That nasty time of the year when women make men’s lives pure hell in the name of love is upon us, again. All this torture is because of the late St Valentine. For some strange reasons, he has forced men over generations to, every year, break their backs and bank accounts, all in the name of expressing love to their women.
Women are now dusting off their red outfits as they wait with bated breath for tomorrow’s big surprises. Some have been too nice this past week not to miss on treats. As some wag said the other day, they have been apologising even for mistakes they didn’t commit.
“Babe, I’m sorry for what Chelsea FC did to your Arsenal FC the other weekend,” some have been apologising, as if they had anything to do with it!
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of men. Majority are experiencing performance anxiety. Partly because they are as broke as hell, or have no clue on how to navigate the day. Or have more than one woman and have no clue whom to treat. Others find the day grossly overrated and are now desperate for excuses not to celebrate it.
“Unfortunately, sweetie I will be away in Mogadishu (or Lokichogio) on assignment,” they say. Others have been moody, grumpy and desperate for the slightest of provocation to sulk and refuse to treat their women tomorrow.
Those without great excuses are afraid of the wrath of their women, if they do not treat the day with the seriousness it deserves.
“Some men plan to stage-manage illnesses, lie about being out of town for business trips or too busy with work to treat their women,” says Jack Njine, 28, who says the day is overrated and is looking for an excuse to avoid it.
Some wish they get kidnapped by crooks today, only to be released the day after Valentine’s Day. So ladies, as you dreams of banquets of flowers, bars of chocolates, romance, a candlelight dinner and whatnot, consider yourself lucky if you will get a simple love card or romantic text message.
Agony men go through
You only need to listen to men whine about love, to appreciate their hate and anger for February 14.
“We put up with a lot from our women. From their mood swings, nagging, their gossipy, chattering girlfriends, only for them to rave and rant over Valentine’s Day gifts and treats. This is a conspiracy by women and marketers to keep men in romantic shackles,” complains Paul Nyongesa, a 34-year-old city resident, when asked his views about Valentine’s Day.
It’s never easy for men. Even those who try to be nice and romantic, the flowers they buy and send to their lovers have to be better that all those sent to their colleagues in their office.
Never mind the timing is of the essence; the flowers must be delivered in the morning hours before her colleagues start showing off as they ogle.
“Men are always forced to unnecessarily achieve some dubious feats in the name of expressing love on this day. The chocolates must be delivered when still solid, never mind the near-boiling point temperatures the country is experiencing,” says Nyongesa.
On this day, men go through hell. Besides having to go deep in their pockets, they are expected to put their singing skills to test at Karaoke nights. Never mind majority of them are horrible singers. Some have to call FM radios and request some soapy songs for their women.
“It is too much work. Ni rent tutalipa, ama ni kwenda kuharibu pesa kwa siku moja ya mapenzi? Some women don’t even allow their men to give them the same gifts they brought them last year. Neither are we allowed to take them for dinner in the same places we frequent, even if their food and service is excellent. That calls for a lot of creativity, which should be channeled towards making money,” whines 27-year-old Philip Kinyua, a banker who wishes the day was done away with.
It is even worse if the day falls on a weekend, because in the evening men have to forego their hobbies and pastimes such as watching soccer, going for drinks and nyama choma sprees with friends to go treat their women to some quality time.
“This whole romantic dinner thing on Valentine’s Day is about taking her somewhere in a quiet, dimly lit hotel with soft music humming and purring in the background. Never mind these are men who are used to smoky, poorly lit locals where fights and noise are the order of the day. How about those exotic, unpronounceable dishes that our women insist on eating on Valentine’s Day dinner, yet we are used to and prefer nyama choma, kachumbari with kienyeji,” agonises Kinyua.
On this day, men, who are used to t-shirts and jeans, are not only expected to ‘blow’ their hard-earned cash, but also to squeeze themselves into uncomfortable tuxedos and put up with being unnecessarily referred to as ‘sir’ at starred hotels, in the name of love.
Need we mention that men have to not only re-learn and polish their table manners, but also master perfect observation skills in those environment with horrible lighting? Many men we spoke to are yet to understand why women put so much premium on this day that falls bang in the middle of the month, when they are broke. And so early in the year when many of them are yet to fully recover after blowing up cash on December festivities.
It’s sad that a man’s annual mental and physical well-being is largely depended on how he treats his woman on this day of the year.
“As a man, your access to conjugal pleasures throughout the year is directly proportional to the size, quality of gift and treat you give your woman on Valentine’s Day. Failure to which, you get confined to year-long misery from her. No two ways about it,” says Gorge Ngani, 42-year-old city business man. However, it’s just not men; some women in offices where everyone is dating or married and gets flowers are planning on how they can send themselves flowers so as to be assumed to have great lovers.
Odd ways Kenyan men express love
Most Kenyan women, including grownups who should have moved away from this triviality long ago, are looking for ‘gentlemen’ as defined by the western media among local men. Little wonder then, that, the one or two men (yes, they are that rare) who, once in a while, pull off those gentlemanly or soap opera-like stunts are immediately turned into novelty by local lasses.
“Are you really Kenyan?” is a common backhand compliment in question form that such men get. Africa, more so Kenya, is the wrong place to look for such stereotypical debonair gentlemen. It’ is unfair to expect Mexican or Spanish standards of chivalry from Kenyan men. It’s as unfair as Mexican or Spanish women expecting their men to, as some of us do down here, kill lions to prove their bravery. It gets even more annoying when you scoff or sneer at Kenyan men’s kind of chivalry, which is unique to them.
“For me, buying a plot, building a house and ensuring my family is happy is a sign of love. This idea of insisting on romance made in Mexico or in soap opera is misplaced. Plus most of the women we have today don’t inspire men to break their backs in the name of love,” say Emmanuel Chege, adding that nice, lady-like women of his mother and grandmother’s generation are no more. “What we have today are drama queens and wannabes ladies who are looking for trophy husbands to show off to their neighbours and friends at public functions.
The romantic standards enshrined in movies and soap operas are not part of most local men’s upbringing. The things movie and soap opera stars do in the name of romance or love are alien and hardly make sense to the African man.
Why would a man, for instance, bring home pizza, chocolates and flowers every Tuesday, when getting unga for super alone is an uphill task? Why would our women expect local men, who began driving the other day and didn’t grow up in families with cars, to instinctively open car doors for them as proof of chivalry?
“Some of us dislike flowers. It’s something cultural because we associate them with things we hate like weddings and funerals. Why would we pull chairs for a lady, something we only do for the sick or the elderly?” wonders Godwin Amwayi, a gatekeeper who insists if someone is to rate how loving and romantic he is, they must use local and cultural variables and not soap opera standards.
Some men are of the opinion that the mere act of giving your woman quality life, being a great dad or respecting her, among other things that make sense to them, is a show of love. Girls, please do not expect champagne experience on a beer budget.
But ladies, even as you demand men to be gentlemanly, loving and romantic, are you worth it? Are you willing to let them peacefully have a second wife? Are you willing to make them as many babies as possible? Because all these are African ways of expressing love, which some of these men expect from you. It is important for partners to compromise and strike a balance. Other than imposing western standards of love to local men who are clueless about them.