Words, Visions, Dreams, Voices of an African Woman Expressed by Thulisa Qangule
Almost half the year’s gone. We’re in May already.
This time around I had to literally make an effort not only to find a subject matter that’s worthy to write about, but one that I could really add value by putting out there. Because I did not want to sound like I was engaging in self-praise…I decided to speak to several people this time around and get permission from one person who inspired this month’s chronicle.
A close friend of mine who is pretty much like family was going through a bit of a rough patch and so he and I had a series of chats about some things over the last couple of weeks/months that have passed. You know…
As a woman (I’ll be the first to say it- ladies…don’t kill me for doing so), I always tend to look at the emotive side of things and the focus therefore is around “how this makes me feel” and behaviors and actions are justified in this way as well. It’s kind of silly if you think about what happens when these ‘emotions’ are taken to the extreme as well. Imagine the below justifications-measured against actions taken.
Assaulting and mutilating someone
He / She made me angry…irritates/ed me
Robbing someone of their livelihood either by firing them or doing something unethical
I was threatened and nobody threatens me like that
Lying and cheating and stealing and manipulating your way through life
Feeling insecure about a job/relationship/ or whatever else
Turning into a control freak, to the point where you don’t become a peer/companion/partner, but some dominatrix who seeks to know everything, and that means micro managing either people you work with, family or relations to the point where you start chasing people away rather than keeping them in your life
Fearing that if and when others have autonomy, they won’t care about you and so you have to control each and every single thing that those in your control do
I’m certain there’s much more than the above, but these are generally the core drivers of most of the behaviors’ we see manifest out there.
Back to my friend.
I had thought he had one of the best relationships out there, and in this day and age where so many men deny paternity of their kids or altogether miss the boat when it comes to the whole child maintenance/ support thing. He and his partner had been together for about 5 years, and she fell pregnant. He was excited, elated, beyond words and I think anyone close to him knew that he was genuinely happy about this. He was fairly open about it too.
He and the lady I always referred to as his fiancé because in my mind that’s who she is, and he simply refers to her these days as: Baby Mama….had been living together for 3 of those 5 years. She suddenly decided that she was going back home, and that she was going to restrict his access to the child. It was only during this time that ANYONE outside of that tight family unit of theirs got any clue that ANYTHING was ever amiss in that relationship. In fact, NOTHING had been amiss at all.
Here’s his side of the story in his words (summarized though):
“We had been together for the latter part of our twenties, and she was seeing her friends settling down and getting married etc, and I think she wanted the same. She forgot one thing…She and I are like 2 years or less apart (age-wise) and most of her sister friends who were getting married and settling down were with guys who are way older and more mature than I was then. When her best friend’s husband was driving a BMW 5 series, I could only afford a Citi Golf as I was still starting up, and studying etc.
When her friends’ boyfriends were buying houses, I was starting up with a townhouse, new in Jo’burg etc.I think if I’d gone for a younger chick who was say…22 when I was like 28/29, I would have been okay, because I would have been the older guy who had more, not when I’m like 29 and she’s 27. The competitiveness and de-emasculation takes place is beyond what anyone can imagine. First of all you become competitors with your salaries, then she compares you to the other guys who are your age and older, then she still compares you to her daddy, and then you must provide and do all these things and yet you are the same age, and she probably cannot do half the stuff she expects from you.
Anyway, I then branched out into all things BEE. My lifestyle changed. As you can see, I am now that guy driving the BMW 5 series, I am one of the guys who chill as ZAR bar and return home at 03h45am reeking of booze. I leave the office and peruse pubs because this is where I meet the guys and we sit and discuss business and Tenders and all kinds of things. My priority turned to making money. She was sitting there, with her biological clock ticking, desiring a partner who comes home at 17h00 – cuddles with her on the couch and takes long trips away on weekends. (That is the stuff the men who are ALREADY established get up to- NOT the ones who are still trying to make it). The child came at this hour of my life and my father passed away when I was 12 years old. My mother married another man. I pretty much grew up in boarding school and she is an extremely well cultured woman. I thought I had done enough by acknowledging the child, getting all things ‘baby’ in the apartment, paying the fees for the crèche etc…
She was very unhappy and felt unwanted because:
· She expected that I would have collected and gathered ALL my elders(whom I don’t know and I was not about to get elders from a step-fathers’s side of the family)…and paid ‘damages’ for the child
· Proceeded with Lobola negotiations and payments
· Gone to Zimbabwe where she is from and introduced myself to her family (officially and in the traditional way)
In short, the level of commitment or method thereof was not enough for her. She felt unloved and insecure and left-went back home.”
Now, he also told me how this does not sit well with him because he said it in Xhosa: “ndilahliwe…mfondini ndishiywe ngumfazi”, meaning: ‘she left me. I have been left/ abandoned by a woman.” He is stressed over what his ‘CV” now looks like. In our culture, for a man to have been left or abandoned by a woman is taken very badly, it’s as good as having the words FIRED written all over your profile. Each and every other woman that enters that man’s life will want to know why the previous one left ;
Some women have tendencies to spread word in the community and many men have been painted black in this way, by either being portrayed as ‘woman beaters’, ‘non-supporters’, ‘incontinent’, ‘unable to satisfy’, ‘broke and financial users’ …the list is endless.
So, in the quest to sort his CV out, he’s been begging for her to return and she’s not been doing so.
She has requested that he pays just about half his salary towards maintenance because her mother sat her down and told her (‘ndimbonile unemali’ – ‘we know he has money”), and so all of it must go to her / or the child – somehow.
