What do men want?

Just so you know, the only time women ask this question is when they’re looking to get serious, or looking for a serious man (I’m not sure that’s the same thing, is it?).  What we really want to know is what do men consider a serious woman, and how can we become one, forthwith.  No really, this question isn’t asked with a view to finding out what’s going on in the (seemingly addled) brains of the other half of the species, it’s simply an attempt by women to break men down into bite-sized chunks of information that we can easily digest.  We want to understand men, in terms of women, no?  Don’t get upset, gentlemen, it’s just what we do, and today’s soundtrack is a classic example of what we’re looking for.  ‘Someone’ is that song that women will describe as a great love song, because the man is saying all the right things, and saying them oh so well.  As to whether we can take Musiq’s word for it?  As much as I have great love for the man, that remains to be seen…

I never wanted a woman that wanted
Me for my name or material things,
I always hope for a woman that’s so sure,
Emotionally secure, with spiritual faith,
A woman that I can trust with all of my secrets,
And even listen to all of my issues,
A woman who never judge me or how I was,
She deals with me strictly through love…

I have a bunch of male friends I’ve known my entire adult life, we met back in ’96 as freshers in Campus and we’ve been close ever since.  We’ve been through campus crushes and passionate but doomed loves, mid 20’s flings and late 20’s mistakes, and now in our 30’s, children, marriage, engagements, heartbreak and fungas (that last one applies only to me, ironically given that I’m funga-averse one, or so I like to tell myself).  Over the years we’ve had many long discussions on what kind of woman they’re looking for and what men really look for in a relationship, but for all everything they’ve told me during those 16 years, I still have no clue.  That’s how confusing men are to me, to all women I suspect.  Hang on, 16 years?  Fuck me sideways!  Every so often I forget how old I am, then I write crap like that and it comes rushing back…  Where has all the time gone?  I have digressed, no?  Apologies.

When we were in our early 20’s, young and idealistic, convinced we would run the world, back then the boys wanted a girl who was hot and who loved their broke asses.  See, back then all the hot chicks in campus had boyfriends with jobs, and cars, and they had no time for the youngsters running around with books in arm and stars in eye.  That was the challenge back then, to get a girl, nay woman, who could see the potential, and shag at the drop of a heart.  Back then the boys would listen to sappy R&B on MetroFM and talk longingly of love.  Those were good times, but alas, they were not to last.  In campus Blackstreet’s (dubious cover of) ‘Can’t buy me love’ was their mantra, but after campus it became ‘We Kamu’.  Once we got out into the big bad world and they got a little cash in their pockets, idealistic thoughts of love flew out the window, to be replaced by realistic thoughts of pleasure, all the pleasure money could buy them.  In their mid 20’s, these buggers were, to a man, jackasses, using and abusing anything in a short skirt, or tight jeans.  What did they want?  A tight nininio, who looked so good all their boys were green with envy, who didn’t cost them too much money or give them too much grief.  At that point, I stopped trying to get to know their girls’ names, they were simply accessories and were treated as such by all parties concerned.  

It occurs to me that that might sound a bit harsh to those of you at that point in your life, but that’s just the way it was back then, and from the few younglings I talk to these days, the way it still is.  Moving on swiftly…

After a couple of years, approaching 30, these men then got it into their heads that they needed to settle down, get married, have the mandatory 2.5 kids and what not.  A couple of them had (what they considered) the good sense to dismiss the party girls they’d been hanging with and went off in search of serious women, women they found disturbingly easily (compared with the drama women go through trying to achieve the same), women they have since made their wives, for better and for worse.  Which brings us to the point of today’s post.  What qualifies as a serious woman?  What is it that men really want? 

All that I hope for a friendship that’s so pure,
A girl I can talk to bout whatever is on my heart,

A woman that needs me, that trust and believes me,
That wont take my kindness as some kind of weakness,

A woman who bares her soul, who’s willing to let go,
That wants me to lead her, but knows how to take control
And when I am feeling down, cause things are going wrong,
She fills me up and makes me feel strong...

As always, I turned to google in search of illumination, but given that I’ve been doing this for a minute or two, I didn’t feel the need to search high and low, this time I went straight to one source, The Huffington Post, not because there’s nothing else out there, but because this site is never content with one answer, allowing its columnists and guests to respond to each other, at length.  There is, of course, the fact that they’re milking this ‘relationship advice’ thing for all the dollars they can squeeze out of it, but who isn’t, no? 

First up is the appropriately titled, 7 Things Men Look For In A Woman.  At first glance, this appears to be the quintessential list of what men want, complete with feel good affirmations like, “Although men and women are different in how we think, communicate and express our emotions, one thing that's true for all of us is that we desire to love and be loved.  Like I said, at first glance.  Read it again and you realise that, a. she’s not really saying anything you don’t, or shouldn’t, already know, and b. she still hasn’t really told you why that guy you like doesn’t like you back.  What?  Come now, my lovelies, let’s just cut to the chase and admit that the only reason you’re reading this is because you want to know why it didn’t work out with that guy who killed your vibe, or how to make it work out with that guy whose vibe you’re feeling.  Its okay, don’t be shy, that’s what I’m doing too, or at least I was when I first started writing this, last year (long story, will rant another day).  Read this list, but keep in mind that it’s a cheat sheet, written by a woman for women.  The list tells us all a man wants, it doesn’t really speak to the why. 

