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Of marriage, merry and melancholy

Of marriage, merry and melancholy

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Today, December 24, is exactly one year since I got married. It was on Christmas Eve. That is the only reason I remember it. If it were held on any ordinary day, I would need a Facebook reminder for the anniversaries. But without doubt, it is my biggest accomplishment. Going into this union, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just sure it was time for I had waited nearly three decades to even consider getting married. That was enough assurance for me. The rest I knew would fall into place, eventually. Years prior, I meticulously searched for the ‘perfect’ partner. I kept searching because I could feel it was close. I could almost touch it or her. There was no letting up. My searchlights were beamed on all profiles of women, waiting to identify the right one. But the truth is, there is nothing like perfect partner. I know that now. No partner is perfect or perfect for anyone. Humans are as different as the white stripes on two zebras. We might look strikingly similar in looks and intellect that we think we’ve found the right person when we couldn’t more different in everything else. The differences never show up until that knot is tied. The real battle then begins to reconcile those differences. With all my insecurities and vulnerabilities, getting married and displaying all those weaknesses to someone else was the scariest part. I fretted over it for months and years. I thought I wanted someone perfect, so my own imperfections would be shielded. But I didn’t want someone perfect. I just wanted an imperfect partner so I would feel at ease, knowing there is nothing to worry about since she too is a mess. After all, we, men of this generation, would kill to have a domineering effect on our partners. Men don’t like to appear insecure and we do our best to hide our insecurities. But, as far as I am concerned, there is no species more vulnerable and insecure than a man. Ignore our brave faces. It’s all theatre. It is one of the reasons why some men keep multiplying wives. Once he is completely vulnerable to one, he will get another and another, because whoever knows your vulnerabilities is somehow a threat. A man knows how he preys on a woman’s vulnerabilities, that is why he never wants to be vulnerable to a woman. Plain and simple. Anyway, personally, marriage scared the hell out of me and I’ve never hidden that fear. If it were not a religious requirement, I would never have gotten married. Despite the carnal bliss, there is nothing more burdensome. My grey hairs are enough evidence. It’s a huge task to settle down with someone and share everything, laying down your shield and traveling to the most intimate of places. If you’re not used to such exercises or didn’t attain some form of freedom over your body, everything would seem an insurmountable challenge in your new life, even stripping naked before your spouse, as simple as it sounds. In fact, if your spouse is not sexually liberated, man or woman, it would take you ages to even see every part of their anatomy. We are all somehow inherently vulnerable. Even though our vulnerabilities make us delicate and unique, some of us are not wired and built to spot the beauty in being vulnerable. The literal meaning of vulnerable is enough to make us even more vulnerable. Besides, I believe you can’t really know someone’s deepest vulnerabilities until you’re intimate with them. That is why men who exploit women’s vulnerabilities—having only known such vulnerabilities through intimacy—are the worst of us, even though the best of us are few and might have all gone already. But, hey, I am not new to sharing though. I have shared everything my entire life; shirts, trousers, bed, shoes even a womb. Sharing isn’t one of my challenges in marriage. I got that covered.  

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So I was right. My marriage is different. I told people it would be different when I received tonnes of advice on how to keep a wife. If I had implemented all that I would be looking to remarry by now. Look, no kidding here, the challenges in our marriages are almost the same. The difference has always been how each couple handles such challenges. In fact, what couples say or do to each other, daily, our marriages shouldn’t live longer than a month. In our ordinary settings, people fight and stop speaking to each other for less. Like I said, the difference is how we handle the problems to stop them festering. There is nothing dialogue cannot solve. If we allow teething troubles to fester, we eventually don’t wanna talk about them. That has the potential to end any relationship faster than anything. So, push it out like a troublesome fart and use diplomacy. We’ve seen rebel groups, who had killed each other for sport, come to the negotiating table to cease fire. Words can fix anything, even though words can also break anything, especially if you leave it unaddressed. So if you’re married for a full year, despite all the nagging temptations to end it, you’re a star. I am a star. If you’re married for a decade, you deserve an award. If you’re married for over two decades, then your marriage should be a lesson for the younger couples. That is why it breaks my heart when I hear young boys and girls saying their favourite couples are Rihanna & Rocky, Priyanka & Jonas, Princess & Gee or even a fictional couple in a movie, when their parents have been married for more than 30 years. How can that couple not be your favourite? It should be everyone’s favourite, especially if you plan to grow old with your spouse. If a fleeting relationship like those becomes your favourite, and you’re obsessed with it, your own marriage will eventually become only a fleeting interest to you.

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I don’t know where this culture of Gambians expecting couples to procreate in the first year of their marriage came from but, right down to my bones, it pisses the hell outta me. Even if you got fitter, happier, fresher or richer after getting married, none matters to typical Gambians more than expecting to be called for a christening ceremony or seeing the wife staggering in the streets with a big belly. The pressure on women to get pregnant is depressing; it can even kill their fertility. Seeing your period every month when society thinks you shouldn’t simply because you’re married and having to anxiously wait for another month is a weight-losing stress. No wonder she is reduced to bare bones in the first few months of marriage even if she’s feeding on garri. Life as a married woman in a patriarchal society is the most unenvious. Two months after our wedding, people started asking me if she is expecting. She didn’t until the third month. Imagine my depression levels in the preceding two months. Now imagine her depression levels, given the burden of procreation is solely placed on her. I remember responding to someone—a very close relative actually—that I was on “family planning pills”. I had had enough of the questions. How can you control birth when you haven’t even started birthing yet? Stigma, folks. Stigma. I could see the relief on her face…and on mine, when she conceived. This suffocating society can even make you question your own fertility. The ensuing months became the joyous of our lives as a couple. We got even closer and more intimate. We were no longer a two, another was on the fringes, ready to come right between us. I had written enough in LINGERING ON HOT COALS about the tragedy of losing the baby. It was the most difficult thing for both of us. We still haven’t recovered from it. I guess we will not until another one comes along fast. Even that, like I always say, closure is elusive. So I neither want to rehash nor elaborate that subject to avoid retraumatising myself and any reader who might have lost a baby too.

Doctors advised us not to attempt to get pregnant until after 4-6 months. I smiled when I was told. Not a chance. There is no way I’d be on a 6-month celibacy in this winter. Hell no! Even if a verse comes down from the heavens, I’d tell whoever brings it down to find me something else to do in this cold weather.  Besides, the piece of advice was vague. You can still do it without trying to conceive, if you know what I mean. I made my research, just like I’ve done numerous times during her gestation period. This time, though, I had hoped to find a loophole so I wouldn’t have to follow the doctor’s advice. I then found out that there might not necessary be anything scientific in waiting for half a year to conceive again after a stillborn or a stillbirth. The wisdom behind it is to give the woman enough time to recover, physically and mentally, since it is traumatic losing a baby just when you thought you had given it life. The routine coital exercise can resume when the couple is ready, especially the woman, 2 or 6 months later. Bingo! That’s exactly what we are gonna do! Hopefully, by this time next year, we would be in a better place and grow even fonder of each other. See you next year, peace!    

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