In my community, one is considered a grown man after undergoing circumcision. If he then wishes to make a dozen ladies pregnant, no one will question him. Sure, some might judge his actions, but he isn’t deprived of the title ‘A man’. Now that’s for men. For females. Circumcision is a no-no. In fact, it is considered an abomination (insert a Nigerian accent) so what differentiates a lady from a woman? Some may say it’s her womanly features, others may say it’s the way she talks and reasons, others may say it’s her behavior, others it’s whether or not she’s married while for others it’s a matter of whether or not she has kids. In my community it goes deeper than that. Deep to the point of differentiating a circumcised and an uncircumcised woman.
Alice Wandia endlessly paced back and forth. She had lost count of the number of times she had counted the letters that made up the welcome sign that hang on the door. On she tapped her fingers against her hips in a rhythmic manner that could make certified beats. Those seated in the waiting room had their eyes fixated on her-but who could blame them? I mean, she was putting up a show. Even so, the attention she was drawing worried her less. A phone rang making her jump. There and then it hit her; she was over her head. Halt. Gazing at those who had been watching her, she let out a sigh and took a seat. Sanity finally dawned on her. Trying to avoid the stares, she busied herself by going through her phone. Well, more like staring at the calendar. The same calendar that stated it was a week to her 13 year anniversary with the husband she was waiting for outside the office of a marriage counsellor. God, why hadn’t anyone warned her before? What was taking her husband so long? Why had she agreed to let him walk in alone? Was the doctor a man or woman? If a woman, was she one of his side-dishes?
The absurdness of her thoughts was getting the best of her. So she took a deep breath and sat back letting her mind wander. Wander to what brought her comfort. To what had once made her feel as if she had found her personal Paris. To when she was happily married to the man of her dreams. To when she would have walked on fire just for him. When she couldn’t eat or sleep without him. A teardrop went down her face. Then the door went open as her man walked out. Towards her he walked. “You may go in,” he said. Alice wished she could ask what had transgressed but she couldn’t find the right words. Towards the room she walked. As soon as she stepped in, a sense of calmness and nervousness dawned on her. On turning, she came face to face with the counselor. He was a man! On his desk was a small board written Dr. L. Wambui. (Later she would come to learn that L stood for Lucas) Taking a seat, she focused on the vase that was placed next to the tag. Something about it fascinated her. Something more than the beauty of the flowers it held.
“So Alice, tell me something about yourself,” went the counselor breaking her concentration
“I’m a wife. I have 2 kids. Alice is my name. I’m in my late thirties. I work and I try to be there for my kids. And now I’m here,” she replied.
(Laughing) “Of all those I’ve attended to since morning, you’re the first to make me laugh,” he replied with his response making her smile and loosen up. “Mind if we start again?” he asked.
“I don’t mind. I’m Alice. A jovial soul. A lover of art and music. A mother of two boys. Describing myself will take ages so I’ll just cut to the chase. I’m a wife to the man who just walked out of this room. I’m here because I need your help-we both do,”
(Impressed by her straight-forwardness)” Tell me more,”
(Chuckling) You are a counselor. I’m here for counseling. I mean, a cow can’t go to the cattle-dip if it won’t go in the dip.” She said with a laugh. “Thing is, my marriage is on the edge,” she said with a tone of sadness. The sort that makes you sense the guilt and fear in someone.
“Keep going. What’s wrong with your marriage?”
“Ben married for the past 12 years and we are blessed with 2 sons. Everything has been great. Well, until a year ago. I guess things just fell apart like they did in Chinua Achebe’s book, Things Fall Apart. See, Eric and I were doing everything to keep the fire burning. From spending time together, to creating time for our kids, to being good parents, to shutting out the temptations that come with marriage and now to this- a marriage on the verge of sinking deeper than the titanic ship,”
“For a woman who is as stressed as you are, you seem to have maintained your sense of humor,” he said seeming impressed. “What happened for your marriage to get here?”