Which is how I ended up at this article, What Do Men Want?  This lovely woman, on the other hand, does not attempt to give you simple answers, instead allowing the men to speak for themselves, and speak they did.  The summary?  Men want to be men, and for their women to be women.  No really, for all the talk about no more drama and tent tests (#6), seems the one thread running through the responses is that men want women who fit their image of woman (yaani softer, gentler, nurturing, feminine), because that makes them feel more masculine, because being masculine is at the core of who they are.  Incidentally, we had this discussion some months back, with my not so brilliant argument for Type A women to file down their alpha edges, and the reaction was, shall we say strong?  I think my feminist card was revoked after that little piece of genius.  I can only assume that this point I’m making will have a similar reaction, but this time it’s not me saying it, but a bunch of random men.  Don’t write me hate mail, is all I’m saying, if you cant stand this heat, then take it up with the men in your kitchen.  Simply put: being masculine = being a man.  Take a breath and read that again.  Turns out, men just want to be men.  The reason the writer didn’t bother to come up with a pretty little list, instead condensing her opinion to one neat paragraph, is because everything these men were saying could be condensed into one paragraph.  As it turns out, its not that men want to strut around like peacocks cum cave men, with women falling over themselves in awe (although, in fairness, these geniuses do like to do that, often), men simply want a woman, their woman, to see them, and respect them, as men, the men they see themselves to be.  Shocking, no?

That brings me to the next piece of wisdom, What do men really want?  Who cares!  This is a man arguing, quite strongly I might add, that men want nothing more than to be our heroes.  No really, nothing more, his is a list of one.  All the drama and obsession with having the perfect relationship, what us women like to call ‘moulding’, but what men call nagging, all the constant criticism we dish out only serves to destroy the man, and as the lovely gentleman says, “You dont want to break us; if we are broken, we dont work.  I’m not entirely convinced his hero theory works, but it does have one major saving grace, it fits into our fantasies.  Seems to me that if a woman can’t get over her delusions of fairytales and happily ever after, then perhaps she could get a prince instead?  According to this guy, it can, scratch that, it should happen.  Ladies, he wants to be your knight in shining armour.  Woohoo!  I am resisting the urge to scoff…

I suspect there are a couple of people waiting patiently for me to get to the point and distil all this nonsense down into one of my pithy lists (I mock myself).  No such luck, folks, if you want answers to this one you have go read, because this question cannot, or should not, be answered in bullet points.  The reason I insist you find out for yourself is simple, this question is a mirror; you see what you’re looking for, and what you’re looking for is your mirror image, real or imagined.  If you think men only want hot chicks, hot sex and money, then perhaps that’s because all you want is hot guys, or perhaps chicks, hot sex and money.  If you think men want loving, responsible women to have babies with, that’s probably because you’re (aspiring to be?) a loving, responsible woman, looking to have a baby, no?  More to the point, this question is only asked when a man has vexed you, and you’re sitting there trying to figure what, if anything, you did wrong, and what you need to do right next time.  Stop frowning at me, you know I’m right, right?  No?  Probably not.

Someone who will put up with the things loving me can bring,
But still be there to see us through,
Someone who would put up with the strange and complicated things,
Cause I would do the same for her too,
Someone who I can be real with, aint gotta be perfect,
Because loving one another is all that matters,
It's not hard to explain, so believe me when I say
That I found all of that in you…

What do men want?  What they don’t have. 

Debate my ass! Wait, that's not such a bad idea...

  [dih-beyt Show IPA noun, verb, de·bat·ed, de·bat·ing.
  1. a discussion, as of a public question in an assembly, involving opposing viewpoints: a debate in the Senate on farm price supports.
  2. a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition are advocated by opposing speakers.
  3. deliberation; consideration.
  4. Archaic. strife; contention.
verb (used without object)
  1. to engage in argument or discussion, as in a legislative or public assembly: When we left, the men were still debating.
  2. to participate in a formal debate.
  3. to deliberate; consider: I debated with myself whether to tell them the truth or not.
  4. Obsolete . to fight; quarrel.
(from Dictionary.com

That’s the text book definition, the one they want us to believe they understand, and practice.  We, the uneducated masses, with three hours to waste on a Monday evening, know better, however.

Today, a form of intellectual self-masturbation in which one attempts to scale an ivory tower in the shortest time possible. Policy debate was founded in 1957 in an attempt to disguise the throes of the real world with dignified, "intellectual" switch-side arguments. The framers intended it to allow young people to become more active in the world around them and encourage them to do something to help the ailing world. Instead, debaters made the activity into a competition of who could spew the most statistics, impacts, horribly damnable effects/results, screaming evidence at cutthroat speed, and modern debate sprouted as a result. Debate resides close to the top of the proverbial "ivory tower", as the real world gets translated into evidence and impacts, statistics and "strats" to win tournaments. Those who participate for the fun of it are exempt from this definition; it is only applicable to debate when it is applied as a critical theory that can "benefit the world".
Debate, when converted into a social theory, becomes a laughable mockery of the suffering of the world.

Wake me up when one of those geniuses actually says something that could possibly change the taste of my tea tomorrow morning. 

Dida for president!

Dear Amolo,

Can I call you Amolo?  I know, it seems rather personal, considering we haven’t actually spoken before, but after all these years I feel like I know you.  For a long time I thought you and I were kindred spirits, that is until you left me, abandoned by the side of the road, as you rode off into the sunset, never looking back.  That’s right, you took the love I had given you and threw it away, and all for a new office, and a bigger car with a smaller flag.  Amolo, was the flag (cum air freshener) in my decrepit tuktuk not enough for you?  Was my undying devotion, even in the face of my parent’s resistance, not reason enough for you to hold on to me? 

