The good, the bad and the helpers

I’ve finally figured it out. It’s taken a while but now I know what I want in the man department. I want a helper. That’s it. All the rest of it is fluff. I know everyone thinks that Johnny Depp was recklessly charming and debonair as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, but all you have to do is sail off the coast of Mogadishu to realise that swashbuckling pirates are not all that.

The whole strong and silent bit is not working for me either. Mouths were made for talking. I’m not feeling the brothers who have to think for two weeks before they ask you to pass the salt. Life is not a scene from the Matrix. And he might be handsome and everything else, but trust me, Keanu Reeves is the male Nicki Minaj – he’s your quintessential ‘blonde’ in black leather. Not deep, just slow. Very slow.

And then of course you have the genuine article. Your bona fide dark and dangerous bad boy, a la Tommy Lee Jones with Angelina Jolie’s blood in a vial around his neck. The rebel without a cause who blazes a fiery trail, leaving an apocalypse of broken hearts in his wake. He’s good at being bad and he makes no apologies for it. Until time takes its toll and he begins to cut the pathetic figure of an aging rock star, playing Will Smith’s side kick in yet another tired instalment of Men in Black.

We really shouldn’t complicate issues when it comes to what we want in a man. And we certainly shouldn’t take our cue from the red carpet. If the picture you have in your head of the perfect man is something that came out of Hollywood, I hate to tell you this but that man doesn’t exist. The James Deans of this world are a figment of some screenwriter’s imagination. Unfortunately, so is every character in every Tyler Perry movie. If you’re looking for a good man, look around you without your 3D glasses on.

First and foremost, if all your leading men have been white, like most of mine have been thus far – with the exception of the Fresh Prince, and even he grew up in Bel Air – then you may want to zero in on someone closer to home. Nothing against mixed race relationships, you understand, this is just a matter of practicality. We’re in Kenya not Zurich. In this part of the world, bad boys call themselves Wakanai and spend their mornings talking to radio hosts about their less than illustrious pursuits. Ugh, right?

The whole bad boy thing gets old real quick, especially when you can get your daily dose of drama from Alejandro and Esperanza. What a woman really needs from a man is help. Such sweet irony, no? If sisters could do it for themselves, that’s what we would be doing. And let’s face it, many of us are not. This is not to take anything away from the women’s lib movement; after all, men were the first to admit that they needed help. In fact, so dire was their need that God himself made the request on their behalf. It is not good for a man to be alone, He said. As it turns out, it is not good for a woman either.


So, it’s simple really. Well, for me at least. Any man of mine must come with value-add. There must be something I can do that he can do better. If he wants to do it on a Harley Davidson with a biker jacket on, that’s all well and good. As long as he does it.



Sexy is state of mind

For some reason, African Americans call curvy girls ‘thick’. For an African of the continental variety, the word is controversial, mostly because ‘thick’ also means dim and no one wants to be accused of being dumb. Especially when you’re a big girl, and people already think your thick – as in dim – because you’re dumb enough to keep on eating, when it’s obvious you should have stopped years ago. As you can see, I’ve got fat girl issues!

Issues that are bound to get worse after I’m done eating the truck load of food that will be delivered to me in intervals throughout the holiday season. Honestly, I can’t even talk as much as I used to because there’s always food in my mouth, thanks to all these ‘phat’ festive parties. It’s just not right, the amount of merrymaking people expect of you over Christmas and New Years – just not right.

Anyway, long story short, come January, many of us might have made the speedy transition from thin to thick, or God forbid, thick to thicker. I’m not any kind of prophet but I can predict that the New Year will come with all manner of resolutions to join the gym and shift the weight forever and for always. Or at least until Christmas comes around again.

I can also predict that the extra pounds will push our self-esteem into a tight, but cushioned corner. And when we force our self-esteem into a corner, it uses every good thing we ever felt about ourselves as a footstool. Our confidence. Our joy. And crucially, the knowledge of our innate sexiness.

We begin to feel like our inner vixen is buried so deep beneath the rolls of fat – whether those rolls are real or imagined – that she can never be resurrected. And we’ll feel that way, even as we try to exhume her slender frame via treadmill. In the scramble to lose the weight, we forget that sexy is an attitude. Sexy is as sexy does, whether she’s a size 8 or an 18. If it walks and talks sexy, dang girl, it’s sexy.

