Why Kenyan men hide their wives
Silas Nyanchwani and Cate Mukei
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith deny affair with August Alsina
A communications officer with a blue chip company recently received an odd request from her ex-boyfriend. He wanted her to accompany him to their office party.
“He just wanted me to look neat and pretty and behave as if we were a couple,” recalls Jane Muturi, who did the honorable thing and accompanied her ex. Muturi revealed to The Nairobian that she found it rather strange since the man was married, even though he rarely talked much about the wife.
“I suspected he was embarrassed by her. He never allowed her to accompany him to any social event. Whenever he wanted to attend high-end parties, he would beg me to accompany him. He once let it slip that the wife was overweight and unattractive,” she said.
He is part of a breed of men who will never be seen at public events with their wives. Their families are anonymous. You would think they’re senior bachelors. Is it that their wives like privacy or have they been consigned to the faceless existence of transactional marriages?
The woman’s role seems to be limited to receiving money from the man to pay fees, rent, and other utilities. But you will never see them together. Even in church, they will arrive in different cars. Why are some wives permanently domesticated? Is it spousal neglect or just one aspect of a boorish patriarchal society? The Nairobian sought to find out what exactly drives a man to ‘hide’ his wife. Here is what we uncovered.
- She is not educated or polished enough- This is common with politicians. No sooner do they get elected, then they marry a second wife or get a hotter mistress to show up with at social events. This was exemplified in Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People. The MP, Odili Samalu, disposed of his wife who had become matronly and unpolished for a younger, fashionable, presentable and beautiful woman, whom he snatched from his former pupil, setting up the stage for the overriding conflict in the book. The same thing seems to be common in Kenya. Have you noticed how some MPs are hardly ever seen with their spouses in public unless they are stunning?
- That woman is not beautiful enough-Some wives are never beautiful enough in the eyes of their men. “You are embarrassed to walk around with her. Your peers will judge you harshly, so you spare yourself the trouble,” says Kenneth Musungu who works at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. “When you don’t have confidence in her, you just leave her at home to avoid any embarrassment,” he adds.
- The woman is too beautiful- The woman could be too beautiful for an insecure hubby and who fears ‘competition’ from other men or the attention the wife is likely to attract. “Perhaps he feels that his wife is too pretty and might get a lot of attention from his friends. A man is jealous by nature,” says Derek Bbanga, an image consultant. These insecure men have been known to do things that damage the confidence of the woman to kill their self-esteem - much like Bobby Brown was accused of ruining Whitney Houston’s life. Some will make sure the wife is ever pregnant and sire as many kids with her as possible in order to tame her.
Men live in mortal fear of marrying women who are not fashionable. More depressing is a woman with a tacky sense of dressing, that leaves people questioning her reputation. So, if a man knows that the wife is given to dressing skimpily, even to family functions, he will find every reason to leave her behind.
Men talk: Don’t let her male BFF bother you
“Women should be wary of such men. An insecure man can ruin a woman’s life. So women need be on the lookout,” cautions sociologist, Komu Mwati.
- Hanging in there-“Sometimes it happens that you married her for love or you were probably just infatuated with her. Now you have a change of heart,” says Jared Mulei, a middle-aged photojournalist. “So rather than kick her out, you sympathize with her and let her stay. After all, she is the mother of your kids.” According to Mulei, “If she says 42, and has three children, she may not have a place to go. So you let her stay for the sake of children. “Since you cannot force love, the man swallows his pride and sticks with the woman rather than choosing the easy way out. But the woman will remain cloistered at home as the man scavenges and at times even marries another woman, with or without the knowledge of the first wife. Mulei says that when women fall out of love, they are less forgiving and more impatient, especially if they are making good money.
- You married too early-A man could have married too early before exploring life’s pleasures. He then starts seeing flaws in the wife which leads to resentment. “Men who marry early when they are not psychologically mature tend to drift from their wives after the biological and sociological responsibility has worn down the women,” says Mwati. A man who marries in his early 20s, with the wife dropping three photos before she is 30, may start drifting. The woman would have naturally changed and the man may lose interest and not wish to be seen with the wife in public.
- Where will I take this ‘lorry?’-Most men would be uncomfortable tagging along with their wives if in their opinion the woman is overweight or too skinny.As such, men whose wives pile up the kilos after marriage or whose memsahibs are wiry, are likely to give the women a miss when going out for events or other functions. Men are always painfully aware that they are judged by the size and looks of their women would not want to suffer snide remarks from their buddies.
- Drama queens-Men can stand all forms of embarrassment, including vomiting and piss on themselves at parties, but a drama queen is a no-no. She is the type of woman who would start World War III at the slight suspicion that another woman could be giving you the eye. And woe unto you poor man, should you dare to chat another woman, any woman. To avoid this embarrassment and being ribbed by his peers as one who is henpecked, the drama queen will never be seen in public with Baba Boi.
- Age difference-We all know the politics of age when it comes to marriage. The wider the gap, the more it gets during introductions. If the wife is too old, the union is socially frowned upon, particularly if it is too discernible. If she is too young, again, the man risks being judged. So, the safer bet is to always leave the granny- or baby-faced wifey at home.
- She nags-Even the Holy Book weeps for the man who ends up with a whining a woman. Worse is a woman who nags everywhere even in the presence of man’s guests and relatives. A woman who cannot control herself in the presence of guests will surely kill a man’s reputation. These anti-social, cold and snooty women should not be surprised if their public company is not needed by the man.
- Once a cheater, always a cheater-If the man has a womanizing trait, and even his close friends cannot keep up with his women, he will always go solo. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are enjoying dinner with the woman of the house, and then some bimbo or former flame walks over to plant a kiss on your unfaithful cheek!