There I was. My legs spread apart like a heavily pregnant woman trying to induce labour unsuccessfully. I could feel every bone in my body become lighter and lighter as the seconds trickled by. This was the day I had been looking forward to. I felt starved, I felt wronged for having gone without it for such a long time. I wanted it…I was craving it…then that moment came, finally…I could feel my blood become warmer, lighter and relief oozed from every inch of my body. Finally, I murmured, “release.” I was on top of the moon! The pleasure kept coming and coming…I was on a roll. But just as I was about to let out another sigh of relief, my phone rang. For a few seconds I looked at the phone and saw the caller ID. It was an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in over ten years! However, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, we got to meet each other again on Facebook. It was exciting catching up on the good old times on Facebook Messenger. We exchanged contact details and promised to keep in touch frequently. It was only after I answered the call that I remembered the exact nature of our relationship back then. And it finally made sense why I kept feeling a little uncomfortable during the first chat on Facebook after all these years.
So it turned out she was the first one to call me…and she couldn’t have done it at such a convenient time! For a couple of months I was struck by what doctors like to call Chronic Constipation which was a result of all the self-meds I had been taking for my personally diagnosed illness. After a visit to the doctor’s office, it finally turned out that I actually had a serious case of ulcers and that some weird staff in my system was playing a number on my stomach walls. I was given the proper meds for it…hence, the relief. I rarely carry my mobile phone with me once I have scheduled an appointment with the little white seat. However, due to the nature of my situation for the past months, I could not predict how long it would take for me to negotiate with nature to take my call. Most of the times I would receive a page from nature, and then go into a certain private room to call back, only nature wouldn’t take my call. I would hit redial over and over again using every muscle in my system but still nothing would happen. By the time I realised it, I would have spent about 30 minutes trying to make reception. Nada. But thanks to some medical attention here and there, I finally found a way to deal with nature. I sat on that little white seat, got in perfect position and dialled number two. The rest is history.
Unbeknownst to the Airtel and MTN telecommunications service providers, they connived and allowed someone to get through to me at that particular moment. It didn’t help that my ringtone was set to SIA’s ‘Chandelier’ because that really took the ‘ish’ right out of me, literally. That song has such an effect on me. An internal debate occurred in my head; to take or not to take the call? If I took the call, then I might need to put my other call with nature on hold and I couldn’t risk having to hit redial. I had already been through that before and it never went in my favour. But then again if I don’t pick up her call, she might think that I was ignoring her. And then it occurred to me…why was I so concerned about her misinterpreting this? I could easily come up with an excuse as to why I could not attend to her call, it’s very normal to miss certain calls but still call them back…as in contrary to telling her the actual truth (I mean, it is after all the polite thing to do in this case – to lie.)
I weighed my options, did some risk management here and there and settled for letting the call go unattended. But oh no…it rang again, and again, and again. There was no way I was gonna be able to maintain a working network with nature with all the disruptions to the signal. So I took the other kind of call, the telecommunications one. I was so mad that to this day I suspect I was the reason behind my whole neighbourhood going on loading shedding mode that evening. But I didn’t want it to be so obvious and so I put on a smile as I cheerfully said hello to my old friend. She was so excited to be in touch. On any other day I probably would have been excited too but my circumstances would not allow me the pleasure. It was because of these very circumstances that I was forced to remember that I was never really close to this person who seemed so excited to be in touch with me.
I remembered that the last time we had spoken, some ten or so years ago, it was during a school function and I was asking her to move a bit so we could all fit comfortably on the bench. We were from the same class and even though we rarely spoke to each other, there were things we knew about each other just from the mere fact that we were found on and in the same spaces most of the time. It’s a feeling of familiarity, like the kind tourists from the same country feel towards each other in a foreign country; you know nothing about each other and would most probably hate each other’s guts if you did but you still share something that is strong enough to enable you get along…for the time being. We both never liked each other back then and it was so obvious because we never even tried to hide it. She was George Clooney and I was a marriage ring…until now.
It should be that as the years went back, we somehow managed to either get over all that childish drama and matured or we had just forgotten about it all. Unfortunately, like an epiphany, my predicament when I received that call from her gave rise to all those memories. As my brain was busy updating its memory feed, my friend kept the conversation going. She talked and asked questions excitedly and I responded in kind. My voice was smiling but my facial expression looked as exactly as it had a few minutes ago when I smelled the results of the previous call I had abandoned to take this one. I finally resigned to get over myself and got a little more involved in the conversation. We had been chatting for close to half an hour when she finally broached the subject of the call…the actual reason why she had called. “I put your name on the list of committee members for my kitchen party and contributions are K500 each. You don’t necessarily need to attend the meetings since you are obviously a busy person but as long as you make the contributions, its fine with me.”
