In late teenage, when I had just finished high school, I had a certain acquaintance, who we shall call Lelo for the purposes of today’s article. I was working as a peer teacher, those jobs schools were giving ex-students who were waiting to join university. But Lelo was a trained teacher.
He was not much older than me though, maybe five or six years older. But the boy loved skirts. Or more precisely, their fair wearers. He had rented a house near the school, where he used to entertain his feminine guests. One day, as we were walking to the local shopping center, he told me:
“Unajua Edward, kuna wanawake mara mbili. Kuna wale huwa ninaleta kwa hii keja, na kuna wale ninaweza peleka nyumbani. Wale ninaletanga hapa hawawezi fika kwa mama yangu. Wale ninaweza pelekea mama yangu ni wife material, hawawezi kuja hapa.”
I was surprised. I did not expect my non-believer friends to subscribe to the abstinence till marriage belief that I subscribed to, but I had assumed, up until then, that even for them, when they had sex, it was an expression of love. Love meaning long term commitment.
What Lelo was telling me, in essence, was that he was using girls for his pleasure, simply because he had decided they were not wife material. One thing I am sure of is that he never told them that to their face. At least not before he got them to his bed. Rather, what most likely happened is that he would use smooth and deceitful words about how he loved them, until they were so smitten that they found themselves in his house on a mission that did not include prayer and fasting.
So what really is wife material? For many people, wife material means a docile woman who can cook, clean, take care of babies, take care of the conjugal rights of her husband and generally maintain a humble smile. This image of wife material does not come from the moon. This is the image of our grandmothers and the women before them. To some extent, it is also the image of some of our mothers.
But theirs was a different age. Marriage had little to do with love. The roles were defined. Men were providers and protectors. Which is why physical strength, raw courage and hard work made a man husband material. Women were home makers, so the characteristics above made a good wife. And because of this, boys and girls were actually taught how to be good husbands and wives. If you paid attention, you would be a good spouse, whether or not love was involved in your marital union.
But times have changed. Today I do not need a wife to wash my clothes. I can pay someone to do it. Similarly I do not need a wife to cook for me. I can cook for myself, or if not, eat out. Similarly, the woman I marry will not be financially dependent on me. She has her own money. So really, it does not make a lot of sense sticking to the stereotypical wife/husband material templates. We need to create new templates.
And for me, the first thing I would put in the template is the ability to compromise. There is a lot of chest thumping today. Feminists running up and down screaming “I can’t do that blah blah”. Chauvinists on the other end of the spectrum digging in “A woman cannot control me”. But in the end, for our union to survive and also be a happy one, I need to realise that my partner is not “women”. She is the individual I chose, and thus I need to do what it takes to keep her happy and satisfied. Similarly she needs to realise that I am not “men”. I am the individual she chose, and needs to do what it takes to keep me and satisfied. This mutuality requires a lot of compromise on both ends, but I think that takes way less effort than constantly competing about who is superior to who. And it leads to a mutually satisfied couple.
Second is commitment. We are an impatient generation that gives up too easily. I would think husband/wife material is an individual who is willing to stay on and fix things when there is a trouble. Not a person who is always ready to bolt when he/ she cannot have their way. Or when problems knock. What if you lose your job? Or learn that you cannot have children? Or get a terminal disease? You would want a partner who will stick with you.
Back to Lelo, I think people like him are part of the reason when have so many problems in the relationship area. Because we have so many broken people because they were used and dumped. People who have lost the ability to trust. People carrying bitterness in them. Just because people like Lelo thought they can use other people for their convenience and dump them at will. I need to point out that people like Lelo are not just men. Women too do use men for their own selfish convenience. So yes, there are many broken men too. And broken people eventually hurt others, and the cycle continues. It is a sad state of affairs that needs to be tamed.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/woman-africa-water-madagascar-gold-2151017/