“Utatuitia mchele lini?” Hellon asked, smiling. We are standing outside the church, on a Sunday afternoon just after the second service. His eyes are dancing in their sockets and the pupils of his eyes are dilated. I know he means no harm, just regurgitating the common refrain directed at single people. I have gathered some experience on how to deal with this question.
“Wewe na nani?”
He obviously has never gotten that response before, so he hesitates for a second.
“As in, tunakuja harusi yako lini?”
“Haiya mnakuja? Inafanyiwa wapi?” I am thoroughly enjoying this, until an older man comes along.
“Lakini Edward, hawa wasichana mnaimbanga na wao kwa worship team haujapata kamoja? Fungua macho,” the older man starts. He goes ahead to give a long winding sermon about how God does not get people wives, because the Bible says “He who finds…”
I watch him in amusement, as he narrates how better his life is since he got married.
“Mimi siku hizi nakulanga chakula, sio kama nyinyi mabachelor,”
“Lakini nikuulize, mimi na hiki kitambi changu, unaona ni kama nalalanga njaa?” I ask, looking at him innocently. He takes offence and walks away, sulking. Apparently I am being rude. I have no apologies though, because I didn’t invite him to meddle in my private affairs. I mean, he is not even my friend, so to speak.
When you finish college, everyone starts to demand you get married. The longer you delay the more frustrated they get, because your lives are so intertwined, that if you do not get married quickly their lives stagnate. I mean, how can their newly wed wives conceive if you don’t get married? How can their businesses go to the next level and you have refused to get a girl? What do you mean, their bosses certainly cannot give them promotions until you find a life partner. So you need to get married quickly, so that their life cycle stops stagnating.
The obsession is especially comically intense in Christian circles. I remember attending a meeting somewhere and the clergyman gathered the singles in attendance and promised to help us break the evil chains of singlehood, that were stopping us from getting spouses. There were shouts of “Amen!” from a section of the crowd while the rest of us watched in amusement. After the meeting a 23 year old lady friend of mine who was also in attendance approached me:
“What do you think Maro?”
Of course at 23 she did not see what the hullabaloo was all about. I paused for a second. What did I think? I am 26 and there is certainly no crisis. As a matter of fact, I am thoroughly enjoying this period knowing very well that once I get married I may not be able to roam around attending all the fun activities I love doing. Like tonight there is an all-night worship experience at the University of Nairobi Parklands campus, where I studied. Tomorrow afternoon there is a convocation at Focus Kenya. Sunday is church, and after that in the afternoon there is a Sacco service and my band is leading worship. Ordinarily this would be my ideal weekend, but I have an exam on Monday, so I will probably just attend the worship experience and the main church service and spend the rest of the weekend catching up with revision. But the thing is, I know such drama will not happen when I get married, because of that thing called the “us” time. So I am fully enjoying the freedom now. But then again, from the shouts of Amen that I heard, some people obviously were sure they needed help. So I told my lady friend that I didn’t think there were any chains to break in my life, but I could only speak for myself. Everyone knows themselves best.
Then I have a couple of friends who have tried several times to set me up with “nice girls” they thought I would like. I always negotiate myself out of such arrangements. I have heard that blind dates work for some, but not me. I am too conservative for that. I don’t even know how I would conduct that conversation. So I prefer to get acquainted to a girl first, before we can talk about dates. And the thing is, I am not single because there are no nice girls in my social circle (which is very wide, by the way). No there are, many of them.
But here is the thing. I don’t think I should date every nice girl there is. At the very least, we should like each other. And that is not as easy as it sounds. Because there are girls who like me and I don’t feel the same way, and there are girls I like and they don’t feel the same way. Mutuality is not automatic. Usually, if I like a girl, I will let her know. By this time I will have investigated my feelings to know if they are strong enough to handle the responsibility should I get a yes. Because a relationship requires work-commitment and dedication. I have been there so I know. If the girl says no, I walk away. I know many of my friends, both men and women, disagree with me on this. Women like to be chased, I have been told severally. They are like butterflies, beautiful and elusive. Well, maybe. But I have neither the time, nor the energy to stalk a disinterested girl. Besides, I know the kind of girl I want-she is mature enough to know what she wants, and doesn’t play games. Sometimes I don’t even get to ask the girl out. When a girl is pursuing me and I am not interested, I know the techniques I employ to ward her off. So when I am interested in a girl and she employs these tactics on me, I will recognize them and walk away without officially asking her out.
Anyway, the thing for me is, for a relationship to kick off, the feelings have to be mutual. I am not chasing a disinterested girl. But that is not all. Liking a girl is not reason enough for me to walk up to her and ask her out. There is often a lot of reasoning involved. For me, it is usually a compromise between my heart and my head. Sometimes a girl fits the description of someone I would want to marry, but the feelings record nil. (You will grow to love her over time, I am told. But nah, let me love her first without committing myself, what’s the rush?). Other times I like a girl, but I instinctively know she is a bad choice, so I reason myself out of it.
