Category Archives: Feelings

An Open Letter to All My Single Ladies Out There


Hi there single lady, (late twenties, early thirties)

I bet you didn’t see this coming. I bet you thought that by 24 you would have had it all figured out, you would have met a guy who was THE ONE, popped a few babies, made your first million, and now, you would be ready to tie your tubes and retire to raise your family in Malindi where the rest of your days would be spent serving up exquisite meals three times a day, in your awesome bandage dress showing off all your perfect post-baby curves.

Except it didn’t work out that way. In those days, ‘adulthood’ was that far away place where you would  arrive, having magically figured everything out. Preferably before age 23 because back then, old age was basically anything after 25.

Alas, yet here we are. On the wrong side of the 20s or maybe on the nice side of the 30s. Alone. With no prospects and a lifetime of knitting and cats, left with nothing but our dried up ovaries slowly poisoning us from the inside.

So they say.

You see, it took me a while before I realized that being single, despite what anyone says, is not a terminal disease. It’s not like Hepatitis, which makes your eyes yellow and takes away your liver. It’s not like cancer, which has to be lanced through chemotherapy and prayers that your immune system holds up. It’s not even like tuberculosis, which spreads in those matatus where everyone keeps the windows shut because ‘baridi itanipatia homa’.

It is a state of being. Sometimes fantastic, sometimes awful, sometimes permanent, sometimes temporary. Nonetheless, a state of being that has precious little to do with your identity as a person.

And like anything else in life, an opportunity to wallow in self pity or an opportunity to grow and burst and glow and maybe even like Icarius, get so close to the sun that your wings melt off and you fall into the deep blue sea content that, before you crashed, at least you soared.

See, the thing about humans is that we tend to believe that happiness is always over the rainbow. That if only we do this and that and achieve this and that then we can finally be happy. We live in a state of perpetual expectation. It has served us well in the past – but it comes at  a high emotional cost to ourselves.

Being single does not have to be a deplorable state that you need to be rescued from, but can be a time to celebrate the greatest thing that has happened to your life so far, which is the fact that you are still here. That being said, a life in waiting can still be a worthy life. Here are a few key things to remember:

  1. Thou shalt not view thine single-hood as a curse

There are a million perky little articles  on how awesome being single is,  and especially the freedom that the manless battalion have. Typically it means the freedom not to watch a football game, or to care whether or not Manchester United wins a game or not. Or the freedom to sleep in your bed without someone hogging the covers.

Really?

Most of us well adjusted adults know that we can refuse to pretend to like a game because of our significant other. And we would gladly pretend to do so if it meant that much to them.

But being single does give you freedom to focus almost exclusively on yourself.  We tend to imagine relationships based on what we will gain, and how we will feel. We almost always forget that we will have to do the same for another person, and it is not always as wonderful as they show in the movies. Revel in your relatively absolute freedom. Enjoy it and make the most out of it.

Go out there. Fail. Disappoint yourself. Quit your job and go bankrupt. Discover that you suck at photography.  Go through all your ‘what ifs’ because the opportunity cost will never be lower than it is right now.  That kind of selfishness is a luxury that, if all your plans go well, will soon disappear.

2. Thou shalt not mind people’s opinions

Oh wow, doesn’t everyone have something to say about you and your single-hood. According to some, the only thing standing between you and marital bliss is your short hair.  Or the fact that your dresses aren’t  short enough. Because, not feminine, and no-one will marry you. Others caution you on the dangers of  too much independence caused by making too much money. Because that’s intimidating and no-one wants an intimidating woman. Go home and learn how to cook instead. But don’t do that so much that you become too dependent. Because men hate women who sit in the house all day watching telenovellas and waiting for someone else to pay the bills.

If you really wanted a man, you would dress sexy, but not too sexy because then everyone would think that you are a slut. And no-one likes a slut. But they don’t like Mother Teresa either.

And then there is all the grumbling on social media about how women have let society down because we stopped cooking and started talking back. Half of us (apparently) wear ugly green tee-shirts and cover our heads with scarves at night, while the rest of us only care about money and rich fat old men who can buy us shiny weaves and even shinier cars.

