Month: July 2013
When this question was asked by Citizen Tv during prime time news, I frowned in puzzlement. How could they ask such a question? Polygamy is infidelity! Isn’t it?
The question followed a story that had been highlighted about a Pastor from Kisumu who has four wives. “My 4 wives and I” – the news segment was called. The party of five seemed to have it all figured out. The man, in all fairness, built four identical houses, one for each wife, complete with identical furniture.
It appeared that they were living their ‘happily-ever-after’. They all cooked and brought the food to their husband’s house where they ate like one big happy polygamous family! The wives got along just fine. Now, isn’t that the life!
Is polygamy the way to go in order to curb infidelity? Are we saying that men are totally incapable of being in a monogamous marriage? Helplessly unable to be faithful? Are we maybe, just maybe, asking too much of them?
Our forefathers by majority were polygamous. We shun polygamy now and look what happens; we have the Mpango wa Kando phenomenon glaring at us unblinkingly. Broken families abound. The spread of HIV is not only prevalent, but also persists among the married folk. What gives?
If the views I got from two guys are anything to go by, it is safe to say that men can indeed commit and be faithful to one woman. Monogamy is a possibility and so the myth that all men cheat is just that, a myth. Men are also familiar with the equation; more wives = more responsibility (financial and otherwise). Most men who have affairs want nothing more than an affair. To assume that polygamy is a solution to infidelity is to wrongly assume that all unfaithful men are itching to take on more responsibilities by marrying their mistresses. Furthermore, a man who marries his mistress creates a vacancy, doesn’t he?
If it is a man’s world, does it follow that infidelity is a man’s disease? Does offering a prescription for the husband alone heal a marriage? As long as the man is ok, the woman is ok? We want to believe that taking care of an unfaithful man by legitimizing his infidelity will make marriages last and everyone will be happy. But is that the case?
Our African society refuses to acknowledge that women do cheat on their husbands too. Mrs.Tuju, anyone? Too soon? We might never see the day that a bill in parliament will be passed to allow women to marry another man, with her first husband’s blessings to boot.
We should however understand that it takes a special kind of woman to make a polygamous arrangement work perfectly. To enjoy the kind of life that the man from Nyanza seems to enjoy with his four wives is no mean feat. Those four women are not your regular kind of women.
Polygamy was perfect in the 19th century because a woman lived for her husband. She spent every waking minute attending to him and his children and nothing else mattered. She was content with having nothing to her name. Zilch. She was happy in her cocoon where her imagination never wandered too far from her husband and their homestead. She was ok with cooking and feeding her children and attending to her ‘master’s’ needs. She had what her husband told her she could have, and she was what her husband said she was.
She was prepared early in life to fit into her role as a wife. Not just any wife, a good wife. She was taught how to cook for her husband, how to keep her house clean, how to please her husband in bed courtesy of the sex aunties at the time. She was even taken through pregnancy and childbirth by a mid wife who gave her tips on how to care for her children.
This woman was uneducated, people. She had never stepped into a classroom. Her husband was her life and her life was her husband. And that is the woman who would make polygamy flourish: the one who believed that marriage is the be all and end all.
Now where will our good men find that woman?
Maybe if their stars align themselves perfectly, they will find this woman tucked away in some hidden island or forest somewhere, away from civilized ‘corrupted’ minds. As long as she is kept in that unadulterated environment, she will make polygamous marriages stand the test of time like the women of yore did.
Take the “My 4 wives and I” guy from Nyanza for example. His wives are like peas in a pod. They wore long flowing dresses and donned headscarves on their heads as they made their way to church walking proudly beside their man. It was clear that they held their husband in awe. They congregated outside their houses to discuss what they should cook for him as he sat on a chair outside his house, possibly marveling at how lucky a man could get! When food was brought to him, he made sure not to deny any of his wives the privilege of taking a bite from all the assortments laid down before him. And that food was a lot!
I am not worried that polygamous marriages will gain traction any time soon. Not in this day and age. A woman in the 21st century has so much going for her. She is educated and she knows no limits to what she can achieve. She sees the world with a whole new pair of eyes now and has no qualms going for what she wants.
