You might have heard these famous words; A happy wife, a happy life. Which means that as long as the wife is kicking shit about, mumbling under her breath, opening drawers in the kitchen and just standing there staring at the sharp knives therein, sleeping (or pretending to) with her back turned to you every night including Sunday, the day of the Lord for chrissake, hurling herself furiously at the book of Psalms and Leviticus, or alcohol, or weed, or just stopping to fight you or ask you where you are from, or who the hell that is who’s calling you at 9pm, then nobody will be happy in that house. Not even the cats. Or the dogs. Flowers will wilt and die from the tension. Walking in the house will feel like walking on thin ice, like a high wire act. Nothing will grow in that house. The fish in the aquarium will stop swimming as soon as she walks into the house. It will always be cold, like someone left the door to the fridge open the whole day and night. A thick and stuffy silence will prevail in your household and even an act like coughing will sound loud, like you are in a cave. Chapatis will never taste the same. Because of this, you will be those guys who always work very late at night, afraid to go back to the winter of their homes. Or those chaps who, in the pub, will always insist on just “one more,” even when it’s clear that one more is too much and chaps should be headed home.
Because a happy wife, a happy life.
These wise and immortal words were said by some chaps who lived in the forest a long time ago. Which forest, nobody knows and quite frankly, is not important at all. They wore loincloths and speared animals in the throat for food and they went about in this minimalist lifestyle. By the way, this is also irrelevant given that none of you will ever wear a loincloth, but did you know that if you go about in a loincloth you can’t sit on an anthill? It might seem like common sense but you will be shocked at how many loincloth wearers sit on anthills to catch their breath.
Anyway, yeah, the chaps…what we do know about the chaps that coined that phrase is that they were called wahenga.
All of them are dead. We don’t have any photos of them. What we have are those wise words for us to heed. Despite them being simple words, their simplicity belies their depth, it turns out. The wahengas didn’t expound; they imagined that we would evolve enough to understand what the adage meant. Consequently, they left us with a paradox. What the hell is a happy wife? How can we define a happy wife when we are struggling to define happiness? A happy wife, a happy life is what men grapple with their whole lives. Sometimes you think you are doing the right thing then wham, it turns out that you aren’t. You were doing the thing your friend with the old, red Volvo was doing that was working for him. The right thing – it turns out – is only the right thing if she thinks its the right thing. And what she thinks today might not be what she thinks next week on Friday. So it always feels like your life is reduced to planting hooves.
I don’t know much, but what I know is that nobody, no man, goes out looking for trouble. Very few chaps do. And if there was a shop where we would go to and ask the shopkeeper, “Patel, get me one packet of Woman Happiness,” we’d buy a carton of it in case Patel closed shop suddenly. We’d be happy to know that the formula works and that all we have to do is take it twice a day after meals and she will be happy. And then we would be happy. All the plants in the house would be saved and the fish would behave like fish again. Your friends would start visiting again.
It is not my wish to have the Women and Marriage series turn into some sort of a moanfest. God knows we had enough of that in the Men and Marriage series. If we allow that to happen – to document the sins of men – then we will be here until 2096, plus stories of men behaving badly are many and colourful. The point of this series is not to throw a wet blanket on marriage but see what we can learn from the stories of women in and out of marriage.
The Women & Marriage series is now officially open. (I wish I had a big gong to sound, for the full dramatic effect). I’m looking for stories that can open discussions around this topic.
You are all welcome to tell your stories. Well, as long as you are female. I’m focusing on married women but of course I’m open to hearing stories from divorced women, separated women, widowed women and women engaged to be married (even if that engagement is seven years old now). I’m looking for stories of pain and happiness, triumph and success, loss and confusion, love and lust and all things in between. I want to hear from women who can’t give birth and what that means for the marriage, and women who can give birth but don’t want children. I want to hear from women who earn more than their men and whether that has affected the stability of their marriage. I want to hear from housewives and hear about what they dream of when the children have gone to school and they are seated at the dining room staring at the lunchbox the husband “forgot” (it has egg white and apples) thinking, “What do I have to do around here to have my food appreciated?”
I want to hear from young widows and what it is like to get back into dating. I want to hear from women who are married into different races or tribes and how those cultural differences impact the marriage. I want to hear from a woman with seven children and what it is like to raise those children. And from women who are in their third or fourth or fifth marriage and what it is that makes them keep going back into the rabbit hole. I want to hear from women who are thriving in arranged marriages and women who are not. As in, how do you get to love and live with someone you didn’t get to talk to for more than five minutes before the marriage? I want to hear about marriage and sex and the official position on missionary style. I want to hear from people who are married in different religions. I want to hear from women who have problems with substance addiction in marriage. Mental health in marriage. Women who live secret lives, as secret government agents etc. In fact, it would be nice to speak to a woman who is in the armed forces, married to a husband who runs a timber business. Or works in a bank. And of women who are in open marriages.
