An African Male Problem: Ex Wives as Friends or Lovers?

It is not easy being a man. Not that it is easy being a woman but being a man has certain unique issues, I mean problems or crisis, whatever the case. Take for example the man who after divorcing his wife decided never to knock at her door. He said to me, “Can you imagine me knocking at her door to pick up my kids and a young guy wearing my former robe comes to the door? I cannot have that.” He said to me recently.  In the movies it is easy to see the theory working where a man comes to pick his kids and the boyfriend of his ex-wife opens the door, and they have a good conversation! For an African man, that does not seem like a good idea.
In such a case it is impossible to find a solution to the problem. His argument rests on what he and his buddies have agreed upon for years. In the same way women have philosophical bonds that are fuelled by associates and friends, men also have philosophies developed during conversations with their grand fathers, fathers, buddies and others. My father took us with my brothers to places for his meetings. On the way home, he would stop at a butchery near my village. It belonged to one of his long time buddies. We would sit in this shack and he would order two kilos of nyamchom and ugali. We would eat having a male conversation: the act of being men.
After the nyamchom, he would chastise us. “since you talk all the time, I do not want any one of you guys telling your mother you are satisfied and refuse to eat her food. You should always be hungry when offered food by your mother. You cannot use this nyama ya wanaume to bring problems to me.” We did not say anything about the diversion to the nyamchom joint. Not that my mother ever asked where we went with my father. There was an old school code among women of her age that you do not ask a man where he was. That where he was, was consistent with his role as the provider and when he left home in the morning, that is what he went out there in the world to do.
To this end, I have the same philosophy on my where about that I was taught by my father! Then there are other theories that I learnt from my elder brothers, John and Mr. B. I spent time with them often and listened to their ideas about women and how they maneuver through their work and women. My conversations with my buddies also have an effect. All these however are bounced against St Paul’s theology (I am a St. Paul Theologian). Though no one knows the relationship between Paul and women, his writings guide men into a very balanced understanding that everything should be done, “. .  . as unto the lord.” 1st Corinthians 10:31. Not that we do not go off the tracks, but that philosophy should be the bouncing ball.
My buddy does not understand why he should keep a relationship with his ex wife. He argues that kind of relationship is for wazungu. “The reason why we got divorced is because we could not get along. How am I supposed to get along with someone who after 30 years and 3 children asked me to sleep in the guest room. If we could not get along then, what makes people think we can get along now?” he asked very philosophically. His argument is based upon the philosophy he has developed for years from his men buddies; From his grandfather to his most recent buddies. It is his buddies who, from an African perspective question the wisdom of going to pick up his children from his ex wife’s house, which was their home for years!
At the end of our conversation I wondered whether it is possible to live with a woman for years and having children, then divorce, to keep a healthy and friendly relationship. I wondered whether it would have been better for them to stay together, not for themselves, but for their kids? But that is better said than done. The idea of being an African and living within a western culture is complicated. At the end of the day, the men we see wearing suits, ties, gold watches and driving modern cars down town Nairobi are westerners during the day. But when they go home to Runda, Muthaiga, or drive to the village in Muraga, they are still those tribal men who like my father, spoke of the wisdom of their fathers.
The children end up in a hurricane beyond their control! And like my buddy’s son, they ask, “Uncle Teddy, why can’t mum and dad talk to each other like friends.”
May be because when love is gone, even the friendship is foggy!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau
HTBluff Associates
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist

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1 Comment
  1. Evangeline Kirigua says

    This article lacks depth and clarity. The issues are like old wine in new wine skins. A diaspora man cannot distance himself from the lifestyle of his adopted land. Kiswahili husema “Maji ukiyavulia nguo, maxima uyaoge.”

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