Month: June 2014

MWK

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The shower is running in the bathroom. She can hear him in the shower. Her mind’s eye sees him standing stark naked as he lets the warm water caress his body.

She is in the living room watching images run sequentially on the TV screen. Some lady is yapping about something, but she is not listening.

He clears his throat. Spits.

She grimaces.

He clears his throat again. Spits again. Arrkkkh, ptho!

Another grimace. She has to use the same bathroom, you know.

The water is turned off. Silence. He drys himself, she presumes.

He opens the bathroom door and gets out.

The bedroom door opens and shuts.

She can hear him in the bedroom. He stands next to the bed. Their bed. A piece of furniture that hasn’t seen much action lately. He is applying Vaseline on his body.

He looks for something to wear. Opts for a pair of jeans from the closet, scans it with an approving nod. He finds a vest. Then, “Honey! Where are my shirts!?” He yells all the way to the living room where she sat.

“Check the wardrobe!” she yells back.

A few seconds later; “OH! Found it!”

He found it! She rolls her eyes.

He wears the shirt over the vest, checks his hair, checks his moustache. He looks at his image in the mirror and gives it a wink. He is pleased with what he sees.

The bedroom door opens.

He comes out to the corridor and takes his toothbrush and toothpaste from the container that hangs on the wall above the sink. He squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle.

She winces.

He starts to brush his teeth.

He briefly peeps into the living room. Acknowledges her presence, looks to see what she’s watching then heads back to the sink.

Brush, brush, spit.

Brush, brush, spit.

He clears his throat again! More spitting!

Holy Shit!

He sips the water! Gurgles! Spits!!!

Spit! Spit! Spit! Gurgle! Spit!

He runs the water over his brush

Spit!

He leaves his toothbrush in the sink, next to the toothpaste.

Great!

He is back in the bedroom.

Fttzzzz….fttzzzzzz! Cologne finds its way to his armpits.

Ablutions out of the way, he comes out of the bedroom, wallet in hand. The wallet subconsciously finds its way to his back pocket as he speaks to her. His lips are moving. He is saying something about watching football… World cup… The boys… etcetera etcetera

She is not paying attention to what he is saying. She looks at his face. He looks different. Handsome different. He looks good! He had brushed his moustache such that all the hairs lay submissively to one side and not one strand of hair dared to defy those orders. It looked good.

He goes to the door and bends to wear his shoes, takes a second look at the socks and decides to go for another clean pair. Of course, he can’t find them.

“Honey, where are my…”

“Bottom drawer!”

He comes back to the living room with a clean pair, sits next to her on the couch as he pulls the socks on his feet. His cologne wafts to her nostrils. He smells good. Something moves inside her. There is a tingle between her legs as a part of her that she thought had died is awakened. It lasts a few seconds.

She knew he was going out tonight, long before the football, worldcup, boys, narrative.

See, she saw her message first:

“Honey, remember our date at Club Classico is tonight. Don’t keep me waiting ;-)”

The message glared at her from his WhatsApp messages. The sender’s number was saved as ‘MWK’

“See you later honey?” he says rising from the couch, socks and shoes on his feet.

“Later.” she replies

Her husband is going on a date.

MWK gets the guy who sat next to her on the couch; the guy who smells and looks good with a wallet laden with cash in his back pocket. The lucky b**ch even gets a clean pair of socks.

She on the other hand, gets the mucous-spitting, obnoxious guy in the bathroom who squeezes the toothpaste tube from the middle.

Marriage? Mmmh… Dating. Dating is good.

Isn’t it?

 

First Published by Storymoja Festival Blog

Loosening The Grip Of FGM

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I read with keen interest Dr. Tabitha Mwangi’s take on FGM  and was happy that someone had started this conversation. I had been following the recent reports about the continued practice of FGM by some obstinate communities. I hope by keeping the conversation going, we can do something, however little, to end this barbaric practice.

I believe that the only pain that a woman should have to go through, the only pain that she has to endure, with justification, is child birth. This excruciating pain (VERY excruciating pain, if my own birthing experience is anything to go by) should in fact be atonement for everything else we get away with. But that is just me.

