I had started writing about retired President Moi and the outrage porn around media coverage, then I remembered today is Valentine’s Day and I told myself: don’t be a bore, boy. Let Moi and all that sadness be. Write about love.
Now, sometimes you want to read a light-hearted story that makes you smile, perhaps even cringe at memories of historical embarrassments.
Equally, a writer sometimes just wants to pen a light-hearted piece that brings a smile to his haggard face and does more of entertainment than information. Today, I occupy that position.
I can’t think of this day without remembering an occasion when I was so fortunate as to have a date on Valentine’s.
When I was growing up, a boy could go for many years without attracting the attention of even the plainest of girls in the village.
Girls were very mean with their affections or maybe the boys were not very competent at speaking to them.
So I went to pick up this girl to take her out on a night of Valentine’s Day carousal at the JCR (I think that was the Junior Common Room), where Funkatech or some other ’90s disco would play and beer would flow like yoghurt from Ngongongeri Farm.
I remember how I turned out on this special day: Khakis that were so tight at the ankles that toes were always numb, a pair of tan slip moccasins worn without socks, a tucked-in white polo shirt and khaki-coloured cardigan.
I also wore a grey fedora that I had inherited from my father. I have no idea why I felt so fly — to modernise my phraseology — as I can’t for the life of me work out why I had inflicted this awful get-up on myself.
But it was my date’s dress that has coloured my view of Valentine’s Day since that time: she appeared to rise from the floor like a vaporous pink apparition in a huge, ungainly dress which, once it settled around her, looked to have been fashioned out of aluminium.
But it’s the look in her face, a blend of horror and an anxious expectation of appreciation, that I can still see in my mind’s eye.
I appreciated the effort, but I was also furious with myself for secretly being angry at her; she need not have made a spectacle of herself in a pair of tight jeans (was there any other kind?), and a T-shirt would have earned me more envy from my girlfriendless friends.
So even as we set out, I knew this was never going to have a Cinderella turn of events: we would enter the disco together but there was no guarantee how, and with whom, we were going to leave.
I don’t remember how the night went, but I do know that I was totally wrong: dressing up for a date is the whole point of it.
Buy the biggest dress, apply the thickest cake of make-up, be as theatrical as your imagination can take you. Enjoy the day, dance away the night, especially if you are young and carefree.
What is love, and is it important? Of course, I don’t know what love is, but it’s the best feeling ever.
It is complete and utter happiness at another human being (this is different from the feeling you get when you see your herd of cows, boys) and such misery when you are not with them.
Depending on your mood and age, it is Peabo Bryson, Aerosmith, Lionel Richie, Barry White. It could also be some Nigerian thug crooner I have never heard of.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Between you and I and the doorpost, I think Shakespeare, from Sonnet 116, was a fool.
Let me not to the marriage of true minds.
Admit impediments. Love is not love,
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Love is like the flame of a candle; at first it burns big and bright but time tempers the flame and it settles into a more permanent glow.
Is hot romantic love important? Yes, if you are 25 years old. If you are smart, you take the long-term view.
You ask yourself, will you still be able to talk the whole day with Shorty even after the Cinderella thing has worn off and the golden slippers have turned back to pumpkins or whatever?
Will Shorty take care of you in old age or will she feed you ground glass? During his middle age, will he marry four other wives and keep six mistresses all over town?
Will he raise his children or will he batter you to a pulp every night? Love is great, but not always practical.
As my pastor tells men, love is not what you feel, you fool, it is what you do. If there are nights you don’t make it home, it doesn’t matter what you feel. But let me not spoil the party with too much wisdom.
Happy Valentine’s. Enjoy; life is for the living.