Smile and wave girls, everyone has their opinions- some are made in earnest, some are made with malicious intentions and some are just foolish things uttered without much thought. But that’s all they are, other people’s assessments of your current life situation. Most of the time, they don’t matter.

Also, you don’t have to marry Mr loud mouth over there.

3. Thou shalt let go of the idea that thou can control factors outside of thyself

Yes, yes I am the captain of my ship and the master of my destiny. But I don’t control the waves, and I don’t control the sea and I certainly don’t control the weather.

You might be single for a week more. Or a year longer. Maybe get married in a few. Or not get married at all. You know what? it doesn’t matter. If you do get married (because that is the highest ideal for you as a woman) you will wonder why you wasted so many years obsessing about something that would have happened anyway. And if you don’t, you will wonder why you spent so much time being miserable about something you couldn’t control. You will wonder if all the sadness and frustration was really worth it.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that much.  Worry about life threatening things.  Let life surprise you. Let life delight you. Do anything but hypothesize about your fictional future. Sure, it’s great having a plan and working towards it, but it’s also good to remember that life laughs in the face of your plans loudly and very frequently.

Make memories that are worth remembering.

4.  Thou shalt not wait for people to come and save thee

Taking into full consideration  the above, remember that you are still in charge of your life. So if you don’t like something, go ahead and change it. Do you find yourself increasingly alienated as your friends start talking about diapers and teething? Love them and support them. But go out there and make new friends. Do you find your options limited because you believe that you are shy? It’s fine, almost 50% of the population claims that they are. Want to climb a mountain but worried that you won’t be able to make it to the top? Start working on your fitness.  Whatever failings that you have as a human being, realize that you are not alone and that they are not set in stone.

And then go forth and work on improving them. Because you can, and you will be better for it. That’s what life is about. Incremental changes that lead to bigger, better, more impressive results and things in the long term.

If you don’t like it, change it boo!

5. Thou shalt not indulge in unproductive conversations

A lot of anxiety and sadness comes not from the situation, (that you are single and are on the fast track to being a cat lady) but our response to the situation. Sometimes you just have to block  yourself from negative things. Some of my previous pet peeves that I now happily ignore:

  • Any conversation that starts with ‘nowadays the reason why people don’t get married is because (insert superficial reason/ sweeping statement like they have stopped praying or they don’t cook.)’ I’m sorry, how many of you were dating in the 70s? That’s right, have a seat. Thanks
  • Any conversation around the theme ‘where have all the good men gone’.  (Another variant of this is, ‘Kenyan men suck because…’ – if you’ve never been farther than Mombasa, what exactly do you know about men from other countries anyways?)
  • Declaring how you are a strong, independent woman that don’t need no man.  Or ‘I’m doing me right now’. It might be true, but remember being single is not your defining characteristic. It is not an identity and is therefore not central to who you are.
  • Hypothetical conversations about your future children (or lack of) and your wedding (or lack of). Life is unpredictable. If anything, this is a lack of imagination and will limit the possibilities and opportunities that you could take advantage of.
  • Talking about how happy other people are in relationships and how you wish you had what they have. The Kikuyu say ‘mucie ni ndogo’. It translates directly to ‘a home is smoke’ and communicates the message that you never know what goes on in people’s homes, so it’s not a good idea to imagine that everyone else is happier than you based on their appearances. Work on your own life so that you are not jealous of others. Don’t let envy poison your relationships with your friends.
  • Anything with the words ‘biological clock’

We spend a lot of time thinking about all the things that we don’t have that we don’t actually see what we have and should celebrate. No matter your life situation, there is plenty in your life that is going pretty well.

Back away slowly and do not engage.

6.  Thou shalt approach life (and dating) from a position of strength

Accepting your single status does not mean defeat and resignation. Making the best of your crippling lack of a MAN simply means that you won’t jump and buy yourself an engagement ring the first time someone asks you out for coffee.