Why, Amolo, did you desert me in my time of need?  I supported you through the bad times, only for you to leave me when you got a better offer, an offer that would benefit you, and not me.  Amolo, what did he have that I didn’t, that man in the big white house with the many gates, and a helipad he doesn’t use? 

Oh Amolo, you broke my heart in two when you abandoned our dream; when you sank into the cushy chair he gave you and promptly forgot what it is you, we, really wanted; when you stopped listening to the people who believed in you and your egalitarian dream, and started listening to the idiots and sycophants you surrounded yourself with, thieving, foolish sycophants obsessed with the trappings of power, like stolen land, and 500k suits, and book deals; when your half of the loaf was no longer enough to sate your greed, and you began to eat my crumbs; when your vanity overcame your good sense, and you began buying Polycolor by the truckload, no doubt at the (un)wise advice of your (alleged) girlfriend, the one with the even dodgier hair.  Oh Amolo, why did you have to break my heart? 

But do not mourn for me, my heart has healed, Amolo, and I am stronger now.  I will go on without you, as you did without me. 

I am no longer yours (at least until we go to the run-off, then perhaps I will be forced to reconsider), 

(not) Alex


Mother knows best!

This was originally posted in December ’11, and then I thought to take it down, convinced that it was too personal.  Clearly, my plans for the blog have changed somewhat since then.  Stop nodding.  It seems fitting to put it back up now, as we head to the polls to cast our…umm, votes?  Truth be told, this is as close to patriotic fervour as I’m going to get this month.  Folks, may my mother’s voice be in your head as you put a check mark against a (possibly dubious) candidate’s name…  

Many years ago, my mother and I were watching a music programme on TV featuring the group Jabali Afrika, they of the bulging torsos fame, and the drums, performing in concert in some far off land (this I deduced from the nature of the crowd, which was mostly white, with no rhythm).  One song in particular caught our interest…well, my interest and the mother’s wrath.  At one point of the show, Kenyan ragamuffin artist Hardstone, long lost to us over in America, bounds onto the stage and begins to do his ‘ting, I forget what the song was called, but it was the one with the ‘ng’ombe yakwa ya gredi…’ line, ‘Uhiki’ I think?  And then suddenly, the ‘Stone stops the band and bursts into song, ‘Eh Mungu Nguvu Yetu…’  I believe we all know that hit single. 

Cue one very irate mother.   

She was quite disgusted that some “foolish child” had the audacity to sing the national anthem in such an inappropriate place, and in such a disrespectful manner”.  Now in my characteristically blind and stupid arrogance, I blithely assured the mother that singing the anthem in the middle of a concert wasnt disrespect, but simply a celebration of Kenyan identity.  “Kind of like waving the flag,” I said, as I recalled the various times I’d sung the anthem, at concerts every New Year at the stroke of midnight, football and rugby matches (back when the Kenya teams actually won something), I think I’ve even sung it in a bar.  Granted the effect of mass euphoria and inebriation had something to do with a bunch of Kenyans bursting into song, but what’s important is that rather than bursting into, say, ‘Wasee Tumetoka Githurai’ or ‘Get Down’, whatever was top of the pops at the time, we sang the anthem, presumably to express the Kenyan pride we were feeling.

“What?” the mother sputtered, corners of her mouth speckled with foam (she was that pissed!), “What rubbish are you talking?” she spat at me (direct translation from Kuyo).  She then went on to explain how she remembers hearing the anthem being played in public for the first time, at independence.  And she remembers the days when the anthem could only be heard on national radio, and much later on television, long before they began teaching it in schools.  Have you ever listened to the words? she asked me, and I shrugged indifferently, struggling to understand the source of her anger.  The anthem is about our dreams.  It’s a prayer, a prayer of hope for the future and a reminder of our past.  He’s showing disrespect for our country just singing it like that.  You foolish children have no respect for your country!  Nkt!”  (In fairness, she didn’t really ‘nkt!’ me, but I could see she wanted to...)  She then got up and stormed off to go look at her cows, no longer desirous of my ignorant company.

The thing is, the mother is disturbingly good at planting a seed of doubt in my mind; like when I wanted to get dreadlocks and she didn’t say no, all she said was, ‘Is that who you think you are?’ and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and this is 15 years later.  That’s her M.O., she simply suggests, and leaves my over-active imagination to do the rest, secure in the knowledge that her frown of disapproval is so indelibly etched in my subconscious that I see her face every time I buy a pack of condoms.  On a related but completely unnecessary note, I think that gift is given to women once they procreate.  I’ve seen my eldest sister doing it with her son, it’s a bit creepy.  With such tactics in play, it was inevitable that her just ended rant would sit in my head and fester, wouldn’t it? 

And so I started to wonder, when we, and by we I refer to the post-independence generation, when we sing the anthem, what meaning does it hold for us?  Is it significant that we sing it in Kiswahili and not in English?  How many of you out there know the words of the anthem, all three stanzas (yes, there really are two more), in English and Kiswahili?  I confess I can barely remember the first stanza in English, let alone the next two, in either language.  I can, however, tell you that all stanzas have the same tune, of that much I am sure.  Pathetic, isn’t it?  For eight years in primary school, I carried a school diary, daily, with the complete anthem printed on page one, in both languages no less, and all I remember is the colour of the damn book (manilla pink if you’re interested, but I digress.) 

