Chronicles of my Mother: Chapter One – The Unexpected

Disclaimer:

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

blog profile picMy name is Stella. Yes, you can just call me Stella. I have changed all the names and places in all these stories I am about to share with you, including mine for reasons that will become obvious soon enough. You see, I lost my mother in a terrible accident two years ago. Her death was sudden and very unexpected. My mother was a very healthy and lively woman who was respected by everyone…well, almost everyone in society.

If not for her character, she was mostly known as a counsellor although her work was just shy off that of a professional marriage counsellor with a fancy certificate hanging on the wall. Before I forget, my mother’s name was Beatrice. That is what we will call her. She had been married to my father for over thirty years before he died from Malaria years ago. My parents where the happiest and most suited couple I have ever known which is why it was no surprise that everyone treated her with so much respect and came to her for marital advice before they got married and/or after they got married.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (I haven’t yet decided), in her will, my mother left me the house which we lived in and with this house came the huge room she had used all these years to conduct her ‘sessions.’ It was while I was going through her office to try and get a feel of her for the last time before clearing the room to be used for something else that I came across her diaries…diaries that have a record of every little detail of what transpired inside the walls of this office. The first time I found the diaries, my conscious told me not to open them but instead to go straight in the backyard and burn all of them to ashes. And I did exactly that!…well, maybe not exactly, but I did go all the way to the backyard and stood there contemplating whether to burn them or not until I eventually convinced myself that I would need more time to think about it.

And so I took the diaries back to that room and locked it behind me. For the weeks and months that followed, I kept thinking and thinking; to burn or not to burn? Before I realised it, a year had passed and I still had not decided what to do with them.  Fortunately, the decision came to me like a thief in broad daylight, unexpected. A married friend of mine was having problems in her marriage and she came to my place to “get some fresh air,” was what she first claimed. But the truth of the matter was that she needed someone to talk to and me being a very single woman, she did not think it was a good idea to share her marital problems with me. I had seen her on different occasions having deep conversations with my mother whenever she visited me but I never bothered to inquire the details of those conversations.

You see, despite having such a brilliant and wise mother, I knew that there was a huge part of my mother that was disappointed in me because at thirty-five, I was still not thinking about marriage. Who would want to get married after seeing all those millions of people coming in and going out of our home all with their own set of marital drama, seeking guidance from a stranger who had not even been there when they were throwing vows of everlasting love at each other? When I was a kid I used to wonder why my mother used to take longer than the rest of us in confession but as I grew older and saw all those people coming and going, I had an idea of what sort of demons she was fighting with. I wanted no part of that circus and I preferred living my life free from all the drama. But that was two years ago.

I had been on the phone for what felt like forever flirting with some idiot I was hoping would give me a deal on renting some spaces on the soon-to-be opened shopping mall when I heard a knock on my door. It was my friend Nomsa, the very married friend I mentioned earlier. For the next thirty minutes or so, I sat there and listened to her complain about how much life sucked and how she wished my mother was still alive so she could tell her what to do. Thinking back, we were like a twosome of fools, crying and hugging each other and both praying a miracle would happen. But my mother never showed up that day or any other day after.

That day as I watched Nomsa leave my house, I made up my mind to open every one of those diaries to look for the answer that my friend was in desperate need of. I hang on to the hope that there might be someone who might have had a similar problem who came to my mother and got the advice that she was looking for. What if from her grave, my mother could still help out all these people? That night I searched for the diary that was dated the oldest from among them all and from that day forward, my life has never been the same. I went in those archives looking for answers but I found way more than what I bargained for. I found love, hate, temptation, scandal, sorrow, happiness, humour, laughter, tears, complications, secrets, lies, betrayal…and everything else that you can think of that is made up of life!

Over the next months, I will steal a glimpse from a page in my mother’s mind and hopefully, like Nomsa and I, you can also learn one or two things. But, instead of keeping you waiting, here’s a snippet from the story of Brenda and Richard as seen from the eyes of my mother:

Excerpt from Chronicles of my Mother: Chapter Two: The Case of Brenda and Richard

I sat there studying the two of them. I knew that one of them was to blame for how things turned out but of course I could not tell them that. The last thing they needed was for one of them to be handed the weapon to attack the other. What these two needed was time…time to heal all the wounds and erase all the bad memories. Looking at them looking at me with eyes filled with expectation, I feared I was not the right person to give them the miracle that they were hoping for. I am after all only…a mere mortal.

