Who are these ‘People’?

Apologies- this is long…with usual digressions…am just exuberant to be back!

Recently my friends and I were discussing a gossipy story out of Nairobi regarding a certain man’s (alleged) infidelity. A story that came complete with the usual villains: a pregnant mistress (alleged) aka ‘the Homewrecker’ and angels: an (allegedly) estranged wife. Firstly, we were all highly amused by the amount of detail contained in what we can only call third party hearsay- I mean, word out of Nairobi had the gestational progress of ‘the Homewrecker’ well charted and am sure that out there in the ether, exists a story detailing the Whens and Wheres of this affaire. Secondly, we found that most of the vitriol was (not surprisingly) being poured over the alleged mistress- I wondered aloud to one of my friends, “who- under the age of 40 calls such a woman a ‘Homewrecker’?” Thirdly, the gleeful-yet-tempered-with-holier-than-thou attitude which had otherwise decent people spreading this story in their social circles left us feeling uncomfortable- after all, wasn’t this a private matter for the principals to sort out amongst themselves rather than cannon fodder for the gossip militia?
Am not one to sit and pontificate over what is right and wrong about people’s relationships- as a human being prone to error myself and all, I think that I am barred from writing the ‘New 10 commandments’ of relationships, so hearing about another man with another woman not his wife didn’t shatter my world or leave me urging vengeance on ‘the Homewrecker’ or ‘the Philanderer’ or feeling excessive pity for ‘the Devoted Wife’. Rather, I was left thinking, “and how does this affects me?”
Here are some observations made which have brought me to this conclusion:

In Kenya there is a beast of a myth that a woman can ‘steal’ another’s man. Is he a baby to be abducted? A trinket to be snatched away from an undeserving mate as a hawk swoops down on unsuspecting picnickers? Or a set of keys to be casually misplaced and lost?  We’ve heard all the expressions: “she stole her cousin’s boyfriend,” when it is considered a shame that a deserving woman has ‘lost’ out to a lesser opponent, “she ‘sliced’ her friend,” usually when the predatory woman is considered to have won a trophy of a guy from a less worthy opponent. “That woman is a Homewrecker,” usually when ‘the Devoted Wife’ launches a blitz attack on ‘the Homewrecker’ or when the local televangelist is denouncing the decline of marriage today. “If you do not ‘behave’/make him happy/watch out you will lose your man!” usually an admonishment from ‘the Devoted Wives’ to women deemed not to be fulfilling the legal requirements of being ‘the Devoted Wife’ or the stuff spouted from most of the local newspapers’ women’s magazines. The women of Kenya it seems are a powerful breed of human that renders the male of the species totally helpless and fair game to their feminine wiles/charm/viciousness/slutiness/virtue.

“Aibu ya kaburi aijuae ni maiti” or in another language, “Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” How do we know that the relationship/marriage being ‘wrecked’ is not good for anything better than being wrecked and cast onto the rubbish heap? Why assume that all is tickety-boo with a couple when out of the blue like a bolt of lightning(!) Gasp! the Harlot/ Daughter-of-Satan/a Jinni descends into paradise and wreaks havoc? How is it that the cheater, never, until the minute they take off, hopping the fence and making a dash for freedom to the greener verdant slopes espied from the prison of a relationship, showed symptoms of wandering-eye or lust? Seriously? Am doubting this is the case. In my humble opinion, when I am happy in my relationship, I can acknowledge beautiful male creatures without feeling an urge to romp in the meadows with them while the birds chirp and I feel as one with nature. On the other hand, when I am feeling unloved, unhappy with and stuck in the relationship, I am more likely to magnify and dwell on my partner’s shortcomings and become amenable to having a fling because I am feeling wronged/sad/unloved or whatever. Even then, my closest friends or family probably do not know that I am not happy so when I do go out and philander, they will all accuse me of ‘breaking up a happy home’ and all those other clichés. Could it be that often we refuse to believe that others are unhappy because that would force us to question our own relationships’ versions of happiness, light and tickety-boo? Possibly. Maybe it is easier to ascribe happiness to our own and our Peers’ relationships than probe and poke under their gleaming well polished surfaces for fear of discovering rot and decay lying beneath it all?