The more I think about it, the more I realise that the anthem is more than just a verbal national ID.  It’s what we hope our country is and always will be.

Haki iwe ngao na ulinzi
Natukae na undugu,
Amani na uhuru,
Raha tupate na ustawi.

A summary of the Kenyan dream, isn’t it?  Maybe that’s why we sing it in Kiswahili, and not the ‘white man’s tongue’, as my mother calls it.  The anthem is more than just a hit single, like ‘Malaika’, it’s a statement of who we are and what we want our country to be.  We may not have fought the colonialists, but we continue to fight for our national identity and sovereignty in a world where borders are becoming even more blurred.  And this fight entails us upholding the sacredness of our national anthem for all to see and hear.

Eh Mungu Nguvu Yetu

The anthem is a prayer (would you believe I truly hadn’t realised that, until the mother brought it up?  Shame, man!), and even the most irreligious amongst us (stop looking at me like that) knows that prayers are not to be flung about with disregard.  Now I’m not saying we have to be in a church to sing the anthem, or that you must be sober and fully clothed…well, maybe fully clothed, for the safety of others, and perhaps sober enough to stand upright.  The way I figure, it’s not where you sing, its how you sing and why you sing.  Why do you think we sing the anthem on New Years Eve and not at Easter?  Why do we sing the anthem when Kenya wins Safari Sevens, but not when Arsenal wins the Premiership (both seemingly unlikely events these days)?  As children we’re taught to respect the anthem, but as we get older we begin to lose the awe and take it for granted.  We don’t stand up unless we have to, we wont sing along unless we’re intoxicated by something or the other, and when we do sing we jump around and scream like…well, like we’re intoxicated by something or the other.  As a generation, perhaps we are losing touch with what national pride entails?  Or maybe we’re just trying to re-interpret the anthem, you tell me.

It turns out, at the end of the day, that mother really does know best, and for a child who’s spent a great deal of time convinced otherwise, this is a frightening, frightening thought.  It also scuppers all plans to put locks in my hair, finally, but thats a story for another day.  Folks, the next time you stand up to chant the anthem, intoxicated or otherwise, do me this favour, for my mother’s sake, please stand tall, pull your pants up and put the damn booze down.

Ive just wandered across this track on my playlist and thought to share it with you, not because it has much of anything to do with the post, but because its a classic Kenyan tune, the likes of which we seldom see these days.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present, Maroon Commandos, all 8 minutes of Amka Kumekucha’ (lyrics courtesy of the lovely gentlemen at Ghafla.co.ke).  

Uvivu ni adui mkubwa wa ujenzi wa taifa,
Kwani nicho kiini hasa 
kisababishacho njaa

You didnt see that one coming, did you?  


The chickens have come home...

You know how I keep talking about the axe swinging precariously over my head?  Well, the rope finally snapped, and the axe done fell on my neck.  As I write I am slowly bleeding to death thanks to the gaping hole in my jugular, two holes to be precise.  What am I on about?  Karma, my friends, the bitch has finally caught up with me.  Two of the gentlemen who have featured on these here pages, unbeknownst to them, obviously, have finally joined our little group, and they are not exactly happy to be here.  Alas, my lovelies, I must make amends now, for inaccuracies, lies, fallacies, and possibly unwelcome truths.  This shall not be pretty, but retractions seldom are, no?  Folks, this is a classic case of my chickens coming home to roost, and oh how they are roosting.  Note to self: stop talking about the men you date, or don’t date, as the case may be, not unless they’ve moved to a far off land, with no internet access.  Another note to self: stop asking foolish questions. 

Everybody, say hello to Mr D.  Mr D, stand up and take a bow.  Mr D is the man (perhaps not so) fondly referred to as Disappearing Dude, and Scar (that wasn’t me, by the way, I just called you simba.  Not sure that helped any…).  The last time I talked about this man, he had reappeared, and then he disappeared, and then reappeared, and then disapp…you know the story.  At the end of last year things finally came to a head, and by that I mean I finally got drunk enough to ask him flat out if he wanted me.  He said no.  I know, I should know better than to ask a question I don’t know the answer to, but in my defence, I didn’t really think he’d say no, so it kinda stopped me in my tracks.  See, I was working up to bigger questions.  Stop laughing, I got what was coming to me, and then some.  On a related note, I am done asking men questions, even when I’ve already given them the answers to give me back in return.  So, the man finally killed that vibe, and I got to spend December coming to terms with my foolishness.  For some reason, and I think its simply human nature (assuming I am not the first to feel this way), I felt great shame at being rejected, again, and again.  ‘How many times,’ I asked myself, ‘do you need the man to tell you, and show you, that he’s just not feeling your ass?’  I mean really, I asked him what?  I am such an idiot.

But alas, the story was not yet complete, was it?