Every part of my body wanted to jump up and tear at something but there I sat, smiling at them as if I had the password to opening heaven’s doors. “I want it to go away,” Brenda said. I found it amazing that she still had any form of liquid left in her system after all that crying she had faithfully committed herself to. I poured her another glass of water. Oooh, the poor soul.

“Nalema,” she buried her face in her palms. “Nalema amai…” she said, slowly raising her head to look up at me. “If she says she’s tired, what do you think I am feeling after going through all of this?” Richard asked. I could see him clearly fighting off the tears threating to pour. Now here was a true representation of his species.

“Brenda my dear,” I moved closer to her and took her hand in mine. “Can you tell me again why you did it? I know that somewhere at the back of your mind, you must have a reason. I need you to stop crying for a moment and just think….think back to that time when you felt it…think my dear…just think….”

As if waiting for forever to come, we waited and waited. When Brenda next spoke, it was to rudely waken me to the fact that even at my age, there were still people that could surprise me.  

Watch out for Chapter Two of the Chronicles…coming next!

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Spousal Rape: The Blurred Lines

 

violence

My attention today was caught by this headline in today’s Post Newspaper, ‘Woman, 24 Denies Raping Husband.’

“The 28 year old husband reported to the police that he was asleep when his wife undressed him and started performing sexual acts with him….” The report read.

You see, with me, every time I read a report of this kind, I am forced to take a side or to assess the facts by putting myself in either the man’s position, the wife’s position, or the judge’s position. I will be the first to admit that I do not have enough knowledge and  experience in Criminal law or Civil law, but maybe it’s that little aspect of law that’s still in my head from my studies in Labour Law…because I am ever assessing things!

Or perhaps I am just human.

At first, I was just curious.

But then as I continued reading and found the above caption, my mind went all wild on me! “Seriously,” I said to myself, “if this is what they call spousal or marital rape then believe me all women in this world have been thoroughly raped before and are still gonna get raped in future!” However, the moment I finished telling myself that, another thought occurred to me; “Why am I being so biased, it can happen to men too judging by the standards above. ” unfortunately, because the report did not give much detail about the event, I could not come up with a convincing conclusion just for my own personal satisfaction. But the article still managed to raise a lot of questions in my head.

I have always been of the belief that marital or spousal rape occurs when one spouse demands or takes sexual pleasure from their spouse who has not given consent, who has been forced, or is not in a position to give consent.” I don’t know how valid or legal my assumptions are but based on that understanding….and this is where the lines become blurry…on the standards of, “not in a position to give consent,” then I guess the wife in the paper is absolutely guilty of rape! But tell me, would the charge still hold if it was the other way round; if the woman was the accuser and the man the offender? And where exactly does the law, customs and religion fit into the picture?

Like I said, I don’t know much about Law so I will stick to things I am most familiar with; Religion. I bet you know the verse I’m driving at…I’m thinking Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22, 1Peter 3:1… All these verses have one thing in common, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands!” Oh dear, someone must have really had it in for the poor woman neh. But then again we have this Bible Verse that seems to reverse all the above verses; “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church…” Ephesians 5:25.

From the time we were able to loudly say the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’, we knew how sexual mechanisms worked. And from that time forward, Biology has kept insisting that men think about sex way more than women do. Some psychologists have even gone further to argue that this is a likely reason why more women get raped than men! Unbloodylievable I tell you…

Now let’s talk tradition and culture. How many African women (I don’t know about women from the rest of the world) have been told before getting married that if your husband demands sex from you, whether you are tired, not in the mood, on your menses, and all those other disturbing possibilities you can think of, they’ll tell you, “Never should you say NO to him. He can have you whenever he wants and wherever he wants.” Dame they’ll even tell you not to sleep with your back to him because he needs to have access to you at any time in the night! Oh hell, didn’t anyone ever tell these people that a woman can provide access even from the back??? But that’s just me thinking out loud.

