Love & Relationships

Polygamists My Foot!

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Will the real Polygamists please stand up?

Do you see any?

You may think you do, but you really don’t. See all those men who just stood up, claiming to be polygamists, those are not polygamists. Don’t be fooled. They are dishonest, conniving cheats who are unable to commit to a marriage. They are trying to cover up their shortcomings with excuses such as ‘Men are by nature polygamous’ ‘It’s in their DNA’ ‘The unfair ratio between men and women; too many women, too few men’ … what hogwash! These men give polygamy a bad name – and I am no crusader for polygamous marriages.

Bona fide polygamy was practiced traditionally for many reasons. I understand that it had its place in the traditional African culture and that much, I can respect. I however believe that our modern society, our modern men and women are all not cut out for polygamous marriages.

Polygamy benefited society where the many wives and their many children assisted in planting and cultivating land to generate wealth for the family. The whole unit came together to ensure that poverty was kept at bay. That was part of the reason why a man with many wives and children was considered wealthy. This role of polygamy went out the window when white collar jobs were sought and the menial jobs of cultivation and cattle rearing were assigned to paid laborers. Moreover, traditional African societies were more community oriented and less selfish, which is a far cry from what you see today in our ‘to each his own’ mentality.

Women benefited from polygamy when widows were absorbed into the late husband’s brother or uncle or any such male relative’s household where she and her children were provided for. This helped to fill the void caused by the demise of their breadwinner that would otherwise leave them destitute. Lucky for women, various career opportunities abound now and in the event of death of the husband, she still is capable of providing for her children without necessarily entering a polygamous arrangement with the husband’s kin.

Let’s not forget that polygamy worked perfectly when women were docile and felt compelled to live with every decision their husbands made without raising any objection. That docile, voiceless woman, just like the polygamous man, are hard to come by today.

We, instead, have men who are hung up on polygamy and refuse to let go even when all evidence shows that they are not cut out for this lifestyle. They are the people with warped excuses on why they are and will always be polygamous.

This when they do not need more wives to sir them more children. They do not consider wives or children as a sign of wealth. Ask these cheats how many children they would like to have. “Two, maybe three” is the most probable answer. If anything, the wealthy are notorious for having one or two children. Remember the Cabinet list that was read by president Uhuru Kenyatta where almost all the appointees curiously had two children? Well, wealth is not equal to children is not equal to wives anymore. The many wives = wealth equation is obsolete!

Polygamy was not just about gaining a free pass to multiple sexual partners. It was about the belief in security in numbers and the manpower it comes with. It was to take care of taboos associated with having sex with a breastfeeding woman which gave the husband the option of sleeping with the other non-lactating wife. Polygamy was about ensuring gender diversity of the children, among other reasons.

Polygamy is not for men who are bored with their wives and are looking for a new thrill. Not even if their wives are not sexually appealing anymore having suffered the effects of childbirth, child-rearing, demanding jobs, more demanding family responsibilities and financial strains. Polygamy is not for selfish men who don’t think of anybody else but themselves.

Polygamy is not with us anymore. It died. Let’s go ahead and bury it already! It did not just die because of Westernization. It died with the economy. Today’s man is not cut out for polygamy because he cannot afford it. What happens therefore is that the first wife is neglected while the younger wife, who has demands from here to Nigeria and insists on donning a weave worth half a million while living in a lavishly furnished apartment in Kileleshwa, gets all the attention. He spends all his money on her while the first wife and her offspring suffer. Some men even depend on their first wives to keep the second wife.

So. Polygamists my foot! Please sit your a** down?

First published on the Storymoja Festival Blog

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Faithfully Yours, Faithfully Mine!

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He takes you to be his only one. Wait, can he do that? Can a man promise fidelity? More importantly, can he keep that promise? And would you like such a promise to be made to you and to be kept like one’s life depended on it?

I hate broken promises. BUT I can handle them. I like people who keep their word, not to say that I have never had to deal with those who don’t. When you say that I am the one you love, I better be the only one you love. I will however not burn down your house, stalk you, call your mother, nor will I douse you in paraffin and set you ablaze should you not reciprocate my love for you. If we enter into an exclusive relationship, and should you decide along the way that I no longer tickle your fancy, I expect you to have the decency to let me know of this new development and thereby, give me the chance to make an informed decision concerning my future with(out) you.

I am your typical woman; she who loves jealously. She who expects love to be said, proved, showed. I share stuff; jewelry, clothes, food. I borrow stuff too; books, VCDs, shoes. But in the same way that I don’t borrow other women’s men, I don’t share mine either.

I don’t, can’t. WILL NOT share my man.

