All those bogus romance plots and plots constantly talk about a “one true love”, a singular “soulmate”. I think that means it’s safe to assume that love is only supposed to come around once. One and done. You get those sappy “the one that got away” quotes and unrequited love and the happy endings that everyone seems to get regardless of the challenges they faced literally two minutes before the big fairy-tale wedding. Talk about unrealistic. And the pressure that puts on young people in relationships! The ultimatum that you’re either destined to end up with this person or they’re only a passing fling until the right one comes along.
I think love is too complicated to be simplified like that. It’s possible to love more than just one person at a time, but that’s because I’m viewing love as more than just romantic love. I’m thinking about loving my family members, my friends, the people who support me. So to rephrase: Is it possible to be in love with more than one person? I honestly don’t know. I can’t provide answers on that one. But I do know that love is an roller coaster of emotions that can destroy people, so I don’t imagine being that intensely in love with two people is much fun.
When I first got the idea to write this blog, I was sure I was going to be able to talk about Ifemelu and how she loved Obinze but has now moved on. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be entirely true. With the ending of Americanah, Obinze and Ifemelu are rekindling their relationship and thus proving that their one true love prevails above all. It follows the societal expectation of the singular love of your life. Does that discredit Ifemelu’s other relationships? Does this mean she and Curt or she and Blaine never had a chance because she and Obinze had fallen in love before they’d even met? And what about Fred? He made his move at a bit of an inconvenient time because Ifemelu and Obinze had sort of gotten back together (maybe?) but then Ifemelu broke this off (did she? I think she did) but then Obinze breaks off his marriage which is what Ifemelu wanted (I’m assuming?) and now they’re back together (once again, maybe? There were a lot of unanswered questions with the ending, I’ll touch on that in another post).
Either way, even if the relationship between Ifemelu and Obinze adheres to the societal ideal of “one true love”, I do believe that Ifemelu could’ve been in love with the other men she was with. I don’t think the fact that she and Obinze getting back together means he’s her “one true love” either. I don’t even think I believe in a “one true love”. I do think it’s possible to fall in and out of love with multiple people, or even the same person, something Adichie clearly demonstrates in the three central relationships she portrays in Americanah.
I’ve never been cheated on but I can imagine it’s not a pleasant experience. The whole concept of cheating is a little ridiculous to me considering I can barely juggle myself, let alone a relationship and an affair. But on top of that, how hard is it to stay faithful to someone?
The reason I bring this up is not to discuss the motivation of cheating but rather the response to cheating. In many relationships containing an unfaithful participant, once the cheating has surfaced, the relationship immediately ends. But, in Ifemelu’s case, she continues to be with Curt despite the emails he was sending back and forth with the mystery woman SparklingPaola123. And that begs the question, does the reaction to cheating depend on the “severity” of the cheating? Is it still considered cheating if there is no physical contact?
[Note: Here, I am 100% relaying my opinion on this subject. You may have your own opinion on this subject and I would be happy to hear it but for now this is my opinion and my opinion only.]
In my opinion, what Curt did was most definitely cheating. Maybe it wasn’t physical cheating, but it was undoubtedly emotional cheating. And I think regardless of what “level” of cheating it was, if I were in Ifemelu’s shoes, I wouldn’t have continued the relationship with Curt. Which leads me to consider why exactly Ifemelu chose to take him back. Obviously the act of Curt’s cheating had an affect on Ifemelu’s confidence, seen when she says, “She felt small and ugly.” (261). This also happens after Ifemelu’s drastic haircut, further cementing her dislike of the change in appearance. But when the change in appearance becomes a boost of confidence for Ifemelu, I think Adichie is also showcasing a transition in Ifemelu and her relationship with Curt.
I think Ifemelu took Curt back because of how he made her feel outside of the cheating. When she was with Curt, Ifemelu saw the brighter side of the American lifestyle and because of this she began to gain confidence when it came to work and school. So, rather than staying with Curt because she legitimately forgave him or because of the wealth he displayed with her, Ifemelu stayed with him because, subconsciously, she was scared of losing the confidence that came with being with him. She was scared of reverting back to the way things were prior to her job with the Turners. And while I in no way justify Curt’s cheating, I do think Ifemelu taking him back was the choice that led to her eventually becoming confident enough to stand on her own without him.