So, given this scenario, if an African man, without waking his wife from her sleep gets sexual pleasure from her…can we still say its rape? And what if it was the other way round? And to take this a little further, does the law make exceptions for cultural and traditional beliefs? I understand in Zambia we have customary, statutory as well as common law, and we even have specific courts trying specific cases. But is it possible that all these types of laws take into account the local customs and religious beliefs? And if so, I would love to understand how. Could it also be possible that they might be conflicting at some level? If so, what happens then?

And what’s up with all those reports of spouses suing each other when one withdraws sex from them? “My wife sleeps in leggings to keep me from touching her at night,” “My husband hasn’t made love to me in four years…” so on and so forth. In every weekend newspaper I read all these crazy reports and it’s starting to get confusing. Where do you draw the line? And today we have “My wife performed sexual acts on me without my consent….” Could it be possible she assumed he would be aroused and then respond to her? Could it be something that would have been resolved through communication? Just what exactly did she do to him to force him to report her to the police?  Oh hell, I don’t know. Anyway, what’s going to happen to being a little spontaneous, innovative, imaginative, and all those not-so-decent words we use to describe our sex lives?

I dare not say that this is a gender issue because belief me, I also want to be given the opportunity to make moves on my husband in the middle of the night without having to worry about being sued! Sex should never be a one way street for anyone. If anything, the world (and especially Africans) should be wary of sexually starved women. They can be quite lethal too!

IN A MAZE OF LOVE

maze

Excited.

Joyful.

Happy.

Loved….

I am all of these things most of the times.

Tears.

Sorrow.

Despair.

Fear….

I get to feel these every once in a while.

Friday evening, I was standing by the balcony. All alone.

I remember everything.

I raised my head up to let the cool breeze caress every inch of my face. A few minutes ago I could hear the most melancholic melody playing, tantalizing every buried memory in my head. I could hear the hooting and honking of cars as the drivers negotiated their way through the evening traffic rash.

In the distance, I could see kids shouting and jumping in excitement…seeming all unaware of their surroundings. I could even hear the cries of a baby, mercilessly announcing its displeasure over something. And then…and then came the sweetest sounds of a lullaby, seductively gracing my eardrums and slowly…slowly…slowly…the cries began fading away.

But so did everything else.

Suddenly…and I mean very so suddenly, I heard the first drop hit the floor… and then the second. I moved my feet back a little and looked down. I had seen seasons come and go. I saw leaves dry and weather, I had seen the greens and the fruits in their most beautiful form. I got rained on a few times, hell I felt so hot at times I had to walk around the house naked.

But it was still winter.

I quickly reasoned. This was no rain.

My hand instinctively went straight to my face.

Teardrops.

Was that me?

I jump.

I fall.

I run.

I walk….

These are the little things I do every now and then.

Feeling.

Feelings.

Feelings.

Feelings.

Why do I feel so much?

I took a walk a few days ago.

I kept walking and walking and walking.

I was lost.

My mind is a beautiful maze of things unknown and words spoken very so lightly.

Sometimes I even scream.

Oh no, he does not hear me.

But clearly, something was on my mind.

I stopped and sat on the bench by the side of the road.

Somehow, I got a deep feeling that for quite a while I had not been thinking of anything at all.

He smiles at me.

My heart skips a beat.

I blink.

I blush.

I look away.

He still doesn’t understand.

Love?

I heard him ask.

I laughed, ever so softly.

Love, you ask?

I replied.

Love to me is all these things and more.

I do not cry because I am sad.

I do not walk alone because am lonely.

Love??

I do not only see roses.

Or kisses.

Or hugs.

Or happiness.

And all those bright and colourful things that you are thinking about.

I have loved even before I knew the concept of love existed and I have fallen in love at least a couple of times growing up. Love to me also means sadness, worry, stress, anxiety, tears, pain and all those dark things that come to mind. Sometimes it even means loneliness. I cannot say I have loved if I have not experienced the good and the bad together. I am always hoping for the best but I also expect the bad to happen along the way. Just like the night gives way to the day and vice versa to make a complete day so does sadness and happiness combine to bring about love.

I get scared.

I get afraid.

I get jealous too.

And then there are those tiny moments when I feel a little insecure.

There have been times I have even gotten mad at God.

It was July. I remember.

In the wee hours of the morning.