And the reasons are many and varied. But they all have to do with worldview and ideology. At the top of the list is faith. The girl has to be Christian. I have many nice non-Christian female friends but the truth is, a relationship with them wouldn’t work. We would always fight many unnecessary battles. Because we see the world differently. Like she want to go clubbing, and I think she should stop clubbing. And there we have a very unnecessary fight, which could have been avoided if we just remained as friends. But even amongst Christians, not just any girl I like will I walk up to. Because it boils down to personal faith. For instance, there are those girls praying for supersonic men of God. And from their point of view, anointed men of God who are filled of the Holy Spirit are those who do acrobatics and martial arts while praying, slithering on floors, hammering walls and yelling at the top of their lungs until foam forms at the corners of their mouths. Well, I am not one of them and I am not about to pretend to be one for the purposes of winning a girl’s love and respect, or admiration. I believe God hears me when I pray more calmly and softly, like I am talking to someone who is actually listening. So if I like a girl and I realize she is trying to turn me into a supersonic man of God, I will quietly walk away.
But that said, the girl has to know what she believes in. She must have a personal relationship with God. There are those girls who hang on every word the pastor says. If I ask her to go have coffee with me, the pastor must first approve. If the pastor says we break up, we are done. If the pastor says we should get married next month, that is all I will hear every time we talk. If the pastor says she is demon possessed, she attends deliverance sessions. I honestly think we give pastors too much power. I respect their administrative authority over the church. But spiritual authority? I am not persuaded. I think Christ gave us direct access to God, so I can present my own prayers, and read my own Bible. If he is a man or woman whose understanding of scripture I respect, like my current pastor, I can go to him for advice. But that doesn’t mean I do what he says just because he says it. I will assess the advice and decide if it is sound or not, and thereby decide if I will take it or not. I may even seek a second opinion from another person I respect, if I am still uncertain. But just in case I am mistaken, I have asked my theologian friend Valarie to join me in doing a research on the origin and mandate of the office of the pastor in the Christian church. But the thing is, if I realize that the girl I like is a puppet of some Christian spiritualist, I will quietly walk away. I have no intention of getting into a marriage remote-controlled by some supersonic man of God.
Closely related to that, she must have a mind of her own. That is a soft way of saying she must be intelligent. The last time I said that in some singles forum I got fire and brimstone from the girls present. I think there were hailstones too, but I am not sure. There is also something that hit me on the left shoulder blade that may or may not have been a volcanic rock. Some guys supported me. But they were all mistaken. They thought I was referring to academic credentials. Nah. I don’t think our education system measures intelligence. I think it is more about cramming ability. Oh, and stealing ability too. Besides, I won’t be walking around asking girls’ academic qualifications. But I can tell a girl’s intelligence by her ability to hold a meaningful conversation. And once I decide she is intelligent, whether she has a college diploma or not is irrelevant. The thing is, I want a woman who can challenge me. A woman who can correct me when I am wrong. A woman who is not intimidated by me, but who will hold her ground in an argument if she is persuaded she is right and I am wrong, until we either agree, or agree to disagree.
How will I know all this? There has to be a friendship. We will get to know each other before I ask you out, and after I ask you out and before we get married I will seek to know you more .These days we believe that because we talk to our crushes every day, they are our best friends. Not me. By the time I consider you my best friend, we will have strongly disagreed a couple of times. You will have seen the worst of me, and I will have seen the worst of you, and we will have decided that putting up with each other is worth it. And that takes time. But the thing is, after that I will no longer be walking on eggshells around you. I will not be out to impress, neither overly afraid to hurt. I will be my ordinary self. Because I will know that if I inadvertently hurt you, you will tell me. Because you know I wouldn’t hurt you deliberately. That is called trust. Of course there is still some element of risk because we have accomplished pretenders out there, but then that’s the reason I pray over this matter. Because God knows what I have no ability to know.
I guess what I am saying in over 2000 words is that I won’t get married because you think I should. Neither will I get married just to enhance my social status. I won’t even get married because a beautiful girl likes me. Nor because I need a cook. Or children. Because I am not just looking for a wife. I am looking for a partner in the business of life. Like a partner, partner. Someone I can talk to, laugh with, joke with, tease, disagree with. So that we can challenge each other unto good works for the next 60 or so years, in case that’s the time we will be given. And that’s an awfully long time, so we had better be real friends while at it. Meanwhile, those who want to keep up the chorus of when I will get married, I suggest you get yourselves some powerful microphones. Because your voices are likely to get hoarse.