I have very strong opinions about sex. I think it’s ridiculous that sex is so censored in the media and that parents freak out if their kids are within a ten foot radius of anything even remotely sexual. I think kids need to learn about sex-it’s one of the most important things they can learn about-because if they don’t, they could hurt themselves and other people. To quote Obinze’s mother in Americanah, “An act is done by two people, but if there are any consequences, one person carries it alone.” (87).
My parents don’t really like to talk about sex. My dad makes jokes about it (and because he’s a dad, you know they’re bad jokes) and my mom cringes like the topic of sex is a physical monster that’s going to jump out and bite her if she even thinks about it. Because if this, sex was never a topic brushed upon in my household. I had to learn about it through a combination of media, the lesson in eighth grade that could barely be called a sex-ed, and a very close family friend whom I cannot thank enough. But what would have happened if I had never learned about sex, in any way, shape or form? The answer can be found everywhere and there are a variety of answers. To sum them all up: probably bad things.
When Obinze’s mother first pulls Ifemelu aside and begins talking about sex, I was a bit taken aback. And then I started cheering. Not because the boyfriend’s mom wanted to know when they started having sex. I cheered because she’s looking out for her son in every way possible (and parenting is another topic I’m very opinionated on) as well as making sure they’re being smart because judging from Ifemelu’s reaction to someone being that open about sex, there wasn’t a lot of sex education involved in her childhood. And, in the following chapters, we witness that firsthand as Ifemelu and Obinze have sex and don’t use protection, resulting in a pregnancy scare. Fortunately, that provides more quotes on sex from Obinze’s mother, specifically, “You should never ever let the boy be in charge of your own protection. If he does not want to use it, then he does not care enough about you and you should not be there.” (118).
Side note: I love that she is forcing them to take responsibility of their actions and basically tells Obinze that if he does get Ifemelu pregnant, it’s not going to just go away. Also, she focuses on STDs and pregnancy when referring to consequences.
I, personally, have little no experience with relationships ergo I have no room to talk about relationships. Ok, that’s not true. I feel, as someone with so little experience, that I do offer a different perspective when viewing relationships. An outside perspective. And one specific type of relationship that has always fascinated me has been young love.
A lot of older people tend to discredit younger people and simply label them as “moody” or “emotional” rather than taking their opinions and feelings into account like they would another adult. And because of this, adults rarely take young love seriously which I think is ridiculous. If a teenager is able to plan out the rest of their future at that age then they should be taken seriously when it comes to falling in love at that age. Simultaneously, there are obvious examples of young love that prove young people have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to romance (example: Romeo and Juliet). But at the same time, that shouldn’t discredit all romance experienced at a younger age.
This comes up because I recently read the chapter in Americanah where Ifemelu discusses meeting and dating her, presently ex-boyfriend, Obinze. While her age is not specified, it’s safe to assume she was still young when the pair met and fell for one another. And because of that, and how their relationship ended, that begs the question: is all young love doomed to fail?
Obviously I believe young love should be taken seriously but taken seriously doesn’t necessarily mean I believe all young relationships will work out. If the answer to the above question turns out to be yes, then why? Is it because we’re young, so we have no idea how to handle actual relationships that involve feelings? Or is it because we’re constantly pressured and judged by adults who think young love is ridiculous, childish, foolish? It’s safe to say the odds are stacked against the success of young love. With stigma from society also comes responsibilities like school or establishing yourself in the workplace or moving away from home and living your own life without your parents there to guide you. On top of that, add the emotional responsibility that comes with maintaining a successful and healthy relationship, you’ve got quite the heavy load.
I think I’m just curious to see why Obinze and Ifemelu’s relationship ended. Were they doomed to fail from the start? Do their separate hopes and dreams send them down different paths? And then you have the knowledge that they are beginning to reconnect after the relationship has long since ended, so does that mean there might be more to their relationship? Who knows.