I watched a woman who to me was the epitome of everything good die. I stood on the side, my hands tightly clenching hers, and she too holding on to me as if for dear life. I watched slowly as every drop of life got drained from her…bit by bit. I have seen a lot of pain before in my life but never before had I felt it to such a degree.

I could smell it.

I could feel it rip my insides to pieces.

That night I even touched pain.

I had been transported to the darkest and deepest parts of hell and came back smelling blue.

I was mad.

I was angry.

I could barely contain it.

I had a lot of questions back then and I still do.

Why her??

Faith.

Faith, you ask?

Do not ask me why I felt like that.

Instead, ask me how it feels to be human.

And if you do,

I will tell you that this too is Love to me.

Love can bruise you every now and then.

You will cry.

You will fall.

And you will get disappointed.

But Love will not let you suffer alone.

It will not leave you in despair.

Love will also give you the antidote.

This too is what love means to me.

Every now and then I worry about the safety of my loved ones.

Why is she late?

Why didn’t he answer his phone?

Is her seatbelt on?

Sometimes I even get a little foolish in-love.

I cry when I wake up in the middle of the night and watch you sleep peacefully beside me; how can anyone so beautiful inside and out be mine? Sometimes I still cry just thinking about all the blessings I have been granted over the years.

You have told me that I look more beautiful when I smile.

That you do not like the sight of my tears.

But do you know that at times,

The glitter in my tears is because I love you too much?

Do you know that sometimes…

I get upset only because I want you to hold me?

I can see he understands me now.

He hugs me from behind.

My heart skips.

I can smell his love.

Here’s me wishing that you never stop loving me.

Can we make it so that we never have to make wishes….

Instead of wishing, how about…we just do.

Can we not look back at the good old times….

How about we just make every memory past, present and future…

Can you love me for that long? And as you love me…

Can we strive to have more of the good than the bad?

Now here’s me wishing that you never stop loving me.

THE FEELING OF A WELL SCENTED SIN

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.

Why do Women Hate Each Other?

women fighting.jpgThis time I want to talk about something that baffles both men and women. I remember a few years back when Zambia had a female presidential candidate and there was a lot of talk about women coming together to give her support so that she could win the elections. Of course it was ‘naturally’ expected that just because a woman was standing, fellow women should give her support irrespective of her qualifications for the post. But that is not my issue here. The issue is about the actual reasons some women gave as to why they would not be voting for her. At first, I never really thought much about it until a few years later when reality and the wisdom that comes with experience happened to me.

Why is it that it is common for men to provide alibi’s for each other when they have been up to no good and their wives/girlfriends start suspecting that something is amiss? I have a group of male friends who have a code, ‘together’. All one has to do when in trouble or about to do something that he might regret is simply call his buddy and just say or text one word, ‘together’, and the friend will know exactly what to do from there. Should the suspicious wife or girlfriend call, this man who might lack any conversational skills or whose skills in marketing leave much to be desire, you should hear him deliver the testimony of his life just to protect a friend who is about to be laid on the chopping board! But this is not mostly the case for women.

A woman can be involved in a long term extra marital affair or juggling two or three boyfriends and her friends will not know about it! Yes it’s possible they might have their suspicions but she will not validate them directly to them yet she will still use her friends as her alibi’s when she is about to get busted without even giving them a heads up expecting that they will cover for her. Unfortunately, the outcome is not always the desired one. The backup female friend might not necessarily reveal that she knows nothing about the situation she’s being asked about, but it’ll be in the way she responds…she will either respond immediately without giving a thought as to why she is being asked such a question and inevitably render anything else she says afterwards void, or she will just take too long trying to build the perfect impromptu cover for her friend. Worse, others will just laugh their way through the conversation whilst saying, “Yes she was with me… (Laugh)…we actually did… (more laughter)…” and she continues chuckling through the rest of that conversation. Is she serious?

I am not sure if this is simply because women are terrible liars by nature or that they just can’t fathom the gravity of not providing the perfect cover even if it’s for a friend they feel deserves to pay for her mistakes. It is either men have somehow managed to perfect the art of lying or they really know how to protect their fellow species from being annihilated by the opposite sex. Or could it be that women simply cannot lie unless the lie has been rehearsed or that they just love it when their friends are faring worse than them be it in life or relationships? Or could it be that they just don’t trust each other enough??