It means you won’t entertain losers, fuck-boys and other drainers of your time and energy just because you need a man because you are single and being single means that there is something wrong with you and you really need to settle down with this guy who is okay but kind of mean or boring because this is probably the best you will get.

It means you won’t force yourself to get into relationships just because everyone else around you is. Hopefully it also means that you will not grow bitter as said eggs slowly turn to dust,taking with them any chance of finding your life’s purpose (a man to marry you)  as well as any humor, personality and will to live you may have managed to cling on to this far deep into the game.

Because regardless of your status, what kind of life is that? No one can make you happy, and if you aren’t happy single, chances are you won’t be happy in a relationship.

So go forth my single little butterfly. Fly! Go forth and be fabulous!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Death and why you don’t need to be perfect


My friend and classmate, Julie, died on 15th November 2015. I found out because I had been idly scrolling my Facebook timeline, sipping a Cappuccino at ArtCaffe, feeling posh and typing away frantically at my computer doing important things. A chill ran down my spine when I saw the RIP message, but I dismissed it and decided to talk to the person who had posted the message to ask for more information.

I was sure it was a mistake.

Of course it wasn’t, and even as I attended her memorial service and held back tears as we sang ‘Amazing Grace’, and tried to say hello to some of her friends, I still felt like I could text her on Whatsapp and tell her that this whole thing is pretty lame and when can we finally do our wine date and moan about it?

I scrolled her Instagram and looked at her pictures. I read everything she wrote on Facebook and googled her name over and over again. I kept repeating to myself, ‘Julie is dead, Julie is Dead, Julie is dead’

It still feels surreal.

I was not a good friend to Julie. I cared about her, but predictably, life happened, and even when we did reconnect, it was in that weird millenial way that allows people to make plans but not really commit. Where it’s okay to cancel at the last minute or simply ignore the fact that you had arranged a meeting. Where following people on social media is a substitute for actually sitting down with someone and being in their presence. Where the lamest of excuses are accepted with a smiley face and a ‘no worries’ text. Where instead of spending time with people, we would rather stay home and troll the internet.

Funerals remind us just how fragile life is. They remind us just how unfair life is. That ultimately, few things matter. No-one will remember what car you drove (even if they do, it won’t be their fondest memory). They will remember you and how you made them feel. Even your mistakes will pale in comparison to all the good you did. They will remember the joy and happiness you brought into their lives.

Funerals remind us that we are failures. That we will never live up to our standards. That we will never be good enough or smart enough, or kind enough or anything enough. But it’s okay, we were never meant to be. We were meant to live as flawed humans, who have little control over what happens. We were meant to live with pain and fear and sadness and then disappear. But as long as we try our best, appreciate our friends and families and everyday that we live, then it will be okay.

Rest in peace Julie.

NB: Sometimes we can never fully understand the struggles that other people go through. Sometimes we can’t understand that there is a difference between soul crushing depression and a funk because something bad happened. Sometimes ‘get over it’ is the worst thing we can say when we are trying to help someone. We just don’t understand, and we can’t. My friends out there with issues they may suspect could be serious, get help. We can’t save you because we don’t understand.

 

Accepting and building on the legacy our parents leave us: the greatest gift my father gave me


My father died in May 2000. I don’t remember the exact date of his death, neither do I remember the date of the funeral. It was 14 years ago and I was a child. I was having a conversation with my good friend Just Jere about going Indian style and building on what our parents gave us. Instead of struggling on our own, maybe it is okay to appreciate, value and take advantage of the resources and knowledge our folks have. Basically that we are not obliged to go out on our own and start from scratch. This got me thinking about what my father left me.

My father made me love books.

One of my earliest and fondest memories of my father is sitting with him and laboriously reading articles from the Daily Nation. I would trace every letter with my finger, pronouncing the vowels carefully and looking up to him at the end of each sentence. I did not understand anything I read, but he applauded and seemed absolutely delighted every time I correctly read out a phrase, no matter how long it took. I basked in in his approval and this motivated me to go through the next sentence. And the next. This was while I was in nursery school.

