The Letter That Stayed In My Purse
Can you hear the music playing?
That’s good music right there, won’t you agree?
The band is called Mafikizolo. The song playing at this moment is called Love Potion. The song that will play after this one is Ndihamba Nawe by the same band. When this song starts to play, the crowd will stand up and look towards the door expecting you to approach the altar. At the altar will stand a man that you love very much. He will be watching the back of the church like everyone else. Anticipating you. Watching you.
You are getting married today.
Can you hear the murmurs? The noise? The laughter of the small children who are impatiently running around wishing to be released to go outside and play? The singing women who are competing with your favorite band? All those people out there have come to spend today with you and Kibao, your husband-to-be. Mum and dad are out there waiting to walk you down that aisle. Your friends and a few of your extended family are all waiting. There’s sunshine. There’s no sign of rain. And only for today, that’s a good thing. You love the rain. But you know that.
There’s music. There’s smell of food. There’s a five-tiered cake too to look forward to! And then there’s smiles and laughter everywhere. And everyone’s looking sharp! Ankara fabrics are marking their territory. There’s happiness. That’s all you hear. And that’s all you feel.
And you haven’t been this happy before. If you have, you don’t remember. But this day, you will remember this one for a long time. You’ve asked your maid of honor to inform anybody who asks that you need ten minutes to yourself before you can walk down the aisle. They think you’re jotting down your vows. Truth is, your vows are already in your clutch purse. Writing them was so easy that you did it a week ago in under twenty minutes. Loving Kibao is not hard. Writing about his love is even easier. But you played along when they assumed that you needed to write your vows. Aketch said – that’s your maid of honor, Aketch – she said, “You forgot to write your vows, didn’t you?” You nodded. “Something like that. Just knock on the door in ten minutes. I will be done then.”
“Check on the girls in the meantime. Find out if Fiona has found her wristband,” you added, as you closed the door behind you. You placed your bouquet of flowers on the table and carefully spread out your gown before sitting on the couch. You took a deep breath, picked up the pad and pen from the table and started writing. All your bridesmaids are wearing fancy white wristbands to “tie in the colors to your gown,” your wedding planner had said. To which you responded, “If the girls are okay with it, who am I to say no?” Then she had started to suggest that you too wear a wristband in the color of the bridesmaids’ gowns, red, and that’s where you drew the line.
You are wearing a white gown and red stilettos. Stilettos that everyone objected to. They said you needed a more neutral color. Grey would be perfect. Or beige. Red shoes were not so bridey they said. But look at you now, rocking the red heels and looking good in them. You are ready to take that next step in your life. You don’t have cold feet or anything. Your feet are perfect. Your bouquet made of red and white tulips is perfect. Perfect just like your love. You are wearing no wrist band.
But first things first. Before you make your vows to your husband-to-be, make a vow to yourself first. Before you vow to love him and hold him and put him first and forsake all other men, promise to love yourself and to take care of yourself first.
Your love for him is indisputable. You will love him the best way you know how. You will build a life with him and have babies with him. Maybe three babies. Or maybe two. You put a pin on that decision the last time you talked about it with him. You vouched for two children, he suggested that three wouldn’t be so bad. But you figured, as long as both of you want children, you couldn’t possibly disagree about the number really.
Here is the bare truth. You couldn’t ask for a better man to marry. You couldn’t ask for a better life to live. He loves the music you love. And in your books, it’s really important that the man you marry loves the music you love. Otherwise, what will you two dance to? You should see you dancing. You have rhythm for days, don’t you? And the same rhythm is replicated in bed, isn’t it? He loves you deeply.
But who knows about tomorrow?
And that’s why we’re here. Because nobody knows about tomorrow. These are your last moments before you become Mrs. Kibao. You are marrying this man that you love. You love him so much that your heart aches. Go. Get married. Lean into the happiness. Lean into the love.
But don’t lose yourself. Don’t lose a pinch of yourself.
So if one day this marriage goes south as marriages are bound to go south, if Kibao changes for the worst as people are bound to change, if the love fades as love is bound to fade, if at one time you feel like you’re losing yourself and turning into someone you’re not, if it so happens that you stop getting the best of your husband because he is giving his best to someone else, this here is your reminder to cling onto yourself.
This is your reminder that you are strong. With or without Kibao. You are worthy of love and respect and should never settle for less. As much as you give love, you should make sure that you’re getting the same in return. Otherwise, what’s the point? Kibao is important, but you are importanter. Look, I made you smile.
You love Kibao. Never forget to love yourself too.
When the children come, it will fall upon you to show them what a strong woman looks like. That’s the only way they can draw from your strength to find their strength too. They will need to hear your strong voice in order to develop their own strong voices.
So when you feel like your voice is unheard, at any time if you realize that you’re losing your voice even by a decibel, let this letter remind you who you are.
You will not spend your nights crying into pillows. You will not spend any of your time shooing women away from Kibao. That’s his job. If he stops doing it, he will have failed you. You will not be a prop who only speaks when she’s spoken to. You will express yourself. Softly and loudly and however you feel will get you heard.
And when you start crying every night into your pillow, and he faces the other side unbothered, when you start feeling like you are speaking to a wall, it will behoove you to face the truth.
That you gave it your best. That you tried. That your best wasn’t enough to make it work.
This is your reminder that you have a choice.
Even if you love him still. Even if you’re afraid. Even if your family or your friends will disagree with you. When your gut tells you that it’s not working, when your days are made of endless tears and impenetrable darkness, when you cannot afford a smile for your own children because you cannot afford a smile, period, then honey, if it’s permission you seek, this is your permission granted. You can always leave.
It’s okay to want to be happy. Never feel guilty about that. Self-sacrifice is not a virtue. Nobody will give you an award for losing yourself to a man.
Don’t ever be afraid to choose yourself. Don’t ever be afraid to leave.
Now wipe your tears. Aketch just knocked on your door. Put your pen down. Keep this letter in your clutch purse and take out your vows. It’s time to go out there now. The DJ just switched the music. Pick up your bouquet and straighten your gown. Go on out there, beautiful. Go to your husband. Live your best life with him.
Marry the man. Have the cutest babies.
Love him. Love them.
Above all, love you.