“If you are not going to be a girlfriend and wife, who is submissive, who follows the lead of a husband, then we got to deal with this now, because no wife of mine will rule my house, give me orders or go to a separate church from mine!”, said Tendai fuming, his voice was shaking from anger, l could see he was totally charged up and no longer caring to select his choice of words.
I was also fed up myself, and l retorted angrily, “fine, if you want me to be that kind of a wife and fiancée, then to hell with it, what are we even doing now? Let’s not waste each other’s time anymore. Have a great life". I slammed his car door nice and hard as l climbed out and walked away into the dark.
So how did things get so messy?
Tendai and I had fallen in love with each other a year ago, he was all l ever wanted in a guy, ‘at first’ and l was his dream girlfriend too. Both of us at the age of 28 just thought this definitely was it. The search for true love was over.
With time there emerged those nitty-gritty human imperfections. Tendai is traditional, old school and reserved on the other hand l am less cultural and a newly emerging activist for feminism and gender equality. He is the type that prefers to not touch alcohol, deems it unclean for his soul, he prefers the traditional kind of music, and he loves spending his days chilled, watching movies or visiting family and friends. It made me look like l was the wild one, so eager to try anything and everything, ready to live, never content with sleeping before 11 pm on a weekend, and definitely never one to repeat the same activities over and over again.
So as expected in such cases, we started getting into each other’s nerves. He began to think l was too independent, l had no respect for tradition and that l could just not make a good wife for him, but this was never said out aloud. I began to find him quite boring, and just not fun to hang with. But none of us could audibly say it out. We had just come a long way to quit because of what we thought to be a few indifferences.
In my culture, men pay lobola to show respect to the bride’s family and say thank you for raising your daughter well. The culture sort of sells women under the guise of culture. Lobola can be 15 cows including other cultural things that a guy must pay up, not to mention that after the lobola the guy must sponsor the white wedding ceremony as well. The bride’s family demands the amount of lobola they want, and the amount can even add up to 15000 us dollars, which is a 2-year saving for a typical middle-class guy who has decided to forgo buying a house, a car, and a decent living style. Lately, families have become overly greedy and are demanding alarming lobola prices. The fathers of the bride use the lobola to buy things like a fancy car or spend the money getting drunk. And in turn the bride has to leave her family, her religion, her lifestyle, her surname and almost everything else important is foregone by the lady as she follows her husband. It becomes the duty of the wife to clean, cook, take care of the husband and kids, as well as to get formerly employed somewhere and contribute to the new family income. If lobola was truly a cultural way of appreciating a partner l do not see why both partners cannot give lobola to the spouse's family, or why a guy cannot give out what he has, but instead must toil for years to get to afford a wife.
And as you can imagine, l being a feminist, who realizes there is something seriously wrong with this culture from as early as 11 was totally ready to rebel. And certainly not prepared to be sold off, so l tried reasoning with the love of my life.
We were sitting in Tendai’s car, he was preparing to drive me home, after we had spent the day in the park, doing what we usually do, ‘Chilling' in the relaxed way he likes. And poor I got bored; there was nothing new to say, no interesting conversation about the latest movie, or the hit song on the market. Just family talk about how we would chill like this, during the weekends once we were married.
Sol blurted out, “Tendi, love brought us together, l love you dearly, but there are a few things we should change love. For starts l would love to keep going to my church, l like it there, and l would love for you to take care of your siblings, but the family culture of a newly wedded couple living under the same roof with family relatives just takes the vibe off honeymoon phase, we can always share, but l prefer staying with you only and my kids, unless we really have to take in someone in need. Can we do that?
Tendai’s eyes grew big, as if they were gonna pop out of their sockets, all he could mutter was “whaaaaat?” Since l had kept this buried for so long in my heart, l thought, ah why not just let it all out, after all, he is my boyfriend, he is bound to see things more from my perspective if l explain well.
“Yes Tendai, l think women’s positions in the house are a bit unfair too, for instance a man gets to come back from work, sits at home, and watches tv whilst the lady who has also come back from a long day at work, breaks her back to cook, wash and do dishes as well as take care of the kids. It sounds more like slavery rather than marriage. I hope when we are married we can share tasks according to everyone’s capabilities, it would make married life easier for me love”.
Tendai looked at me long and hard, with clear bewilderment in his eyes. "Love a woman should be a woman, know your place, and know that it will always be behind me, your boyfriend and future husband, l will be the head of the family, l will make the final decisions, you will be my wife, what is the purpose of a wife? Is it not taking care of the husband? Talk to your mother, talk to your church elders, talk to anyone and they will tell you the same! The husband leads, the wife follows. Equal rights are there, but just not on this!” He ended, fuming with fury.
I guess in his mind he was thinking, oh this gal, what nonsense is this, women are women, and they should remain women. That was the moment when l finally opened up my eyes to the truth l had refused to see all the time; nothing was going to change in this relationship. Not me and certainly not Tendai. It was my purpose to actively campaign for women's rights. So l took my leave from the car that had become stuffy and tension-filled from the heated argument.
This is the issue that has brought about the end of our so-called love to where we are right now, bitterness, regrets, anger, and anger.
We both think we are right; we both want the other to see how they are the ones who are wrong. And above all, no one wants to compromise.
I take a taxi, and head home, with deep sorrow inside of me, hoping someday, the society will see life in the eyes of a woman because for now, life is just far from being fair where men and women are concerned. I don’t blame Tendai though; he was born in this world, where culture and tradition plays a major role in people’s lives, even if the culture clearly weakens another party and gives the other all the power. It’s the way it is, and everyone has a choice, to do away with the bad culture, or keep it alive and running for the next generation to copy.
But l know my stand on point.