Consider for a moment how a group of women going out whether it’s clubbing or just hanging out…consider how they dress. Haven’t you ever experienced a moment where you looked at the group and immediately could tell who the leader of the pack was, who was a follower and who was a ‘wanna be’? It is not often that you will see a group of friends who share a good eye for fashion or style. Once I heard someone say, ‘I don’t like hanging out with people that are hotter than me.’ There have been times when I’ve found myself wondering silently…’why couldn’t she tell her friend to wear a different outfit or coordinate her colors when she looks so fine herself?’ well, it is always easy to judge simply based on what we see but I might not have known whether the friend had tried to help and was turned down or the poorly dressed one simply does not have the natural flare to pull off sexy in any way possible…if there is even such a thing! I certainly wouldn’t tell for sure but I know that I have seen enough of these situations to warrant my concerns.

Personally, there have been times when I had to think long and hard about whether to tell a friend who confidently thought that they looked fine for a particular outing that they actually didn’t because I was afraid I might offend them or bruise their confidence. But over the years I have learnt that there are way more subtle ways of delivering ‘bad news’ without making it sound as bad as it should. I know because I have friends and sisters who can be so brutal at times in their delivery of ‘truth’ that it can shake the very core of your being. I can recall numerous times when my sisters have told me to my face that I look an old woman or my that my make-up and clothes make me look like something that fell from a horror movie. But that could be because we are very close and comfortable with each other. Unfortunately, this is not always the case with everyone.

When I got my first job and I realized that my overall supervisor was a woman, I had this sinking feeling in me. Up to now I cannot clearly explain why I felt like that but the feeling was so strong that I immediately put myself in defense mode only to realize that she was the coolest boss I could ever ask for. Why did I take the idea of having a female boss to be so daunting and not feel the same about the possibility of a male boss? What is it about women that frightens and threatens the life out of women? If we cannot even stand for each other, do we expect to fight for equality of the sexes in the long run? In fact, how can we expect to be treated with respect by the male folk when we harbor vicious thoughts towards each other?

Numerous times I have heard…and I have even said it myself that I prefer having males friends to female friends because women cannot be trusted and they just talk too much. I remember the last time I said it, I was so full of it as if I was saying something that would win me a Nobel Prize. Right now I am not sure if my opinion has changed or if it’s still the same…but it is something that I am not proud of.

I remember watching a certain comedian who said that it is typical to find that in every group of women who call themselves friends, there will always be that one friend they cannot trust with their man and they all know it. And at times you will find that they all don’t trust each other around their men! I remember clearly a male friend I was watching the comedy with turn around to ask me, ‘is that true?’ and my response was a definite, ‘yes.’ The truth is that at that time there really was a ‘friend’ like that in my circles and all of us knew her to be like that because she really loved things that belonged to other people, and that included their men. Her situation was so fatal any psychologist would have said she was born like that and she couldn’t help herself. But there is a word society coined to call people like that. But it still scares the vitamins out of me thinking that there are more people or should I say women like her out there. This is why some women would rather stay quite with their problems, never confiding in their friends all because they fear their friends might steal their loved ones from them.

How many of us women have gone to the salon and had our ears attached by a certain type of woman who just never seemed to stop bragging about her man? How many of us have silently thought…or in this case the moment such a woman leaves everyone in the salon starts gossiping about her? And the most uniting phrase is always; “she should chill with her bragging before another woman snaps her man up.” And there have been situations where some women have even gone as far as seducing the man in question just for the sake of it! Women…we can be nasty sometimes.

And how is it that amongst us women, if someone who lacks the looks, education or class finds herself a ‘good’ man, we feel she doesn’t deserve him? Funny enough, it just might be that she is educated, beautiful and all that and her man buys her, say a vehicle…to her face you will congratulate her but behind her you will say, ‘atase, after all she didn’t even work for it or buy it for herself’…or, ‘all she does is sleep around to get men to buy her vehicles.’ I have heard that so many times! I wonder if it’s the same case from the point of view of men. Back when I was at Uni, my boyfriend who I can safely say is now my husband bought me a vehicle as a gift. My friends were happy and excited for me but a few years later when one of them started working and bought herself a car, she came to me and said, “I am very proud of myself because I bought a car with my own money instead of relying on a man to buy it for me.” The truth is she actually wasn’t dating any man at that time who could afford to buy her a vehicle and I had just been fortunate enough to have a man who could. I was also proud of myself for having the ability to attract a man who was willing to make certain sacrifices for me and I was not ashamed of it. My friend’s statement was delivered with an intention to injure and everyone was surprised that she had carelessly uttered such words in my presence.

