Thursday, 1 August 2013

Another big lesson from Nigeria

Posted  Saturday, July 27   2013 at  01:00
At some point, we will need to talk about the bill. The tab, not the Marriage Bill — that’s a grand circus.
I’m more perturbed by the cost and experience of doing a prostate cancer examination than the Marriage Bill. Why? Simply because marriages will never be an equal opportunity for all no matter how many bills are proposed or passed.
That playing ground has always been tilted. Among other things, the Bill places spouses in equal shares regardless of the contributions of either towards the acquisition of property. (Not much of a surprise.)
The Bill also places no limit on the number of polygamous unions a man can enter into with proper consent of his partner. Polygamy, the way I see it in the modern context, is like trying to grow hyacinth on land. It’s impractical.
Although most of us are inherently polygamous by nature (Come on, accept it and free yourself), we have conformed to the mould of modernity and the truth is, the modern lady has a lot more going for her than the housewife of the 1970s. So she will say no.
She will say she will accept a co-wife only if she is in a wooden box, six feet under. And she will say it with arms akimbo and fire in her eyes. And that whole promise of marriage? Was that a legal joke?
Does that imply that women have become so vulnerable intellectually that they need a law like this to protect them from men’s crafty ways? Like I said, an elaborate circus.
But like I said, this isn’t about that Bill. It’s about the politics of the bill — the tab. If there ever was a metaphor of how bills should be handled it must be the Nigerians. Nigerians aren’t the easiest people to take to.
They are morbidly flashy. They are loud and brash. Not to mention insolent, and annoying. They come down here, with their strong square chins and suspect tales about their monarchic pedigree and they confuse our women with their chivalry.
Alluring Nigerians
I found myself in the company of some two Nigerians a week ago. They were in the company of a friend, who I had passed by to meet in the pub briefly. There were three girls on the table. Giggly like hell. They were sipping cocktails through painted lips. Expensive cocktails, no less.
The Nigerians were drinking Dom Perignons. A bottle arrived in ice. When you sit with Nigerians, you realise very quickly why the womenfolk love them: They are attentive. Almost comically. When a woman says something, they listen like she is saying something that will alter the course of cancer research.
They nod and act very interested even if the woman is as interesting as TV on mute. While we let our women wrest water bottles open and pour water for themselves, the Nigerian guy is ahead, twisting the cap and pouring. They are disgustingly charming. And these women turned putty in their hands.
When the waiter brought the bill, for some reason two of the women quickly reached for it saying, “Today this is ours!”
But the Nigerians would hear none of it; in fact they seemed totally offended by the idea of women paying for their drinks. So one of them snatched the bill and paid. Nigerians aren’t just chivalrous by words; they also exhibit it using their wallets. As they say, they “chop their money.” Which is something we need to learn, to treat the bill as our friend.
When you spend some time in the night, you will realise how averse we are at handling the bill.
There are some of us who look the other way come bill time. Or go to the johns and spend days in there. Or pick imaginary phone calls and wander out. Or start having this annoying folk and tale about having dollars. Or Japanese Yen. Or some story about Mpesa. Or we just let the girls pay.
The general rule is, if we are guys and we find ourselves with female company, we pay the bill. No questions asked. We can hold a little committee outside and pool funds if push comes to shove because one of the ladies put away expensive whiskey like a sailor, but we don’t let the ladies open their purses. It shouldn’t matter that for every beer we drank the ladies drank four. We pay.
Reputation of scrooges
Apparently we — Kenyan guys — have gathered a reputation for being scrooges. One Nigerian said he is constantly surprised that we always let our women pick the bills.
He said in a Nigerian accent that to them that is, “losing my kujun!” I asked what kujun was, he explained dramatically whereupon halfway through I realised he meant cajones. And really, isn’t that what paying a bill should be, protecting your cajones?

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