There can only be two reasons why a modern woman would agree to a polygamous arrangement: Either she is yet to evolve or it could be all about the Benjamins – in which case, just remember that when she leaves, she leaves with half.
There are some things you can never force down someone’s throat. Love is one of those things.
The Marriage Bill continues to undergo amendments in pursuit of the ‘perfect’ document. In the process it continues to elicit mixed reactions from wananchi. The latest addition is a clause that states that a marriage proposal will in itself be considered as good as marriage. If this bill is passed into law, failure to deliver on a promise of marriage will expose one to the possibility of being sued by the offended party who will in turn be entitled to compensation. The phrase ‘Put your money where your mouth is’ has never had a more literal meaning.
In the Kenyan courtship scene where kukatia and kuingia box is the sequence of events when a man meets a woman who tickles his fancy, it is very easy for men to make promises that they do not intend to keep. We, women, know that.
Men have been known to woo women prompted by a desire to quench a fire burning from deep within. When a woman takes her time she, sooner rather than later, is able to determine where that fire emanates from – whether from the loins or from the heart, if it is love or lust. We’ve co-existed with men since the apple-from-the-forbidden-tree incident and so yeah, we know.
We know that there are times when the fire can be so intense that a man would do or say anything, if only for a chance put it out. “I want you” could be rephrased to sound better, with an addition of four more words “… to be my wife.” Sometimes, the latter is only thrown in to increase the probability of clinching the prize. And make no mistake, we know that as well.
But matters of the heart being as complicated as they are, a man could promise to marry you and you could immediately fall for it hook, line and sinker. You will hang on to the promise like Lifehouse Hanging by a moment. Once umeingia box as they say, he tries to wiggle out of the promise because… fait accompli! The fire is out! You, who should have taken time to know from where the fire burned, end up feeling used. Sema compensation!
You therefore threaten to sue him for a hefty compensation because you have suffered damages. And indeed you have! Maybe there was a man who intended to marry you but you chose Mr. Goodfornothing instead – could be the size of his wallet got you confused, or something. He therefore denied you a future with the good man who in the spirit of ‘accepting and moving on’, has since declared undying love to another woman.
You will, rightfully, cite psychological damages; stress, depression and even embarrassment in the eyes of your friends, relatives and your family who were getting ready for ruracio at your village home. You will inform the guy that should he not make good his promise, you will drag his behind to court and sue him to the last penny. Mr. Fireintheloins, sensing that you have a strong case, will dance to your tune and grudgingly walk you down the aisle, making you his wife.
AND. THEN. WHAT?
Having married him at gun point (tomato, tomaiyro) will you make him love you at gun point as well? Will he care for you as a man cares for a woman he loves? Will you demand for his unwavering, unconditional love or else…?
Of course you won’t…can’t. And you know that.
Granted, if the marriage bill is made law, women will have the ‘use and dump’ jokers by the balls (I couldn’t resist the pun!). From this bill, the message is clear: actions have consequences. Irresponsible behavior will cost you.
Yet we know that the best things in life are free. Will we be happier when we get a refund for the love we wanted but never got? If the same Marriage Bill could protect hearts from being broken, now that would be something!
People, men and women alike, change. Feelings change. If I don’t feel the same way I felt about you a year ago, should I be sued for what I feel (or don’t feel for that matter?)? I don’t know about you, but I was glad when forced marriages were done away with those many years ago. Why the retrogression? Do we want to go back to financial dependence? Do we want the men to start depending on us women?
Is this what we have been reduced to? Do we need the law to help us secure a ring on our fingers? Should we now resort to dragging men down the aisle and force them to marry us?
Can we just take them to court when they stop providing for their children? Shouldn’t we let it end there? Going beyond that makes a circus out of courtship and marriage. It takes away our dignity as women. If he decides not to marry you, and you don’t have children together, it should be “Adios amigos!” Accept and move on. If you have children, make sure he sends in that cheque every month, now the courts can help us with that. Both of us should raise those innocent children together as you move on with your life and he moves on with his. Let nobody get hurt in the process.
For a marriage to work, the two parties should want to be married. One person should not be coerced or blackmailed into it. A dangerous scenario is one where a man and a woman are forced to co-habit because they would hate to part and lose half their wealth or because they cannot entertain the thought of compensating the other party in order to walk free.