WARNING: This is a very long digression. You can skip this without missing much flavour.

Appearances are the be all and end all of Kenyan society. We want our friends to think we are as rich or richer, as smart or smarter, as happy or happier, as successful or more successful and as perfect or more perfect than they are. How often do you think do Kenyans go on Facebook to pore over albums and albums of pictures depicting the pinnacle of relationship success far as the Kenyan 30something is concerned: the Wedding. After seeing a bunch of them for a season however, you start to realize something- the weddings all start to look the same. It’s the same tent (swathing it in red doesn’t make yours any more unique than Jane Njoroge’s pink with tinges of mauve), the same cake (oh, by the way, those over-the-top fondant 10 cake/little hut creations are so last year…apparently it’s all about the cupcake in 2010…I see them starting to creep into albums so am sure by August there will be a run on commercial cupcake baking tins in Nairobi), the same people-playing-dress-up quality to all the pictures…a man who never wore a suit before posed in an ill-fitting garment masquerading as a suit (if you check the label it says Suite but nobody notices in their mad dash to the altar. Sigh), the photos are the same- from the bridesmaids showing off their shoes, to the bride, voluminous dress billowing out around her with her maids’ bouquets laid at equal intervals around its circumference, to the groomsmen clutching an awkward looking (sometimes quite heavy) bride (cheerleader style) in their outstretched arms “girlfriend am sure you are so regretting that strapless dress sans good foundation garments now,” I think mercilessly as I click through another tedious album…it all looks the same. How can everyone’s ‘dream wedding’ manifest itself in such a similar manner? Could it be that there, lurking among the ‘happily married’ crowd are fakes? Could it be that some of these photos of couples’ happiness doth protest too much? Could it be that if you listen closely, ignoring the white noise of the Kayamba/Mukurino/Sikuti/Nyatiti troupe you will hear whispers of a true-r state of affairs? That the groom aka soon to be ‘the Philanderer’ is actually in love with ‘the Devoted Wife’s father’s money and status or worse, her cousin and of course there can be no mention of the soon to be ‘Philanderer’s child borne when he was but a young stripling overseas and conned(!) into having a child by a wily ‘Homewrecker/Harlot/Daughter-of-Satan’. That soon to be wronged, ‘the Devoted Wife’ has, by marrying ‘the Philanderer’, achieved her dreams of world (oh, I mean Nairobi) domination by hyphenating her name with one as or more powerful as her own family’s. She is dying to raise her fist jubilantly in the faces of her former spinster sisters (soon to be heaved en masse into the ‘Potential Homewrecker/Harlot/ Daughter-of-Satan’ category of friends) and cry triumphantly, “I am Mrs ‘the Devoted Wife-Philanderer’ hear me roar!” instead, as ‘the Devoted Wife’ she turns on the megawatt smiles she is best known for and beams at the camera.
Later, back from her honeymoon (preferred destination: anywhere that involves planes and or passports) ‘the Devoted Wife’ is  on Facebook where she will satisfy her acolytes’ longing for a glimpse of her ‘good fortune and large budget’ dropping crumbs of goodies Gretel-like and sitting back to lap up their fawning comments, deflecting the envy-veiled-as-praise ones with self effacing responses like, ‘it will be your turn soon’ etc etc…until her relationship is given the Facebook seal of approval.
Here ‘the Devoted Wife’ sits, queen of ‘Perfect Marriage’ castle (or sadly, in some cases gilded cage), fiercely proud, dispensing sage advice to her acolytes on ‘Devoted Wifedom’ (what is it about marriage that renders you wise? I ask!), her King and ‘Master’ joins her in checking off the boxes of life (baby, right car, right house, right friends, right clothes, right holidays)…until death tears them asunder.
Or until ‘the Homewrecker’ rears her pretty coiffed head.

Many of us care more about public opinion when it comes to their relationships than is healthy for them. I know that public opinion can be used to keep everyone in line and society ticking along nicely. In Kenya ‘People’ do not look kindly upon those that break the rules of what is ‘proper’. ‘People’ also feel that they have a right to pass judgment on their Peers’ lives and quite often tell them so to their faces.

