There was nothing wrong with Jacinta Alemba’s* marriage. During the first five years, she was happy and contented. “I was happy that I had married the man of my dreams. While dating, I was very fond of poking his biceps. His appearance gave me goosebumps. His smile could light up a whole village,” says Jacinta, a secretary at a law firm in Nakuru town.
However, things changed two years ago. While Jacinta, 35, had vowed to never to look outside her marriage, she now does it without batting an eyelid. “I do not intend to stop!” she says. She started having an extra- marital affair a year ago. By that time, Jacinta says her husband had become unrecognisable. “I had married a physically fit and attractive man. A man who could lift me up and swing me around without breaking a sweat. A man who fit in good suits. This is not the man I cheat on,” says the mother of one.
Jacinta says one year after her wedding, her husband started gaining weight. At first she thought it was because of her cooking. “I felt proud that I was a good chef. But then I realised that there was more to his weight gain than my food,” she says. “He had become reckless. He started drinking heavily and eating junk food. Consequently, his belly grew and his weight increased.” Jacinta says her man can no longer fit in any of the trousers and the shirts he wore two years ago. “He weighs 120kg. His snoring is awful and our sex life is virtually non-existent,” she says. Ironically, Jacinta says she is not planning to walk out of her marriage. “I made a vow to stay in the marriage, and I will try to follow it through. I only started having an affair to have my sexual needs met after multiple failed attempts at getting my husband to the gym,” she says. While her husband embarked on a weight-gaining trip, Jacinta says she has maintained a healthy lifestyle. “I have enrolled for aerobics classes. I have kept my weight in check despite motherhood,” she says.
As the Saturday Magazine found out, Jacinta is not alone. She is one of many women who are now more concerned about men’s physical features. These are women who will at times not compromise on physical features due to other traditionally superior characteristics such as humility and kindness.
Take Eliza Wekesa, 33. While she previously did not mind how a man looked as long as he had good physical features, today she will not compromise. “Earlier on in life, I was not keen on how the men I dated looked like. But I have since come to realise that we are in this life to enjoy it. As such, I will not compromise on what will make me happier. I am only living once,” she says.
Eliza says she once compromised on height, intellect, and finances and lived in agony for three years. “I thought that height was not such a huge issue. But I was wrong. My partner thought that I belittled him for being slightly taller than him. He became a bully in his pursuit to control and assert his dominance. I will never repeat the same mistake again,” she says. “As we grow older, you realise that it’s not a race but a marathon, and happiness comes from doing what pleases you. I know my pie, and a chubby man with belly fat would make me unhappy.”
Unlike years before, women today are not afraid to express their admiration for good looking and physically fit men. In fact, on social media platforms such as Facebook, women will drool and make commentaries about how handsome a particular man is.
‘Vindu Vihandsome! Vindu Vihot!’ These are two of the popular phrases that women on some of the most popular social media groups like Kilimani Mums use to describe men they find physically attractive.
This means that the woman of today is more aware of the kind of height and biceps she wants.
For others, the size down there also matters. “For me, the physical counts just as much as the intellectual. There is no way I shall settle for less for the rest of my life because even if not mentioned much, this can be a cause for infidelity,” says Sharon Aketch, a 34-year-old cyber security expert in Nairobi.
Sharon says she previously dated a man who was less endowed. “Our sexual encounters were awful and full of too much strain. He would get too aggressive and harmful in an attempt to prove his abilities. This put me off,” she says.
But Florence Wandia says the physical features of a man’s reproductive health are relative. She notes that her reaction to size, though, would be subject to whether she discovers it during dating or after getting married. “If I marry a man whose size is abnormal, I would still stick around for the sake of my marriage vows, and instead focus on pursuing medical help. If I find out about the abnormality before marriage, I would run for the hills,” she says.
Nonetheless, she notes that she cannot date a man who is shorter than her. “I prefer to date a man who is bigger than me. I am size six. However, this is not cast in stone,” she says. “I have an open mind and keep things like kindness, godliness and a sense of humour at the top of the list. If that comes with a man who is bigger than I am, then that’s good, but I am still game if we share height. What I won’t tolerate is one who is shorter than I am.”
The Saturday Magazine also discovered that one of the factors driving women’s outspokenness is the realisation that many men neglect their physical fitness due to contentment. Apparently, they feel that they have ‘arrived at their destination’ and can now eat with the big spoon without sweating it off at the gym.
“It goes beyond just looks. It’s also about health and good manners. If you can’t take care of your own health, why should I expect you to take care of mine?” Poses Jacinta. Her sentiments are echoed by Wandia. “I am all in on supporting my man. On the other hand, he should know that things like beer bellies are not gotten through accidents. Let him hit the gym. Let’s deal with chronic problems and accidents, not things than we can work on,” she says.
This is what worked for Julie Wangui. “When I started dating Kevin in July 2017, he weighed 65kg. By the time we got married in October last year, he weighed 90kg. I loved him and couldn’t leave. But I made him commit to joining a gym and the morning jogging routine in our estate,” she says. Seven months later, Kevin has shed off 15 kilos. “It was a choice. He has stuck to keeping fit and it has worked in his favour. I now find him more appealing to the eye than he was a year ago,” says Julie, 36.
But while well-built men appear popular, not all women find them appealing. “I do not find well-built men as attractive as they are made out to be. On the contrary, tall and slender guys appeal more to me,” says Michelle Kiprono, a 32-year-old public relations practitioner in Nairobi.