With Rohey Samba
Still I rise. It’s my favourite poem by Maya Angelou. The import of its words…My God! They send reverberations down my spine. They focus the lens on every challenge, every hurdle and every of life’s vagaries wrought by our humaneness and by extension, our selfishness. We are born selfish. That’s a fact of life. That’s why God gave us families. So we can learn to share and care about people other than ourselves. But that’s beside the point…
In the season of my amorous prudence, to find a good guy to settle down with in the sacrosanct ties of marriage set by God Himself, I kept aside the profligacy of allowing fate decide the encounter in happenstance. I did not want a man to find me, Springboarder, Gas-lighter or otherwise. I wanted to find my own man – be he tall, be he short; definitely, not middle aged or fat and reasonably handsome, at least in my own eyes.
Moreover, I wanted a man who would make me his number one priority. I decided against married men, who I found to be pretty repulsive. Growing up in decent society, I often heard it said that, ‘Jaykarri jamburr Bah la santa!’, meaning “Married men were surnamed ‘Leave Alone’!” The only import being that they were trouble altogether. The warning sufficed for me. I saw no advantages in intruding into somebody else’s marriage more or less, as a third party. Three is already a crowd.
I would not give a man with kids whether divorced, separated or bachelor, a second chance. I could not play second or third fiddle to a man’s other priorities, comprising his children and his exes. I was too possessive, too jealous and too upright to be treated as a mistress and I needed a man who was resolved to the situation of making me madame, on my own rules.
Finally, I needed to approve of the man’s mother. In our part of the world, mothers are key to the success of every marriage. I needed to be rhymed to the same tune as my man’s mum, or the marriage is doomed to fail. If she were abusive, manipulative, talkative, you know, the kind that can’t keep talking about their son’s achievements, boasting like it was by dint of their efforts that God placed favour on their darling boy son… I would flee.
In fact, I was averse to all the ‘tives’ in my shunned adjective list of prospective mothers-in-law, be it repressive, impressive, negative, and so on. Okay, I am sure you are wondering what impressive has got to do in the list of my vices? Impressive in itself is a virtue no doubt. But hell no, I did not need an impressive mother-in-law! I would trail in her shadows all the days of my life! Impressive for me represented my Wolof barjens, that is, paternal aunties, self-assertive, immaculately well dressed and very controlling…
My own mother being Fula, I preferred the self-effacing, timid and less assertive natures of my less impressive gorrgorls, that is, maternal aunties. That, I could cope with.
With small Gambia being what it is, I inquired about the guys’ mothers, long before I got invested emotionally. The prospective mother-in-law was my stop valve when the emotional flow was pumping too fast. After all, I was not dating to have fun with a guy, I was on the look out for a man I needed to spend the rest of my life with. And that was consolation enough. It was something I needed to finish with in order to move on to the next stage of the rest of my life.
Now, the greatest gift of life given to us as human beings is our own volition. Our choice. To do or not to do. To give or not to give. To say or not to say. And so forth. We lose our souls within ourselves when we begin to ascribe flaws inherent in the ways we carry on with our lives to certain flimsy excuses. Our destinies are not hoisted on us. We play the big roles that lead us into finding us within the travails of our own lives.
We are our own masters, committed to ourselves by a fate of our own choosing. Whether our choice is right or whether it is wrong, at least it was right by us at the moment of its choosing. This to me is the driving force of this trail, we call our lives. I don’t regret. I learn each day from my own mistakes and I move on. Getting into the dating game, I knew I was not going to have a win-win situation presented to me on a silver platter. But I was ready to fall, and rise after I had fallen…
I had certain boundaries I drew in the search engine of my dating tool. To me, a woman ought to decide her own fate with respect to the man she is going to get married to. Even in a culture which resembled the eighteenth century, I was going to forge my fate with audacity, relentlessness and the pursuit of happiness, however vague it may sound.
Goodness, who wants to get married to an ugly man! And please, yes, there are ugly men. They are married to women more beautiful than I am most of the time. Something they say about beauty being skin deep. Argh!