WARNING: DIGRESSION AHEAD

I have had this happen to me. A relative said some very negative things to me about my relationship. This person had not seen me in a few years and they were not ever a confidant of mine so I was left feeling rather violated and hurt. I remember thinking at the time that the worst thing someone can do to you is a.) say something negative about a major life choice you have made without any basis and walk away from the fallout with the justifications that  b.) they ‘know you’ (clearly better than you know yourself) therefore they can invoke this ‘special right’ to judge and c.) they ‘need to tell you the truth because they care about you’…(a lie people tell themselves to soothe their conscience)…if you care about someone, you take a step back from your judgmental place and consider how your words or actions will affect them, not how they will make you feel about yourself.

This person was, in their hubris so far gone along the “I am right. You are wrong,” path that even the apology was conditional, “I am sorry IF you felt hurt BUT…”Needless to say this person is not in my life anymore and before anyone says anything about forgiveness- I can forgive, I just don’t need to have you in my life. The thing is that this person still thinks that they had a right to say whatever they wanted about my life to me and that I was just overreacting.

What ends up happening is that without realizing it, everyone starts living their lives in a way that rocks the boat as little as possible. Relationships get squeezed and stretched to fit into cookie cutter moulds with ‘different’ being like a dirty word. The raised eyebrows, the “what will people think?”, “people will say…”, ‘people’, ‘people’ ‘people’…start defining your life. But as my friend K____ says, “Who are these people? Name one!” The incident with my relative was a lesson learned. It has strengthened my view that you have to protect yourself, choose who your ‘family’ is and choose your ‘People’, find your own ‘truth-sayers’- people that you trust who can be objective when you need them to be…then stop listening to the other 99% of noisemakers.

In conclusion:

Stop ‘judging’ and instead focus on learning to make choices that are right for you. Take the time to know yourself…find time for introspection away from all outside influences (friends, family, church, alcohol :), ‘people’) so that you can really get to know what your heart desires most…then when you go for it, you are doing so with conviction.

So say we’re talking about marriage, if you marry a person who makes you happy, then you stand a better chance of making a go of it, so yeah, marry for money- if it makes you happy, marry for love- if it makes you happy, marry for funny- if it makes you happy, marry for looks- if it makes you happy, marry for religion- if it makes you happy. (Divorce too if it makes you happy). I use marriage as the example because it’s where many of my peers are at, but it also applies to jobs, moving to a new place, following your dreams. When you pursue a road that has happiness as it’s goal, life is that much sweeter.

Learn to just ‘do you’. Even the Bible (yeah yeah, this woman whose relationship with Hesus is arms length at best quotes the Bible) says that each of us is uniquely and wondrously made…so why are you living your life as everyone else or according to someone else’s rulebook? How can all of us have the same goals, dreams, aspirations, desires, taste in wedding dresses, love of cars, addictions, etc? We can’t. So when you find yourself uttering the words “What will people say,”…just try replacing it with a real person’s name. Then ask yourself why this person’s approval is important to you…because really, if you are not doing anything illegal or hurtful, anyone who loves you will want you to make a choice that makes you happy.

Learning to let people do their thing isn’t always easy since armchair jockeying is a favourite pastime for humans. But sometimes I have to ask, “If Mr A cheats on Mrs A, does it affect my life? I would rather focus on working on my relationships, scouring away to prevent any tarnish, beefing up foundations, planting flowers around it, spiffing it up…for us. I won’t waste my life looking to the side to see what you are doing, neither will I care too much if the whole field is sitting and pointing at me and tsk-ing because I refuse to toe the line.

Life is too short.

Here is to Living, Letting Live and most importantly, Happiness!!!

‘ Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up – totally worn out and screaming “whoo hoo what a ride’ ~Bill McKenna~

23 Comments

Filed under Kenyan Lurve, Relationships, Uncategorized

23 responses to “Who are these ‘People’?