That’s our truth. Our reality is that we are not sexy for ourselves alone but for our men too. Rightly or wrongly, much of how we view ourselves as women is based on how we are viewed by the men we love. Maybe he likes you thick, maybe he likes you thin, or maybe he likes you in between. Whatever it is, when you veer to far away from his mark, you can start to feel that you’re not sexy at all, when in fact, your sexiness has just been repackaged. Whether you gain a couple of pounds or lose a few, you are still you.

How sexy you feel is all in your head – or your hormones – depending on what time of the month it is. All things being equal, if you’re owning your body, rolls and all, your husband/boyfriend/lover should fall in line like a dutiful duck. However, there are some men who will instead fall back on the old, “you were slim when I met you and that’s what attracted me to you” line. Those are the ones you should kick to the curb. If he loves you, he loves you, whether you gain five kilos or lose 20.

What you need to measure is your own sense of self-worth vis-à-vis any weight you may have gained or lost. When you find a number that makes you feel the sexist – all the while remembering that no matter what drivel Hollywood is spewing this week, zero is not a number – you have found your ideal weight. And ideal for you, should by all means be ideal for him. Happy Holidays!

Act like a lady, think like a man

I was amused to discover recently that there is such a thing as ‘fun feminism’. I wondered just how dreary the old feminism had to be to warrant the ‘fun’ tag that has been so conspicuously latched onto the new one. Usually, when you think feminism, you think battleaxe. Well, at least I do, and this despite being a feminist myself. Feminism conjures images of a toughened, hard woman, who doesn’t take crap from any man. A woman who can lay bricks, drive a long-distance trailer and bench press 200kgs. A woman who fights for her rights, with the emphasis being on fight. A woman who doesn’t compromise her feministic values.

Fun feminism on the other hand is all about compromise. It’s a movement that has positioned itself right in the centre of the middle ground, taking the stance that a lady has the right to choose whether she wants to be an independent woman or a Stepford Wife, a slut or a saint. Rather than take the unyielding stance that a woman’s rights cannot be negotiated, fun feminism maintains that a woman has ownership over her body and can decide to do with it what she pleases. Even if that means being subservient to a man or turning your temple into a brothel. Fun feminism is all about defining your own reality without having to stick to the rules of old feminism, many of which demand that a woman be treated with respect by everyone, be they male or female, and including herself.

I say all this to put this question into context: As a self-respecting woman, is there ever a situation that allows you too make the first move? An old feminist might argue that anything a man can do, a woman can do better. And therefore, if a man can make the first move, then so can a woman. A fun feminist on the other hand would probably argue that women should do what makes them comfortable, so if making the first move is your thing, then go ahead and do it. If not, don’t.

Sound arguments, both. But the truth of the matter is that when it comes to making moves, it’s not your personal preferences that you should take precedence. You need to think about what you want, not how you feel.

I took a media management course recently. In the people management section, there was a whole chapter dedicated to managing your boss. Even if you’ve never actively reflected upon it, if you have a boss, you are managing her (or him). You might be failing at it, but you are definitely doing it. Of course, the aim is to manage your boss successfully so that she can do the same with you. The idea is to create an enabling environment for your superiors so that they in turn, can create an enabling environment for you.

The same applies when it comes to men. To bag one, you need to manage one. And to manage one, you need to understand how he operates. Men, generally, want to court a woman. As ridiculous as it sounds, if you present yourself as a fait accompli, without them having to work for it, they will find a way to shove you in the bargain basket, with a discount label stuck firmly to your forehead. In other words, if they didn’t pay a price (not necessarily in monetary terms) then you’re not worth it. And they can do better. Obviously, that is not always the case. There are some men who appreciate a strong woman who identifies a man she wants and goes after him. I just don’t know any.

Lucky for us, it’s all the same thing when you really think about it. Show me a woman who doesn’t know what she wants and I’ll show you a free and fair election. Women will usually know what they want. What we’re not always sure about is how to get it. When it comes to ‘getting’ a man, the direct approach might is not the most efficient. You do have the option to go to him, but if you can get him to come to you, all the better.




I’ll take that piece of ass to go

Some dude has gone and written a song about fast food – Chips Funga he’s calling it – and he’s managed to make it sound romantic. Sexy, even. Who knew takeout would sound as good as it tastes? I guess it depends what kind of takeout you’re talking about. If it walks and talks and is still in your bed in the morning, it might very well be sexy. Or at least it was the night before when you picked it up to go.

