Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gertrude Mungai: What exactly is she selling?

Did you watch that episode on K24’s Connect where Gertrude Mungai, the co-host of the show, was demonstrating how some ‘mombasa raha’ positions can be carried out to maximum satisfaction? Well, if you didn’t, youtube will always help you out. I am sure you have an opinion on it, but first things first.

Did you blush when she boldly got on top of her ‘model’ and gyrated her hips as she demonstrated how to get the most out of the missionary position? Did you exclaim in disbelief as she put both her legs up in the air and showed you how to guide your partner with your feet, from behind while he was ‘at work?’ Were you tempted to believe that the world is coming to an end when she gave instructions on how to ‘kamata bonnet’ - she called that her christmas gift to us, how sweet! Or was it?

When you eventually got over your embarrassment, did you continue watching or did you switch off your Tv set in protest? At the end of it all, did you learn anything? Nothing at all? She didn’t mention a position that you particularly enjoy with your partner, did she? I remember her mentioning a few that were her favorite, did she demonstrate a few of yours as well? None? Ok, but at least she suggested something that you’ve always wanted to try out, right? You must have thought at some point “Mmmh...interesting”. Don’t lie to me now, we’re all adults here. Or are we?

So the million dollar question since the show aired in December last year, demonstrations and all, has been whether she is selling immorality or some form of genuine, much needed sex education.

Here’s a questionnaire I came up with to help us put things in perspective:

  • Is the show rated 21 years and above?  
  • Does it have married couples as its target audience?
  • At the age of 21 years are children aware of the birds and the bees sex and sexuality courtesy of their very responsible parents, the very reliable internet, or very well informed buddies?
  • During the time the show airs (11 pm is it?) are children (supposed to be) snoring in slumberland?
  • Is sex a vital part of every marriage?
  • Are married folks allowed to enjoy mind-blowing, earth-shattering, guiltless sex?
  • Does lack of intimacy or sex in a marriage contribute to its detriment?
  • Does sex in marriage have to be boring?
  • Does improved sexual performance lead to satisfaction of both parties, hence better chances of a happier marriage?
  • Does the show encourage promiscuity, unnatural acts or immorality of any kind?
  • Does sexual dissatisfaction create a disconnect between couples that could open avenues for infidelity to set in?
  • Can a show like this help a couple break the silence and allow them to communicate effectively about their sexual expectations?
  • Though they say that sex is a preserve for the  married, is it the married who hardly ever enjoy it fully?
  • Is it a crime to enjoy sex with your spouse?
  • Did Gertrude dress decently for this show?
  • Was she sexually provocative?
  • Were there any clumsy or awkward moments while she manoeuvred around the set?
  • Are we applying double standards when we watch shows that have sex scenes and nudity merely for entertainment purposes and complain about this particular one?

Again I ask, is the show educative or immoral?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Church of Play

Allow me to let you in on the drama that unfolds when you take a child Heidi’s age to church. She is two years old now and at her age, she can talk - boy, can she talk! She is however still new to socialisation and  cannot be left with unfamiliar faces without her making a fuss.

The deal with our church is that children go to Sunday School where they sing and are taught to pray while bonding with other children. The rest of us grown ups attend mass in the main church.

I have tried for three Sundays now to get Heidi to go for Sunday School classes with her sister, and all three times, I have failed miserably! The first time I tried being firm and even though she cried, I listened to the Sunday School teacher when she said  “She’ll be fine, they all start out like that” I therefore left her wailing in her arms and turned to walk away. She screamed and cried as if the world was coming to an end. “Go on” The teacher insisted and like Johnnie Walker, I kept walking.

Since I wasn’t sure if she will quieten down, I sat next to the exit of the main church just in case I would have to make a hasty retreat to go back and get her. I waited; two seconds passed, she was still screaming. 5...10. I kept my cool. “She will be fine, Hailey is in there with her ” I consoled myself “Kids go through this all the time” 15 seconds ….20 seconds....half a minute...Don’t children’s lungs get tired?!