  1. You’re right on the money! Marriages/relationships are a very personal matter, and complex i dare add. No one standing on the sidelines can claim to comprehend the goings on of two people. As it were, each individual is already complex on their own, now tie two people together and what do you get?
    I think the joy is in the ride, the journey as the two of you(us), try to go through life together, fights along the way, making up, laughing, crying, sharing, some more fights etc. I have the best example in my parents, at one time (years ago)I believed they should just part and live seperately, yet what did I know? Those two are the best of friends. Now that their nest is empty, I hear they have migrated to the kitchen. It is just so much more easier- they cook, eat, clean-up, chat, then their off to bed. Kinda cute.

    And where have you been?

    • Hi Mwari! Nice to see you here…hope 2010 is off to a good start for you? The complexity of each of us as individuals is something that we forget sometimes. When you take probability classes and realize how many ways a couple of coin tosses can land! Imagine now that coin is 2 complex people making life choices. THe permutations of what could happen are endless! Our parents’ generation may have had it harder than us because Kenyan society was a lot more restrictive than today (I mean, just think how dreadlocks have gone, in one generation, from taboo and signifying drug use, to just a hairstyle) so we should embrace this ‘freedom’ to be ourselves.
      I have been busy posting stuff on Facebook (am ashamed to admit), busy with an increased workload in the office, and on writing the novel. I am now back here for what I plan to eventually lead to a move to my own website (very excited) where I can post my blog and also links and other stuff (book lists, music I like) which I have been putting on Facebook.

  2. Jackie

    I totally agree with you especially about when ‘well meaning’ friends or relatives think they have a right to just tell you what they think about choices you make. I have gone through that drama but I am at a happy place now because I did NOT listen to them had I listened or cared about what they thought about choices I made I would be one miserable person now.

    • Hi Jackie :)…the hardest part of life as an adult is realizing that some people don’t think you can make your own decisions. I just read something somewhere this week that sometimes the harder (or right) thing to do is to let someone make what you feel is the wrong decision especially if they do not ask for your opinion or advice because they need to make that mistake as part of their path in life.

  3. I am with you on keeping up pretenses just so that you have “people’s” approval. You do you and i do me. Great advice, truth as is.

    • I am grateful because I have friends, each having different goals, plans for our lives, but through it we champion each other and are happy when someone attains a goal. We’re not looking over each other’s shoulders to see which boxes to check off. Living and letting live is quite freeing.

  4. Shiroh

    Well written. Well said. Live and let live.

    • I think that being away from family and many of my peers has made it easier to just ‘be me’ because I have been a people pleaser in the past, which is the delight of people who give unsolicited advice 🙂

  5. raymondchepkwony

    Women need to take better care of their men. It is OBVIOUS that a man who doesn’t get what he deserves at home will get it elsewhere! They say.. Trust everyone,tempt no one. By not treating your man right,he is likely to wander and he may prefer what he finds elsewhere!
    As 4 the now infamous “Home Wrecker” u refer to.. If u work hard to build a PUBLIC PROFILE AND IMAGE, then u must be ready to deal with the very public fall out when you finally slip!
    Women,treat your men right or they’ll turn around and do a Zuma on you!

    • Hi Raymond…thank you for your comment. It is the spring board for my next post which will be about the idea that “Women need to take care of their men”. That in 2010 a man my age needs ‘taking care of’ bothers me. I find that when it comes to relationships between men and women, the onus seems to fall on women to do all the self-improvement, the caring, the work related to being in love…where are the rules for men? Do they not also have responsibilities? I believe that a man who, while in a relationship that he chose to enter freely, cannot be an equally caring partner, treating his woman as well as she treats him, is better off wandering off to someone else who enjoys being disregarded.

      • @ Raymond – How about a woman who doesnt get what she “deserves” at home? – Can she also decide to go get it “elsewhere” – coz she probably can also be attended to elsewhere…..

        I believe, in this day and age, such statements simply hold no water…It takes 2 people to build a marriage and none is more of a stake holder than the other…and nothing justifies “getting it elsewhere”

        When it gets to that – the wanting to get it elsewhere, then its no longer a matter a issue of non-being-attended to, but rather a choice of wanting to be with someone else that you deem more “suitable” for you – a choice you make on your own and should not blame your “not-attending-to- you” partner for….

        Its a pity though to observe women/men still buying into the “it your fault he/she “strayed” kind of logic – that applies to toddlers that do not know better – not grown men and women, capable of making choices… 🙂

  6. egm

    Ya, where have you been?

