It is now almost evident that I have come of age. Age to get married. Not that it is your business to know, but I say so because there are forces involved in this affair, forces with seemingly good but destructive agenda. In this regard, I have been put in a tight position, bearing little or no disposition of choosing who I want to marry.
There are personal ideals that everyone endows when it comes to specific issues, especially on affairs touching one’s feelings, emotions and heart. We all cherish certain ideals. And we hope that we get to live by them because they’re, perhaps, our greatest dreams. Some would like to get married to a tall dark, handsome man. Some want to marry a tall, brown girl with nice legs. Others just want some slim girl to rock their boat of life with. Meaning that we all treasure some dreams that we hope to achieve, dreams that serve as fantasy, yet can, in the ideal way, be realized. These are dreams we hope that none will tamper with because only us know what we want when it comes to them.
Page 27 of my book “My Life In Pieces” reads, and I quote, “…. parents that raised us with stereotypes such as not to marry Kikuyu women. If anything, you were allowed to make any kind of mistake, but marrying a Kikuyu woman was at the epitome of all the mistakes, one the community couldn’t forgive you for. It puzzled me, this fact. At least each boy growing up from the Kisii community had been told of this, that he should never marry from the Kikuyu. The Kikuyu women were ill-praised for their lack of wifely characteristics, considered to be affectionate to money and grandeur, lacking the skills to raise a family. They had been rumoured to kill their husbands and run away with the husbands’ fortunes. In other instances, conspiring with gangsters to steal from their husbands, maim or even kill them.
In our community, the family unit is one of the strongest fundamentals espoused. The family is everything. Every child born is brought up to love family and end up in a family set up. Marriage, therefore, is one of the things that people look up to more than anything. A young man growing up thinks of having and raising a family of his own when he comes of age, which could fall anywhere between 18-25 years. And since Kikuyu women are not considered to be great home makers, you’re advised highly to steer away from them at any cost. So you grew up with the disposition that however beautiful the Kikuyu women can be, most are, it is a no go zone. You just looked them as if gauging them against what you had been told, to confirm your ideas about them. Since the idea of these women being bad has been cemented in you for so long, you happen to carry it with you for almost your entire life, unless you have change of perspective along the way…”
We grow up in societies that teach us certain values, some wrong, some good. And we are shaped to fit into these ideals, most of which we have nil knowledge about, without thorough examination. The art of conformity will always continue as long as there is culture. It can be limiting, and preciously, it can be the difference between living and existing.
My pops called a few days ago. We don’t talk much on telephone as this sounds like an unnatural phenomenon to both of us- it was never cultured in us as we grew old. We hardly talked about anything. If we did, he was asking questions about the cows or school, and I answering the queries to the best of my knowledge, choosing my words carefully to avoid a whooping. The next time we talked would be about me needing money for certain needs at school.
And when I left the village for schools in the big cities, we even grew more apart. I became the boy who talked less. Less and less. Eventually, I would become the quiet boy. I’ve grown to be a quiet person. There is a myriad of reasons why I talk less: to preserve energy, to listen to my thoughts, to avoid saying things I might regret, to listen to others and learn from them, to rest my brain, to entertain myself.
So when I interact with people, I try to gauge their conversational abilities in the first few seconds. If they’re talkative, I talk too. If they love silence, I appreciate that too. I prefer smaller crowds to throngs of people. I get bored quickly and chuck out to go enjoy my silence. In a smaller group, I can tell stories and enjoy banters.
I love meeting new people. Reason being that I am a writer and they get to ask me questions about what I write about. And as an asshole as I can be, I get to be the driver of the tides of the conversations. I can be quite interesting.
The pressure to get married comes from all corners. It might not be direct but it oozes out of all the conversations you have with your people. They get to throw in some pointers, though indirect, that suggest that you’re not getting any younger. My dad happens to be one of those who have started prepping me for this cycle. As I have come to realize, this pressure is inevitable. These people were pressured to enter into marriages during their time, and they now feel that they have the responsibility to pressure you into one. The truth is that it is not their responsibility. They have no authority to tell you when and who to marry. Their only role is to support you when you decide to get married.
My dad has other ideas. He suggested to me that I should not marry from the Agikuyu or Luhya communities. I was baffled, to be honest. Such words to come out of a man I so greatly admire sounded unbelievable. I bellowed at the thought of it. I’d have liked to see the reaction on his face when I laughed. Was he disappointed? I don’t know. But I was disappointed.
His intentions might have been outright and well-meaning. I don’t deny that he has my best interests at heart. I just feel that this is a decision only I can make. And I’d have loved to solely be the autonomous chairperson to sign that deal for myself as I am a one-man camp. He took that away from me. He took a spear and pierced my honour’s armour. Now I am left to think more than I should.
It is not hard to imagine that if I get married to a kiuk or luyha she’ll not be welcome in our home. That thought terrifies me. I never imagined that someone could squeeze me into their game plan when it came to my time to marry. I always thought that I’ll marry whoever I want. Now it seems that phrase has lost its meaning. It carries no weight.
His intervention has placed my plans in jeopardy. Almost all of my girlfriends have been kiuks. I have never belittled other people or categorized them in tribal terms. I happen to be an open-minded folk. I have worked so hard to achieve this status, and now I’m being forced to relearn it, to confiscate my ideals for another man’s dreams.
When it comes to marriage, I prefer to be free of coercion, inhibitors, or suppression from anyone because this is my decision to make. If I am going to marry, I am not going to marry for anybody, it will be my burden or joy, for me to live by and run the best way I can. I deserve that. Everyone deserves to marry whoever they want.
I often pity some of my age mates who were led to believe that women from particular cultures or tribes are not good wife materials, and they abandoned great women because they were from tribes that their folks didn’t approve of, only to marry people they didn’t desire, ending up in miserable marriages.
I prefer to rise above commonalities and simple minds; to be my own man, as I’ve always been. There’s more to be yourself than there is to be anyone. I don’t know if that makes sense. But here is my view: that I should be able to the best person I can, not for others, but for myself. That way, I’ll know how to handle people’s expectations without losing my head.
Marriage is not a communal thing. It is a union between two people who have, out of their will, chosen to be with each other because they fulfill one another’s desires in ways no one else can. That is my definition. That the two are together because they chose to.
Sadly, most of our parents are trying so hard to live their dreams through their kids. This has seen them force ideals that are neither worthy nor honourable down their kids’ throats. Some harbour regret for having failed to live their dreams, and now that it is late- they are using their kids as channels towards realizing their failed dreams. They, therefore, pressure these kids into situations that only make them miserable in the name of golden advice.
When my time comes to marry, I will marry who I want. I really don’t care if it is a Kikuyu or Luo or Luyha. I will want to be happily married to someone I choose. Someone who understands me when others don’t. Someone who tolerates my weakness, my pride, my scars. Someone who touches me in a way that makes me weak. Someone who looks me in the eyes and smiles at me. Someone who supports me. Someone I’ll want to see every day and never get bored.
And if it means that I’ll fall out with my folks for the rest of my life, so be it. But I’ll marry who I want.
This is the second last piece of this year.
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Where shall we go, we who wander in this wastelands in search of better selves?