It is most undignified to say ‘it’ when you mean ‘her’, then again ‘chips funga’ is even more debasing, perhaps only less so than ‘sausage funga’. Almost every woman I know has had a one-night-stand. In our days we called it what it was, and it wasn’t something we were proud of. It usually happened after a drunken night out and most of the time the details were scanty. You would wake up in a strange bed at about 12.30 in the afternoon, with a trail of dried up spittle down your left cheek, and a thick mist blurring your vision.

Stumbling, you’d pull on last night’s clothes – a neon pink micro-mini dress with sequins or something similarly ridiculous – and then tiptoe out of the bedroom as though you knew God was watching. You’d walk toward the sound of a TV turned on low to find the stranger you slept with watching music videos in his boxers. “Hey, you’re up,” he says. “Errm…should I call you a cab?” And that would be that. Sheepishly, you go ahead and do the walk of shame, promising yourself that you would never go home with a guy again. As I say, it wasn’t something we were proud of.

Today, it’s a whole different ball game. There is little difference between some Kenyan women and an actual French fry, especially if you’re discussing the speed at which both can be packed, taken away and then discarded. Funga’ing chips is the expected end to a night out. It is no longer a shameful secret, something that you whispered about with your girlfriends in conspiratorial tones. It’s a way of life. The new ‘norm’.

This is all well and good. We’re living in the age of same sex marriage, legalised marijuana and Nicki Minaj so it is safe to say that anything goes. To each her own, and all the rest of it. We forget however, that the right to be ‘fungwa’d’ comes with responsibility. Don’t get it twisted; even a grown woman will have a hard time reconciling indiscriminate sexual activity with her personal sense of self worth. You might want to think that ‘it’s just sex’ but then you would be wrong. You are a mind-body-soul continuum and when a man enters your body, his presence there taps into all of that. If you’re not having protected intercourse, then your health will be the first green bottle to fall off the wall. But even if you’re using a barrier method to keep disease out, have you protected your mind? Is there a condom over your heart? One-night-stands leave a lasting imprint on your psyche and few many women have figured out how to erase it. A grown woman may use her adulthood as an excuse to make her own sexual choices, as if being over 18 somehow makes you immune to the consuming effects of dubious sexual encounters. But what about the teenage girl who’s joined the ‘chips funga’ band wagon just because everyone else is doing it? Does she really have any idea what she’s getting herself into? Most probably not. And yet, somehow grown women have managed to make the ‘chips funga’ phenomenon cool. You know what? It’s so not.

Make it or break it

I’ve heard it said that marriage is not a contract – it’s a covenant. A contract can be broken. A covenant is a binding agreement. Even so, married people ‘break up’ and move on without having to die first, so obviously, covenants can be put asunder too. Or at least, we think they can. When two people have been intimate for a long time whether as man and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend, breaking up is not so easy to do. Being in a relationship demands a level of bonding that goes beyond the physical, and it is the emotional and spiritual bonds that refuse to be loosed. So. One must be super careful before one decides to bond, otherwise one might remain bonded for life.

Going into a relationship, two people will usually negotiate terms. They will broker a ‘deal’ so to speak. So. Maybe they agree to go to church together every Sunday. Or to do a movie on Friday nights. These are the things that would bring together. But there are things that would tear them apart. Those are described as ‘deal breakers’. A deal breaker is an occurrence that would immediately put the breaking party in breach of contract, which would then result in the termination of the relationship. Physically, at least. It could be infidelity. Or addiction. Or financial ruin.

Women usually have them deal breakers at their fingertips. But what about the men? What would push a man to break the deal? There are a few things, actually. And I thank for this insight.

She doesn’t back you up

If she doesn’t respect you enough to back you up in public with friends, parents or colleagues, and if she berates you for it later, you’ve got yourself a deal breaker.

She flirts with other guys

If you and your girl go out with a group and you find her authentically laughing at his jokes, touching his arm, generally enjoying his company – in other words, flirting – this is a deal breaker.

She neglects you publicly

As a man, you don’t necessarily need to be the paramount priority in her life, but you do expect to warrant enough regard not to be ignored. This shows just how low you are on her priority list.

She lies

Lying, no matter the reason or the outcome, should always be a deal breaker for your relationship.

She criticises you

Successful men need their integrity and their self-esteem intact. If your girl is willing to criticize you in such a way that it cuts so deeply into such an important part of your successful psyche, then that’s a definite deal breaker.

She disappears without telling you

She owes you an explanation if she’s going on vacation or to visit a sick relative or for any reason whatsoever. You don’t have to agree with it, but if she doesn’t tell you, that’s disrespectful.