How many of us have heard of or even seen Hugh Hefner (think Playboy?) and the kind of women that keep him company? And he is not the only man like that. I have seen very old and sometimes ‘not so good looking’ men with extremely beautiful and intelligent and sometimes just young women on their arm. Amongst men it’s such an achievement. It’s an art. But not amongst women. A woman like that is seen as a gold digger, desperate or simply lacking the ability to find a ‘handsome’ man. Of course sometimes it might be true and sometimes it might not be. But what most people don’t realize is that women have numerous talents. Some women are book intelligent, some women are just men intelligent. Others are both. The intelligent one will have the ability to wow many with her intelligence but absolutely fail to attract the sort of man that would be deemed ‘fit’ for her standards. It is very common to hear men say they prefer a woman who earns less than them (again, it’s not always the case but it does exist and it is always being talked about), or that men feel threatened by women who hold more power than them career-wise. The fact still remains that we do live in a patriarchal society.

The other type of woman…the man-intelligent one…this one knows exactly what to do to attract the ‘right’ sort of man to herself and she will go all the way to get his attention.  Frankly, I don’t think it should matter how one wins the affection of another provided those people are available for the taking and they are not being stalked or blackmailed into the relationship. We might not admit it out loud but apart from love, there are also other selfish reasons why we choose to be in relationships with certain people and not others…why despite being in love we would refuse to get married to certain people or have children with certain people. I know that apart from love, my husband had seen that I had the ability to take care of him and the family physically, emotionally…and all those things. He needed stability in his life and he wanted to start a family of his own. He also needed someone to cook for him, wash and iron his clothes, prepare him a bath in the morning and before he goes to bed…he also needed someone who loved him back as much, if not more than he loved her. Yes love is a major factor in all relationships, but it is not the only factor.

 

I had my own selfish reasons for choosing this particular man and not any other. Love is above them all but I also looked at his potential as someone I would want to spend the rest of my life with without feeling like waking up in the middle of the night and chopping him to bits. Those reasons were all looked at from my point of view and not his because the love part of it had covered that. So why should we judge others just because our reasons are different from theirs? And while you are calling a fellow woman a gold-digger just because she got married to an ugly or older man whose filthy rich, think about whether she forced him into the relationship or he willing got into it? Society might have its own standards about how much of a difference there should be between a man and woman for them to date but if the two have found some common grounds, so be it. Yes I might cringe at the idea of having to imagine an eighty year old man or woman in bed with a 20 year old someone but at the end of the day if the two feel strongly about their own interests they won’t care much about what you and I think. And there is certainly no law that forbids that.

 

If anything, instead of calling each other names, can’t we stop and look at things from other people’s point of view? instead of assuming that she must have fed him some herbs for him to love and treat her like that, can’t we also think about the possibility that the man might see something in her that others don’t see and simply wants to appreciate her? Would it be too much to hope for a world were women leaped to each other’s defense when necessary instead of always skipping with joy in our hearts whenever we see someone who was doing better than us suddenly fall down…or reeling with envy when someone we know or used to know has progressed in life, and perhaps even doing better than us? Instead of wishing for each other’s downfall, can’t we just support each other? We are not enemies so why should we behave as if we hate each other? For Pete’s sake let us support each other!

Is Feminism actually feasible?

Is Feminism actually feasible?

emancipation-156066_1280From the moment I decided that it was time to get married and I said yes to the marriage proposal from the man who is now my adorable husband, I started to think critically about where I stood as a woman. I guess the issue here would not be so complicated were it not for the fact that I am not just any woman; I am an African woman…a married Christian African woman. There are so many dynamics to all these adjectives that every time I think about it, I can literally feel myself losing a couple of pounds.

