When you listen to morning radio, all kinds of accusations are levelled against Kenyan men. Common among them is that, besides being clumsy in wooing women, those in relationships and marriage are unromantic.
Romantic love, an obsession of the 21st Century, makes women’s world go round, or so it seems. We, however, discovered what could partly be the cause of the complaints. From the men we talked to, the general consensus was that romantic love, which our women seem obsessed with, is an alien concept they can hardly relate to.
“The movie and soap opera romantic standards are not part of our upbringing. What’s more, we don’t watch soap operas, where we could get titbits on romantic love. Those romance or love concepts are alien and hardly make sense to the African man,” whines Godwin Amwayi, a city resident who subscribes to the view that romantic love is a unique to Mzungu culture.
To most of us, he argues, bringing home unga is given more priority than pizza, chocolates and flowers. Many other men that Crazy Monday talked to, for instance, wondered why women expect local men, who began driving just the other day and didn’t grow up in families with cars, to instinctively open car doors for them as proof of chivalry?
“Some of us dislike flowers. It’s something cultural because we associate them with things we hate like weddings, funerals and others painful ones that leave huge dents in our pockets such as Valentines Day. Why would we pull chairs for a lady, something we only do for the sick or the elderly?” wonders Amwayi, who insists if someone is to rate how loving and romantic he is, they must use local and cultural variables and not soap opera standards.
Some men are of the opinion that the mere act of giving your woman quality life, being a great dad or respecting her, among other things that make sense to them, is a show of immense love. “Let’s face it, our women are expecting champagne experience on a beer budget! I won’t
Allow him to marry your sister as second wife Despite modernity and infiltration of Western romantic love into Africa, some men insisted they prefer love some Kenyan cultures, especially from Western and Nyanza regions, wives show their love to their husbands by, among others ways, allowing them to marry a second, third, or even fourth wife, mostly recommending their own sisters and cousins.
A certain Kirigo, who inspired this story, shocked one of these writers when she told him about her aunt who, out of love for her husband, allowed him to marry her sister as his second wife.
This was after her husband confessed to being genuinely attracted to her. Interestingly, over decades down the line, the two sisters are still happily married to the man.
Unfortunately, when contacted for a phone interview, despite confirming the oddity, none of the women was willing to talk to press over it, terming the matter “personal and private”.
Prof Paul Achola, a Sociology lecturer at Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Kisumu town campus, and an expert on family and marriage, holds the view that love among some Kenyans was, and still is, expressed in ways that anyone ignorant of these cultures would consider it strange.
The professor confirmed that, although on the decline, a wife ‘giving’ her sister or cousin to her husband to marry was, and still is, actually one of the many ways some Afri can wives express love to their husbands.
Apparently, to such women, allowing their husbands to be polygamous is an expression of love. The professor breaks it down by giving some scenarios and circumstances under which such arrangements happen.
A woman purporting to be madly in love with her husband, and is about to die as a result of, say, chronic illness, in some cultures such as the Kisiis and Luhyas, is expected to leave a will or a testament, written or verbal, asking one of her sisters, cousins or any other younger female relative to get married to her husband.
However, the good professor is quick to clarify: “Africans, by virtue of being very rich in con - notations and euphemism, hardly communicated this message directly. It is common to hear a dying woman, out of love, request one of her beautiful sisters to “take care of or look after” her children.
Actually, put her husband to marry her sister.” Achola adds that in case of proven barrenness on the part of a woman, the husband is given the green light to choose one of their sisters or cousins to join their marriage for the purposes of bearing children.
“Besides love, this was also a social control measure to avoid such a husband landing in trouble by marrying a second wife with questionable character such as a witch, a night runner or those with many other undesirable character traits like thuggery. Such women recommend their own, seeing as their families had already been given a clean bill of health during courtship, so to speak,” the soci -
The professor says because of stigma, infiltration and wide - spread of Western concepts of love, some of these African love gestures are on the decline. And where they are still practiced, people discuss them in hushed tones and practice them discreetly!
The professor winds up, saying that some caring women who understand their husbands well, and are well aware of the fact that, for instance, they have a “humongous appetite” for the “matrimonial food”, voluntarily choose to tame them by sharing the “huge responsibility” of satiating his humongous appetite with their sisters or cousins, whom they team up with as co-wives!
“In some instances, when such wives suspect their rich and generous husbands might marry from elsewhere, they uniquely shower them with love by offering them their sisters or relatives in a bid to spread wealth within their family. Some husbands are well behaved, and treat their wive very well.
And as a creative way of ‘gifting’ or ‘rewarding’ them, their wives or wives’ families ‘give’ or marry off one of their own to such men!” says the professor.