January rolls around and with it comes…you guessed it…Mr D.  Now listen closely, because this is where it gets interesting.  I thought, when he reappeared, again, that he was looking to (re?)start something, that he was hanging around with intent.  Then we had a long drink and I asked another question, one that inadvertently answered all the other questions I’d ever had about the man.  Forgive me Mr D, I must tell this story, but only to put right what has been wrong all this time.  Ladies and gentlemen, the man fell in love last year, round about the time I was busy pining after his unavailable ass, such as I do.  It didn’t surprise me that he was dating, I was (and I use this term in the loosest possible sense) dating too, but I guess part of me thought I was in the back of his mind much the same way he was in mine.  Not so much, apparently.  Stop laughing, you evil buggers…  As I was saying, he met a girl and fell in love, and when he told me about her, that’s when it clicked that I had never been that girl for him.  No wait, it didnt click right then, it took a couple of weeks of silence and solitude (long story, another day) for it to finally become clear, and how clear it is now.  See there’s a way a man talks about a woman he loves, the way he smiles, and gets flustered, and frowns, and fidgets…  I can’t honestly recall seeing him in that state when it came to me.  As silly as this sounds, listening to him talk about her made me realise what had been missing all along.  And that’s why now I must print a retraction.

Disappearing Dude never disappeared.  He was never there to begin with.  All the accusations I made were misplaced, inaccurate, possibly just plain untrue.  I had him all wrong.  Scratch that, I never had him, and therefore could never have lost him.  Folks, this is what delusional behaviour looks like, when you convince yourself that because you feel a certain way for a man, that he feels the same for you, because that’s the way the story goes, no?  No.  He didn’t, and I must apologise for claiming that he did.  Did I get hurt?  Yes.  Did he hurt me?  Yes, and no, as it turns out.  Is he to blame for my hurt?  No, not really.  I did that to myself, by not listening to what he was saying and not saying, and not reading the signs that were plain to see.  Do I regret it?  No.  Well, yes.  I’m feeling slightly very foolish now, but foolish is a part of life, no?

And now the story is complete.  Not quite the happy ending I was hoping for, but an ending all the same, which in turn means a beginning, a real one this time, and hopefully a chance to get it right next time around, because you know I will have a next time, perhaps sooner than you sceptical buggers think.  That’s a suspense tactic, by the way, I must keep you guessing, no?  Perhaps not.

Everyone here, knows everyone here is thinking about
Somebody else,
Well it’s best if we all keep it under our heads,
I couldn’t tell, if anyone here was feeling the way I do,
But I’m lonely now, and I don’t know how,
To get it back to good…

The second retraction is not quite a retraction, but not for lack of trying.  For any of you out there who are considering telling your own tales, a word of advice: be careful who you call an idiot, they may track you down and call you an idiot right back.  This man was not amused, and to be honest I can’t really blame him, after all I did call him batshit insane (but in a good way, no?  No.  Somehow I suspect there’s no good way to call a man insane…).  So I wrote about my attempted relationship with the man, an attempt that lasted all of two months, and the post I did was not a ‘ah well… shit happens!’ post, noooo…  I was mad, and frustrated, and trying to figure out what had happened.  See, it just ended, literally, just.  I tried to make sense of it as best I knew how, which basically involved a long rant, but in so doing I presented only half the equation, my half, and I, you, never got to hear his half.  The tragedy of the post is that I never made that fact clear, that it was not a complete story, by any stretch of the imagination.  Said man has since accused me of being negative, of only talking about the bad and not the good, and not just in that particular post.  And to a certain extent he’s right.  I painted the picture of a bad, bad man who was just looking to get laid, and nothing else, and while that may or may not be true, it doesn’t speak to the rest of the man, does it? 

Even as he was tearing me a new one (poor choice of words, no?), I got the distinct impression that what pissed him off wasn’t so much what I said, but what I didn’t say.  By focusing on the (to my mind) bad ending, I neglected to mention the beginning, and the middle, both of which were pretty good.  The man was, is (when he’s not shouting at me), smart, and funny, and sexy.  A little fucked up too, but who here isn’t?  I know I am, perhaps more than him.  Kind (and somewhat angry right now) sir, apologies for the misrepresentation, it was not my intention to paint you as a bastard.  Actually, it was, but not a complete bastard, just a bugger with (perhaps) some bastard tendencies, not unlike myself and the rest of the idiots out here.  Perhaps one day you will tell me, and the rest who are reading this, what happened, and why, because we both know that the blame, if any, should be equally shared between us.  Its not that I’m looking to rekindle anything, I fear that ship has well and truly sailed now, as well it should, all things considered.  Ah well…  Shit happens!

Everyone here, is wondering what it’s like to be with
Somebody else,
Everyone here’s to blame, everyone here
Gets caught up in the pleasure of the pain, everyone hides
Shades of shame, but looking inside we’re the same, we’re
The same,
And we’re all grown now, but we don’t know how,
To get it back to good…

The song is ‘Back 2 Good’ by Matchbox 20, the rock band of my campus years.  This song, as with all good rock songs, has lyrics that can mean whatever you want them to, it all depends on your mood.  I find it melancholic, bittersweet almost, but some of you will find it romantic, and others still will find it angry, who knows?  Listen, take what you will from it.  Useless fact, whenever I’m struggling to work something out in my mind, I turn to one of two things, wine, or rock, rock ballads to be precise, because both have a way of drowning out the noise long enough for me to find clarity, even if many weeks, or months, later.