What is the face of marriage from the woman’s end?
This is how this works; write an email or if you live on an island, send a raven. My personal email is private, nobody else has access to it.
Indicate the subject as: Women And Marriage.
Most importantly keep it short, because I get quite a number of emails and I don’t want Tamms to join high school while I’m still sifting through these emails. So, short and sexy works. You don’t have to start the email by saying, “Hi, Chocolate Man,” but if you do I won’t mind at all. Such frivolity fills my heart with smiles because I’m just a boy inside, after all.
After that salutation, give me a short synopsis of your story. A synopsis isn’t a tome. A synopsis is a synopsis.
Here is a wild (and fictitious) example of the length of email you should NOT write.
Hi Chocolate Man. 😊
I will keep this short.
So, in 2009 I met this guy at a party in Imara Daima. I had finished my Masters in Environmental Science and I had just gotten back from Norway, fresh off the boat. Have you been to Norway? Imagine they don’t have white bread there! White bread is rare. They have lots of seafood, though. If you ever want seafood, go to Norway. But again, I understand you are Luo, you guys don’t know how to eat seafood. He-he-he. Stick to ngege. I know, I’m funny. Anyway, if you go let me know, I will hook you up with some Kenyans who can show you around.
Where was I? Yes, the party at Imara Daima. I happened to sit next to him on the couch and he turned to me and said, “Do you mind going to serve me?” I had just done my Masters and so my head was big. I didn’t go all the way to Norway to come back to serve no man! But he was a giant. He had big beefy arms and thighs. I like my men beefy, not these thin ones who can’t finish a sandwich. Ha-ha. Ati sijui gluten intolerance, mara lactose intolerance. Mschewww. A man should eat. By the way, if a man tells me ati he’s gluten intolerant I will know straight away that he’s bad in bed. I won’t even bother. Please. I’d rather go walk in Karura.
So I got him the food, then went to get him a second helping and he finished the second helping and I brought him the third and then a soda. A man should drink soda at least once a week. Kwanza Fanta or Stoney Tangawizi. He told me he played rugby and had played rugby all his life. He was in Mean Machine when Mean Machine was mean. I loved serving him, feeding him. It was fascinating to watch him eat. I could have watched him chew, his big jaws moving, the whole day. And night.
So, anyway we started going on dates. I would go watch him play on Saturdays. He was a banker, working at that Stanchart in Westy, in the risk department. Apart from loving to watch him eat I loved to watch him play rugby. In fact, I think I fell in love with him by watching how he would ram into smaller men and send them flying. How he would head butt men. Kwanza that head butting thing would get me all hot and bothered, acha tu. I loved how his elbows would be green with grass after a game. I would dab some Dettol on them in the car. He looked so strong and muscular on the pitch but yet so gentle off it. I found that very sexy and sweet. My friends loved him. I have a friend called Esther, my ride or die, she owns a salon in Westlands. If you know anyone who wants someone who can take care of dreadlocks Esther is your girl. Esther and I have the same taste in men – we like the beastly, big-looking men who look like men, the type who aren’t gluten intolerant- and she would tell me ‘Glado [that’s what my friends call me], if you don’t marry this man, I swear I will – acha this friendship ishas.”
He was perfect. He was sensitive and thoughtful. He would go out of his way to do things for me, something I really loved because my language of love is acts of service. But I also liked being touched (by rough hands, not by guys who have a hand lotion in their cars). I also like words of affirmation and quality time. I think my language of love is complicated. Anyway, Esther kept saying, marry him, girl! Marry him! What are you waiting for? He has a nice job, he head butts guys who are lactose intolerant, and he hasn’t borrowed money or your car from you. Marry him, girl! Marry him! She was like a bird with one song. (See what I did there, Biko?)
Did I mention that he’s called David? As in King David of the Bible? I know! Anyway, what I didn’t tell Esther or any of my girlfriends was that although David was a head-butting, gluten eating raggamuffin on the pitch, he was too sensitive off pitch. And by sensitive I mean, he’d cry a lot. A small fight and he’d start crying. The first time after we’d made love (I’m a lady, I make love) and he rolled off me (he weighs 107kgs) I heard sobs in the darkness. (We make love in complete darkness. Long story). Yaani he was sobbing! How shocked was I? I switched on the bedside lamp and touched him on the shoulder, “Davie, what’s wrong?” I asked him. Still sobbing, he said something into the pillow and I said, “Babe, I can’t hear you, stop talking to the pillow.” He turned around (his eyes were red) and he said, “You are so sweet and I’m so in love with you!”
