Most days you are firm in your convictions. Smug even. They are foregone conclusions, concretized through repeated use and the corroboration of people whose opinions you respect. Especially when your conviction is also the socially acceptable thing- you make bold pronouncements about racism, sexism, feminism; you challenge things that appear to be single stories or flimsy generalizations; you can spot a stereotype in your sleep.
You are on autopilot when the argument begins among mostly young men from Ebonyi. Quite easily, and almost condescendingly you demolish the argument about women not quite being equal to their husbands. You have spoken and written about this so much that you can worry about the food and the drinks while explaining why marriage does not confer any inferiority on a woman. Perhaps the man whose argument you are rebutting does not realize it, but you express some sort of disappointment in his thought process by declaring faux shock that men in this generation of yours think this way. He sips his drink and smiles.
In preaching the goodness of his home state one of the more educated men at the table tries to explain that the reason cases of armed robbery and money rituals are not as prevalent among ‘Ebonyians’ as among other Eastern Nigerian peoples is the land- no one from Ebonyi escapes the judgment of the land and even when they engage in armed robbery, they are usually the first to be caught or killed. In these matters of the supernatural you have no comment. The look of incredulity on your face is enough response.
Very quickly, as is wont to happen among young men drinking and making merry the conversation returns to women. Again, someone insists the women from his home state are morally superior to others. As more drinks reach the table and empty into the stomachs of those on the table, one of the men make bold to say that while he admits that a good majority of the sex workers in Abuja are from Eastern Nigeria, they are usually not from his state. He points the finger at Imo State, whose girls he claims give Igbo people a bad name. The lone Imo man on the table shakes his head in disappointment but insists that he is not offended.
‘I have heard this before,’ he says.
‘There good women and bad women everywhere,’ you suggest, trying to balance a conversation now clearly driven more by alcohol than reason.
Slightly tipsy, the tallest man on the table rises to his full length to insist: ‘This is a fallacy of what? A fallacy of? Generalization!’
He stumbles a bit on the word ‘generalization.’ There are a few giggles around the table. You are not the only one who has noticed that he seemed to have remembered the phrase and was looking for an opportunity to throw it into the conversation.
Later in the evening you run into a girl subtly offering sex for money. You know you shouldn’t ask but then the previous conversation is still playing in your ear.
‘Where are you from?’
‘Imo,’ she smiles, her long thick fake eyelashes, giving her a dreamy look.
‘Good god,’ you say under your breath but loud enough for her to hear.
‘Ahn-ahn, whais wrong with Imo people?’
‘Nothing,’ you say, angry at yourself for asking, angry at the girl for being from Imo on the same day as someone accuses Imo girls of being loose, angry that somehow this which should not qualify as a fact may now find a comfortable spot among facts in your consciousness.
You add to your list of things you will never do again, never to ask people where they are from.