Once I could make out actual words, we graduated to reading his magazines. Those were the days when going to the Post Office in Nairobi was a big deal. (We are the Rongai Originals by the way…) We would travel to Nairobi and check our mail. He had a billion subscriptions, mostly to car magazines and engineering stuff. It didn’t matter. We read them together. Then one day I got my own magazine subscription. Sparkle magazine, with that parrot on the the cover. We read them all together. And wrote them letters. And tried out their recipes. Beautiful memories.

I remember once we went on an expedition- Nakumatt Mega had just been opened, and us Rongai people could go stock up on luxuries such as cheese and shower gel. Nakumatt Mega was divided into sections- on one side was all the domestic stuff, and on the other side was the book shop.

One day my parents had promised me that we could go to the book shop and pick out a book for me to read. So we did our shopping. Then we went to the check out counter. I panicked. Why are we not going to the book shop? We paid. Is this a joke? Did I do something wrong to deserve this?  We left the shop and went to the car. Why are they punishing me?  We started driving away. I had been bubbly and happy before, spouting the endless nonsense that children typically do, but I had been growing more and more silent. My parents asked me what was wrong several times. I could not respond because it was obvious- why did are we not going to the bookshop? Eventually, as we were driving away, I realized that this was my last chance. I tearfully asked about my book. That they had promised.

They laughed and we went back in. I picked the fattest, biggest encyclopedia I could find. Then we went home in peace.

By the time my father died, the seed that he had planted in me had grown strong. I loved books. I loved to read. I had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. And I thought it was all me. I did not realize that he was the source, that he had led me down this path.

I read voraciously. I remember that after he died, we could not leave soon enough. By the end of the year, we had moved to Zimbabwe, where more books awaited me. Zimbabwe was a curious country. They had municipal libraries that actually had volumes and volumes of books that I could borrow. By the time I was 12, I had devoured books about slavery, Terry Prachett’s fantasy universe (with most of the innuendo lost on me), colonization, fantasy, anything they had I read it.

My next big treasure was USIU. I cannot describe the joy I felt when I realized that I could borrow 4 books at a time for free. I read about human sexuality, about colonization, current affairs, history and yes, some books about marketing. At times it felt like classes were interrupting my reading and binge drinking- a necessary evil.

And here I am today. When I think of my father, sometimes I feel a pain in the pit of my stomach. Like something has caved in. He should be here. why isn’t he here?

The pain of losing someone important never fully goes away. The loss that you feel cannot be fully described.  Your friends cannot say the right words. It cannot be understood. On the 1st of May 2000 I, realized with a deep and painful understanding that I would never see my father again. In 2014 I realized that he gave me something that will never ever be taken away from me. He made me who I am today.

My father. My own personal hero.

Rest in peace Mr Muthui, this is my tribute to you. Your legacy lives on.

*

I might be a racist.


I started this blog three or four years ago when I first went to France: I was hoping that life would be interesting enough to get a few laughs out of my friends, because by then I had already learnt that no bad experience/ astonishingly poor life choice is wasted- as long as you can write something mean and/ or funny about it afterwards.

I deliberately stayed away from sex, male bashing disguised as relationship analysis/advice  and the kind of 10 000 word long posts about mundane/mostly irrelevant personal problems that leave people with the impression that bloggers are a whiny, self centred bunch.

I don’t have a  huge following, which is fine, because I always felt like I was talking to my friends over a beer or two. It also means that I’ve never gotten trolled and I’ve never received anything but  reassuring noises about how wonderful and clever I am.

awesome2

(source)

A while ago, I found myself confessing to a new friend that, yes, I do have a blog that I use as an outlet for all the things I would never dare to say out loud: sometimes sarcastic, sometimes funny, and occasionally bordering on mean and spiteful.

I was duly informed that I am racist, ignorant and very cynical.

After the feeling returned to my limbs, I was oddly chuffed that I would receive such strong criticism.