Look, it was the sweetest thing anyone had said to me. I was so touched and flattered. I was like, this giant is crying because I’m sweet? Then I must be sweet. And who doesn’t want to be sweet? So I held him in my small arms and he cried a bit in my bosom then we slept. But then it kept happening. He would knock men down in the rugby pitch and off it he would cry. He’d cry watching a movie. I was dealing with a lot of tears in my life. One time we had a big fight and I started crying (for a damn change!) and he started crying and I shouted at him, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU CRYING FOR? CAN’T I EVEN CRY ONCE IN THIS RELATIONSHIP?” So he stopped crying until I finished then he started crying. Aki I can’t, imagine?
Anyway, Biko, I don’t want to bore you with tear stories but just know that he cried a lot.
Long story short, I married him in 2002. On the night before our wedding I pleaded with him. I told him, “Aki Davie, only one of us is going to cry tomorrow. And it’s going to be me. It’s my day. Don’t rain on my parade.” He-he. Then the bastard went ahead and cried when my dad handed me to him.
We have three children now, adorable children, and we are happy. I love him. To tears.
Do you want to listen to our story?
Yours Faithfully (I only write this to annoy you)
I’m a chic of Banana btw, that’s where I grew up, but I’m from a place called Kaplong, in Bomet. That’s shags.
Now. Two things with this email. It’s not short but it’s amusing. The thing with amusing however, is that not everybody might find it amusing. Which means I might not read it to the end, especially if I’m in between things. Imagine that I have 260 pending emails on Women and Marriage waiting for me to read. This, coupled with my writing deadlines to meet. My kids to pick from school. My whisky to drink in the bar. My exercise regime, my reading regime, and of course the Chernobyl series waiting for me to finish…I wouldn’t want to finish a verbose email. So please keep it short.
To illustrate how short that email should be, allow me to rewrite the email above.
Hey Chocolate Man. (Do normal people actually call you this?)
Picture King David. But on earth. I sat next to him at a party in Imara Daima. I had just gotten back from Norway with a Masters degree stuffed in my bra. This man had the gall to send me to fetch him food. Me?! With my Masters?! So I went. He was a massive man. I mean, big thighs and barrel chest. I kept fetching him plate after plate. His appetite fascinated me because I love me a big man with a big appetite. Not these skinny-jeans wearing boys who are sijui lactose and gluten intolerant… A man should eat everything. Including me.
Anyway, this man was a beast in the rugby pitch. He’d head-butt those men who eat bran bread and they’d go flying like ragdolls. That stuff turned me on – yeah, I’m that chick. I liked nursing his bruises after a game, how he’d wince for me. In my head he was back from war to fight for my honour. My friends loved him. My family wanted to adopt him. They would all bug me to marry him. And why not; he worked in a big bank in the risk department, he was responsible, he would head butt anyone who dared joke with me and he was caring, gentle and attentive. Plus he had neither borrowed money from me nor asked to borrow my car. Even better, he didn’t live in Kile. What they – friends and famo – didn’t know was that he was a crier. Too sensitive. Yaani, Biko he’d cry when he was happy and cry when he was sad. First time we made love in pitch darkness (I told you, I’m that chick) he sobbed in darkness after and I was like, did I hurt him?
So you see I had to marry him. Big wedding in 2002 because a man is more than his tears. (Oh, he cried in our wedding! That ass!) I figured as long as he didn’t cry before my friends and family we were cool. I’m sure there are men who have worse traits, like only wear women’s knickers to work.
We have three children now, with Davie. Pretty things that take their beauty from their mother. Obviously.
That’s the story of my King David. And I still love him many years later. To tears.
You know you want to hear our story, Biko.
Holla at me.
I’m Gladys, but everybody calls me Glado. You can be everybody if you want.
Same story but with the same sauciness, yes? You would want to sit down with Glado, yes? Thing is, when I read the emails, I will be looking for a unique angle. I will be looking for “man bite dog” not “dog bite man.”
So please keep your emails succinct and crisp like a clean apple bite. Be clear on what your story is – the bones of it, then I will get the meat when we sit. One other thing, kindly don’t refer me to people. Don’t tell me to email someone “who has a fantastic story.” This is voluntary, I don’t want to have to try and convince someone to tell their story. Let them email if they are interested. Or only give me their contacts if they are game.
I won’t be able to reply to all emails unfortunately because of time. But I will try. If we agree we are doing the story, we will set up a time and place that is convenient for both of us. I will meet you wherever you are in Nairobi, but if you live on a big ranch in Lokichogio and you have a chopper, you can always send it to pick me up.
The interview should ideally last two hours, three hours at the very very most because I have a short attention span. Things distract me easily. Kwanza shiny things.
So, ladies. Shall we get this baby on the road?
Email me on [email protected]