What you need to know:
- Maybe it’s my emotions doing a number but I am writing this from a koito (Kalenjin wedding ritual which involves the negotiation of a bride's dowry) deep in Eldoret town
In high school, I came across a tattered copy of Ngugi wa Thiong'o's oeuvre, ‘Ngaahika Ndeenda’ — I Will Marry When I Want’. I read it during Biology class, Chemistry sessions and Mathematics lessons (which explains why I am a columnist and not a Scientist). The book, a performance really, led to his detention for a year without trial by the Kenyan government. While the play is about colonialism, classism, and nationalism (and all the other isms that prickle one who is recently black-conscious), this did not stop me from making my own ndoa-ism. What? Ndoa-ism – my Scientific approach to marriage: you, the only citizen, and your wife the government. Your life, the trial. There is a reason it is called ‘pingu za maisha’ after all.
I don’t know about you but every thought of marriage equalled losing my freedom. All the men who roared in the club would receive a call and you would see their tails recoil between their legs, as Mama Watoto issued the decree: “Lala tu huko!” I was mostly afraid of the sex becoming drab and dire — four huffs and a puff, once every third Wednesday of the month when Jupiter is in retrograde — like two prudes on a missionary quest.
Maybe it’s my emotions doing a number but I am writing this from a koito (Kalenjin wedding ritual which involves the negotiation of a bride's dowry) deep in Eldoret town, erm, City. I am one of the groomsmen. My boy has found a good thing. A Proverbs 31 woman. And I tell you this, it is beautiful. I actually want to get married. I want to leave my Roysambu chic/s, those baddies who awaken my hedonism, that Proverbs 7 woman, wale wakuchora saba. Now I want to get me a polite, patient, pious girl to do life with.
I imagine how nice it is to wake up to someone. The same one. I have been sleeping alone for a major part of my adult life — randy rendezvous weekends notwithstanding — but the days I woke up to someone’s daughter were my favourite. My day was brighter. My food was tastier. My wallet was thinner, yes, but those were just opportunity costs. You can’t make an omelette without breaking an egg kosokoso.
Other than that, it is the beauty of sharing your life with someone. And bills. I don’t like doing grocery shopping—have you seen the price of onions? I don’t have a mirror in my house so other than Vibes and Inshallah and a perfunctory “I am who I am” — I don’t have someone to tell me that maroon doesn’t really go well with purple shoes — even if you are trying to be a pimp. That almost cost me a job.
I have a theory: it is the small things in marriage that make it worthwhile. The things only your partner knows: like how you snore at night, like why you have a pawpaw allergy and that face you make at that time of the night (or day, I don’t know your preferences) when you are about to, erm, well...you know what I mean.
However, I get it. Marriage has a bad rep in these streets. Married men are not its best exemplars. The familiarity and romance-giving-way-to-routine of marriage has its detractors but what doesn’t? Throughout history, people married for (logical) reasons: to keep the family land in the family, for wealth preservation, and to keep the gene pool pure. It was narrow-minded, exploitative, economic. Now, we marry for feeling — she looks just right, I know in my heart of hearts that we are drawn to each other instinctively, she has a big nyash, and crucially, she is not from Roysambu. It is purely instinctual, based on recklessness rather than reason. We marry to make a nice feeling permanent.
Marriage takes root in another ism — existentialism: an attempt to help us live with the dilemma of needing closeness and freedom. My generation of men gets it wrong where we want one person to be the be-all, end-all — another falsehood of romanticism that there is only one for each of us. Your best friend and your romantic partner. Your king and yet, your subject. This points to another deep-seated issue: our inability to be alone. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with. I should know. My moments of introspection have disabused me of thinking how wonderful and easy-going I am. Someone’s daughter is apparently quite the tolerant saint in her magnanimity — in things that could be forgotten, or forgiven. Compatibility is an accomplishment of love; it must not be its qualification. Thus, the pressure not only to marry but to marry someone you're madly in love with, who ‘completes’ you, can feel like the walls are caving in: I must believe that life is better in a pair than it is single.
Without wishing to sound like a wellness blogger or “marriage influencer, " it's far more important to take care of ourselves and love ourselves in a way that others cannot. We cannot devolve this responsibility to others. Otherwise, there can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. This is the only way to extend grace in relationships, to appreciate the things you love in your person and ignore the stuff that makes you want to add steel wool to their ugali.
As my boy showed in that koito, at that moment, nothing else mattered. While we were all sojourners on his path, he would have to go the distance himself with his m’permanent. Still, the marriage is the work, the wedding a red herring. It’s in realising how important marriage is but simultaneously how unimportant it is. He chose her today. Accepted her crazy. Maybe that’s the secret. Loving each other’s crazy. Choosing your own government, your particular type of suffering, your long-termism. The best potential mate is the "not overly wrong" person. Or, as I prefer to think of it, the right-wrong person. Even if she is from Roysambu.