She abuses you

When your girl lays into you, either with fists of fury or scathing comments, you need to let her go. If she’s able to fly off the handle and really try to hurt you, she’s unhinged and you need to let her go.

She scolds you publicly

If you’re out in a public setting and your girl attempts to correct your behaviour with utter disregard to the surrounding scene, you’re smack dab in the middle of a deal breaker.

She has a substance abuse problem

Having a problem with drugs or alcohol is a pretty big deal. If you suddenly discover her problem, 9 times out of 10, it’s a deal breaker. The exception is if you helped to contribute to that problem, or she developed it in some way because of you. In that case you’ve got an obligation to the issue you’ve helped create. It’s a treacherous tightrope to walk, best of luck.

She cheats

The granddaddy of all deal breakers: This is such a slap in the face to you, your trust, whatever you built in your relationship, and her integrity. The second she’s cheated there should be no second chances. It’s the No. 1 relationship deal breaker and you just need to walk away with your dignity intact.

There you have it ladies, from innocent flirtations to the granddaddy of all deal breakers. Funny how this seems like a list of all the things we let them get away with.



Laughing all the way to the club

A few weeks ago, a friend convinced me to leave my trusted couch for a couple of hours and head out to a beach club in Dar es Salaam. When she called, I was miles into a Giuliana & Bill marathon with absolutely no intentions of slowing down until the celebrity couple was ‘Married Away’ in Capri, Italy. Note: I’ve watched this series several times. But when the phone rang, I couldn’t think of a good excuse fast enough, neither could I tell her that I was watching G&B on The Style Network again, because that would have sounded exceedingly lame. So, with much reluctance, I put on my party frock and we headed out to Mbalamwezi. Now normal folk would have been excited to have a night out on the town, but not me. I was too busy memorising landmarks under the treacherous illumination of street lighting because I knew I would have to find my way home alone (WHY????). I had only been in Tanzania for a couple of weeks at the time.

Anyway, we get to the club and immediately a Maasai watchie begins to direct us to an ‘exclusive’ parking area. Once the cars are parked, he demands Tsh10,000 (about Ksh500) by way of a tip. Automatically, we both begin to haggle but the man refuses to budge so we part with the cash. No sooner are we done bargaining with the gatekeeper than we have to battle another adversary; only this one doesn’t want to take money, he wants to give it.

“Black beauty,” he says, leaning into the window of my friend’s car, “how can I help you?” My friend is non-committal, giggling girlishly as she responds, “Nothing kaka, we are fine.” But the man is either deaf, or really dumb. “I’ve just come from a company retreat, and you know when we go on retreats we make a lot of money. In fact here is my business card. Make sure you store it in a safe place because I can help set you up in business. By the way, what is your number? Don’t worry about mine because they are on my business card, both TIGO and Voda, so you can reach me anytime. Lakini black beauty, naomba please give me your number.”

My friend looks dazed after being lambasted with the man’s monologue, and reaching down to slip on her shoes, she tries to avoid giving him her number, but he insists. She considers giving him the wrong number but he makes a point of calling her while still within hearing range, to make sure the phone actually rings. “Black beauty, surely there must be something you want… nikusaidiaje?” he says in parting, seeming almost annoyed that the lady doesn’t need the ambiguous ‘aid’ he is offering. By this time, she is quickly locking her doors and scrambling to put some distance between them. And I am left shaking my head. I mean, how far did the guy really think he was going to get with that little comedy routine?

But then again, there was a time when any man who paid me a compliment got a ‘Julie Pass’, even if he didn’t pay for anything else. I was such a quiet and retiring woman-child that I figured if anyone could pick me out in a crowd, he deserved a medal. It was a self-esteem issue that ultimately led to a series of unfortunate, alcohol-fuelled events that lasted for years and years. After what seemed like a lifetime, I found myself back at one – quiet and retiring, and still more child than woman. The difference is this time, I’m loving it and I’m loving me, just the way God made me. These days, when guys pick me out in the crowd, they know they’ve got the gold. Now back to that G&B marathon…

God must be a happy Man

God must be a happy Man if the amount of praying that has gone on recently is anything to go by. Thanks to the man of God from Naija, thousands of women were moved to look upwards instead of sideways in the recurring and persistent search for husbands. I was tempted to do so as well, before I realised that I need the prayers more than any man who would be my husband. Continue reading