I have always believed in the power of a woman, independence of a woman, and all those nice things that make us all women feel good about ourselves. But then something happened that made me stop and critically evaluate myself. I consider myself to be a young wife mostly because it has only been less than a year since I got married. I am experiencing all sorts of things that I never imagined I would find myself going through. And hell no, I am not complaining! I am absolutely happy in my marriage. I guess you are wondering where I am going with all of this.

It was on a Thursday morning. I had woken up early to prepare breakfast for my husband who was still lying in bed. As I was serving him…in the normal Zambian way (where a wife has to kneel down before her husband if she is addressing him or serving him food)… so there I was on my knees with a tray of breakfast in my hands, wearing a solemn and pleading look on my face. I served him the food and as he started to eat, I went in for my mark. I was still on my knees by the way. “Honey, can you help me out with lunch today…I already boiled the meat and all that’s remaining is to make gravy. I really need to study for the exam I am writing this evening.” I am a part time student which means class for me starts at 5p.m to 7p.m. Like I mentioned earlier, I am a young wife. I have a first degree already but I am in the process of acquiring my second degree. The first degree was a little easier because I was not married then. But it’s rough this time around because I have other commitments that are actually more important than acquiring this degree; marriage. I digressed.

I was there on the floor, waiting for my husband’s reply which came in a nonchalant form of, “let me enjoy being a husband, won’t you?” He then went back to his breakfast and whatever TV show he was watching. As I mulled over his response, still on my knees, it struck me. I was by all accounts a woman.

There were a lot of questions going through my mind but one thing was clear; I was hurt. I wondered, why was I feeling so hurt? Even if his intention was not to help me out, shouldn’t he have found a better way of responding instead of using those words? What exactly was it about his words that I found so offensive? Looking at his whole demeanor, I realized that he completely had no idea what effect his words had on me…and that made me even more upset. With my pride beaten to a pulp, I got up from the floor and went back into the kitchen. I did the rest of my chores that day running to and from the stove to the kitchen table where my books were laying. Suffice to say, it was a very tough day.

Now let me revisit my husband’s response… Let me enjoy being a husband, won’t you?

What exactly did he mean by that?

Did he mean; you are the wife, cooking is your job so do it even if it means you failing your exams?

Or perhaps; cooking is not part of my duties as a husband?

Maybe; I just want to relax like a normal husband should?

I have tried to look at that response from different angles but all the conclusions just make me feel like hitting something. They have a raw bitter yet familiar taste to them But here is the thing, as I kept thinking over that response, I realized that I was not hurt by the fact that my husband thought that it was not his duty to help out his wife when she was very busy or that he had just implied that my place was in the kitchen. What I found very upsetting was the fact that he had refused to help me out when I desperately needed his help. I was looking at it the same way I would had it been my own sister who had refused to help me. And this is where the real problem lies. Why did I find my husband’s attitude towards cooking so acceptable?

I was brought up in a Christian home you see. On top of that, I am an African woman. Mix these two and you come up with this conclusion; a woman’s place is the kitchen. The work of the husband is to provide the food and the woman’s to cook and serve the food. However, I am not just a Christian African woman. I am also educated and I live in the 21st century. I have read about feminism and in my line of work I have advocated for it on numerous occasions. And this is what gives me a headache. Is it even possible to believe in feminism or the power of women empowerment and still be a married, Christian African woman? For me that is like asking Nelson Mandela, Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi to eat from the same plate.  One might try, but he/she might not like the results. I understand that generally feminism has to do with the advocacy for equal opportunities for both men and women. There are times when I have been tempted to believe that such a reality is feasible. Unfortunately, the real reality does not seem to support this fact. Consider this with me firstly.

I was once part of a sensitization group on Gender Based Violence and the Empowerment of women. Men and women were put into two separate groups and each was asked to write down what they liked about being either male or female, what they did not like and what they liked about the opposite sex. Suffice to say, the very things the sexes liked about each other were the very things that seemed to perpetuate gender inequality. I took this opportunity to scrutinize myself. I love that I have the power to know exactly who the father of the child in my womb is and that the man will have (for some time until he feels otherwise or there comes a need for a DNA test) to trust me. I hate going through the menstrual drama, I love the feeling of being loved and protected by my spouse. If we were taking a walk together and dogs appeared out of nowhere, I would love it if my partner would jump in to try and protect me instead of him running off and not worrying about my safety. I love being pampered and taken care of (financially) by my spouse. But are all these reasons enough? For instance, just because I enjoy being taken care of by my spouse does not mean that I cannot take care of myself or that I cannot take care of him (financially that is).

