Recently, my friend and colleague Sue brought to my attention a Facebook post by a mutual acquaintance Roselyne. It was a quote attributed to former US President, the late Richard Nixon:
“…. I don’t believe in letting your hair down, confiding this and that and the other thing—saying, ‘Gee, I couldn’t sleep’ … I believe you should keep your troubles to yourself. That’s just the way I am. Some people are different. Some people think it’s good therapy to sit with a close friend and, you know, just spill your guts … [and] reveal their inner psyche—whether they were breast-fed or bottle-fed. Not me. No way”
After reading it from her computer, I laughed and told her that had Nixon confided in a friend what he intended to do at Watergate, maybe they would have told him it was a bad idea and therefore saved his Presidency. My colleague characteristically rolled her eyes and told me to shut up and go back to my desk. Thing is, our worldviews are different. On the one hand, she keeps her life private. Nixon must have stolen that quote from a template she had prepared while still unborn. Like really. If she tells you that she loves dogs (she does) then know she considers you a trusted confidant. And I may lose that status because of revealing that profound secret on a blog.
Me, on the other hand, oh well. The things that count as private in my life are few. You want to know how old I am? 26, but will be 27 in a couple of weeks’ time. How many girls I have dated? 3, two light skins and one black beauty. In fact, those of you who have been religiously following this blog since we opened shop in January can accurately write my biography. Of course there many things I don’t say, but the point is, in principle I don’t mind sharing my life story.
But over time I have realized that I have become rather guarded. And one area that has been withdrawn from the public domain is my dating life. I have remained deliberately ambiguous in that area. It has not always been so. I have always been a hardcore proponent of going public with one’s relationship status. Immediately you fall in love, announce it to the world. Stand at the pinnacle and sing a serenade. Color your social media timelines red. After all, love is a beautiful thing, isn’t?
And there was a reason for that worldview. My first girlfriend insisted that we keep our relationship silent. It made a lot of sense then. She didn’t want her father to know. After all, she had just turned 18. Plus, I was grateful to have her. I knew at least two guys who had been interested but I had Trumped them in the battle for the beauty’s heart. So whatever she wanted, she would have it her way. By now you guys know that at 19 I had the fashion sense of a traditional medicine man, and I was working in a photo studio earning 2k a month before I got the teaching gig. But the point is, I won her affections against more deserving mortals. Men of means and class. However, when we broke up, I felt she had walked away too easily. Like if our friends had known, perhaps our relationship would have had a fighting chance. So my publicity worldview was born.
When I asked my second girlfriend out and she said yes, I sent a signed statement to the newsrooms. Later in the day I held a press conference. And in the evening I accepted a television interview at prime time. The world had to know my latest romantic exploits. All my friends and acquaintances knew. My mother knew. Her mother knew. And strangers knew, thanks to social media. All in a span of days. But when we eventually broke up, it became a PR nightmare. You know, having masses demand accountability. I couldn’t blame them, because I had started it in the first place, by telling them what they had no business knowing. Nonetheless, social events were uncomfortable. Because any time an acquaintance could walk up to me smiling:
“Sasa Maro? Siku mingi”
“Poa sana. Enyewe tumepoteleana,”
“Habari ya XX?”
“Nafikiri ako tu sawa,”
“Unafikiri? Kwani hamuongeangi?”
“Hapana, si sana. Zile once once tu,”
At this she would pause to let that sink. It is mostly a she who would conduct these interviews. She would look at me to see if I had developed the shifty eyes of a player. Or if I had the haunted look of a jilted lover. I would steadily hold the gaze, determined to give away nothing.
“Ngai, you looked so cute together. What happened?”
“Life happens,” I would reply and that would be the end of the discussion.
That experience of course meant that when I asked my third and immediate former girlfriend out, I tamed the publicity. I still told my friends, but I largely kept it out of social media. And when we broke up shortly after, the PR damage was minimal. But I still had friends to explain to what could have gone wrong in two months. So I again tightened the controls for the future.
