LIFE

TO BE A WOMAN (II)

Growing up surrounded by numerous (XY) chromosomes meant I did not feel the rush to be romantically involved with anyone till I was 18 (much to the disappointment of many). This could also be attributed to the fact that my parents are strict and unlike my brothers, I was always afraid of getting caught. I eventually had my first relationship and it was sweet and innocent for the most part 🙂 but like everything else it came to an end. Now younger me was quite fortunate, the men around me were most often around to make sure I was protected, they always did it no matter how irritating it would be. My 13 year old self would be nervously talking to a boy when my older brother decides to pop up ‘to get something from me‘ or my younger brother screams my name from the balcony. More often than not though, they had been sent by the Mzee. They were always there, until they couldn’t be.

I am the daughter of a man who is more traditional than most; This means that there were certain topics he could not dare bring up with me, boys being one of them. However, the Sunday after I finished my high school exams he brought it up without me realising it. He took it upon himself to warn me of how dangerous men can be…

‘When you go out here are some rules to follow always…

  1. Buy your own drinks
  2. If anyone offers to buy you a drink, make sure it is opened in front of your eyes
  3. If you leave your drink to go to the toilet, don’t bother with it once you come back… buy another one
  4. Do not leave anyone with your drink, carry it with you if you can even to the dance floor.
  5. When you’re going out even if its during the day, make sure you have enough money to settle your half of the bill. Never rely on any man’

You see, what most boys don’t understand is that part of the reason I tend to be picky with who I decide to get involved with is because his words are always ringing in my head. The minute I sense something is off with a guy, thats the end of the road… The unfortunate part about growing up though, is that there is no blueprint to life. Those who care enough can give us advice but most times it is only experience that will teach you a lesson. No matter how good you are, or how much you try to keep yourself safe.

I went into university with the words from my father constantly ringing in my ear anytime I went out. Obviously due to society’s tendency to victim blame, I also make sure that I am dressed appropriately enough for the event but not to the extent that I would encourage a man to approach me. From experience though, men will always grab whoever they like no matter what they are dressed in. In fact, refusing their advances or fighting back will only lead you into more trouble. Being told no, is like a hot slap to their face, it angers them and the one way they know how to take care of their bruised ego is to retaliate; either through words or actions. Let me introduce you to three different guys I have have met.

  1. The Nice Guy/ Gentleman:  I met him during my first year of University. To me, he was only ever going to be a friend, but he saw things in a different light. We met outside my accommodation the first time, then the next was inside a club. We began talking and it was strictly on friendly basis, until two weeks later he messaged me saying ‘You know I like you‘. It came as a shock so all I could think of replying was ‘Uh, thank you‘. As can be expected, he didn’t take that too well and the conversation turned a bit nasty. He later apologised and we tried going back to how things were. Unfortunately he was good friends with my flatmate and was over pretty much all the time. He eventually managed to get a kiss during a party, but that only served to make it clear for me that I was not at all attracted to him. I gently broke it down to him the next day and he seemed to take it well until he didn’t. Messages came flooding  in, filled with insults. He called me a user and said that he had put off so much time from his final project and topped it off by saying that he only wanted to treat me like a queen . He would later tell me as he apologised, that back home, he never had to try so hard to get a woman’s attention and that I frustrated him to the point he couldn’t hold back the insults. I had to make it clear that we are from two different countries and that he would need to respect me as a person, before eventually discontinuing conversation with him.

 

2. The Rich Guy/ Arrogant: This is by far the worst kind of guy I’ve met. In addition to descending from a highly misogynistic culture, his access to the amount of funds he ‘accidentally‘ mentioned one day makes him feel entitled and therefore expects everything to go his way. He got frustrated because he tried it with me, threw hints my way, offered to buy me and my friends as many drinks as we wanted but nothing was working. What he didn’t know is that my father has always ensured I understand the importance of being independent from any man. Defeated he tried the I love you card one night and proceeded to break down into tears claiming I hurt him so much (we barely talked though). Fed up, he resorted to try take my power from me buy forcing himself on me. It was a struggle I won’t lie, but fortunately he failed miserably. Unfortunately, his assault broke a huge part of me that I am still trying to recover from. Despite his numerous messages begging for forgiveness and still claiming his love for me,  we don’t talk/ associate anymore.

 

3. The Unusual one: I’ll stick with this title for lack of a more suitable description. See I’ve never met this guy before. He saw me on my friend’s Snapchat post, three years ago and decided he likes me. I’m really strict with who I allow to follow me on Snapchat, but after constantly pestering my friend for my number I allowed her to give him my username. He followed me but didn’t talk to me for a good number of months and I seemingly forgot about him up until I posted a book I was reading and he commented on it. He seemed interesting and so we began talking. It was on neutral ground so I didn’t see a reason to keep my guards up. I travelled and was cut off from the world for a month and our conversation inevitably died. He knew when I was back in Kenya, we had a brief conversation through my friend’s phone, but never actually met. So why then did he feel the need to call me at 3:00 a.m on New Years day to tell me that he loves me and wants us to be together? Thank God for bad network that day because I honestly have no idea what I would have said. When we had a proper conversation later, I told him that I don’t get into a relationship with someone I’ve never met and barely know, a comment which he took to heart because according to him ‘we had spoken enough for me to know him‘ and he added that ‘a relationship is the best way to get to know someone‘. I was adamant and he did’t like it, so to try persuade me he began sending messages that pointed the fact that two people are better together and can achieve much more than a single person. He went on to say that he had to see me soon, tried to convince me to get a plane ticket home and even offered to buy it for me because I was perfect for him. When he later found out that I was seeing someone, he became emotional saying he had tried to befriend me because he wanted me. My lack of responses to his messages after, had him trying to get my attention on all social media platforms. I eventually had enough and let him know. His response was emotional blackmail , claiming I looked down on him and that’s wrong because I don’t know how much he will achieve in future… Safe to say I don’t bother with him anymore, even when he tries messaging me.