For me, I don’t buy that. In fact, it would be relentless torture to see his unpleasant face transposed into the faces of my future kids, especially my girls, as I project the present into the future we may share. Do you notice how girls so resemble their dads? I owed those kids a reasonable choice for a father…at the very least. Every woman owes that to their kids, in my own estimations…
In my bucket list of prospective suitors, a fat man could not be considered. To me, a fat man was probably lazy. A very handsome man was probably a vain man who would be unable to put food on the table. We can’t eat handsomeness now, can we?
A well-learned man, was probably very haughty and full of himself. A young man my age, was probably childish or naïve. A man who is fair in complexion was not my type, he would highlight my dark skin from a reasonable distance. A rich man was a no-go area, he would control me or at least, he would try to control me. God forbid that!
And finally, a man who was not in the fold of Islam was definitely out of bounds for me. I am a Muslim above all else. My religion does not permit me to marry to a non-Muslim. I was not enamoured to the fallacy of certain young women who expected to change their non-believing men in the long run. For me, that was wishful thinking that may begin well but may not bode well for the future. So men outside the fold of Islam had no chance given, where the rest were to be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
Well that was just me. No derogation meant. I was fresh, young, thirsty and bold; positive integers in the novelty of the dating game for women. I was simply walking the walk. It was not a smooth path I expected to trudge, but it was definitely a path I wanted to walk. I reconciled to give a slice of my life by answering to the calling of nature wrought by the angry words of a belligerent docker. The calling was noble, required and necessary to stop the pestering of men like Mr Docker once and for all. It was all the respect I needed to complete me as a young woman.
The usual route I took to catch the work bus led from my house through the deserted boulevards of my vicinity to the highway. I could walk the entire 200 metres of this route without seeing a single person of interest along the way. This was a very secured residential area, well eye-marked by Babili Monkey when he first came into power.
Ultimately, the change of route was meant to enable me to mingle or at least see people other than the security men who trotted my path on my usual way to catch the bus. The altered route was much longer of course warranting that I adjust my time in order to be on time for the bus. But it was well worth it for at least I would be visible to people of more interest to me.
In the bus, I began to watch out and observe other people through the glass plane windows. I tried to smuggle out my emotions and behave in a womanly fashion for once. I had taken a dislike of men because of how society eases their way to comfort by being very acquiescent of their actions, whether good or bad. I decided to unlearn my dislike and focus on my mission to settle for one good man amongst the crowd.
And then I decided to see what I wanted to see. And what I saw confirmed my deepest fear, that which reaffirmed my commitment to success in the life domain characterised by marriage. I saw spouses drive together in cars chatting jovially or sitting in comfortable silence.
I observed husbands and wives mingle freely, sometimes carrying their children as they walked the streets. I heard spinsters moan about their single status, and saw that the happiest women were actually very married. In the salons and even at the workplaces, these married women always had something to say about their interesting lives. Marriage was a mark of high social status for all I could see.
I decided that I wanted that for myself too. I became obsessed and a bit envious of the other side of life I had not thought about till then.
I did not tell anyone about my fears. Nor did I inform anyone of my inclination. I was not embarrassed or shy to voice my newfound endearment to find love and get married. I just did not find the need to. It would be the crowing of a cuckoo. What if I failed? I did not want to be the gossip topic at the boot camp of my fellow women’s idiocies. What you don’t say, people would never know. So I carried on with my life, supporting the burden of my altered reality about life wrought by one belligerent dockworker’s comment.
The staggering truth is that, I was daring enough to go after the man I wanted. He must first be religious, unassuming, not fair in complexion, not fat, not too rich, not too educated and definitely, not too handsome. The ideal of my perfection was a contoured guide to narrow down my search tool. Now all that was left was to make a little effort to notice guys and get myself noticed, to let my hair loose for once and allow nature, destiny or God to lead me on.
I was ready, set and willing to go to the lengths of my abilities in order to find the one. It did not take long to catch him for indeed he was also primed to find me by the universal laws that bind two to become one. And sixteen years on, I still have no regrets … just a few learning curves here and there. But those are details only my children will be privy to. So I end my story here today.
Next week, we shall continue with real stories about marriage, heartbreak and love in general insh’Allah… till then, ciao, ciao!