Why a woman will rarely forget when a man cheats

This is the trouble with cheating: It’s a ruined city, a banana republic with no acceptable rules, or laws

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As metaphors go, it is almost too on the nose. Too easy to reach for. It’s just there. I would have expedited no brain muscle at all, and my teacher of English, Tr Elizabeth, would die a small death. I am not proud, but shame is a mindset.

Any self-respecting writer would never take the easy route and compare cheating as a metaphor for the decline of morals in society. On campus we had this thing we used to say, “Degree ni harambee.” That was the era of mwakenyas, and we would sit in ‘cheating formations,’ what we aptly termed as Tharaka Nithi, an allegory for one’s stronghold. If one can cheat in the exam, what’s so hard for them to cheat on you? That’s one way to look at it, the other being it’s not cheating, it’s beating the system. Is this how I passed my communications degree course with university honours? No comment, besides, the constitution provides for the right against self-incrimination.

Do you see why cheating as a symbol of national disintegration does not work, or as Gen Z would say, “It’s problematic.” A Gen Z is also who we had in the car, a firebrand girlie, eats nails for breakfast but clean as a whistle with acerbic wit and a razor-sharp tongue that cuts as deep as it is deadly. We are going out of town because the prezo said people should go and panda miti because of some climate koso koso. Sedition is not in my repertoire so we had no choice but to obey the President. As an aside, maybe this country doesn’t work which is why we are given holidays…to…not work.

Liberal views

I have known this girl for quite some time, and she holds liberal views, chief among them that she gives as good as she gets—slow wink. Two other friends are in here too, who beg me not to write this story, and being an honest friend, and not wanting to risk the years we have cultivated our relationship, I tell them I won’t. But that’s like believing a stripper really likes you.

We get talking because we are all in the “marriageable” age, and I ask them whether they would forgive a cheating partner.

“Yes, after I have cheated on them too,” says the baddie.

“Forgiveness belongs to the Lord,” said another, frothing at their mouth, and I had to stop the car because the engine was emitting smoke only to find it was not the engine, but it was smoke bellowing from their ears.

“I can be shared, but I cannot share.”

I liked the last one. It has a nice ring to it, almost like a zen moan, like a national cry. I can be shared but I cannot share.

I too joined in, with what I figured was a nuanced and considered view. “Depending on where we are in the relationship, I’d consider forgiveness.” What I didn’t tell them is that I would be the one being forgiven because I can be shared but I cannot share. Friday Night Smackdown also reminded me that I am not a very magnanimous person, seeing that I have never forgiven Ian for stealing my rubber in Class Four. Ian, may you fall in love with a girl from Roysambu!

This is the trouble with cheating: It’s a ruined city, a banana republic with no acceptable rules, or laws. It could be wistfully smiling when watching a TV series that you once considered “ours”. It can feel like cheating dancing to the same songs you danced with your former flame—even if Mariah Carey really hits those notes, just like she, urm, did. Keeping gifts from exes can infuriate, like retrospective cheating. Women rarely forgive cheating. I know this from experience—and it doesn’t have to be my experience although it is. Allegedly. Why do you think the snake/devil/both talked to the woman in the garden? Adam would have gone to God to ask if he, Jehovah, knows Satan. Not so for Eve. Women play rough. They scratch your soul. They don’t put emotion into revenge. And for that, I stan women. It’s a shame the government doesn’t employ many of them as DCI for if they want evidence against you, they will find it. Do better prezo!

Anyway, I probably did not see the forest through the trees as clearly as I should but when I was in my early 20s, I thought my morals and convictions were set in stone and unshakable. I was strict. I was certain and had a life plan on how our relationship would pan out—where we would live, how many children to have, how we’d handle infidelity. Now I am older and I know the world is not black and white and gray, there is a rainbow too. As with so many unexpected trials in life, we just don’t know until it happens. You think you know how it feels, but you don’t. You think you’ll understand, you won’t.

Adultery apologist

Infidelity is stubborn. There’s a reason it is the only sin that gets two commandments in the Bible, one for doing it and one just for thinking about it. I know many men with mistresses just as I know several women cheating with other men, or with each other—hey, it’s a brave new world. Full disclosure: There are many men who don’t cheat; I am not saying I don’t but I know many.

At the risk of sounding like an adultery apologist, I reckon we have suffocated our partners with our obsessions with total transparency, and full disclosures and heavy expectations. We now expect what we used to get from the community from one person. You want your partner to be your best friend, business partner, therapist, baddie buddy, your prayer partner and your preyer partner, if you know what I mean. It’s too much. This is not why cheating happens, but it’s how it ends up happening. Relationships feel like work. Affairs like adventure.

Here is a better metaphor: The partners we choose are a reflection of how we make decisions at the ballot box. “Hakuwangi mbaya, ni wale wamem-surround…” That’s our national philosophy. That’s why we love our politicians. When they break their vows and cheat us out of their promises or when one of them invariably dies after overdosing on Viagra in a lodging in Mlolongo with a twenty-something-year-old hottie, we are reminded that they are just like us, fallible men, who let their erection determine their direction.