I will let Mr King say it for me:

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. …And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.

That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a tellar but for want of an understanding ear.”

Which, of course, is why its easy to hide behind sarcasm and not publish bleeding heart posts dripping in self pity.

Having a blog is a lot like having an album full of your old pictures. I realize that I may be describing hipsters, but for the rest of us, stonewashed denims, oversized tucked in tees, dresses with socks and sports shoes were not the most glamorous of our days.

But yes, you did wear them. And you felt damn good wearing them and all your friends thought you looked awesome. You went along because it made sense at the time (and because you let your mother dress you because you did not know any better.)

And that’s how you got to where you are today, with your trendy, yet awkward looking harem pants and fluorescent sneakers.

And you can look back and laugh at what you looked like because you made progress. You moved a few steps ahead and you think you look better, until you age a little bit more and you come to the conclusion that you dressed like an idiot for most of your life. But by then it doesn’t really matter because you are old and hopefully very rich.

Dear bloggers, if you ever look back at your baby steps and you hover over the delete button, remember: we do not delete because we are not ashamed.

Bullshit masquerading as advice. Ignore


I’ve talked about my enormous weight gain in a previous post. Well, today I have some good news. I’ve dropped a couple of kilos. Six, to be exact.

Yaay me.

I wanted to call this post ‘what skinny girls know and what the fatties loathe to admit‘…but I thought that might be a bit offensive. Anyway, I’m going to talk about sacrifice, achieving your goals and why you should ignore what people say.

I know this may come naturally for many of you super-humans out there, but if, like me, you are a master at brainwashing yourself and refusing to take responsibility, read on.

The other day, I went out with my friend for lunch. She picked a fried chicken joint that reeks of old, rancid oil. And then she worked her way through five gigantic pieces of deep fried, breaded chicken.

Me, I had a coffee.

At some point, she thrust a piece in my face and demanded that I take it. I said, ‘no thanks’ without batting an eyelid.

Come on, Kristin, one piece won’t hurt! You are so skinny and sexy already, you don’t need to punish yourself all the time!’

This is what I get for punishing' myself

This is what I get for punishing’ myself

Tell me, please, how am I punishing myself by refusing to eat a week’s worth of fat in one sitting? How am I punishing myself by refusing to eat greasy food that will make me ill?

No thank you, dear friend, if this is punishing myself, then suffer away I will.

The thing is, most of my friends don’t realise that my new found health is a result of the daily choices that I make.  This shit did not come naturally.

This is how 'treating' myself worked out for me. It's when I decided that enough was enough

This is how ‘treating’ myself worked out for me. I’m too ashamed to even show my face here

And that ‘eat anything you want and go to the gym’ has failed so spectacularly for me in the past that I vowed never to take on another gym membership.

They see me everyday and the change is so gradual that it’s easy to miss. Even I didn’t see it until my favourite skinny jeans suddenly developed a little pouch where my ass used to be.

People who meet me imagine I’ve always been like this. And take offence when I refuse to inhale a box of chocolate biscuits with them. ‘Come on, Kristin, what’s the harm? Treat yourself!!’

The truth is, losing weight (and being healthy) does not just magically appear as you down litres of Coke and other weird stuff that people imagine is food. Neither does it come by going on a short term, insane regime and then running back to the bad habits you had before. It takes time.

this is not food. This is death on a plate

this is not food. This is death on a plate

And sacrifice.

Yeah, I said it, sacrifice. I’ve noticed that few people really appreciate the hard work that goes behind any real success in life. We look at athletes and assume that they were born that way. We look at the kid who graduated with honours and say that he must have been born a genius.

We look at that shapely girl and think how lucky she is to have a fast metabolism.

It's because I have a slow metabolism

It’s because I have a slow metabolism

Lies. All lies.

There are plenty of self help books that tell you stuff like ‘visualize your success and the universe will give it to you…’, ‘follow this special formula that only I know and success will be yours tomorrow.’