In my home, I naturally expect my husband to be able to change the bulbs, fix things around the house and what not. How many of us women have felt a little disappointed when our men neglect the things that need fixing around the house, or they feel lazy to replace the bulbs? Is it that we can’t do these things on our own? I am a strong believer of equal opportunities for all yet there is still that part of me that gets disappointed when my husband fails to fix things around the house. If we go out shopping together and the groceries are heavy, I expect my spouse to carry the heavier load to the car without me having to ask him to. It is because he is a man that I expect him to do these things for me.

So then I ask myself, is gender equality really possible in this world? Why should it apply to certain things and not to others? Yes I want to be given an equal opportunity at that nice good as much as that equally qualified man…but I will feel disappointed if my spouse lets me carry a heavy bag of groceries. Yes, I love the fact that I am educated, I have a good job and also have a great husband (and possibly kids in the near future), but I also get frustrated that even though both my husband and I had busy days at work and we both got home at the same time, I am the one who has to rush to the kitchen to prepare food for us while he plops himself down in the couch. There are days when I find this very upsetting…absolutely frustrating.

feminismHowever, there are people who have candidly made it known to me, willy-nilly that I have options here. I know that if I quit my job and left husband to take care of things financially then perhaps, maybe…just maybe I can get rid of some of these frustrations? Others have even told me that the Good Book says a few things about this, and boy don’t I know it too! But you see, and I am speaking for myself here, a job for me isn’t just about covering financials, it really means a big deal to me that I cannot even go into all those details right now. But still no matter how much I try to explain myself, my fellow women, the older ones especially will tell me that the frustrations I feel are a result of my own doing; that by forcing myself into a man’s world, I am facing the repercussions. Had I just stayed at home like a good woman should and concentrated on taking care of my family, then I wouldn’t have to suffer through all this and I wouldn’t be out fighting about equality between men and women.

Because I am a Christian, it is very tough to challenge people that are busy throwing down scriptures in your face about what it is you are doing wrong. There is always that feeling I get whenever I try to challenge the way something in the Good Book has been intepreted…like something will strike me down or I might get into an accident on my way to or from work. I know it’s ridiculous, but that doesn’t stop my brain from processing such ridiculousness. Does it mean then that if I have to fight for equality, I should forsake religion and tradition? You have to remember that there are many good things about tradition and even many other great things about religion. Then what should I do about these conflicting issues? By the way, how does one even go about creating equal opportunities for women culturally when the very act of doing so could have fatal consequences? I have read about such cases almost every day in international papers.

Even as I ask myself all these questions, I automatically know that I am the one responsible for making the bed when we both wake up in the morning and if it ever happens that he does it, I will be so happy about it that I will run to give him a kiss. Worse, I will start wondering if he is having an affair or if he has done something bad behind my back when he brings breakfast in bed for me. One time my husband was doing all sorts of things for me around the house that I went into the bathroom, knelt down and said a little prayer to God, begging him to spare his life. I thought the man was dying!  Sadly, I also know that I am the one who has to clean up the mess after him when he comes out of the bathroom.

The natural response for us (women) mostly when our spouses do something ‘out of the norm’ is to get surprised, get suspicious or offer praise. But what would happen if we reacted to these actions the same way they do when the roles are reversed? For example, he messes up the bathroom floor after a shower, cleans it up before leaving the bathroom and when I discover this development, I should neither praise, get suspicious nor say a simple ‘thanks’. What do you think he’s reaction will be? Believe me, he will find some way to make it known that he did something for me and I should recognize it. It might not always be the case of course.

I sincerely think that there are some areas in which equality would work and some that it just wouldn’t. In a society that has been patriarchal since the beginning of time, and where women themselves are responsible for perpetuating contrary behavior knowingly and unknowingly…feminism will continue to be nothing but propaganda. I have never believed in Marxism or all that talk about a classless society, but I do believe in some of those theories. Likewise, as long as we remain men and women biologically, the scale of opportunities will never be at equilibrium. However, and most importantly, I desperately hope that I am wrong.