Babaa

She stands there, with the mic on her hand precariously close to her mouth, making OCD people in the room get instant fevers and the shakes as they think of all the germs on the mic’s head – and this was before a short man with a conical rice-hat ate a bat in Wuhan.

Her headgear is higher than Kenya’s loans and more colourful than a butterfly farm in autumn. She’s wearing a kitenge outfit that she picked from the tailor this morning, although he had sworn by his great-grandfather’s grave that it’d be ready a week to the wedding. Tailors will be assigned the toilet duty in heaven if they manage to fool St. Peter at the gate.

The dress has loose threads under the arms – which is now giving the OCD people a fit. But, it’s still shining in its newness like a freshly roofed house. Unfortunately, it’s also now slightly creased from behind, like it’s showing people the paradox that’s life – new, shiny, but creased. If this dress were human, it’d be a philosopher. Or a jilted lover who instantly becomes a motivational speaker.

She has terrible English, but no one cares because she seems to have sound advice and eloquence. She’s communicating in English because the people from Nairobi don’t know the local language, even though they were in her nursery school class in 1987 and they learned mother-tongue as a subject. Good grammar is overrated; it’s not a mark of intelligence. Ask Kiraitu.  

She’s here to dish out the collective advice that all aunties have agreed upon, the pillars on which to build the newlywed’s marriage:

  1. Don’t touch his phone.
  2. Marriage ni kuvumiliana.
  3. Don’t touch his phone.

Everyone agrees, especially the clueless newest goat-wife in town. It’s trash advice; if you ask me, no one asks me, so I will not say it. However, someone recently asked me what I struggle with as a ‘young’ married woman. I don’t know about ‘young’, because, after almost eight years and a secret bank account later, I’m still a ‘young’ wife?

I should have told her that one of my greatest struggles is having to walk on unspoken eggshells because ‘society’ has placed me atop a ‘privileged and jealous’ branch. Some decisions (and some eye-rolls) are often judged through the “she doesn’t want her husband to be snatched” lens. Granted, many married women have subjected many people, especially single women, through the husband-snatching mud-tracks. This concept baffles me because he’s not a grain of rice on the ground.

He’s a grown man with a responsibility to himself and God. I couldn’t keep him straight if I tried unless I swallowed him and kept him inside my stomach. Also, I’m from Chuka, and we, the Ameru, are famed for producing knives from our handbags when the need arises. That skill hasn’t been tested yet.

I don’t like live-in house helps. I love my space a little too much; I like having the freedom to think and walk around the house naked when the kids are in school. I also work from home, and I’m sure I’d be sucking the life and freedom out of the poor help. But I have been told, more than once, that the reason I don’t have a live-in house help is that I don’t want my husband to be snatched. Pass me the beer… sorry, the coffee mug, please.

Today I woke up remembering a story that happened several years ago. I had a ‘friend’ – and I use that term loosely, more loosely than dysentery stool. This ‘friend’ always made sure to tell me anytime goat husband even looked her way with a smile. Let’s call her Flo.

We didn’t own a car then, but she said he told her that one of them would buy a car first, and they’ll be carpooling. Soon after, we bought our first car – a tiny, lovely Nissan March that looked more like a kitten to me than a car. And I loved it as I would have loved a kitten if I ever had one. But I’ll never own a kitten because I’m done collecting poop. Because we keep our promises, we carried Flo one time in the car, me at the front eat like the queen bee I am, her at the back. We passed by rough terrain, and she leaned over the driver’s seat and started giving instructions.

“Babaa, don’t pass by there.”

“Babaa, this side is better; pass by here, babaa.”

“Babaa, check the other side….”

“Babaa …”

She was bleating right above my neck, and every minute, the ‘Babaa” was getting on my nerves. I was so close to gagging, but I didn’t want to pay for a car wash later.  

So I leaned back and asked, “Why do you call him ‘Babaa?”

She mumbled something but unfortunately, I have no poker face, so I guess my face wasn’t looking like I had won a lottery. She slithered back to her seat and stopped giving Babaa instructions as he drove. He was also displeased with the instructing, but he’s godlier than I am. I do the dirty work for him; he’s a people pleaser; I have no problem holding a mirror up to someone. After that, she never spoke to me again. I don’t know how that story fits in this story.

Don’t touch his phone.

We have no phone secrets. Of course, I understand that may also mean that incriminating texts are promptly deleted, and text and calls history sanitised. Chances are very high that I actually typed most of the texts you have received from his phone. But making a phone look like a nuclear bomb secret code causes more strife than openness. Don’t touch a phone is saying, he’s gonna cheat, and it’s best of you don’t find out.

I have a friend, who’d jokingly reply with, “Is this wife or husband texting’, because she knew we do that. If you send a text, we’ll both see it. Someone said spouses are the greatest gossipers. I’m neither confirming nor denying that statement. I plead the fifth. I also don’t understand how I’d have free access to his body but not his phone.

The phone is a non-issue. If there were one piece of advice I’d have loved to be given on the day I walked away with stars in my eyes, it’d have been not to care much what the outside opinion is. To constantly strive not to tell my friends and relatives of his faults because that becomes a permanent lens for them, long after we’ve patched our differences.

To always have his back and be in his corner. Do not fret about the small stuff because you’ll die of frustration. To always be ready to throw the clothes in the laundry basket because they always stop one inch away from the basket. (Edit: I was ranting this morning about the clothes that constantly miss the laundry basket, so throw this point out.)

I should have written a list of my expectations on a piece of paper, and when I’m done, torn it and chewed it because it’s the primary ingredient for stomach ulcers. The probability of your spouse meeting your expectations or making you happy all the time is 0. Find your happy pot and fill it yourself, then you can have enough happiness to share.

I’d today tell the young bride-to-be to know that everyone speaks through the sieve of their own experiences in marriage. There’s little objectivity in marriage advice. Everyone speaks of what is happening in their homes. Listen to advice with a fine filter, and retain what’s working for you.

Marriages are failing. Marriages are struggling. But marriages are also working. Marriages are onions; there are so many layers that you can’t judge the happiness or lack of it on one layer. Planes fly, and sometimes, planes crash, but we only hear about the ones that crash.

Don’t touch his phone. Sanitize it first.

7 thoughts on “Babaa

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