Just so this whole thing is fair…I spoke to his mom as well. Her perspective as an African woman is this:
“this is why they said that the man with the most cows is the most attractive and a woman married such a man”..it was NEVER meant for ANY woman to then stay at home and dictate what the man does EVER!
:Let me explain it better, and in the way I was also taught. The lineage is that of kitchens (symbolically), and men have the kraal as the equivalent. It is said that you must NEVER step into another woman’s kitchen and rule, EVER. As a man, you must NEVER get into another man’s kraal and rule, EVER. When a woman reaches a certain age, she has to acknowledge that her mother is the head and therefore her home becomes her mother’s kitchen. The only way a woman acquires her own kitchen is by obtaining independence or by being someone’s wife and in that way she has her own kitchen to rule too.
Culturally this really got rid of a lot of problems.
When young men started asserting themselves and started wanting control over their girlfriends- the solution was that they were to establish their own kraals and that meant that they had to take the queue and marry the ladies. The same applied with the women. Boundary creation. To this day…in my culture…if I were a married woman and my own mother visited my home, she would acknowledge that this is my space, and not only that, but my husband’s space too. Regardless of HER rules in HER house and that I am junior to her, the fact that a man has set up a kraal for himself and wife , means she is to back off. She would have to ask me first: “so how do you do this and that here in the house of the (…family name/clan name…)?
This would also be because the guy would have paid lobola for the woman, gone through all these traditions and ceremonies and the woman would belong to him.
Let’s now go back to basics…there are things that a woman is therefore NOT to do PRIOR to marriage if she still wants to live by certain values.
1. Don’t have a child before you get married
2. Don’t move in and live with a man before you get married
3. Don’t behave like you own him and have the same rights as a wife when you’re not (because you really don’t)
The minute you engage in any of the above-mentioned things…you cannot go back AFTER the fact and start demanding that you be considered or treated a certain way. Reality is that you have been washing his undies BEFORE and so why must he marry you now before you can wash them?
Fact is you’ve made babies with him WITHOUT any of the formalities, so what changed? Where? Where and How?
Sad reality is that you’re potentially making a fool out of yourself BEHAVING like you’re the wife when you’re not, because he may still move on an marry someone else, or may die- and (in my culture- NOT UNLESS YOU”RE THE WIFE DO YOU HAVE ACCESS TO or allowed certain things…meaning- you won’t even be in the room where his body is cleaned, or have rights to go and identify his body or ANYTHING because until you are married (for both men and women) you remain the sole property of your parents, immediate family and ancestors, unless there is an official hand-over in the form of ceremony that marks that life turning point.
So…there this sister is, staying at home, with her mother, expecting support from Baby-Daddy and all the while refusing him sufficient visitation rights. (Baby Mama’s mother is wary of Baby-Daddy)- I find it strange that she’s weary of him and not his money?
What does this mean for the child?
You have a father that is not allowed access to you but his money educates you and does everything for you and so you are taught as a young woman that Daddy is cash –cow, fuelling the perception in women that men are just monetary entities.ATMs.
You will have aunts and cousins and possibly brother and sisters with whom you have fragmented relationships because of the dysfunctions between the parents.
And so it is that some folks now stick around these toxic relationships to try and ‘rescue’ the little ones as well. Tjo…talk about a case of chopping your leg off to save your arm- either way- something gets damaged- somehow.
When I spoke to her, this is what I got:
I feel like I’m not appreciated (otherwise he would have married me a long time ago).
I wanted to know what she means. Errr…since when is giving birth to a child the pre-qualifying criteria for marriage? That stuff is just wrong.
Being sensitive about the issue, I wanted to see if she meant (if he cared, he would have married me when I got the child) and she pretty darn got close to saying it in those exact words.
In a nutshell, here’s what she wanted to happen:
Settle down, give up your late nights and BEE ways and become like a middle aged man who’s long established a career and made it. We can debate this forever but it is what it is.
I’ve gone back and done my own self auditing. Let’s see…
· @ age 27, I was still into parties and clubbing and drinking and late nights
· I was living the Bachelorette life and was nowhere near being ready for being some stay home mommy who drops kids off at the local crèche-sitting with bibs and all that stuff
· The guy I was with at that time was this tattooed deejay who had an afro and loved smoking his budd, listening to music, travelling and getting crazy
Simply put, you’re still exploring in those ages, especially in South Africa where the economy does not boom for the younger folk. People only really start to see the middle class (upper middle class lifestyle) as they approach their middle ages. This means that our 20something year old guys are really not pushing the C-class Mercs, settling down and being these family men.
Some are up and about trying to get their businesses to take off the ground and they only see the results when they reach their mid- 40s. if you speak to many a lady who married their “soul-mate”, especially in our grandmother’s generations – they will tell you how these guys were ‘rusty’ when they met them and how the success is something that came along with time – or how- these guys were generally older when they met them and so they don’t know the ‘rusty’ versions of their husbands.
Does the lady in question even see things the way I see them in this situation? No! Why not?
Because she is too busy ‘feeling’ her way in the situation to really LISTEN to her partner, or anyone else.# I wrote this after I sat and did much thinking about some of the crazy things I’ve done (based on feeling, rather than the bigger picture- or the other person’s perspective considered). I thought I would get permission to use a story, a reality- outside of myself so that I too get a chance to meditate on this and do some hectic ‘cleaning’ and ‘stock-taking’ without it being too close to this wound, that sore or reality for me. Whether its inspiration, curiosity, realizing that you’re not the only one with challenges such as these or simply just a relaxing exercise where you sit and read…take the best of what you can learn from this Chronicled Story and Learn the best way you can from it.