We are now the parents, and, unfortunately, too many did not learn from our parents’ mistakes....
A thoughtful gift or gesture will work miracles in a way that a plump teddy bear cannot
I speak two and a half languages; three, if I separate my Queen’s English and my Kenyanese. I am very proud of the command I have over these languages. I can mix it up with the very best from Eastlands, and I can ‘You guy my guy’ my way out of a kerfuffle at Parklands with relative ease.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I learned that there is actually another language I could learn without sitting in a classroom mumbling m’apelle and oui oui.
Apparently, there is a thing called love language. It is not, as I learned the hard way, the language of romance that our fearless leader Shakespeare taught us. It is not about sighing from the bottom of people’s balconies. It is not the art of romancing that was perfected by skinny boys with dirty dreadlocks and Subarus either. No, the language of love exists in the same conversation as Zodiac signs, spirit animals and Hogwarts houses. Everyone has one, seemingly for no reason other than to bring it up randomly in conversations and make everyone uncomfortable.
Now, I am not one to quibble over what the planets were doing while a person was being born. So I will usually keep my eye-rolling to a minimum when I hear about someone being a Virgo and, therefore, an asshole, or someone explaining away their moodiness by pointing out their moon was rising in Uranus. To each their own, you know?
However, I am fascinated by the concept of love languages, as originally described by author and Southern Baptist pastor Dr Gary Chapman.
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The long and short of it is that we all have different things we associate with love; things that stem from our personalities and upbringing, and which drive our view and behaviour within relationships. Some people value spending quality time with their loved ones. Others won’t feel loved unless they’re bought gifts. For others, it is physical touch they crave, while some need to hear words of affirmation every morning or else...
Broadly speaking, the idea is to figure out how you want to be loved, but more importantly— how your partner experiences and receives love. It is a simple enough concept that has unfortunately been hijacked by selfish, dramatic people. Capricorns, no doubt. The good pastor was simply asking lovers to be more attentive to their partners, and to learn what they need to do to make them happy.
It is easy to assume that everyone wants flowers and chocolate, especially as we celebrate the mysterious life and times of St Valentine. You need to only walk into a supermarket and your eyeballs will be assaulted with a variety of red things; red teddy bears, red gift baskets, red flowers, red thongs…
But not everyone wants red flowers or red thongs. Maybe your lady wants you to finally post her photo on your Whatsapp status. Maybe she wants you to tell her she’s the best thing to happen to you since that time your beard connected. And that her friends cannot hold a candle to her. Maybe she wants you to surreptitiously pat her bottom while you’re walking. Maybe all she needs is for you to call her ‘A girl bebi’.
Ladies, it cannot always be boxers and socks, or even a gaming console. Maybe he just wants to hear that he is still the Lion of Roysambu, the cockerel of Kiambu. Maybe all he needs is for you to hang out with him while his team gets embarrassed by Aston Villa. Quietly, without asking why they are drawing lines on the pitch. You don’t always have to do that thing he likes as a gift; you know… the one which compromises your lower back and your sense of shame. That man might just want you to help him pay a couple of bills, help get the monkey off his back.
Valentine’s shouldn’t be about material gifts, but if it were, surely, there would be a bit more range? As a man, I know it is easy to feel the pressure other gentlemen are exerting and revert to the cliché of flowers, alcohol and premium strokes. I know a getaway is an easy way out, especially now that we have decided the pandemic is over. I’m just saying, a thoughtful gift or gesture will work miracles in a way that a plump teddy bear cannot.
This time, let us honour that fictional Saint the right way. Learn your partner, because you were probably too busy checking if ‘mbele iko sawa’ while you were courting. Understand what they need from you, so that your umpteenth gift of a three-colour boxer pack isn’t met with a scorn yet again.
Unless your partner is a Capricorn, of course, in which case they don’t deserve good things.