I was shell shocked. First of all, I didn’t know whether I was being asked or forced into the committee. Secondly, …K500????? WTH??? There I was thinking I had given up on my call of nature in futility only to receive a whole number 2 from this one. Was she trying to start a Franchise business? She must be nutts. But of course that’s what my head was thinking but my mouth was saying, “wow, why K500?” I asked, trying to sound unperturbed. “My fiancé and I are running a little short on funds,” she replied. “We are hoping that the extra money from the kitchen party can be used to finance the wedding.” She sounded like Mother Theresa…granted, I have never heard the great woman speak, but I have always imagined she must have been the calmest of all souls. My friend was like that on the phone, talking as if there was absolutely nothing wrong with what she had just delivered into my ears.
But I had a huge problem with everything. Yes I might have entered the conversation on the wrong foot but at this stage, my reasoning was not at all biased because of that, if it was at all biased. I was very uncomfortable with the amount of money she was requesting, or rather, demanding from me and all of her other unfortunate friends. From experience, a maximum of K300 is expected as a contribution from all members that a ‘bride to be’ puts in her kitchen party committee. And most of the times, the amount is not put in stone until such a time that all the members come together and reach an agreement. The bride might have her own figure in mind but she still has to present it to the group for them to either accept or settle for something they can all manage. At least this is how it has been from my experience. Once this money has been given, it should work towards meeting the needs of the kitchen party…and only if something remains should the committee agree to let it go towards the wedding expenses.
If a bride feels she cannot afford to hold either the kitchen party or wedding, she will call up all her friends and ask if they might be willing to help. In response, each friend will say how much they might be willing to contribute…if at all they can. It has never been and it should never be that someone should impose on anyone that they have to help willy-nilly. If this was the case, then am afraid that the cost of friendship is becoming too expensive for me. Many times I have been put in committees, and I have also put people that I didn’t even know in committees for such events. On average, I have found myself in 5 committees at once to which I have to make contributions. At this rate, if everyone starts making requests of K500, I wonder what will be left from my little salary to take care of the needs of my family.
The one thing that people don’t seem to understand is that people have a choice to either be or not be in a committee and that it is not the job of the committee to raise money for you to hold your wedding functions. A committee is a group of your friends and well-wishers that come together to “assist” you plan your function and not to “sponsor” your functions. It is only proper and polite to let your friends know in advance if you can’t afford to hold both functions and they can advise you on certain alternatives. Remember they are not your family. Your family might to some extent be responsible towards you financially but your friends aren’t. Why would you want to have extravagant functions at the expense of your friends when you obviously cannot afford them yourself?
A kitchen party is not even a necessity; it’s a luxury that we as African women want to indulge in in order to show the world that we have certain traditional skills and most importantly, to receive gifts from people. For others, it’s simply an event that comes before a wedding…whether it is necessary or not is not a matter of concern. Looking back, I regret having had put my family and friends through all that drama because at the end of the day, it turned out to have been a liability both emotionally and financially instead of what it was intended to be. To this day I go into my kitchen and ask myself, “WTH??” I might have a 21st century looking kitchen but I will always remember the tears I shed and the family relations that got broken during that period. That day for me might have been a success (and indeed it was well delivered by my family and friends)…but the question still remains, “was it necessary to even have it in the first place?” …. “If I needed something traditional, did I have other options that might not have costed me so much emotionally and financially?” Because of that day I lost a number of friends and I still have relatives I feel like pouring hot oil on when or if I ever see them standing in front of my door. The whole experience to me brings about a feeling of a well scented sin.
I am still not sure if I should be in my friends committee and pay the amount of money she has requested from everyone or if I should express my concerns to her. However, there is still something in me that tells me that had she used a different approach in raising money for her events, I probably would have been a little more receptive instead of what I am feeling right now. If only she had said, “Anne, I have a little problem…my fiancé and I are running a little low on cash and we were wondering if you would be able to help us financially…anything you can manage…we would really appreciate it. It’s always been our dream to have a kitchen party and wedding but we cannot afford it. We are hoping to see how much money we can raise…” I think anything in those lines would have helped…emphasis on would. Remember, my memory feed was fully loaded by the time our phone conversation ended.