If I am faithfully yours, then I expect you to be faithfully mine. Either that, or we have a problem. This problem will have to be solved one way or another. Seeking a solution to the problem will involve you getting your act together, or me seeking the exit door. I just believe that life is easier (and safer really) that way.

These are some of the values I have held onto ever since I entered my first relationship. I don’t believe that I am the meanest person to walk the face of the earth. I most possibly could be, but I don’t believe so.

This conversation started at the Storymoja Ideagasm this past Saturday. We were discussing “Who is Writing our History” and it lead us systematically to issues infidelity. You don’t know how these things happen, they just do. My stand on relationships and infidelity was considered ‘standard’ and I was blown.

I am not the kind of woman who has no problem sharing his man with another woman. I know that I will get emotional and jealous and I might try to scratch the other woman’s face to make it unsightly. (She better be pretty – ier because it is kind to upgrade). Downgrading will just make me look bad. And I don’t like to look bad.

I look for the exit door when infidelity knocks. She enters as I leave. I can’t face her. I have grown up afraid to look infidelity in the face, and so I always let her see my back as I leave. I never confront her because I know that she has the ability to hurt ever so deeply.

I fully understand that I can only control my reaction to certain situations that I find myself in. I cannot make a man love me when he would rather not. I also expect the same man not to expect me to love him, and stay put while he loves another woman. In my books, you can love two or a hella lot of people at the same time, but you cannot be in love with more than one person at the same time.

Why do I want to be loved faithfully? Is it because I witnessed the negative effects of infidelity during my childhood and I forever sympathized with the ’cheatee’? Most probably. Could it be because, as someone pointed out during the ideagasm, I come from a family with a majority of girls and therefore my sentiments are wonted from such a family set up? Could be.

But then again, I ask myself why another woman has no qualms sharing her man with another woman? Could it be because she is not really in love with him and therefore her emotions are not stirred enough for infidelity to cut and hurt? I don’t know. I truly believe that if love is present, then infidelity should hurt. So why is another man ready to forgive and be friends with a lady who cheats on him with his friend? Why is he readily willing to look past an affair and forge a friendship even after being put through a betrayal? Is it because he believes that she will come around some day? That she will come to realize that he loves her so much and reciprocate, eventually, the love that he holds for her? Will she ever? And if she doesn’t will he be willing to continue the friendship? Don’t look at me, I honestly have no answers.

Clearly, we don’t all perceive love in the same way, nor do we want the same thing from relationships. If I did not know it before, then the Storymoja Ideagasm drove the point home.

I therefore came to the conclusion that;

We all perceive infidelity differently. One person sees it as betrayal, while another sees it as the free will (that we are all entitled to) to love whomever we love and not to suppress our true feelings for fear of offending.

Infidelity in the strict physical, sexual sense being different from emotional infidelity will have some people preferring the former and other’s the latter. One man’s meat…

When it comes to love, you are better off doing what you feel is right for you as long as you find a likeminded person and let them know what your expectations of the relationship are.

And finally, relationships vary for the simple fact that we are all different people with different upbringings and different experiences. So to each his, her gonads really.

First Published on the Storymoja Festival Blog

“Sasa Mwanamke, Utafanya Nini?”

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I like men who underestimate the power and strength of a woman. What am I saying…I don’t like them. I LOVE them!

I engaged such a man recently. We were talking about politics and somehow we ended up talking about women in relation to men. How we ended up there, I don’t really know. We started with discussing how politicians make promises during campaigns and how they get to office and could care less about fulfilling those promises. He claimed to understand where they’re coming from and tried to reason with me.

“Look here Renee, even you know that when a man courts a woman, he makes a lot of promises, some of which he doesn’t intend to keep…”

“So does it mean…” I tried to interject.

“No, no, no, let me finish. Let me finish!” he cut me short.

“You know how courtship goes. Before a girl accepts a man’s advances, the guy has to promise heaven and earth. You have to tell her you will fly her to the moon and back even if you have no cent to your name. Once ameingia box, she’s in your court, deal is sealed…basi, kwisha maneno….” he was feeling awfully smart.

To imagine that he thought that women don’t know this game!

Seeing that I was silent, he carried on as if to make me understand ‘these things’.

…kwani what do you expect, an actual trip to the moon? No! I have better things to do! And if the woman pesters me, I tell her zaa watoto kwanza and we’ll go back to the drawing board!”

At this point, I threw up my hands. Don’t even get me started! Anyway, I recovered in good time to inquire about a thing or two;

“Say you promise her the moon, right? And she really really wants that trip to the moon. And the only reason she agrees to your advances is so that she can get to take that trip … you know…to the moon? If that trip is not forthcoming, don’t you think she might quit you? Since you did not live up to your end of the bargain?