I unfortunately had to painfully discover that men tend to be the same, they just have different ways of showing it. Had I been told this before? Yes. But as I said sometimes you just have to experience something for it to actually stick. These three examples I’ve shared are all the same. They couldn’t accept rejection and so they tried to hurt me in their own way, through words or actions. They had to make me suffer for a decision I made that was contrary to what they wanted.

Being a woman is a terribly difficult task since it consists principally in dealing with men’

 

 

 

 

 

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LIFE

TO BE A WOMAN (I)

Growing up, I was surrounded by men; The only girl in my family and 1/3 of female grandchildren out of a total of 15. With my mum constantly travelling for work, I was left under the care of my father and older brother. It therefore came as no surprise that I developed some behaviours that normally would be associated with the male species. I was very competitive and at times violent (Possibly due to the wrestling we’d watch together). My behaviour was very similar to those of my brothers from mode of dress to eating habits to what I considered fun…like jumping out of a moving car

However, I did not always ‘fit in with the boys’ considering the fact that I grew up in an African country. Family functions would always serve to remind me of my place in society… the kitchen, or serving men. It always happened that after arriving at the event and greeting the early guests, I was sent into the kitchen to ‘find some duties to do’ (yet most times my aunties would send me out of the kitchen), while my brothers and cousins sat down and socialised or even began eating whatever food was ready. I was always caught between the two sides but I could never let frustration get the better of me least I risked embarrassing my father’s name and so most times I would end up washing the hands of the guests which I actually did not mind since most came up with interesting stories most about my dad as a teenager.

Further division took place with the actual meal. According to tradition, there are specific parts of a goat reserved for either gender for example the back part is for men who are required to eat it clean and then pierce it. For women, the kidneys. My father’s younger brother, Uncle Kimani, never failed to bring me the kidneys of the goat that had lost its life to satisfy the tongues of the clan. As I sit here writing this, I can hear him shout for me from the grill where all men stood tasting the meat as it was being prepared ‘Wambui! come!’ (sometimes he’d track me down wherever I was). I always expected it and he never failed regardless of the location woe unto me if more than one goat had been slaughtered.

Don’t get me wrong, culture is a beautiful thing, it is what determines our perception of reality and hence it differs across regions, countries and continents. I love certain aspects of my culture, the ruracio ceremony, the clothes, the language.. its all simple amazing but not perfect. This has been said before my the strong women in society but what harm does it do to ask it again? How can a culture so beautiful have so much disregard for women? Why is it that we are only noticed when labour is required, men are hungry or want to please themselves? It is a known fact that African culture bends over backwards in favour of the man child and despite there being changes in society, this characteristic is inherent in us so much so that should my brothers happen to make a mess in the house, I will be called from wherever I am to clean it up because I am a woman.

I used to be a firm believer in culture and the methods my parents used to raise us. I knew that when I did, by God’s grace, get the chance to raise my own family it would be in the same manner albeit with some modifications. Can you blame me though? I was ignorant having grown up and educated in an institution that is so close-minded that it teaches young girls to carry themselves in a way that avoid temptation of men and that exposing your shoulders regardless of the weather is not right in the eye’s of God. An institution that makes you believe you should stick it out with your husband even when things are bad and that women should not play football. On the other hand, men are taught that they are providers for the family and that they should protect and guard their family name. They are taught that women should be submissive to them and that is where the problem lies. It creates this ‘whatever I say goes’ mentality in their head from which stem a lot of problems. It makes them disregard the feelings of the women in society unless of course its their mother, sister, daughter or close relative (and this isn’t even always the case) and worse blind them to the fact that women are people as well.

Now all this may have worked pre-colonial era its all that they knew and it kept the society in harmony, but it cannot work now. The internet, International Business and cultural exchange have led to globalisation. We have and are increasingly becoming a global village, people are more educated and we are no longer (for the most part) embracing collectivism. So in as much as increased interaction with foreign cultures might make us cling harder to our own own, we must accept the fact that certain aspects of it must be left with our ancestors. Continuation of this culture can be through the languages, the food, the stories, the rites and rituals (some of them).

Having had the chance to experience more than one foreign culture has taught me one fundamental lesson; change will happen whether you like it or not, that does not mean we strive to fit in with everyone else. Instead, we should accept the change as it happens and adjust accordingly.

 

 

P.S/

I am still fundraising for Wezesha Binti to keep 100 young girls in school in Busia County, Kenya. To read more follow the link: FUNDRAISING FOR WEZESHA BINTI

To donate:

GoFundMe Page: Empower Girls through Wezesha Binti

M-Changa (for M-Pesa/ Airtel money) donations: Empower Girls through Wezesha Binti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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