Times are hard in Kenya. All across the land, there are echoes of wails from families pressed hard by a weak shilling that has made imported stuff – and we do import most stuff – expensive and difficult to come by.
We are clobbered by sky-high interest rates that have made life a living hell for business people and kawaida borrowers, and then let down by squabbling politicians who will simply not focus on resolving the problems that bedevil us: poor services, astonishing corruption in the public sector, and a rampant ethno-centrism in government.
Beset by all these problems, a small but growing number of women have happened upon a seeming gold mine: they are quietly arranging to get married as second wives.
This, obviously, needs a bit of background. You see, Kenya is – despite all pretensions to modernity and all that – still a very conservative country.
We like our girls to grow up nice and innocent, get married to rich young men who then pay lots of money as dowry, and then go on to bless their families with lots and lots of kids.
We like naming our kids after our ancestors – mothers, fathers, grandparents, and it’s a great honour for some bright young tot to be named after you. And so, we want our girls to be nice and chaste, grow up, fall in love, get married, have sex and then have babies – strictly in that order.
But there’s a class of urbanised Kenyan women who flip this beautiful, 6,000-year-old model on its head. They are the minority, but you wouldn’t know it from the noise they make.
Most of these bad girls are the so-called Nairobi single mothers, and the drama that is their lives is something to behold.
Right in college, while still enjoying free board in their parents’ homes, these strange lasses conspire to begin having babies even before they find jobs.
Now, this is normally not a big deal – after all, even cockroaches have babies, right? – but it is when they sink their claws into some powerful, rich, married man that their true Jezebel finally pops out.
She will convince the rich guy that his best interests are in marrying her as a second wife. She then swiftly gets pregnant, something at which she is quite experienced.
The poor guy, mindful of his reputation and the gentle threats to involve this or that women’s rights organisation, gives in and gives her pseudo-official status: she drags him to her folks for some sort of first visit, and she makes sure it is as public as possible.
Word will have gone round the ridges that the girl they knew as a loose single mum is coming home with a big catch and the feasting and speeches mark her official cleansing.
From then on, she is no longer that easy girl from across the ridge! Cue drama, as the first wife discovers what’s been common knowledge to everyone!
The rich guy, unable to stand the heat back home, quickly reassures everyone that he only has one wife, and that all other stories to the contrary are porojo.
The second wife hears this and goes livid, the first wife puts her foot down and bans any public engagements with the second wife, and the poor man is left in the middle, twisting slowly in the wind as he roasts in the fires of his own making. Drama!
And then the second wife gives birth to a kid that looks rather like her former boyfriend. Who would want a second wife? And which married man would confess that indeed he has a girlfriend?
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