Losing my religion

Last month Mr ‘praying for a wife’ finally showed up on my doorstep, and then proceeded to pray for me.  That’s right, he said, and I must quote, “I pray that God touches you, manifests Himself in your life because you’d make a mighty fine warrior(ess).  First up, stop laughing at me, he was not mocking me, and neither shall you.  Second, do you know just how deviant you must appear to someone for them to pray for your ass?  Pretty deviant, I’ll tell you, pretty bloody deviant.  The man took a quick peek at this blog and immediately went into ‘Riswa!’ mode, calling upon the Most High and what not, and all because I have a troubling obsession with sex and sexuality, and perhaps I swear too much.  Don’t worry, I’m not about to start bashing the believers, I actually agree with the man.  I am, as a matter of fact, a deviant.  With deviant tendencies.  And a deviant blog.  And I know more of the bible than half the thumpers out here.  Fear not, I won’t bang my non-believer drum, mine is simply to show you how I got to where I am today, in an attempt to prove that my (occasionally flippant) dismissal of religion is not borne of ignorance.  Well, it might be, but at least its not wilful ignorance, for who can truly claim to know these things, no?  Put down your hand Mr Praying

Let’s talk about religion for a minute, because I was challenged to explain my lack of faith, and you know I’m not one to back down from a challenge, even one that might get me lynched.  I must warn you, this is a long, and possibly boring, one.  The disclaimer: the views expressed here are mine and mine alone, they do not reflect those of my mother, she who is, and always has been, the staunchest of Christians.  The views expressed may be offensive to some of you, and for that I apologise, but when it comes to matters religion, seems there’s no way not to offend someone, somewhere, somehow.  If, at the end of this conversation, you feel the need to ‘Riswa!’ my heathen behind, please feel free to do so, disagreement on this issue is most welcome.  If, however, you get the urge to slander someone else’s faith, or lack thereof, know that I will find you and I will beat you, because petty abuse and ignorance are not welcome in my house, go troll elsewhere.  It’s just occurred to me that the disclaimer for religion is as long as the one for the sewer, what does that say about the society we live in?

I grew up in a Christian home, raised by good God-fearing parents who talked the talk and walked the walk.  There was church on Sunday, prayer before meals and Quiet Time in the morning (for my mother at least), all that was missing was the obligatory picture of Jesus and the lambs above the fireplace, but that was only because my mother was never overly fond of domestic decorations. 

Useless detour, since her retirement my mother has since discovered a penchant for wall hangings and what not.  Some years ago, I got home to find a picture of a smiling Jesus beaming down at me, slap bang at the front door.  And be knowing this wasn’t just any old picture…nooooo…this was one of them bandia 3D type thingis, depending on how you look at it, Jesus is either standing patiently outside a closed door, or urgently knocking on said door.  Pretty spectacular, no?  No.  The first time I laid eyes on it I’d had a couple couple and was therefore not of the clearest mind, hell, I thought I was having a bloody vision.  Don’t laugh, I was convinced that my sins had finally caught up with me, judgement day and what not.  Just goes to show what cheap whisky (no ‘e’ back then) can do to a troubled mind, no?  To this day, I give that picture wide berth, just in case He comes knocking, for real.  Detour over, I was telling you about my suitably Christian upbringing.

My mother was the complete believer; she went to church several times a week, for choir practice and later for meetings of the elders, for as long as I can remember she sat up there with the rest of the seniors, being the serious Christian she was, is.  My father’s religion, however, was limited to taking us to another church on Sunday mornings.  Why another church?  My mother, like all good Kikuyu mothers, is P.C.E.A. (Presbyterian), a church that up until the last decade limited itself to proselytising in nothing but the deepest Kikuyu.  The father was having none of that.  Seeing as how he felt his children needed to be the most fluent English speakers in the history of English speakers, he chose to take us to a big shiny Baptist Church in the city, where we would be taught Sunday School by the mzungu missionaries, singing the hymns of the Lord in (seemingly) flawless English, yes?  Not that I’m criticising the man, I understand where he was coming from; he viewed church as another learning opportunity and therefore went out of his way to afford his children the best, even in matters salvation.  Unfortunately for me, however, that meant a childhood spent with the evangelical types.  I shall explain.     

Back in primary school, I’d spend a couple of days at bible camp during the holidays.  I know, it sounds very bougie, but I don’t know what else to call it.  It was a camp for kids, teenagers mostly, about 4 days I think, with the sole purpose of spreading the gospel to their young impressionable souls.  Remember those Word of Life camps in Mombasa?  Same concept, different missionaries.  A close family friend was, still is I guess, an evangelist cum missionary of sorts, fond of organising said camps, and because the families were close I was always eager to tag along, seemed the thing to do, no?  No.  I tell you, I got saved kendo four times before I got to high school, every August, like clockwork.  The fact that I needed to get saved on an annual basis should give you an idea of the depth of my faith, but in my defence, I was a bloody child.  And why did I keep getting saved?  Fear, pure and simple.  Take a 10 year old girl and tell her that disobeying her father(s), mortal and immortal, will have her spending the rest of her days in a burning pit, pictures provided of said burning pit, and you know the poor child will be rushing to salvation.  Then she goes back home and watches A-Team and This is it! and promptly forgets everything she heard, thankfully. 

It probably didn’t help that at these camps, the older kids would get up to all manner of mischief; in the daytime engaging in praise and worship, and then at night sneaking into each others’ rooms for a whole other sort of, well, praise and worship, one that involved...I actually don’t know what it involved, but I guessed it wasn’t ‘good’ judging by the whispering the following morning, that and the fact that said kids invariably grew into rowdy young adults with substance abuse, and other, problems a few years down the road.  Talk about preaching water and drinking wine.  The most deviant kids were the ones whose parents were up there ‘testifying’, the kids who were constantly held up to the rest of us as God’s little angels.  I may have been a young one, but I was not stupid, by the time I was getting to Standard 8 I was a confirmed sceptic, and a duplicitous little shit to boot.  I could make all the right noises, but scratch the surface and you’d find a girl more interested in James Hadley Chase than the King James Bible.  Even worse, I don’t think anyone objected to the hypocrisy, sometimes I felt it was expected of me, to be completely honest.