It is shocking that there are girls who have more than the requisite childbirth pain inflicted upon them. In this day and age! Even more shocking is the fact that some women felt the need to hold demonstrations to demand to be allowed to practice FGM without interference. We should be outraged.

I am outraged!

Was the twig-wielding crowd that barricaded the streets an indication that FGM is back in full force? Wait, did it ever leave us to begin with?

As one administrative officer who was interviewed by Citizen TV for the segment “The Elite Cut’ stated, your neighbor’s daughter could be writhing in pain and hemorrhaging  from being ‘cut’ and you would know nothing about it. Sad that we’ve come a long way as a ‘civilized’ people but FGM still has a firm grip on us.

I was disappointed by the women demanding to practice FGM since they are the same people who should be protecting their daughters from harmful cultural practices. They should be teaching them to set their sights high. They should be steering them towards a good education and if they choose to get married, they should encourage them to find a man who will fall in love with their person and not with their (cut) genitals.

Citizen TV in their feature touched on the difficulties faced in ending FGM, one being the fact that some teachers were pro-FGM and had even undergone the cut themselves. This posed a challenge when it came to educating the girls against the vice.

Do we all understand how sick FGM really is? You and I have the knowledge and all the information we need to know about it.  We read about it, Google being our friend and all. We could say we understand it. How about the girl who grows up in the midst of circumcised women? How can she be convinced that cutting is an injustice to her when her female teachers are circumcised? Their mothers?  Their sisters?  These are her role models. She wants to grow up to be like her teacher. And her teacher is circumcised!

That young Pokot girl witnesses the jeers and insults thrown at uncircumcised girls and grows up wanting to be circumcised in order to dodge the insults. Asking her not to get circumcised is asking her to rebel against her parents and her community at large. These are people she has to live with. Asking her not to be circumcised is asking her to betray the people she loves the most. It is asking her to ‘rob’ her parents off their entitled wealth from her bride price. What happens to her when she will not be touched by a midwife during delivery because she is deemed unclean? All these considered, doesn’t going through the cut provide an easier option for her? The pain will be numbing, but at least it will heal. If she survives. All she wants is to belong. Thus, FGM tightens its grip on that young girl.

Circumcised, she will be accepted, loved and respected by her people. She therefore believes that circumcision is actually good for her. How do we end FGM without alienating the women from these communities?

The same people who could be helping us end this practice are the stumbling blocks; there are the circumcisers who’s source of livelihood is threatened should FGM be eliminated. There are the girls’ parents who feel cheated out of fetching a hefty bride price by marrying off their ‘pricey’ circumcised girls. There are the men who believe that we are out to make their ‘ideal’ woman extinct.

Then there are the women who have undergone FGM. They were made to believe that this process made them special, a cut above the rest. Are we telling these women that their painful experience was all for naught? Are we now saying that they are not ‘superior’ to the uncircumcised ‘child’ who has not faced the knife? Are you putting her in the same caliber as the inferior, unclean ‘gesagane’ (as the Kisii call their uncircumcised girls)?

One gentleman who was interviewed by Citizen TV confessed that “Hii kimila imekorogwa kama simiti na ni ngumu kuimaliza.” To mean that the tradition is ingrained so deep among its people that ending it would be an uphill task.

How then do we loosen the grip that FGM has on these communities? Do we put the parents who defy the law behind bars and in the process leave the same girls in a worse situation with no one to take care of them? Do we sit back and wait for these communities to finally evolve and change their perception about this practice as lives continue being lost?

Until these communities stop viewing their girls as a source of wealth to be auctioned out like cows to the highest bidder; until we reach out to that young girl and thwart the naive enthusiasm with which she views circumcision; until every voice (Male and female Politicians, Church leaders, chiefs, teachers) speak out against FGM, and until a safe haven is created where girls can report any plans of forceful cutting, the grip that FGM has on these communities will still remain firm and tight.

