard growth, in the absence of the now available beard techniques, uniforms are ironed, new school sandals, belt.
Monday arrived – and you take your scroll to school; oh that early bird, you sit in your position, waiting for others to arrive, your fellow dry chins sit, and oh they too are growing one strand and two, then together, we wait for the bros them, it was a long wait to be sincere because these ones won’t even come to school at the first two weeks of resumption, but its only good cause more time to gather, you start applying methylated spirit because we believed then that that is why the barbers apply similar substance to our bald head, to make the hair grow back fast.
It sure becomes a problem in the fourth week of school and trouble hasn’t shown their faces, their normal delay before resumption is two weeks. Then you find out after thorough investigation that some of these guys have impregnated someone’s daughter while on holiday and have to look for work so as to raise money for their pending new family, these guys are always raising the bars high. And the ones that are not father to be among them are feeling left out so they decided not to come too, so they go to hustle also, bigger than school. We just sit in class not knowing what to do with this new found calmness, silence and since we are all age mates remaining, we get along fine, and even join the Wednesday clubs, jet club, debate clubs, the teaching practice students comes to class to give lesson on life that they could not give when the big boys were there, because even the young teacher doesn’t have beards yet.
Years later we do see ourselves though through different ways and we all talk and joke about things, and we are left with nice memories, their kids are growing though raised slightly different, still with the early growth mentality of learning a trade. Education doesn’t necessarily stop for everyone after a move like that (cannot call a child a mistake because sex is a deliberate action, involving two people agreeing to it). For example, I remember once when I was in primary six(6) I had a classmate that was much older, he was from the north, I think one of the last sons of the nearby livestock merchant, his name is Adamou.
There were rumors then that back in the north he has children older than us, he was naturally the teachers selected for the esteemed class captain position, not because of his height but because of his dedication, we do not make noise and our class was always clean reason for the no noise policy back then was Mr. Adamou does not go down for break like every other student, he will always be seen in the class trying to read and understand what the English text meant.
He did comply with all the school rules (clean shave and uniform tucked in) and I never witness him being rude or being a problem anywhere. Later on in life, we (some of us) would joke about it that he has political ambitions in the north, but truly it is our decisions that make us who we are or our lack to make one (indecision).