Fast forward to high school and I ended up at a training institution for nuns.  No really, they claimed to be giving me education, but what they were really trying to do was convince me that daily mass was a good thing, and that my inquisitive brain was somehow a bad thing.  I sat through catechism classes, all the while wondering why my bible, the one they made me buy in Form One, because my trusted Illustrated Good News Bible wasn’t good enough, my brand spanking new Jerusalem Bible had a couple of books I hadn’t seen before, and I had seen them all, no?  “What’s this?” I asked, perturbed by the sudden inclusion of Maccabees.  The pseudo nuns gave me no answer, so I went to Bible Study at church and asked again, still no answer.  Wait, I did get an answer, one guy said my bible was not a real bible, and that he would...wait for it...pray for me.  Genius, no?  I lost said bible when I was in Form Two, but I didn’t notice until about a year later, because, at that point, going to mass had become routine.  See the thing about Catholic mass is, it’s very much a scripted rite; you do the same things, say the same things, sing the same hymns, kneel the same way, every single time.  For someone who had grown up with the evangelical singing and clapping and overly vigorous dancing, the Catholic rites were (no pun intended) a Godsend.  I liked the predictability, I found it oddly soothing, hypnotic almost.  For all my issues with the Catholics, and they are very many, those buggers got the ceremony bit right.  To this day, the only services I am happy to attend are the ones that have mass in them, but I digress...

Now because I’m considerably younger than my siblings, I was pretty much alone as a teenager, with my parents no longer interested in the over-parenting characteristic of the first kids and content to let me figure shit out for myself.  I guess they figured they’d done enough when I was younger to set me on the path to righteousness, and, in truth, they probably had.  What they hadn’t counted on, unfortunately, was a child who asked more questions than she was supposed to.  By the time I was getting out of high school, I was fed up with getting (what I considered) nonsense answers to what I thought were very simple questions, like why those buggers kept threatening me with hell if I didn’t ‘believe’, when a large percentage of the world’s population didn’t ‘believe’, and didn’t seem much worse off for it.  See, I had long since realised that ‘good’ and ‘Christian’ were not synonymous, and therefore the reward of heaven and life ever after, versus the threat of hell and eternal damnation, no longer held any sway with me.  I figured, all of Asia and the Middle East cannot be doomed to hell, simply because they believe something different, that just didn’t add up.

With that mindset, I went off to university in the big bad city.  Sweet Jesus!  In between the Sodom and Gomorrah that was the campus lifestyle, to the Afro centrist cum pagan thinkers that were my lecturers, through to the seemingly subversive literature of Khalil Gibran I’d started reading, on instigation from a Muslim classmate, it was simply a matter of time before I turned away from religion for good.  Note, I said religion, not faith.  Problem is, once you start to look at religion as a function of the human psyche, a solution to our need to ascribe a purpose to everything, as well as looking at the origins of what we consider the major world religions and the similarities between them, once you cross that bridge, it’s hard not to look at religion as a show.  A show with purpose, but still a show.  I know, this is where the fight will be had, and fight we shall, a good clean fight I hope.

Mr Praying, I do not believe, my rational mind refuses to suspend its disbelief long enough for me to get on my knees and call out hallelujah.  To be honest, for many years I thought those that clung to religion weak, desperate to cling on to a myth rather than face the harsh reality of life.  That was when I was younger and (more) arrogant.  These days, I see those of us who embrace religion as pragmatic, they’re simply hedging their bets.  I figure, believing is an anchor, something to make sense of the madness, something to give meaning to this thing we call life, in some cases something to keep you going when all seems lost.  If believing that there is an all knowing God up there works for you, then, by all means, go right ahead. That said, I shall not be returning to that, or any other fold, not in the foreseeable future, not because I don’t need a reason for my existence, but because I choose to look for said reasons elsewhere.  Where exactly?  Everywhere, anywhere.  That’s the best part of not believing, I like the unknown, I find it liberating, and I’m no longer bound by the fear of…hell, I guess.  There’s also the added bonus of no longer having someone threatening me with dire consequences if I fail to comply with (possibly dubious?) instructions, or guilting me into submission for their own selfish ends. 

I know this is a long and winding post, and for that I apologise, but the only way for me to tell this story was to sketch the entire outline, hoping you’ll fill in the blanks for yourself.  You may now proceed to ask me hard questions I probably can’t answer…


Life lessons from men in shorts.

On behalf of women across the continent, I would just like to offer up a quick thank you to the lovely geniuses at Puma HQ, they who have kindly blessed us with the tight shirts and ass hugging shorts that are currently gracing those most divine bodies of AFCON 2013.  We thank you.  We do not, however, thank the barbers responsible for all manner of mohawks, fauxhawks and every other kind of hawk on display.  You buggers we may be forced to slap one day, for your cruel and unusual treatment of a black man’s hair.  I mean really, peroxide stripes on top of the dodgy cut?  At no point did you think to yourself, “Hmmm... I may have gone too far, perhaps?”  Ah well, I guess it’s a trade off between the head and the ass.  Feel free to misconstrue that statement as you feel so led.