    This post is so on point. Big time. About relationships, umenena. Just last night I was chatting with a friend of mine about a relationship she is in, and what others would think about it. I will have to have her come and read this, since it goes right to the core of our discussions.

    As concerns weddings, you have no idea how nauseated I feel when it comes to them! I can’t even stand being anywhere near ten miles of anything that is close to one if I’m not the one photographing it! It is all soooooo bland similarity! Today there are very few weddings that I cover that truly impress me, or come anywhere close to doing so. I don’t know what the solution for this is. Yes, your digression is what got me most agitated, much more than the main article 🙂

    Don’t be too lost!

    • Hi EGM! I owe you an email (or two), coming soon!
      I have been away but I never forgot the blog.
      Re: Weddings: I think it has to do with Wedding Planners who give the couple a menu of what the planning outfit can offer, so everyone ends up choosing the same thing as they are limited by their planner’s imagination. I think colours are the only things that vary much, mainly because fabric comes in tons of shades. I have seen few weddings where the event ‘matched’ the interests or personalities of the people getting married but those that did had something about them that made them more memorable than others. Sometimes it is forgotten that a wedding is just a big party to plan. A good party planner therefore should find out about the couple, what are they like? their hobbies? their food likes/dislikes? their personalities? their style (eg casual khakis over suits?) then present ideas and designs based on this. If your planner’s style doesn’t impress you, then they are unlikely to plan a wedding to wow you…creative people breathe creativity throughout so if you go to their office and it’s just blah…what makes you think they can give your wedding the ‘OMG’-factor you are seeking? Appearances probably count for something when it comes to party planners.
      PS Am glad someone read the digression 🙂
      I won’t be lost. Shall email you an update shortly.

  7. SE

    I think we all judge; whether it’s the marriage of someone we don’t know or a family member whose mate we despise.

    I agree that marriage is a private matter, but when those in that marriage choose to air their dirty laundry to the streets, or to break the sanctity of their marriage, then they lose all right to privacy, IMO.

    Plus in some cases, judgement helps to keep the moral fiber of a community from completely unraveling. There’s a saying that goes, “An occasional feeling of shame is a humble reminder that our mothers and fathers have taught us to do better.” Alas, for many the shame is gone…

    • While we all have done it, we all should work to spend less time judging and more time on our own relationships. My issue with shame as a motivator of good behaviour is that it is rarely rooted in any legal constitution but in some arbitrary rules which often discriminate against the weak, the less dominant members of a Society. Look at places where honour killings happen for example…the bar for what is considered ‘shameful’ is set so low that girls sometimes end up dying even when they are not to blame e.g., for unwanted advances. In Kenya for example, for the longest time divorce was considered so terrible, which left many in my parents’ generation (those born in the late 1930s-50s) in terribly unhappy marriages, raising really warped children, many now struggling with addiction and other issues and struggling to form healthy relationships of their own…all because of the ‘shame’ in divorce. A little less judgment could help my generation.

  8. Finally, I get to come here! Projects are tryna kick my butt lakini I shall overcome! 😀

    Your “digression” is what got me most by the way – yah it was about weddings, but its epitomized so many facets of life as a whole – just for the record, if I ever have a “traditional” wedding – I refuse to have cupcakes and 600 people i dont know or care much for, a line of women and men i am not really sure about et al – BECAUSE – that is what makes me happy :-):-)

    The day/time frame I became comfortable with just “doing me” – I became a liberated woman, albeit the “drama”, over the years it took me to get there.

    Like you I refuse to subscribe to the school of thought that says ” women need to take care of their men” – Not because, I wont take care of my man – the Lord knows I do more than right for a man that also “takes care of me”, but coz I know and firmly believe men and women are equally in it. Period! I always tell my friends ( and other people that may need an awakening in their thinking 🙂 ), that I will never fight for a man – we have to fight for each other……

    I once said that to someone and they told me
    ” you’ve never been in love” – what is love? being walked over? “fighting” for someone who maybe doesnt want to be fought over/for?. alienating yourself from the people that care for you over a soul that would probably not care less etc – oh BTW – I had a boyfriend in the US ( had seen him for 2 years) and one day he walked to my apartment and broke up with me coz I am too focused and he didnt want to de-rail me………Gosh at the end of the day – I refused to apologize for being”focused”, ate dinner, wished him well, mourned over my “loss” for a while, picked myself up and thanked God for sending that man out of my life 🙂 🙂 – Cabernet Sauvignon in hand!!