For a minute there I thought she went quiet, only for the crying to resume. The other congregants were hearing nothing, everyone was busy listening to the sermon. I played along for five long minutes and when she persisted I decided that was it! I had to get my daughter back. The teacher labelled me with one look - “Wuss!” I shrugged my shoulders “I tried?” Heidi was handed to me and we went with her to the main church; her sulking with a ‘how-dare-you!’ look, me feeling defeated.

Nonetheless, Sunday School is a very good idea mainly because children really get to learn about the whole idea behind going to church and because as a parent, if your little angel is with you in church, your attention is divided. Many are the times I have gone to church and came out feeling like I just went there to chase my kid around as she plays.

Heidi perceives going to church as going for a playdate. She will sample out other children and when she sees a kid that she likes, she goes in for a kill. A smile, a touch of hands, then “Sasa?” If the other kid smiles and answers back, or even just smiles, BAM! Playtiiiime! They will chase each other around shouting with not a care in the world. I will be beside myself with frustration trying to concentrate, to pray, to listen,  and to spare the other congregants the not-so-holy noise, all in vain!

This particular Sunday, I tried to give Sunday school a shot once again and even before we reached the class, she was in tears. We had to leave Hailey and head with her to the main church. AGAIN! I however decided to sit in a pew devoid of children. “Eradicate peer pressure”, I thought to my smart self.

She behaved for a while. When she wanted to say something, she whispered in my ears (she’s so into ear-whispering at the moment). When I carried her while standing, she pushed strands of my plaited hair back and rested her head on my shoulder. Soon, her forefinger was inside her mouth. See, Heidi sucks her forefinger and when her finger finds her way to her mouth, you know she wants some quiet time and doesn’t want to be bothered. That is how she falls asleep every night; finger in mouth.

Seeing her like that, I sighed with relief because I knew she was in check. “Look at the person seated next to you, is it your husband, your wife, your girlfriend, boyfriend? Some of you came with your spouses. But right now, you are not seated next to each other. Some barely talk to each other because you have become strangers to each other...”, the priest was saying. I was really feeling the sermon and wouldn’t have been surprised if someone from the congregation yelled “Preach Father, Preach!”

I took the chance to look at the people seated next to me on each side. To my right was a lady, to my left a gentleman. For the next couple of minutes, I kept apologizing to the lady to my right because Heidi kept stepping on her as she swung her leg back and forth. She was very understanding and told me not to worry about it.

After the sermon, we started singing, and Heidi came alive. “Mum...mum...MUM!” she yelled when I tried to ignore her. Thankfully, her shouting was drowned by the singing. I however realized that ignoring her was not a good idea and I quickly responded in a low tone willing her to follow suit. Then she goes “SA-SA?!” in a loud voice just when the song had come to an end and pin drop silence engulfed the church. Seriously baby girl?

This coming sunday, it is Sunday School for Heidi or Sunday School for Heidi so help me God!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

“My Daddy is a sex Pest” - and a Doctor does nothing to help.

This is not just a rant but an expression of profound disappointment in one Dr. Joachim Osur who, in the Saturday Magazine of the Daily Nation (19th Jan) writes about a form four girl who came to him for help because she suspected that what her father was doing to her; touching her inappropriately, buying her gifts, visiting her bedroom at odd hours - was not part of a normal father-daughter relationship.She was scared that though her father had not had sex with her yet, she saw the possibility of it happening soon.

She was feeling helpless, not knowing where to turn to, she took a chance on the author. Though she had difficulty talking about this, amid tears, she gathered enough courage to open up to him and tell him what was going on in the privacy of their home. The author admits to not knowing what to do when the girl dropped the bombshell and I wish at this point he had sought help from other qualified professionals to take on the young girl’s case.

This article had me deeply disturbed at the nonchalant way the author treated the whole situation as though the girl was complaining about a petty nuisance.