This tightening of controls means I do not talk about my love interests anymore, except to a select few individuals in my life. And these are individuals I trust to shut up. But this guarded approach has been fueling speculation amongst my friends and acquaintances. My friendships are scrutinized to unearth what I may be hiding. For instance, October 6th was my friend Valarie’s birthday. So I penned a piece celebrating our friendship and posted it on Facebook. The comments were to die for. People pressed me to admit or deny whether we are an item. But I remained evasive and dodgy just to fuel more speculation for my personal entertainment. Thing is, Val and I agreed years ago nothing will ever happen between us beyond platonic friendship, and that position hasn’t changed. And if it did, I certainly wouldn’t announce it on Facebook immediately. I would let it out gradually, as the situation solidifies.
People quickly realized they had been misled and started speculating on my other friendships. But I have remained dodgy, not willing to give anything away, but without being unnecessarily rude. But on Sunday I was almost caught flat footed. My friends and I were on our way from Mombasa to Nairobi, after a short vacation at the coast. So someone suggested we play “Mathew Mathew Mark Mark” with “Truth or Dare” in order to kill time on the journey. But it was agreed that since we were inside a moving bus, the “Dare” part was not an option, so we would stick to “Truth”. I wasn’t worried. My concentration is usually superb so they wouldn’t catch me. After all, we had played the game two days before and I had come out untouched. For a long time I survived. But then my mom texted me, and I got distracted. Someone noticed and immediately called me out. I couldn’t respond on time.
There were cheers and I knew I was in trouble. Everybody was looking at me, eyes round with expectation. I felt an army of weevils crawl up my spinal cord. Finally someone voiced the question.
“Do you like a particular girl, and if yes, who?”
I knew what they were driving at, so I paused to reflect on the question. You know, the way the Pharisees consulted when Jesus asked a question. If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will ask, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.
“Yes,” I replied, but refused to give the name. They made noise but the game continued. But I was now chatting with my mum so my concentration was low. I got caught again.
I refused to budge. Then someone asked:
“Does she know?”
Against my better judgement, I said yes. They got excited and pressed for more, but I stonewalled them, Kabura style. But they were happy. To them, I had admitted enough for them to fill in the dots and come up with a logical conclusion. Especially because they had suspicions as to who that person was and they simply wanted me to confirm it. But even with my stonewalling, they felt they knew enough. What they didn’t immediately realize, was that they were dealing with the great-grandson of Kiome, a crafty traditional medicine man who sold brewed herbs to unsuspecting villagers but sent his son (my grandfather) to the Mission Hospital when he had tapeworms.
First, by refusing to give a name, I maintained sufficient level of deniability. Nobody can ask me about any particular girl because I mentioned none. Second, by stonewalling them, I blocked more revealing questions from being asked. Third, by admitting that I like a girl, and that the girl is aware of it, I in essence told them absolutely nothing. Some could already hear wedding bells ringing, but nothing could be further from the truth.
See, liking a girl does not even mean a relationship. Here is what typically happens. I hear a girl talking, and she sounds intelligent. I take note. She proves to be confident in herself and her abilities. I narrow my eyes. Ah, she has a sense of humor. I am fascinated. Her personal values relate to mine. Now I am interested. So I make a deliberate effort to know her. At this point she may know I like her. If after this I find we can get a personal connection, like we can hold a meaningful conversation (while essentially talking about nothing) in person and on phone, then I will ask her out. Here several things may happen. She may say no. And I will immediately friendzone her, because I lack the patience and humility to beg to be loved. Plus an intelligent, confident woman is an asset in the friendzone. Or she may start playing hard to get, and I will walk away. Because at this point in my life I am looking for a woman, not a teenager. Or she may ask for time to think about it. And time I will give her, because that is the reasonable thing to do. Finally she may say yes, and a relationship starts.
So at what stage am I with the girl I admitted to liking? Of course I am not answering that, because it will beat the very essence of this post. But you can take this to the bank: I am still single. The point of this post is this: I no longer find it attractive to announce new found love to the world. So do not hold your collective breath peeps. When I get into a relationship I am not going to write a mushy blog post telling you how it happened. I may, but after the wedding. When I finally do get into a relationship, I will take time to deal with the excitement before telling all of you. And I won’t tell all of you at once. You will find out for yourselves gradually with time. You could say life has humbled me. Sort of.