“Quit me?!” He laughed. No chortled is more like it. “Quit me and go where?”

See what I had to deal with? Am I the only one….never mind!

Sasa Tuseme ukweli. Let us be honest with ourselves here…Where will she go? To her parent’s house? She will not quit. She will stay. Eh? Sasa atafanya nini?

Sasa atafanya nini? What else can she do?

I smiled because I had heard that statement used by women a whole lot. Your husband batters you to pulp and you go, “Sasa nitafanya nini?” Then you stay put giving him the impetus to do it over and over. He cheats on you with anything in a skirt, and all you do is wonder, sasa nitafanya nini? He treats you like a doormat, but then again, utafanya nini?

Now this man was also asking “Sasa mwanamke utafanya nini?

I was thinking of a few choice words for him but I kept my cool just to see where his Neanderthal mind would take us.

“Ok. So you’ve never heard of any woman who has left her husband, no?”

“None?”

Lakini hata akienda, si unatafuta mwingine? Yeah…” he was nodding frantically. I’m sure he gave himself a mental high five and pat on the back.

Then he had a light-bulb moment “Kwanza akiwa na watoto, ataenda wapi na watoto?

I shook my head.

“Child support nayo?” I asked

“Child support what? If she chooses to leave on her own volition I will not agree to pay a single cent!”

“Wait, so you will play ping pong with your responsibility as a father? You will only provide for your children if the mother agrees to stay with you? Wow!”

WOW!

“Dude, she will sue you for child support and you will pay her every month with your payslip! Smell the coffee bwana!”

“Sue me? Hizi vitu ndogo ndogo you just have to know how to handle them. You get a good lawyer and he will make sure that you don’t pay anything.”

How does your lawyer change the paternity of your child, pray tell?

I really love men who underestimate women. Seeing a man like that, I rub my hands together and wait. Today’s woman is not that woman in that man’s mind. Today’s electorate is not the same one in his head either. You don’t get away with not keeping your word anymore.

This is how it works: You ask a girl out. She declines. I mean, look at you. Prove your worth or something! You act on your best behaviour. You promise her the world. She eventually accepts mainly because you are on your best behaviour. Then you talk to her like she really has a brain between her ears. Like she reasons. You know….like an intelligent human being as opposed to a sack of potatoes? You tell her to pardon you, that though you would like nothing more, you really can’t give her the world like you promised. Inform her that you will however make her your world. Promise her that it will be worth it in the long run. That you will use every day to try and make her the happiest woman alive. Play her Happy by Pharrell Williams for good measure. Dance to it too-but only if you’re a good dancer. Just give her your best and treat her with some level of respect. That is what every woman wants. We really can live without that trip to the moon you know!

Chances are, she will give you the benefit of the doubt. She will stick around. Not because her lungs will stop functioning or her heart will stop pumping blood if she doesn’t. No. She will actually choose to stay with you, you undeserving moron!

Something happens when you are the source of your woman’s happiness. You won’t know how it happens but that happiness radiates back to you. GIGO kinda thing.Try the Neanderthal’s way and you will be miserable to a point of despair. Are you miserable? Is your woman happy? Told ya!

The 21st Century woman does not ask “Sasa nitafanya nini?” She only thinks it for a while. Then she answers that question as she comes up with a plan. This woman quits men and she does just fine after that gentlemen! She does ok. She does not go back to her parents’ home. She buys her parents land and builds them a home. She furnishes it. Don’t get it twisted! She will leave you and you will pay her your share of child support. She knows her worth – make no mistakes about that.

Use all the flowery language you can master. Pick up lines and all. But get this. At some point, you will have to put your money where your mouth is.

You want a family? Close knit, intact, whole, hunky-dory? Treat your woman with some level of decency and respect. You want a broken family? Well, I just gave you the Neanderthal’s manual. Go ahead and use it. Soon you’ll be talking divorce, child support, court hearings, single parenting, wayward children…etc. All thanks to your chest. Yeah, the thumping of your chest! And when the days are long gone, you sit alone, and you think to yourself; “IF only I had treated that woman right. If only I could get a second chance…”

Men who underestimate women get their lesson sooner rather than later. I like the look on their faces when they realize that these creatures are smart as hell. I love it when they finally see how a home is bare and empty without her touch. I enjoy it when he finally understands that she sees it all. That she knows. That she has a plan. I really do get emotional when that chest-thumping know-it-all comes to the realization, albeit belatedly, that this woman can actually make it without him. I even get teary (give me a break!) when he finally appreciates her.

Ha! The politician too.

First published on the Storymoja Festival blog