This is because, the Doctor only helped to push the girl back to the insecurity of her home, where she was indeed raped by her father! Even after she had sought help from him, she had gathered all the courage she could master to talk to someone who she thought could help her avert an injustice from being meted out on her, she spoke out, she took a step in spite of her fears. And still she was raped! The good Doctor did nothing but redirected her to close friends and relatives or a church pastor, instead of grabbing the chance to stop the very potent danger she faced.

I am left wondering, I am no Doctor nor a psychiatrist, but did the author not realise that the reason the girl came to him may have been because she could not open up to these other people he was suggesting?

By the time I finished reading the article I was furious because this could have been prevented. I could not bring myself to understand how an editor of one of the most respected newspapers would allow such blatant show of negligence on a matter so sensitive to be printed.

Dr. Osur should have taken it upon himself to contact the girl’s mother, or close relative - the people he was suggesting the girl should talk to. He should have taken it upon himself to ensure the safety of that girl instead of letting  “...the whole thing go out of his mind” on the assumption that the girl was safe. How now?

Talking about something like that especially touching on her father, must have been a  ginormous task for that young girl. She put so much on the line because she was afraid of what would happen if she kept quiet about his father’s behaviour. Sadly, that act of courage, came to nought. Thanks to one Doctor who, with a referral, sent her back to her molester.

The author continues to write “If only my patient had involved a relative or a close family friend, or even brought the father to the clinic as agreed, we would have stopped the beastly man” To me, this is the most insulting sentence in the whole article.

Dr. Osur, you lay blame on that brave girl yet she did what most girls don’t have the courage to do by speaking up-evidently not to the right person-but  she did what she could to try and prevent this. While other girls are too scared to speak up and suffer in silence, she did things differently. She came to YOU! Not her relative, not her close family friends and not her father the molester... Are you kidding?

Unlike her mother or family members who had no idea what was going on, you knew what she was going through, and you did nothing about it. Not that it will do much now since the damage is already done, but I think you owe her an apology anyway.

The way I see it, when it comes to rape, and child molestation of any kind, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem. You can either help these children by going after the perpetrators or sit back as your peers, husbands, boyfriends have their way with them. This also goes for the disgusting women who for the demented notion that they have to bend over backwards  for their men, look the other way as their daughters are molested by these beasts in their homes.

That young girl, Dr. Osur sir, was molested on your watch! Because of your negligence, her life will never be the same again. For that you should be ashamed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Rules I live by

1. I will respect myself

2. I will avoid, like the plague, people who try to put me down

3. Whether for publication or not, I will always write.

4. I will always start a sentence with a Capital Letter; in a meaningless text, a status update on social media or an official document.

5. When it’s called for, I will spank my children for I know what happens when the rod is spared.

6. No one knows more about me than I do and so suggestions on how to live my life will be shelved. If I survived the confusion that comes with being a teenager, I think that in my thirties, it is only fair for Renee to do as Renee feels right.

7. If it doesn’t feel right, I will not do it. I will go with my conscience

8. I will never take what does not belong to me.

9. Consequently, I would never date a married man.

10. I believe that I deserve nothing short of being the only woman in a man’s life.I will therefore not share my man with another woman.

11. I will raise my children. Not the househelp, the television nor the radio. If I don’t do it, Maina Kageni and ‘The BEAT’ will step in to fill the void. I will help them to do their homework, tuck them in at night. They are my responsibility and as long as I shall live, I will always be there for them.

12. I will make what is important to my children important to me.  

13. I will not try to be a man. I will not drink beer, worse still, from a bottle. I will not smoke nor have meaningless relationships/flings.  

14. I will not be lazy as to live a slobbish lifestyle.

15. I will read, listen to music, watch movies and comedies every chance I get.

16. I will stay true to myself no matter how people perceive  me. Why struggle to be like everyone else, when I was born to be unique?

