What you need to know:
How do I even know when it's time to make a change, or if I just am in a valley waiting for another peak?
Full disclosure: Your boy here almost lost his back this weekend. Yeah. My spine was this close to snapping. You are wondering why, but before I tell you, I want you to know that women are actually physically stronger than they look. Especially the elderly citizens—the shoshos. They are the real Thanos.
Here’s why. We are at one of those mountain people’s weddings. This shosho, queueing behind me is pressing her spoon and digging into my spine with her nails. I am screaming and wondering if the pilau Njeri is really worth it. Wedding receptions are crazy man. Pilau ya harusi is the sweetest meal, yes, right after chai and bread ya matanga. But my spine is too heavy a price to pay, no?
How did I get here? An acquittance of mine is ditching the boys club and has decided to involve the government in his private affairs. He is 20-something. The venue is a great place at the edge of the city. I am wearing my Sunday best on a Saturday. We have come to zindi him as he bites the dust, and the missus finally ‘cuts off’ off his “bad influence” single friends. This is a date that has been burning a hole in my calendar since April, that as the weeks passed, I anticipated it first in hope, then in expectation, and now finally in a barely disguised longing. It’s a big deal. Soon, I’ll be the only unmarried sod in my circle. Yikes.
They look in love. I know the groom and his bride. They zig zag, and mesh together perfectly. The groom—a brooding introvert, and the bride, the beaming extrovert. The groom, a gnomic genius whose mind has tentacles in every venture, the bride, a motormouth with a velvet voice that carries you with her. She’s not a prima donna. He’s not an ego on a stick. Nairobi ghelsmay have ruined my idea of love, but I know a good deal when I see one.
I tend to sit at the front in weddings so I can witness the couple’s first (public) kiss, single out the hottest bridesmaid for further talks and, most crucially, keep an eye on the food. This is a habit that I picked—and perfected—from Bosco, our village dog. In life, you can never be too sure, ergonomics has it that the earlier the worm, the fatter the bird.
What feels certain though, is that something will break here, end here, one way or the other. I, however, remain unbowed, unmoored and unbwogable to the charms of marriage. Men of my age are famously restless. I don’t know if I have the grace to wake up to the same Grace’s face for 20 odd years. Yet we persist—out of a still-lambent sense of romance? Or a sheer lack of imagination? I’d be on tenterhooks, always looking for a better deal. For something. Someone. Somewhat. It’s the carapace of bachelorhood: people are either mercenaries or missionaries.
My kind doesn’t marry young. In our 20s, marriage is about as hot as shaving your head ‘box’. I see how my friends who got married in their 20s—especially my male friends—let themselves go. They have developed dad bods and lost all their youthful pastor swag. Is this it? I ask myself. Is this what it means to be married?
There is a lot of negotiation involved in marriage à la fate colliding with faith. If it works, it is thanks to the perseverance of the lady. If it doesn’t, it is because he—or those around him—must have lost faith. Like Peter jumping from the boat, marriage is a sea that is buoyed by faith; but it can also drown your identity, sink your individuality and submerge you. You are left with this coulda-been dangling in your shirt pocket, this doppelgänger, the person you might have been if you hadn’t seen the wind and walked on water. It’s nerve-wracking and could lead you to hit up one of those lawyers lying in Jeevanjee Gardens for a “Wakili, a quick one.”
Contrary to what the bookmarkers say, marriage is not the hottest ticket in town. But I see its allure—the polished sheen of two people moving as one, the lustre of a two-headed vaudeville act all married couples project in public. I mean, it does feel good to say, “Let me check with my wife,” “My husband and I will raincheck.” Sexy, no?
To tell you the truth, I am scared of marriage. Wallahi billahi. I’ve done the math in my head like a good catastrophising pagan, pardon the redundancy. Once I have won over my partner—or she has won me over—then what? Do we get children? Raise them? Then what? I’m too restless, too unsettled, too erratic, like an insistent tongue seeking out the sore tooth. I fear, a lot of my kind are too. I bore easily. I have no plans to commit emotional suttee.
And there is that looming shadow, that becoming too familiar with one another. How do I even know when it's time to make a change, or if I just am in a valley waiting for another peak? Where does that person who you used to be go? In life, (John) Updike wrote, “There are four forces: love, habit, time, and boredom. Love and habit at short range are immensely powerful, but time, lacking a minus charge, accumulates inexorably, and its brother boredom levels all.”
Bored to my wits end, and my hombre saying his wedding vows, I couldn’t help but grimace. That implied subtext, that fine print in the vows— “you are my everything”—that exaltation of the other is too high a price. I am a terrible conversationalist and for someone’s daughter to imagine that she has the whole package, however flattering, in me, is scary.
On account, it is a romantic high noon and an emotional gestalt in which it is easy to be found wanting. As relationships mature over the years, sometimes your soul is stuck in the past, in baby-girl-TV-romance —he loves me, he loves me not. Why isn’t it the same you wonder? This is not who I married; the accusations fly.
We weigh each other on scales, and begin to question whether what we ordered is actually what was delivered. It’s the power play of marriage, the tipping point when every observation becomes a slight and every slight a ticking time bomb with the safety pin removed. Maybe it’s easier to get different things from different people. Isn’t that what copious amounts of teen-romance novels promised?
As marriage mutates to the purse strings of our personal happiness, whose entire persona is expertly monetised, we have learned to distrust each other. We keep an eye on each other, suspiciously, like accepting an invitation to dinner only to discover that the menu would be entirely vegan. And when routine replaces romance, we keep searching for ways to make the fiefdom ideologically kosher. That’s why we stay in them a little too long, because where would we go? Who would ever want us? It’s for life, till death do us part, remember? I'm wary of anything that says for life. I don’t even know what I want to do next Tuesday much less for life? It’s too tight an albatross around my neck.
Would I like to marry? Yes. Probably. But only if I find, like myself, someone who believes in the healing powers of chapati, has connections at wedding receptions, a sense of humour over our limitations, and the realisation that all things end someday.