Why men don’t marry the woman they struggle with

Unhappy couple

Enduring relationships are based on clearly knowing each other’s dreams and aspirations.

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If everything goes according to plan, I should be getting married in a few years. Nataka mniombee. This is not something I have thought about actively, but it shall be pressed upon me, much like taxes, much like my gender.

Prevailing conditions make it untenable for me to live alone. I hosted a shindig at my place this weekend, and I kid you not, this was the first time my refrigerator was this full. I didn’t even know that my oven has a timer and that you can use electric plates to make tolerable, if not sufferable ugali. Someone’s daughters scrubbed my kitchen sink so clean, I have postponed buying a mirror.

Apparently, it’s public knowledge that lemon is not just a fruit but also a cleaning agent. And that you can use your pillow not just for your head, but also your tummy to elevate the nini during nini—but this is a family newspaper and my mother expects me in church this Sunday and you know what I mean.

How do women know all this stuff? These are not the reasons I will get married but the reasons I will stay married.

Since campus, I have what? One close friend who got married, but that marriage lasted as long as the lifespan of a Gengetone’s rapper music career, so that’s probably not a good example.

The rest have just taken custody of people’s daughters, promising one day to put a ring on it, but that hasn’t stopped them from milking the cow, appropriating resources, and buying extra pillows to elevate the nini during nini, if you catch my drift. I don’t think this says good things about me.

I have a theory that these men are unlikely to end up marrying these women because said women remind them of their struggles.

They started together in the trenches, from a bedsitter in Roysambu, through the odd jobs in Githurai, through the trying traffic jams of Thika Road, but God has been good and now they crossed over from that side of Tom Mboya Street to this side of Moi Avenue, moving from Kanairo to NBO.

Things are looking up. But every time the man turns, and looks at his woman, he sees the struggle. Aluta continua. Which is why he won’t marry her. She is a reminder of where he has come from, not necessarily where he is going.

Hear me out: The woman you struggle with is not automatically the one you thrive with. The scars of the struggle condemn her – she is too masculine, a tad aggressive, extra chirpy. Because as every man knows, to dig yourself out of the trenches, you become the shovel itself. In the trenches, there is no time for feelings. Hapa kazi tu. Please do not pretend to not know what I am talking about.

See, when you finally make it out of the hood, sometimes, the woman fails to lose these aggressive qualities.

They are ingrained in her, battle scars. But men want a girly woman, not a softer man. Feminine, not feminist.

A trophy, a symbol that you made it, like the President with his friendly jet. I mean, look at how the President switched up on us. He campaigned on a hustler’s narrative, and made his bones through sheer shrewdness, but when he got what he wanted, he moved to his glitzy friends, those who can “pay” for his jet. Campaigning, cajoling, convincing…it was all pure theatre, a rugged and risky masculine burlesque.

If I am correct about this, which I am, then the explanation for men not marrying the women they struggle with is the same as for women marrying successful men.

The pretty girl is a representation of where the man can go. And for the girl? Who doesn’t know that a woman’s greatest perfume is the fragrance of her man’s success? I am a man; I know these things. When the alligator comes out of the water and tells you the crocodile is sick, do you doubt him?

Granted, some people marry their childhood sweethearts. I know several. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Now that you made it, now that life is good, we want a bad bi---, a “loved one”, the kind of girl who says goodbye in the rain, this is the law of reciprocity. What goes up, must come down.

That’s why you will see men with a 20-something pretty young thing with a stomach flatter than my mother’s chopping board, those girls who speak with a vocal fry and can pull off any accent; the ones who think Roysambu sounds like the name of a rare armpit disease. (Apropos, there is nothing good that comes from Roysambu—there are no baddies in Roysambu, just girls with bad manners.)

Is this why marriage works? Maybe not. But it’s another reason it’s an attractive prospect, that there can still be a day for the underdog, that the hero gets the girl in the end. It’s coda to all the hours you put in the work, and this is relationship champagne over here. It sounds offensive, rude even, but the truth is an axe that breaks the mind free. The girl you struggle with reminds you of where you’ve come from, the girl you thrive with reminds you of where you could go.

This is the bottomless gulf between what we publicly admire and secretly desire, between what we say we want and what we actually want, between the people we marry and the people we love. So that time when she comes from Turkey with more pillows, and that night when her body still looks slim and her nyash’s still nyashing and girlish and she puts the pillow from Turkey under her tum-my to elevate the nini during nini—you feel ripe with tenderness and rich with love and feel 28 again and thank God you worked this hard.

At that moment you wife this girl, this trophy that reminds you of where you could go, this symbol of success, because this is the only reason most men do not marry the girls they struggle with.