Metropole Magazine

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19 Jun Written by  Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

The Case for Elopement

For poverty, purity of heart and patience, people have little patience. So, upon realising he would be broke forever, every young man ought to elope.

After cornering that girl, impressing her youth with sage wit, quoting copious Achebe passages and Soyinka verses, and generally confusing her enough, the poet slips in his intentions: marriage. Gleefully, she agrees; who doesn’t want to be told the same thing— you’re beautiful, I like your small teeth, I want to do to you what dew does to blades of grass— in different, innovative word combinations. The brilliant young man lets her go to her parents to announce the big news.

Big mistake: every broke young man, as Apostle Paul didn’t quite say, if he cannot do without marriage, must elope. The proposal of a poor man is a fragile, cheap thing, of value only to the man; and must be kept in ideal conditions, protected from adverse factors. Factors like friends, factors like family. This is because nothing alters the goodwill of a family toward a poor man like learning they are about to become in-laws.

The father, aghast, stutters, “I thought they were only playing.”

When he gets over the shock, be sure he is reaching for the police, or a cutlass.

If the girl still hasn’t come to her senses, if she hasn’t picked the Roget’s Thesaurus Mr Poet has stashed under some weather-beaten clothes to discover bro has been using synonyms since he got to the end of Shakespeare’s sonnets, then maybe there’s a chance for a love elsewhere— far away from the disapproving family. Of course money wins in truth and in deception. Upon failing to produce something tangible, it is not unusual to have the desperate couple offer the amorphous concept of prospects to the parents.

“But daddy, he has prospects.”

That may soften harden hearts. But it is a victory for money and materialism; and poet cannot have it. She is bound to receive an earful for misrepresenting him badly in public. Apparently, he had encouraged her to love him for what he is, not for the vague idea of what he would become. Poet is happy, however, to receive the woman legally. There are no prospects, of course, but he’ll take what he gets.

Alas, it is a tribute to its power that the idea— of money— wins over the reality— of poverty.

Moreover, all stories are paeans to power and wealth. Language never lies— in English, rags to riches; in Latin, ad astra per aspera: to the stars through difficulties. The language of man is one of ‘prospects’. In his essay, The Heroic, Considered, American critic H.L. Mencken deconstructed fairy tales:

“In the folk-lore of all races, despite the sentimentalization of abasement for dramatic effect, it is always power and grandeur that count in the end. The whole point of that the Fairy Prince lifts Cinderella above her cruel sisters, and stepmother, and so enables her to lord it over them.”

It is a supreme irony that it is in love itself that the popular aphorism, “Love conquers all,” is proven to be sophism.

Apart from being true to oneself, elopement means the poet abdicates his financial duties to his bride’s family, which is a good thing for any poor man. Just the one problem: Mr Poet needs money for the getaway.

Alas, money wins, again.