It’s like we have forgotten that we do actually need to work hard to get what we want. Yes, luck plays a part. Yes, genes are important. But they are not excuses for bad behaviour. Or letting yourself off easily because you ‘have a slow metabolism’ or you aren’t ‘smart enough’, or you ‘have terrible luck’ or your teacher ‘hates’ you.

Bullshit.

Did I make sacrifices? Yes. Was it easy? Not always. Was it worth it? Absolutely!

It pays to look at the daily life choices we make. And yes, your mother was right: you do need to work hard.

Preaching session over, never to return againg. But, I have started a blog where I will unleash the full of extent of my new found food Nazism. If you are interested in that kind of thing, check it out. One post so far. 

How to answer annoying questions and end conversations quickly


When travelling and meeting new people, you get used to responding to a standard set of questions that come up with exhausting frequency. It usually goes something like this:

Oh so you are from Kenya? (searches brain to think of something that they know about the country.)

Nairobi, right? (blank smile on my part. I don’t help this knowledge exchange because I believe in the power of Wikipedia)

Image

I want to visit someday. (Great, should I call my travel agent and book you a ticket?)

Then safari, animals, language, (establishing if we speak English down there) and possibly food.

Awkward silence as I ponder on whether or not it would be appropriate to break out into a native dance.

Then I politely ask the same even though I really could not give two shits about where they come from because that’s what civilised people to to carry on the meaningless small talk and waste some time.

I’ve talked about this before, but the more I think about it, the more I realize what a terrible ambassador I am for my country. I mean, when people tell me that they want to visit, I tell them to go to the parks and to the coast.

Why?

Because tourism is an important part of our economy. So skip all the crap about wanting to know the real Kenya and just go burn some cash so that we can build ourselves some super high ways and/or buy some phantom passport making machines. Your government made this video expressly to attract people with lots of money to burn. Count how many times actual people (except for the ruggedly handsome dancing Maasais of course) feature in there:

Seriously.

When people ask me about food, I end the discussion by saying that Kenyan food places emphasis on fresh, natural ingredients cooked in an unpretentious way. And like the British, we generally eat to live and not the other way around.

Admit it, it’s true.

How about language?

Please download a copy of the Lion King. Memorize the words ‘hakuna matata‘.

Voila, you speak Swahili.

Some of the more masochistic ones will keep probing. How is the situation there? (this means, are you one of those countries busy hacking each other to death?)

Yeah, we lost our minds in 2008, I’m not sure if we will go in for round two next year.

I also generalize a lot. I say, ‘in Africa, we do this…In Africa….’ Why? It’s true that Africa is not a country. But it’s also true that we have a lot more in common than we would like to admit. Our problems are almost uniform in nature: pick a little old lady living in a village in the Gambia. Chances are, she has plenty in common with my grandmother living in Nyeri. It’s not an insult. It’s a fact.

That is what it means to belong to a race of people. Y’all have shit in common.

(And besides, were we not in love with Gaddaffi because he wanted a united Africa? Just saying…)

And please don’t talk about North Africa- they only become Africans when they are unemployed, roaming the streets causing trouble and feeling rejected by society.

Image

Why do I do this? Because it is very, very rare to meet someone with a genuine interest in my continent. Blame it on the media if you want to. Blame it on us for being woefully unprepared to join a global community with incomprehensible and incompatible structures with our own.

Blame it on our predecessors who do not remember enough about our culture and passed down to us a crippled understanding of ourselves, poisoned with self loathing. Blame them for unwittingly sharing their inferiority complex.

I do not encourage these kinds of meaningless conversations because, like anyone with a decent bullshit radar, I can tell when someone is making an attempt at ‘talking to the African’ and possibly going through the confusing process of trying to -sift through stereotypes and not putting their foot in their mouth while trying to find common ground maybe with this person but not really sure if it is worth it talking to them oh God what to do this is really weird-

It’s not too much to ask to be seen as an individual you know. And those that do are often well rewarded.

By the way, this video by His Awesomeness Hugh Masekela is what put me in this dark mood. Watch it if you have 15 minutes to spare.