“Where do I start? (She asked in deep contemplation) It just happened. I started getting busy with work and everything. Without knowing it, the interest I once had for my man started fading. I really don’t know how things escalated. He noticed the change and gave me my space. I guess he assumed I was going through a phase- I thought so too,” she said as she got lost in her thoughts. As if she was calculating what had gone amiss.
“In most cases it is usually a phase that lasts for a short while. What made you feel or get stuck in that situation?”
“If I say it plainly will it make me less terrible than I already am?”
“I’m here to help not judge. Please go ahead,”
“I’m here to help not judge. Please go ahead,”
“There was always some hidden chemistry between Eric’s main man and I. Coincidentally, he had always hoped a miracle would happen-it did. We started snooping around and eventually started sleeping together. Biggest mistake of my life. I thought it would be a one-time thing but the thrill kept me going back. This prompted to me completely losing interest in my man. Eric and I started fighting. In my eyes he became less of a man. I started doing things on my own. See, I knew our marriage was on the edge but I didn’t have the time to save it. Anyway, one day Eric lost it. He came home pissed and sent the boys to their rooms. Noticing his mood I saw it best to ask what was wrong. Wrong move. He started questioning me. Questions I had answers to but just couldn’t answer. My silence accelerated his anger making him lose his cool. Hell broke loose. He started talking about my affair with his best friend, how it made him feel betrayed. How he had lost all trust in me. His regret of marrying me. The amount of disrespect he felt towards me. I thought it best to comfort him. You know, I thought my words still had some power over him. That worked out well (she said with a smirk on her face as she rolled her eyes) I don’t know what came over him for he just blurted out ‘I’m even glad I slept with that worthless friend of yours, Carol,” she narrated as she battled with the tears that were fighting to go down her cheeks.
“Alice, let the tears fall. Express your pain. Get lost in it,”
“I’m scared that I’ve lost my man forever. I still love him- I really do and I don’t want this to be the end but even so, I can’t fight for my marriage having lost all the respect I have for my man and knowing he feels the same. I get it, we both cheated, but it’s still not enough to make me lose him. I just want to know how I will save my marriage” she said almost choking on her tears.
“In my village, a lady is considered a woman once she’s declared circumcised. Not the literal circumcision but by the way she talks, behaves, acts and communicates a lot. Marriage says a lot about a woman. Mainly says that she’s grown enough to keep a man and commit. But how a woman keeps a man is what determines if she’s circumcised or not. A woman who talks about what’s going on in her marriage to others, gossips about others, goes home drunk, neglects her kids, cheats on her husband and fails to respect or listen to her husband is considered an uncircumcised woman making her unworthy of the title a real woman. But a woman who knows her place and does the total opposite of all the above, now that’s a circumcised woman. When my grandfather first told me this, I was confused but with time, it came to make sense. Point is, how you get back from the mess in your marriage defines where you lie. True, you messed up but I can tell that you still love your man and he also loves you. People mess up all the time. I can’t fix your marriage for you but you can fix it. Your man is ready to do so. It’s all up-to you,”
(Wiping the tears on her face she looked at the counselor) “I’m ready to fix things,”
“You should be telling your husband that”
Alice rose from the chair and walked out of the room. The number of people in the waiting room had reduced. Slowly, she walked towards him as he stood up on seeing the tears in her eyes. In his arms she fell and he crossed them locking her in as she lay on his chest. God, she had missed him. Alice looked at Eric. Eric looked at Alice.
“I’m sorry,” Alice said as tears streaked down her face.
“I’m sorry Alice. I really am,” Went Eric.
“I’m ready to talk and fix things,” she said with a smile on her face.
“I love you. Let’s talk and fix things,” he said with a laugh as he held her hand.
As they turned towards the door to make their leave, it finally hit her. Hit her that the vase on the counselor’s desk fascinated her since it was similar to the one that was on the table her husband and she signed their marriage certificates on. Mother Nature really had her way of making things fall in place. A smile spread on Alice’s face. It was time. Time for her to be a circumcised woman.