The beautiful game...  There’s nothing like it is there?  From the frustration of waiting for a team to score, any team sometimes (oh Zambia, did you not get the memo about how to win a game?  You gotta score my friends...); to the relief when they finally do score, even if through a dodgy penalty (dear Tunisia, nkt!); to the delight of a finely crafted goal, one that leaves you shaking your head in disbelief, watching the replay to check for juju (did you see that goal by Emmanuel whatshisname for Nigeria on Sunday?  No really, did you actually see it?  Because all I saw was the ball on the ground, and then a shaking net.  What the hell?); to the nerve wracking penalties, those ones that have you clenching your bum in anxiety (the Mali goalie is a Jedi Knight, just so you know, that bugger was so calm I was sure he was high); to the half blind referees, one of whom I suspect couldn’t tell one big black man from another (here’s a hint, they have big numbers on their backs).  Football may not always be beautiful, but dammit if it isn’t always entertaining, sometimes for all the wrong reasons, and with that in mind...

Ladies and gentlemen, today I wish to share with you the invaluable lessons I’ve learnt through my lifelong obsession with this game.  Don’t worry, this cannot possibly be very serious, given that I am not an especially sane individual.

You had to know I was going to start with this, have you not seen those torsos?  I have never been so glad to see a shirt so tightly stretched, not since Captain America immediately post-supersizing has a kiddie sized shirt looked so good on a grown man.  Again, thank you Puma, thank you.  The point to my drooling is this, it’s not enough to be good enough, sometimes you have to be seen to be good enough.  Go ahead and show off, and what better way to show off than in a tight shirt?  And just so you know, this advice works for both men and women (terms and conditions apply).  Seriously though, if you have it, whatever it is, then go ahead and flaunt it, because how will the rest of us know you have it, if you don’t show it to us?

I’m sorry, but those shirts, more important the chests and biceps beneath, are the shit!  Walalalalala...  The thing about a tight shirt, however, and anyone with more than an inch of flab on their bodies knows this one truth intimately, a tight shirt will show the flaws, all of them, so don’t put it on unless you’re willing to cash the cheque that shirt is writing.  Put differently, don’t go pretending to be the shit, if you are not the shit, even if you look like the shit.  If you think that your hot body is all you need to win, then you have another thing coming my pretty little friend, just ask Didier.

Thanks to our dodgy education system, we were brought up to win at all costs, but life, and love, is not always a knockout tournament.  Sometimes, it’s okay not to win, especially if winning will cost you more than you have to give.  Sometimes, all you need to do is simply not lose.  Don’t lose your mind, or your heart, or your money.  Sometimes playing for the draw is a good idea, especially if there are more games to be played further down the road.  Look at the football purists frowning at the screen...  Boss, even Barca draws a game every once in a while, and those buggers are alien midgets with super powers.  Hell, my team of langas once managed to remain (almost) atop the league with more draws than are normally considered acceptable.  No I won’t name the team, and no, you can’t guess, because you don’t know what league I’m referring to, do you?

I have spent many a long night sobbing into my cups, as my team of langas (yet another one) proved yet again why they are not Champions League champions.  The first time they were taken to school by the midgets, way back in the 90’s, I cried.  By the end of the last decade, I had stopped crying and had taken to wining.  That’s not a typo, I took to wine.  These days when the Catalans come to visit, I get drunk well before the game starts.  The point is this, wine makes the pain go away.  The more useful point is, failure is not the end of your life, simply a new beginning.   Granted, it’s a painful beginning, but all the best ones are, no?  Just ask your mother.

Ignore all that rubbish about a good offence, if you want to protect your goal you need to get yourself some good defenders, ideally tall and clear of mind.  Think back to all the great teams of the past, and here I must use examples from my (limited and dodgy) memory, from the brilliant Milan of Desailly, through to the Arsenal of Tony Adams, defenders have been and continue to be the spine on which the best teams are formed.  I know, I just used Arsenal and best in the same sentence, but in my defence, a decade ago they were the shit.  A decade ago.  Moving swiftly along.  The same rules apply to our lives, we have to build a spine that cannot be (easily) broken, a spine that keeps us strong and on course, no?  Let me put it this way, it doesn’t matter what success you have out there, if in here, pointing at chest (yours not mine, deviant bastard...), you’re fucked up.  Protect your goal(s) even as you attack others.  I’m not entirely sure that metaphor made sense, but what the hell?  This is wisdom gained from a bunch of strange men in knee high socks.

The best strikers are the strikers who know how to mix it up, the geniuses who can score in any situation, from anywhere in the park.  Now not too many of us have what it takes to be the best, but all of us have what it takes to learn the tricks.  Be flexible, move around, try new positions, take a shot from every conceivable angle, even with your weaker foot, or your head, or maybe your arm (Ah Diego...).  The aim of the game is to score, by any means necessary.  Too many of us worry about getting into the right position, setting the play up just so, making sure that everything is just the way we like it.  Shock on us when we find out that while we were preparing ourselves, some other bugger sneaked in and took the shot, and scored.  Take the shot, any shot, what’s the worst that can happen?  Yes, you may miss, but you may also find out that you have leftie tendencies, like Ryan Giggs, a man who is an apt example of taking any shot (I’m just saying...).  As Doc is fond of saying, YOLO! 

And here you thought I was going to spend all my time talking about the tight shirts...  Oh ye of little faith.

Enjoy the football my lovelies, and if you’re supporting the Burkinabe please send me an email, I’m forming their first ever Kenyan fan club, complete with t-shirts (tight, of course) and everything, but only if they win.