The worst thing we can do is assume that with a law against FGM in place, we have it under control. We don’t!

Let’s talk about it in our schools. Let’s talk about it during PTA meetings. Heck, let’s ingrain it in our syllabus if we have to. Let’s talk to the women who have gone through FGM and show the world how FGM wrecks lives. How it kills mothers in the delivery room. How it gives us stillborn babies. Let’s talk to our elders who hold their culture close to their hearts and reach a compromise; maybe have the initiation ceremony to transition from childhood to adulthood, while excluding the surgical aspect of it.

Above all else, we need to make everyone understand that our girls do not need fixing. That they are perfect just the way they are.

 

 

First published on Storymoja Festival blog

Modern Day Polygamy: Pick A Number

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First it was Linda Muthama. And then Cecilia Mwangi, former Miss Kenya, followed hot on her heels. Celebrities (I use this term loosely) trying to ‘justify’ their place in society; the place of a second wife. Cecilia admits that Linda’s coming out on her polygamous arrangement emboldened her to do the same.

They are vilified unjustly and they urge the modern society to stop demonizing them since polygamy is a better, far much better arrangement than monogamous families who bear the brunt of infidelity.  So a man won’t be faithful to his wife and what, we create a carnival for all promiscuous men to go on the rampage and legitimize their philandering?

When I read the articles where the two granted interviews to shed light on their lifestyle choice, I asked myself a few questions; Does the first wife have any say in this or do we give them the ‘put up or shut up’ ultimatum? Would the same women encourage their husbands to get a second wife had they been married as first wives? Better yet, if the said ‘husband’ sought wife number three, would they be ok with it? It’s still good old polygamy isn’t it?

Polygamy feeds two vices; that of a player, and a golddigger. Its hard to believe that such arrangements are borne of love when it happens only among wealthy men.We don’t see the average ‘sufferer’ trying to shoo away scores of women eager to take their (2nd, 3rd, 4th) place in their lives. If he can provide just the basics, why not give the poor man a chance?

Polygamy tells the player that when you settle down, you don’t really have to settle down. One guy even went ahead to tweet, “If Cecilia Mwangi, a whole Miss Kenya, can become a second wife, ladies who are you not to agree to such an arrangement?”

The argument that being Africans, we should not stray too far from our traditional practices, polygamy included, has been floated. Let’s not however forget that just like FGM, wife inheritance, and wife battery, some cultural practices were not really helping the society in general and women in particular. That’s why they had to be discarded at some point. Polygamy thrived in the days when women were considered as good as property. The more a man had cattle, goats, sheep, land, AND women, the wealthier they were considered. Polygamy was entertained in the days when women had neither voice nor choice. A wife had no say if one evening, her husband came home with a woman he had lusted after for a while and in a sexual gratification whim declared her his second wife. Polygamy meant that a woman could do zilch as long as cows had been taken to her father’s home to seal the deal.

It is commendable when second wives encourage their ‘husbands’ not to neglect the other family. Noble even. But it must be understood that sometimes material provision is not all a woman seeks from her husband, especially in this day and age where women are comfortably capable of taking care of their financial needs. All some women ask for is for their husband to prove that while married to him she will become his be-all and end-all, his credit card and stock market shares notwithstanding.

It’s very hard to believe that a woman would consider marrying a man if she knew that there was a chance he could bring another woman into their life and make her part of their marital home. Second wives are a result of infidelity in marriage, a breach of contract. They are always imposed on the first wife. I find that unfair.

We are trying to discourage the illicit and secretive affairs outside marriage by lauding polygamy, but aren’t polygamous marriages a product of ‘illicit and secretive affairs?’

Please help me understand polygamy will you? In my understanding, a polygamous man is a selfish man who convinces a woman to marry him. A few years (or months, doesn’t really matter) later,  he gets bored of the whole thing (loving wife included) and he goes out to play. He then brings home his game and tells the missus “Guess what wifey, I like this one too (maybe even better) I promised you that you will always be my number one didn’t I? Well, she is number two. She stays. End of story.”