On Saturday, I got hungry around lunch time, so I walked into a wedding reception to eat. Before you judge me for lack of manners, going to a stranger’s wedding to eat food that I didn’t contribute towards, look deep and hard within yourself and ask if you have never gone to a wedding for the food only. It’s a Kenyan thing. The family attends the church ceremony; everyone else heads straight to the reception. The general assumption is that the family has already eaten the bride price, so they are not as hungry. And they get high table food, anyway, because someone once decided that the hosts need to eat better food than the guests.
Ni sawa tu. The wedding was not mine.
Anyway, directed by the lovely music, I walked into the grounds and found a queue. No one asked me anything as I queued, no one asked me anything as I served chapatti and rice and beef stew and a little sukuma wiki. No one said anything when I sat at a table at the back and proceeded to enjoy the free lunch. The group of middle-aged women who shared the table continued chatting and completely ignored me. Their conversation was like a briefing about the couple.
“Wewe unaona 800, 000 hapa kweli?” one said, looking around. That was the wedding budget they were talking about. There was nothing remarkable about the décor and tents, but the cake and food were delicious.
“No. It can’t be 800. I don’t think so,” another replied. “I think we funded their honeymoon.”
“Good thing I didn’t contribute anything,” the first one said.
See? You were judging me yet there were people at the same wedding who had just come to eat food they did not contribute.
“But let them wed before the baby comes,” another said.
“Njeri is pregnant?”
“You didn’t know?”
“Imagine no. I just thought that she had added a little weight because she loves food.”
“Well, she is. Five months, from what I hear.”
Then the voice was dramatically lowered, but because my ears receive satellite signals, I made out that the pregnancy might not be the groom’s.
Society says men hate gossip, but I tell you, that thing is so sweet. You learn details which are utterly useless to you, but at that time, you feel like you know what a person eats for breakfast, their favorite color, their entire thought process. Useless information, but the more useless it is, the sweeter it sounds.
The women then spoiled things and switched to vernacular, so I bit into a piece of chapatti and thought that since I was a bachelor, this could easily be my Saturday business. People romanticize weddings, but the truth is if you are not in the bridal party, your main attraction is the free buffet.
I had just finished eating and, business completed was thinking of leaving when the bridal party arrived from the photo session. The MC was on fire, dancing until a line of sweat drew itself on his back. And the
DJ was also excellent, so I decided I was not in a hurry and stayed to watch. It seems that there was a silent argument that women should do the dancing, because no man was in that entourage, save for the groomsmen, which was just as well, because I dance like a colonialist on crack.
My comfort was short-lived because suddenly, the DJ ordered all men into a circle, and he was right next to me when he made the announcement. He even put his hand on my shoulder so I couldn’t escape. I stood slowly and followed other men into a circle.
My friend, we danced to Nigerian music. Honestly, I don’t know what I was doing because these moves are mastered in my head, but on Saturday, my head was full of stew. I remembered nothing at all. It was a painful five minutes. The 800, 000 bob must have paid the MC to torture us, because he did it well. Him and that line of sweat on his back. Women can swing from side to side and people will say they are dancing, but a man must know how to dance, because what will he swing?
Then when I thought it was over, the MC forced us to sit down and asked the women to come and collect their men. Of course, no one came for me. I took a long, solitary walk down beyond the archway, made a right turn and walked on until I got to the matatu stage. Throughout the journey home, I kept wondering what the chances were of a groom refusing to dance and getting away with it.
Then I reflected on the many times my extended family had met, eaten, and found a reason to dance. It doesn’t matter how bad the dancing is. Perhaps that is the whole essence of weddings. No one cares about the vows except for the couple. People only go there to witness the exchange. What the couple does with them after the wedding is up to them. If they divorce, we don’t get called for a ceremony. The things we enjoy most about weddings are the food, the dancing, and the cake, all of which are social things.