Sex. Begin any topic on the exchange of body fluids and see how passionately opinionated Kenyans get. I have written about HIV and the counties with high prevalence and I get questions like “you mean to say we have more sex than others?” Do you see how fast Catholics oppose polio vaccine when they imagine it will stop women from giving birth? Don’t look at me like that! I know what day it is. It is… you will read this on Monday even though I am writing it on Sunday and scheduling it on my blog. I am certain you must have borne this subject in the morning radio shows. You know I should have just developed a deep baritone and joined radio and after a few failed singing competitions and nude pictures—my godfather who is a pastor would have a heart attack so I won’t do that— I would be a “relationship coach”. This is Kenya, you can be anything you want, including a “marriage counsellor/coach” … with no standing marriage or raised children.
How are you, reader? How unAfrican of me. How can I begin talking to y’all without greeting? I missed y’all. While we are at the pleasantries, I would like to flaunt my very “mature” boubou dress. My very own design, tailored by my buddy Sally.
I could pass for pastor/prophetess Verah right now, right? You know, I derive so much joy in being African. How else would I wear that on my sleeve if I don’t wear tribal outfits?
Let us get back to our topic. At 28—God I am aging fast— a Kenyan woman is forced to think about sex for two reasons: one, where she falls in this “sponsor” debate… like is she using her sexual organ to get herself the high life? Or two, why she has not gotten a man who will have sex with her every day for the rest of her life with whom she can make babies. I am not worried about the first option because try as I may, I have not mastered the art of getting morsels of their time. I am an artiste, a sentimental neurotic clingy bastard. There are days I wake up dressed like a Goth queen and sing along Bon Jovi’s You give Love a bad name word by word. The following day, I would be Prof Kairuki the microbiologist telling you in detail how the Tuberculosis bacterium has mutated to become drug resistant. I mean you get to have free entertainment watching me switch from one to the other of the 500 personalities that live within me. No, you do not get to meet women like me. So you either love me devotedly and obsessively or you get sublime into oblivion.
Now the second one. This is really creasing my brow. When my age mates are marrying right and centre, women my age are tired of hearing questions like “When are you naming someone after me?”, “Where is our in-law?”. Nobody ever asks us when the master’s degree is coming? The mark of a successful woman in Kenya is the one who is getting married, even to a bohemian savage. Be a graduate with dreadlocks like me with a few tattoos on your body and ride bike to work like me and you will hear statements like “She smokes weed”.
Before we get into the reason why I find the pressure to marry downright annoying, let me stop with the emotional bastardy and wear my objective hat of a journalist. Take my hand, let us take a walk through my mind. There are no official statistics, at least none that I know of, but the rate of separations and divorce are at an all-time high in Kenya as is globally. Professional counsellors tell me so. It would be difficult to explain the tragedy of a broken marriage because we are a society that has clichéd anecdotal quotes and remedies for everything. “Take the high road, change your wardrobe, work out and you will feel new”… and other shallow pieces of advice you will hear being told to men and women hurting from a broken union. Go to YouTube and there will be some cheesy video on “How to forget your ex in 5 seconds”.
You have heard break ups of long term relationships being described as ‘devastating, painful”. Here is something about pain. It is hard to describe a positive emotion, such as happiness or lack thereof, when you are happy. I have fallen in love once—or twice…? — And when in that state, I was busy loving and being loved I couldn’t write any song about love. When all went awry, I took my bleeding heart, placed it on my hand and analysed from all angles and put those thoughts into a memoir. So unless you have gone through it, you cannot possibly know a thing about divorce. It is all personal and unique it makes you emotionally, and sometimes physically, sick
Then there is a very interesting statistic that nobody has come across: the divorce is alarmingly high between age 25 and 30. Let me tell you why. My age mates know what they want in their “ever after”, the A to Z but have not the slightest clue about the B-to-Y of that process. We are told of the happily after. We are not informed of how saying “I do” is the beginning of another complex process of trying to fall in love with and normalize annoying behaviour like the snoring, lip smacking of a grown ass human being. The thought of a snoring husband…let me get on my knees and pray harder. The society pushes women to marriages when they, and the men they are going to marry, may be at the point where they base everything on fairy tale promises. Marriage is made in Heaven and by God, you say. So is thunder and lightning. You pray about it, they tell me. No amount of praying will fix a wrong choice of a partner.
I heard in one of those many Ted Talks I tune to that one of the greatest battles we fight as a human being is with our egos. You make peace with it either by having a sense of grandiosity (superiority complex) or an unhealthy modesty (inferiority complex). The society wrongly interprets superiority complex as boldness and inferiority complex as humility yet these are people who are so affected by what the world thinks about them. We should instead celebrate the one who falls in the middle, a man or woman who is independent enough to resist the obsessive clutch of the world which tries to fit you into a box when we are all different. This person is the one who will have mastered the three traits that psychologist and researcher Joanne Davilla spoke about: Insight, an awareness of who you are, why you act the way you do and what emotional and spiritual needs you have in a relationship; mutuality, the ability to know that the other human being has needs too; and emotional regulation, which is the strength to weather very difficult situations like a grown person…say a break up.
So stop with the pressure. When we bow down to it, women marry men they are not compatible with and the two end up destroying each other. It gets messy when there are children involved. You know if you give a 10 year old man a shaver, they will hurt themselves. Give it to them at 30 they will find it useful. Allow people to grow. There are women who will find love in men who earn little than they do, or are disabled. There are men who will find love in women who are older than them, or from a different race. It will look so socially disjointed but they will be so happy and fulfilled. Yes, I will marry and have sex when I want.