Why should anyone buy their freedom anyway?
This person sat next to me in a bus headed to the city. I was seated next to the window, like I always prefer to, and they occupied the seat next to me to my right hand side. As the vehicle snaked its way through the afternoon traffic, I became aware of an extra pair of eyes staring out of the window with me. I turned to look at them and maybe gauge whether I needed to hug my handbag tightly (this is Nairobi, after all). Unfortunately, scrutinizing this person did not help. It instead left me confused. Thus I christened the person X.
X because I couldn’t tell whether she or he was a female or a male. I never thought, in my wildest imaginations that there would come a day when I could be unable to tell another human being’s sex by physical appearance.
X donned a pair of skinny jeans and loafers on their feet. I couldn’t tell if they had a blouse, shirt or t-shirt underneath the leather jacket. Had there been no leather jacket to contend with, I would have caught a glimpse of X’s chest and immediately solved the mystery that was the sex of X. Damn this July cold that has everyone layering and hiding some crucial evidence in the process!
What had me even more confused was the face. I had to observe it stealthily lest they caught me staring. That X was light-skinned was not a cause of contention. X had facial features that fitted those of any female you could think of. But, alas X had a moustache!
And not just any moustache. Some ladies have moustaches you know. Miniscule moustaches that are shaved or waxed every now and then to keep them in check. Not X’s moustache though. X had a very well trimmed, very prominent moustache. It was dark, therefore contrasting against X’s light complexion. It was kempt. It was there not by accident but on purpose. You could almost picture X standing in front of the mirror and using a small comb to arrange the strands in a neat pile above the lip. It was almost as if he or she had walked into the barber shop and specifically instructed the guy in charge to be extra careful with it; “Trim it well. Don’t take out too much, or too little. Kiasi tu” X might have instructed.
Beneath the moustache was a pair of pinkish lips. I say ‘pinkish’ because they were in a grey area between wearing lipstick and being naturally pink. I was confused. Plus I had to look away because, you know…staring is rude.
At this point, my curiosity was piqued and I went in for another look.The eyes. X wore eyeliner. Not the inconspicuous brown or other-soft-color kind of eyeliner. A bold, very dark, Goth- like black eyeliner.
At this point, I was almost convinced that when this person woke up that morning, he or she set out to deliberately confuse me.
I looked out of the window as the bus maintained its course with reggae music blaring from its speakers. I looked out all right, but my mind was on this person, this human seated next to me who for the life of me, I could not tell whether he was a man, or she was a woman.
I noticed that X sat like a man, with legs wide apart. In fact the left leg almost touched mine. I instinctively shifted in order to create more personal space. I have noticed many men sitting like that; one leg facing west, the other leg facing the far, far, FAAAAR East as if they are allergic to each other.
Curiosity unsatiated, I waited for X to look elsewhere then I continued my scrutiny. I noticed the hair.
It was short Ellen DeGeneres- style. It was dyed a very subtle, soft maroon color. I observed X’s hands as they handed over fare to the conductor and they looked soft. Like those of a woman. Not necessarily manicured, just neatly trimmed nails. Apparently keen on trimming stuff, this one. The hands were feminine – I can say that with authority.
I was almost convinced at this point that X could be a woman. But there was the moustache! The distinguished moustache was hard to ignore. I wished at that point that the jacket could come off and this disturbing mystery would be solved. I was dwelling so much on it that it was bothering me.
When we reached our destination, we all stood up to alight. There were no hips on X to write home about. I therefore resigned to the fact that I would never know if I took a ride to town seated next to a man or a woman.
The liberal world we live in today has effeminate men. Their hands are soft, they wear flower-scented colognes, they get manicures and pedicures, they visit the salon to have cornrows plaited on their heads – you might even have to share your blow-dryer with them.
Add to the confusion the fashion trends today; Boyfriend jackets, boyfriend jeans, boyfriend blazers, skinny jeans, Unisex shoes. Is it any wonder I was confused? That person could easily have been David Beckham without the side burns or Janet Reno complete with spectacles, seated next to me that day.
I don’t know which is worse though; Eyeliner (in this case, Guyliner) on a man, or a moustache on a woman.