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!

A SILHOUETTE OF INNOCENCE

It wasn’t when I walked in on him beating her to a pulp while she tried desperately to block the blows, squeezing herself tightly in a corner in the kitchen that I lost my innocence. And it certainly wasn’t that moment when I looked to the table and saw the unfinished task she had obviously been at before the attack started…the uncut tomatoes lying there and the knife looking at me as if it was the most attractive thing in the room, tempting me to use it for a whole different purpose. But I was only a child.

What could I have possibly known?

There I was, seated in the headmaster’s office…my homeroom teacher on my left and another man to my right. As if in a trance, we all watched and listened (willy-nilly) to this man talking on and on, some whitish staff even forming at the corners of his mouth. How he loved the sound of his own voice. He was bragging about what a great idea it was that the school administration had recommended his daughter to take an exam intended for grades two levels above her. He was like a man riding high on some yet to be manufactured drug. This man could have said I was the Messiah and I would have believed him.

DNA insists he was my father.

But it wasn’t when I felt the gnawing guilty for silently celebrating the praises coming from this man that I lost my innocence. And it certainly wasn’t when I realised there was a woman back home who had cried herself to sleep the previous night worried sick about the pressure that was being put on her little girl. Wasn’t it only the night before when she had come into the room I shared with my sisters, sat on the bed and took my hands in hers, her face ever so solemn. She had said, “I don’t want you to think that I have no faith in you my baby…it is just that I see no reason why they feel they have to rush you. I just want you to grow up like a normal child but your father won’t listen to me.” And right she had been. I was by all accounts scared. Without a doubt I know who this woman was.

She was my mother.

It was not when I stood at the train station and watched the scene unveiling before my very eyes that I lost my innocence. The images always appear to me as if they were a scene in a melodrama and yet they are as factual as nature itself wouldn’t have intended them to be. It’s my big brother and sister saying their farewells to the man. He says he is travelling to another city for business. I watch my two siblings hang to every comforting word he is throwing at them, eating them up like they would a lollipop. My big sister, like the cry baby that she has always been is holding on to his leg for dear life, begging him not to go and at the same time telling him what to bring for her when he returns. If innocence had a colour, it would probably shine as bright as her personality.

Ooh, my beloved sister…how she loved unreservedly.

But there I was, watching the scene unfold just a few feet away. I could smell the disdain dripping from my armpits, unceremoniously awakening the resting flesh on my forehead. He looked over at me. I could see the hesitation screaming from every visible part of his being. He knew what I knew. I might have been the youngest member of the family at that train station but I had the foresight of a well-trained ninja.  That man was never coming back. But I was only a child…how I wish I had been wrong….

If only for their sake.

 

*                *                *

 

But It was not from a single incident that I lost it:

It was when I realised that with every little experience I went through from the time I was born to now…that with every breath I took, and with every birthday I celebrated I kept losing whatever innocence I might have had. Each experience, bad or good came with its life lessons. And as I keep learning, I keep losing a part of me. How much more innocence will I lose and how much more faith shall I keep struggling to hold on to as I grow older? With every breath I take…with each passing second…I see nothing but a silhouette of the innocence I once had, gliding by majestically to some place unknown.

 

*                *                *

 

It was when I noticed the old woman walking on the side of the road, tired and almost out of breath that I realised how much of my innocence had become corrupted. She stretched out her little wrinkly hand and waved for me to stop. My foot instinctively went easy on the gas as I kept getting closer to her. However, to my surprise, when I finally got to where she was, there seemed to be some form of miscommunication between my foot and my brain.  As I drove the rest of the way home that evening, I was but a wreck of guilt. Why had I not stopped for that woman? If she was my mother or grandmother, wouldn’t I want someone to stop for her if she ever found herself in such a position? A few years back I would have never hesitated…but what exactly had happened to me to change me this much? The few times I had given lifts to strangers in the past year had also been such exhausting experiences. I remember one of them asking me, “…you are shaking so much…are you a new driver?” No I was not a new driver. I was scared as hell by my own imaginations of what the man might do to me. I had not even thought much about it when I stopped for him but the moment he strapped the seat belt on, every little scene from all the horror movies I had ever seen, every weird report I had ever read in the papers or watched on tele… and even scenes cooked up by my own brain danced seductively on my mind.

Who is this person I have become?

It was when I kept looking suspiciously at a certain man playing with his little niece that I knew my innocence was lost. I kept watching how he was playing with her, where he did and did not touch…and what he was saying to her. At what point in life did it become a sin for a man to play with his nieces and use whatever genre of baby talk he wished without someone looking at him suspiciously?

 

It was when I asked my sister to take a picture of the guy she had gone on a date with to text me his number plate and to keep me updated of all the places they would be going to. I even asked her to take a picture of him and send it to me! Even then I knew something was wrong with me somewhere. Instead of celebrating the fact that my beautiful sister had found herself a good looking and worthy guy, I sat up that night imagining all sorts of things that were likely to happen to her if the guy turned out to be psycho. I was petrified, not because of the crazy thoughts in my head, but of myself! As it turned out my sister came back home safe and in the good company of a hangover longer than the skirt she had been wearing.

 

It was while I was waiting for the traffic lights to change and a street kid (somewhere between the ages of six and 10) came to my window and I unconsciously (or consciously) checked to ensure all my doors and windows were locked that I started to question the nature of my mind. I was just about to look away and ignore the little girl when something made me turn back to look at her. A very pretty child she was but the state she was in almost brought tears to my eyes. Every bone in me wanted to reach out for my handbag which was now lying on the floor of the car.

But I didn’t.  

The child was desperately trying to communicate something to me but I could not hear a thing because all my windows were up. A few years ago I would not have hesitated to lend a helping hand but somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything this time. Being a person who has been to hell and back when it comes to struggling in life, shouldn’t I have been in a better position to understand what she must have been going through? Just what exactly had experience taught me to turn me into this person I cannot recognize? How is it that doing something without thinking about it first has become such a challenge for me these days? An internal debate kept ringing through my mind and even though I had managed to convince myself that giving her money was not the right thing to do; the guilt would not leave me alone. That day when I stopped by the traffic lights again on my way back, my eyes kept searching for that child but she was nowhere in sight. What had happened to her? And most importantly…

What had happened to me?

 

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!

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