    People will always have an opinion about your life and “living” begins when we accept that, respect it and then go ahead to do what makes us happy anyway…..On thing I appreciate about my friendship – high school, college etc is that we have profound respect for other people’s choices – I mean what makes me think I am ” better” because I have a more “illustrious” career choice etc – what makes me know that my friend is not as happy as I am with a totally different approach to life? – its a rare thing to have friends that respect you for who you are – and that is one thing I am forever grateful for…..

    I loved loved this post!!

    • He! Clearly you had a lot to get off your chest LOL. What? No Cupcakes? Tsk tsk…’people’s tongues will be wagging at that one :). As for Mr. I-dont-want-to-derail-you…I guess he wanted someone with shingo upande goals and no grit?
      On a serious note…
      I am reminded of something we were told in h. school: just as we will never be given a platform to apologize for our failures, we should never apologize for our success. Mr. de-railer- To.The.Left!!!
      Your comments re: being equal stakeholders in a relationship will also a feature in my next post. I view my relationship as a partnership not as employment…so my husband is not my ‘boss’ or the ‘headmaster’, rather we are partners- sometimes I lead, sometimes he leads- we maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. More in my post.

  9. Catso

    Great Post Wambui! My two cents on your digression (which was magnificent by the way), I find it very difficult to picture a man suddenly becoming this weakling who suddenly cannot take care of himself as soon as he gets married when he did so perfectly before. I hear pastors waxing lyrical that as a wife, the woman must put out his water, make sure he is fed and ensure that nobody else cooks his food because he will then go and ‘get it’ elsewhere. What would then happen if say the wife was to suddenly get into an accident and become paralyzed? Is this when the husband then finds a legitimate excuse to marry someone else or is this the part where ‘the better or for worse’ becomes applicable? Sometimes I have to wonder, is it socialization or is it living up to the commitment that matters? At this point, the women is guided, nee bound by the thought and fear that unless the man is ‘taken care of’, he will leave her. I had an interesting discussion the other day with a colleague who mentioned that on her wedding day, she was so worried and nervous about the wedding and what the in-laws would think of her party planning skills and by extension of her, that by the end of the day, she was so tried and all she wanted to do was take a bath and then sleep. Unfortunately for her, the words that kept on ringing in her head were ‘you must take care of your man or he will leave you’. So, she gave her best and while at it, she fell asleep while her newly married husband made love to her. Am at a loss here, is this normal or am I naive by thinking, I would have had a bath and then made love with my husband after a good doze of rest? I could be wrong.

    • Ditto Catso…someone needs to make (and distribute) the ‘Real Men do Housework Too’ T-shirt because there are people who need this wake-up call. In my next post I will talk about the mis-use of the Bible to justify the relegation of women to the role of their husband’s servants after marriage.
      As for the wedding night blues…a wedding is just a big party to celebrate the union of the happy couple…if it feels like work…that’s no party! Women- there is no shame in having to ask for help rather than trying to do it all…kwani? it’s his wedding too…the expectation too of the wedding night being like the most phenomenal sex of your lives is another added pressure people don’t need…am of the opinion that crap sex is as good as no sex, so only do it when it feels right and you can enjoy it…if you’re tired, screw (no pun intended) wedding night sex…after all, tomorrow morning is the start of the rest of your lives together…and as good a time as any :)…OK I need to finish the next post!

  10. fegi100

    The happiness application in life is too true. Thanks to the 844 system, that I’ve been through, I’ve had 2 of my talents wasted away because I’ve always wondered what ‘other’ people will think…what my teachers will say and if my folks (although very supportive) will have to say. This year, I’ve decided to simply not give a fuck and decided to take isshh that goes contrary to what ‘they say’ and ‘they think’ and do what I like and what I’m good at.

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