From the outside looking in

Men and their househelps

I am no expert when it comes to matters to do with men. That is because I am as female as they come; emotions in the truckload with erratic mood swings to boot. Through this body, pregnancies have been carried, oestrogen has had the chance (and grabbed it) to flare up, morning sickness has been nursed and children have been birthed. So here I stand; all hips, boobs, hair, nails and soft skin. As female as they come.

Be that as it may, I interact with men all the time. I interact with you when I wait for a bus to take me to work in the morning and you ask me to “Jaza gari tuende madam!” – because tafadhali does not exist in your vocabulary? I interact with you when the heel of my shoe breaks (maybe because of the furious hip-swaying that goes on for your benefit), and I come to you to fix it. If you’re busy brushing other people’s shoes, I wait my turn as I perch one leg awkwardly at the foot of your stool. I interact with you in the office. I sip my drink across from you at the local bar, sleep beside you at night, sit next to you in church on Sundays and next to you in that matatu that I was asked to jaza. Heck, I sometimes drive alongside you in this Nairobi traffic – you cursing at matatus, me hiding my amusement at how other road users get to you so easily.

Consider me to be that woman who finding the door to the man’s world closed, perches her delicate frame on a ladder, stretches her slender neck to catch a glimpse of his world through a tiny window. I am that woman leaning precariously against the wall in a bid to catch a peek into the man’s world (plus all the muscle and testosterone eish!) and I am trying not to fall and break any of my feeble bones in the process.

I am on the outside, looking into your world. And what do I see?

Let’s first assume that the ladder holds my weight long enough and that I get to listen in to your conversations. Let’s imagine that I don’t fall down and hit my head and pass out. Let’s stretch our imagination further and pretend that my athletic skills are up there like those of a Kalenjin (ahem!) and that I don’t get tired of hanging onto that wall.

I get to see you in your element. What do you think I see if I just stood there and observed you for a while? If I was to really take a minute to really see you like I have never seen you before, will I finally get to see your fears? Will I understand your challenges? Your hardships? Your confusion – sorry, I should ask, are you confused? Would you want to talk about it? Of course not? Of course not.

Will I see a man who is tired? A man who doesn’t understand anymore what it means to be a man? Are you so tired that you simply stopped trying to be one? Will I finally get to understand why you stopped trying to be husbands to your wives and fathers to your children?

Because you really did stop trying.

I will share with you a funny story.

So a friend and I were talking right? Quickly, our conversation turned to our neighbor who had a scandal recently. This man was caught in bed with the househelp – now that I think about it, it really isn’t a funny story. A marriage was ending – a tragedy really.

My friend and I took the role of Dr.Phil, Oprah and Wendy Williams combined. We had the sound advice, the venting (on behalf of the scorned wife) and the gossip flowed juicily from our lips like you have no idea! We tried to dissect what was ailing our neighbor’s marriage. And after that, we tried to understand why a man would sleep with the help when he has such a beautiful, very beautiful wife!

Our discourse went on for a while where we had a million questions with equivalent answers to everything. We called you dogs, ungrateful bastards, selfish idiots without a conscience…there was no stopping us. At some point we threw in some excuses for you – this is as good a time as any to divulge that we might have imbibed a few glasses of something – so yeah, can you believe we came up with excuses for you? Yes. Wife works late, goes to school, is hardly ever home, too tired to do bedroom stuff…you know. Her plate is so full that she has no time to check what the husband is eating on his plate…

And then she said it. My friend said it and it all seemed to make sense: It’s not just because the wife is too busy to play wife. It is also because the househelp is attractive to the man.

I know! To imagine I thought I knew what she was drinking!

She explained that men still cling onto the notion that a wife should be the woman who stays at home, takes care of his children, cooks for him, keeps the house clean… guess who fits into those roles now. The househelp. He is attracted to her because she is playing wife in a way that makes sense to the man.

Unlike your wife, the househelp thinks you are the shit. She doesn’t talk back to you because she reveres you. Never asks you to ‘Get lost!’ when you are insufferable. She does not have a valid argument to contradict everything you say and she does not believe that you are equals?

What ails you man? Do you desire that woman; that stay-at-home, docile, uneducated, unambitious woman? When you fall asleep beside your wife, do you wish she did not know so much, had not travelled as much, and did not demand so much from life and from you? In the dark corners of your mind, do you sometimes wish she would go back to being that inferior being if for no other reason, so that you can be allowed to enjoy your superiority in peace?

Are we too much for you to handle? Do we expect too much from you?

As I peep into your world, will I finally get to see your exasperation? Better yet, will I understand it?

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