Maverick musician and social crusader, Charles Oputa a.k.a Charly Boy, and his south American born wife, Diane, popularly known as Lady D, have remained, an item after 35 years of marriage.Some critics believe their union is a case of birds of a feather that flock together. But the couple have a different opinion as they share the secrets of their marriage as well as how they weathered the storms of cultural boundaries and still remain as husband and wife.
How I met my wife
I met my wife in 1974/1975 in a hair saloon in Boston, USA. I went to do my hair there when I saw this beautiful lady with an overflowing hair.I admired her beauty and decided I was going to invite her to a party that never happened. She accepted my invitation and the party was just me and her in my limousine and I asked my driver to drive us round town. While we were cruising, we talked and that was how we started.
She has a childâ€™s spirit; almost like shy. Also, she has the best figure I have ever seen in a woman. Of course, she was pretty, but I think it was her spirit that attracted me to her.
Love at first sight
No, it wasnâ€™t. I was looking forward to coming back home and settling down. It wasnâ€™t much of love at first sight than more of companionship at a time.
Yes, I was prepared to settle down before I met her. I had been married twice or thrice but it didnâ€™t work out for me. I was leaving one relationship when I met her. More or less, she was filling the gap kind of a thing.
Marrying a woman from another cultural background
She comes from the southern part of America. They are more inclined to the homeliness kind of thing. She didnâ€™t have any problem readjusting after all, we started from the village. When I returned to the country, and completed my youth service, I had problem with my parents because they didnâ€™t support what I wanted to do for myself.
I couldnâ€™t take it, hence I disowned them. That was how I relocated to the village to put myself together. I started the Charly Boy brand in the village and she was with me for about eight years there before we moved to Lagos. So, I think Iâ€™m a lucky bastard.
My parentsâ€™ reaction
My parents had met her several times in Boston. I didnâ€™t know she was going to be my wife. I wanted to marry a Nigerian and not an American. But she was all over me, and when I wanted to return to Nigeria in 1980/1981, she bought her own ticket under the guise that she was coming to spend two weeks in Nigeria, only for her to end up spending six months.
So, my parents were worried that she should go back to her country to give me chance to look for a wife. She was supposed to book for a ticket to return to America. One day, she woke up and said to me: â€œMarry me or I will never come back to Nigeria.â€ That was how I was intimidated into marrying her. I didnâ€™t propose to her, rather she was the one who proposed to me. That â€˜s why I said I was intimidated into marrying her.
35 years after
Itâ€™s like a moving coaster. We have had our low as well as our high moments. Sometimes, itâ€™s good, at other times, itâ€™s averagely good. We have had our issues, but, above every other thing, I think we have great understanding and respect for each other; love and trust for each other. Also, we were willing to work out anything that will keep us together. Thatâ€™s why I think we have come this far.
Strength of our marriage
Great understanding, mutual respect and a lot of communication.
These days, I really donâ€™t hang out. In fact, I donâ€™t have a social life any more. At 7 pm, Iâ€™m already in my bed. My house is like a castle. We have done all the going out in the past, but that does not mean that we should stop going out. Thatâ€™s why every six months, we try to come up with an idea just to keep abreast of time. Like I said, we are determined to make our marriage work and to find ways that we can keep reinventing ourselves and keeping our interests in each other going.
What I donâ€™t like about her
What I donâ€™t like about her is the thing I like about her. She is like a child, sheâ€™s so innocent and naÃ¯ve. I keep being afraid, if Iâ€™m not around, who protects her. Sometimes I quarrel with her that sheâ€™s too trusting.
That innocence, I think I have a lot of that in me, thatâ€™s why I have always remained a boy. You know, children are open-minded about a lot of things.
I donâ€™t want to be calculative; I want to be like that boy, I just want to play. Thatâ€™s the spirit that attracted me to her. Thatâ€™s the same spirit I wish I could change in her because Nigeria is a very treacherous place and one needs to be very careful.
What I cannot do for her
Following the deep friendship that we share, I can almost do anything for her. She has become my baby, my angel and my best friend ever. I donâ€™t even see her as a wife, rather I see her as my body.
Advice to young couples
I donâ€™t think most couples respect themselves. And if there is no respect, there will be no understanding.But in a marriage where there is respect and understanding, the couple will approach any problem that comes their way with that kind of mindset. If I do something that is out of order, I quickly apologise to my wife. For longevity in marriage, there should be great friendship, understanding and a lot of communication and determination to want to stick to it and make it work.
If he has not proven to be a family man, I probably wouldnâ€™t have been in Nigeria â€” Wife
35 years in marriage
Sometimes, I wonder if it is really up to 35 years. Maybe itâ€™s because one is just enjoying the ride. When you are comfortable and you do the things you like to do and you are around people that you enjoy, you wouldnâ€™t just realize when time is going by. But it is going by because I see my children in college graduating with first degrees, definitely something is changing around me. It is a long journey and we have had ups and downs within the 36 years that we have been together. But we are happy together. A lot of couples havenâ€™t got that far-we are really privileged.
What I enjoyed most in marriage
Companionship. Like I said, all couples have their ups and downs but we have been able to sort things out by ourselves. Also, we communicate a lot. Talking is a key thing in any relationship and we always point this out anytime we are interviewed. Honesty and agreement are also important. We strive to make things good for ourselves and our extended family including our children and parents. We look beyond just ourselves.
Hard part of it
I guess it is just the small things that every couple experiences in a relationship. It may be disagreement in raising the kids among others. I also have step children to look after. The bottom-line is the resolve by both of us to make the relationship work.
I have seven kids altogether out of which three are mine biologically, the rest are step children. We are all very close. We reprimand those who are not doing well and commend those who are doing well. We try and work with them and they know they have our love as parents. They donâ€™t really look at me as their step mum and that is how I have always wanted it to be. They all call me by my first name.
I hate it when they use the appellation â€˜Maâ€™ for me. It hurts me. One of my step children came to Nigeria some years back and when he saw me he was overwhelmed. He never knew that a step mother could have such a positive influence on oneâ€™s life.
Coming to live in Nigeria
With regards to coming to Nigeria, I donâ€™t think I would have changed anything. But I think if someone had told me that I would come and live in Nigeria and have kids here, I would have told whoever the person is that it was not possible. The first time I came to Nigeria, I wanted to stay for three months but I ended up staying for nine months. So, itâ€™s not about the country but the person who brought me to Nigeria. I donâ€™t want to brag but I am grateful to God for my relationship.
How I got hooked
From the beginning, meeting Charles was different because he was a Nigerian. I have never really gone out with a Nigerian. I have a lot of American boyfriends but not a Nigerian. I really wanted to know much about a Nigerian man and his culture and people. That was what really intrigued me.
Coping at the home front
He takes care of his family very well. If he had not proven to be a family man, I probably would not have been in Nigeria in the first place. He has been a good husband and father to his children.
Advice for young couples
I think they have to first get it right from the start. I think dating is very important. You need to know what you want to get yourself into. For women, it is not because the clock is ticking and for men, it is not about what you have. But you need to know the person you want to spend your life with before you commit yourself. We make mistakes but people have to be careful. One of the things that work for me and my husband is that he is not a typically and culturally Nigerian man, maybe it is because of his exposure.