17. I will look beyond the tatters, the glitz, the glamour, the fake smiles and weaves to the person within. Everyone has a story to tell. Amazing what you see when you pull back the mask

18. I will always seek knowledge; from mama mboga, the makanga, the intellectuals and even my children . I will take each day as a learning experience, reminding myself each morning that Renee, you don’t know jack!

19. I will remember that life is difficult, it owes me nothing and the important thing is to survive.

20. I will be thankful. Each good day and every good experience will go into my memory bank. I will revisit those good days to push me through the tough ones.

21. I will remember that I am not perfect and be kind to myself when I make mistakes.

22. I will not pretend to be who I am not.

23. I will be happily married or not at all.

24. I will never apologise for who I am.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

“Mum, who gave birth to me?”

We were setting the breakfast table, my dancer and I. Hailey and Heidi sat on their small plastic chairs; Hailey's is purple, Heidi's is lemon green. Should Hailey sit on the lemon green chair, or Heidi on the purple one, there will be war! The day was a saturday, the 29th of December 2012 and since each child sat on their respective chairs, there was peace. A quiet peaceful Saturday morning it was. Also Hailey's birthday.

Naturally, we started to reminiscence about the birth of both our children. Going down memory lane, we noted that both of them were born on significant years in the Kenyan Calendar; I gave birth to Hailey during the 2007 elections and I was heavy with Heidi when we had the referendum vote for the new constitution in 2010. The joker that he is, md (my dancer, gerrit?) remarked “Next year is an election year, what is wrong with this picture?!” as he caressed my tummy. Mmmmmh...what indeed?

Our talk shifted to Heidi's birth, how she turned two just the other day and yet she was gabby to no end - people always point out that she learnt to speak too soon. As we went on and on about Heidi this, Heidi that, Hailey, feeling left out, asked “And me? Mum, who gave birth to me?” and we were taken by surprise. A tilted flask that was serving tea was placed down on the table as md and I looked at each other. A non verbal agreement was made that I should take this one.

I sat down with her and explained to her the core meaning behind the title “Mother” aka ‘Mum’ or ‘Mummy!’. We had been teaching Hailey a lot about her identity; her full names-all three of them, her parent's names; mine she says quite effortlessly, her father's name she struggles with yet it is supposed to be the easier one. She knows how old she is, the name of her school and where she lives. We were therefore surprised that though she knows that I am her mother, she had no clue why I lay claim to that title! But how was she to know? Now that I think about it, I remember her telling me once “Mum, your baby has woken up” when she heard Heidi crying in bed.

“I gave birth to you, that is why you call me Mum” I told her. The clown in md could not resist looking at me with a mocking smile that said “You feel pretty good about yourself, don't you?”

I told him to cut it out before Hailey asks why he was called “Daddy” and he would have to explain his role in her existence. What would he say then, I can just imagine him struggling to find the right words; that he planted a seed in Mummy perhaps? The conversation (God forbid) would go something like:

H: A seed? Like the ones in Watermelon
(What can I say... she loves watermelon, and the watermelon seeds are the only ones she knows yet)
MD: Yes. Like the seeds in watermelon (he would lie, not knowing what else to say.) 

Maybe I’d feel sorry seeing him trying so hard? Errm...Not really.
H: So, mum ate the watermelon seeds that you gave her? (she would continue inexorably)
MD: Eeee...yes (He would struggle with a straight face)
H: But....Heidi and I also eat the watermelon seeds...will we... (Now she would be confused)
MD: That is different... Now take your tea before it gets cold! (He would end the conversation with finality)

Lets just be grateful that Hailey did not ask any further questions - That would have been a disaster! I however know that the day is coming; the questions will come and answers will be needed. Plausible answers. Ready or not.

I know its cliche, but honestly, where do the years go! I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that Hailey is five years old. She understands a lot these days. While watching news with her the other day, this woman whose household had been affected by the raging floods in December was beseeching ‘sirikal’ to come to her aid since she had nowhere to go and she did not know where her husband and children were. Hailey then asked me “Mum, why doesn’t she just come here, there is no rain here why won’t she come and stay with us?” She was very concerned. Yet just yesterday she was a little baby...

