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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The impregnable fortress, your wife

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Author: Njundu Drammeh

Now that man has conquered Mount Everest, the South Pole and the moon, and is setting his sights on constellations beyond, one would imagine, there wasn’t really anything on earth or in sky, he couldn’t, in all conscience, snap his fingers at. But tread softly, there’s a heavenly body nearer home that continues to spin around him since Adam, daring him to subdue it, if he may! And this body, dear reader, is none other than your sweet-and-sour wife.

Odd as it may sound, no man, I think, has yet mastered the art of standing up to his wife. It’s not as if individual adventurers have not subdued women, or tamed them to their own purposes- that, God knows, is happening all the time- but there is something fundamentally impregnable about the fortress called ‘wife’. For, when a woman turns into a spouse, she undergoes a sort of chemical change, or dialectical, if you like. Her entire psyche is then engaged in preserving her identity through an unending series of mock-battles. And even when she gives you the impression of surrender, it’s only a strategic withdrawal, a retreat which is all the more galling in that this Pyrrhic victory cannot, in the end, alter the balance of conjugal supremacy. And this, I submit, belongs to woman eternally whatever we might do about it.

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Marriage is indeed her device to get even with man. Shaw wasn’t kidding when he propounded his marital philosophy in his plays. I am quite sure no man could have been so thoughtless as to have suggested the idea of marriage. It assuredly was Eve who led poor Adam up the altar path. This was a stroke of the highest genius, and no invention, discovery or achievement of man can even hope to equal it.

Marriage for man is, at best, a means, a safety valve; for woman, it’s an existential equation. And where there is a clash between the absolute and the expedient, there could be no doubt about the outcome. The husband, in his ego, may win all the battles; but the war, you may be sure, will be won, in all innocence and mirth, by the wife. In short, a date with your wife is a date with destiny.

But this is disposing of the matter at the metaphysical level where the wife remains the everlasting bride. In actual practice things do not exactly work out to plan. There’s oft a slip betwixt the spousal cup and the bridal lip. But even there, though she often takes more blows than she gives, she is seldom the worse for it. Her shock-absorbers are so cast as to take in any amount of strain. What she cannot subdue outright she will conquer through a war of attrition. In the last resort, she will enter the fortress of silence, and no broadsides that you may fire will help push the siege.

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The holy wedlock then begins to look like an unholy deadlock, so either way, she wins. It is the paradox of marriage that the lamb overcomes the lion!

I suppose you must be imagining that I have a terrible wife on hand, an Amazon who has cuffed me into confusion, or a shrew who would not be tamed, or a latter-day suffragette who quotes the Constitution and international legal instruments between meals. Nothing of the kind. My whole quarrel is that a wife is a rather thoroughly domesticated creature who has taken conjugal ethics literally to heart. In other words, she irritates me not because she is bad, but because she is so good. In fact, there is nothing left but to despair when you have been mated with, what the scriptures call, a model woman. Such a person has an unfair advantage over you. She sits on a moral perch well above your head, and makes you feel uncomfortable all your life. I call that uncharitable, nerve racking, black (or white) mailing, even impious. For it is a kind of emotional imperialism, a vicarious despotism. In sum, it amounts to moral bullying.

Now a wife will forgive you your mild flirtations, your transparent lies, your miserliness, even your mid-night comings, but she would never forgive you for keeping your thoughts to yourself. She feels as if she has a divine right not only to share your bed but also your mind and what occupies it. And there comes the trouble. For it is quite likely you are only having a reverie, a wander into dreamland, a thought about thinking a la the game of a rather vacuous mind. Or what you may be thinking about something is not even worth the cost of the trinket she is wearing. But no, she believes perversely that you keep polishing a precious nugget and would not let her view it, touch it or even feel it. She considers you a Judas and your mind the Trojan Horse of the lowest order.

This really is not the end of the catalogue of man’s conjugal crimes. Believe me or not, one memorable morning of rain and splash, soon after my friend’s talk-of-the-town marriage (the pomp and ceremony), his wife charged him with the abominable sin of adultery, of flirting with a former girlfriend. Now that nearly demolished my friend, if anything could. For had it been true, he should at least have had some carnal satisfaction, notwithstanding the obvious terrors. I trust, you have guessed it. He was, she fumed, already married to nearly all the heroines extant in fiction in a manner, but more particularly to one F Girl who was as on his ‘brain’, but there, I must say, she caught him again on the wrong foot. I confess my friend has a weakness for those Banjulian heroines (the ladies in jean and “jumbah out”) who could bowl you twice over on a single morning. Well…… their charms and sartorial elegance subdued me into submission, like Napoleon at Waterloo, like a cobra in the hand of a snake charmer.

Those of you who refer to a woman as the weaker sex may not yet have had a power struggle with this tough nut or be smitten with love from Cupid’s arrow or pitted against her in a battle of wits and intelligence. Eve may have been fashioned out of the ribs of Adam but she made him eat the forbidden fruit just after few minutes of persuasion, Smartness personified Eve was. King Edward YIII, fondly called ‘Prince Charming’, abdicated the throne of England in 1936 to marry his beloved Wallis Simpson. The battle of Troy was over Helen. The animosity between Mark Antony and Caesar was over Cleopatra. You want anything done by a President, go through the First Lady.

Let me conclude by saying that no man is a hero to his own wife. Even men of steel are known to have gone soft in the bedroom. No wonder, the Roman philosopher, Cato, wailed: “We men rule the world, but our women rule us!” No husband, I guess, will ever learn to stand up to his wife till he has learnt to sit down at her feet. Which man would dare defy this assertion? Certainly not me.

(Written few years ago)

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