When I took her to school on opening day, we came across children who were being admitted to baby class. The day came with the usual drama of scared children (first-timers), apprehensive parents and nervous teachers. One kid was yelling, as his mother struggled to walk away. Back in 2011, Hailey did not honour me with that kind of fit. She did not shed a tear for mum. Nada. Just a simple goodbye, I love you and that was it. The transition was so smooth that I was slightly jealous of the parents whose kids refused to let go of their legs as they wailed uncontrollably.

It will be Heidi’s turn next year. Maybe she will cry. Maybe just like Hailey, she will blend in with the crowd and wonder what the other children are fussing about.Hopefully, I will be here to tell you all about it.

A year comes along and a tonne of responsibility comes with it. My calendar looks full already; Potty training for Heidi is here, extraction of milk teeth for Hailey continues - did I tell you we already extracted two? I presume the birds and the bees talk looms just around the corner for her as well?

As a parent, you never catch a break, do you?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

I'm Still Standing

Just in case you were starting to wonder, yes I did make it to 2013 and I see, so did you - Congratulations!

Truth be told, I gave a sigh of relief as I bid good riddance to the year 2012. What a year it was for me! It punched me in the face, in the stomach, all over and when I tried to steady my feet, it pushed me and I found myself tumbling over, face down.

With muck on my face, I tried to get up, only to get a kick to my behind and several other kicks rained on me from all over. I was rolling in the deep (Speaking of, do you suppose Adele will make a comeback this year?). I wasn't sure how to take it because I was in unfamiliar territory and so I held out on you guys as I let this site slip. But you must understand why; Whereas I am used to rolling with the punches and hitting back, 2012 did me in. It sapped my energy and I lost the fight in me.

The straw that broke the camel’s  back came when the faces behind the punches were all too familiar. When the murmurs were not loud enough, I had a status update dedicated to me. Sweeeet!

I looked around me and wondered, what part of me gave this year the impression that I had no clue about what I was doing. I wondered if it was better to go against my unpopular beliefs. Then I saw this:

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark after irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible it is yours..."

So 2012 made me cry, it made me snort while at it and it weakened me big time. It made me question myself because when it stood there in front of me, intimidating me, the people I expected to find in my corner, went the other way. They exposed me and I stood there vulnerable asking myself so many questions. Some I was able to answer, others I couldn't for the life of me, find an answer. Heck, some I couldn't even understand.

As I was drowning, holding onto my last breathe, just before my lungs gave in to the asphyxiation from this toxic year, I stretched my hand out one last time, willing to clutch at anything for dear life. Thankfully, I found a pair of strong hands that pulled me out.

When I could breathe again, I looked at him – he with the strong pair of hands and asked him to help me get back on my feet again. Help me find my bearing again, I pleaded.
“It's all in you. All I can do is support you, and I am here for that no doubt. But you have to look within you for that strength you need. It is in there, so find it.”

He sounded so much like me; the 'normal' me. The 'strong' me. Here was his chance at being macho yet he let it pass, opting to give me the real deal instead. And he was right. There was no 'superman' out there to come and whisk me off my feet to a safehouse somewhere. I had to find that safe haven on my own.

With renewed strength, I looked 2012 in the eye and dared it to take me down because I wasn't going without a fight. I had every right to be here dammit. I was going to fight back with all I had. 

2012 is gone, yet I’m still standing. I live to fight another day. Another year.

I dare 2013 to hit me - give it your best shot bud. It will hurt and I can’t promise not to cry, but rest assured that I will not make it easy for you to take me down

One small request though, as you dish out the punches, allow me some laughter, joy and pleasure every once in a while. That is the only way that I can survive you. 

Happy New Year guys! I hope it will be a sail-through, but whatever happens, don't let your fire go out. You are stronger than you know. Remember that.