What’s the very last hour on the clock your wife can keep coming home after a night on the tiles with her girls? Tell me, ye wise men out there? What is that time, gentlemen? Is it 3am? Is it 5am? Is it 6am? Is it 4am? Don’t tell me about every household being unique, we all use one clock, don’t we? So tell me.
Let’s say you are this modern animal that is conscious of the absolute equality of the sexes and you guys have an “understanding” that she can go out and drink with her friends and have fun because she is an equal partner in the marriage and you see her as more than just a wife. You have always been very easy with her comings and goings because she never really overdoes it and anyway it’s the festive season and girls just “wanna have fun”, yes? But when does it become too much? When do you say, “OK, sweetheart, here is the line on the sand and now you are crossing it”?
DRAWING THE LINE
What happens when she has been out frequently the past two weeks – an office end-of-year party, a colleague’s farewell party, a hen night, a birthday party, a night out with an old pal from Sweden – and this time you hear her key in the door at 3am and she shuffles in the semi-darkness of the bedroom, kicking off her heels, pulling her little black dress over her head, tossing her necklaces and bracelets and earrings in her jewellery box, the band of her bra snapping so loudly as she removes it and her whispering semi-drunkenly: “Babe?...Babe...are you awake?” Of course you are awake (but pretending not to be. You learnt from her). You are awake because that band on her bra was so loud, the neighbours six houses down heard it.
You are angry, of course. You don’t want to be a modern man anymore. Screw that rubbish! You revert to your factory settings, the settings of your forefathers. It’s called The Neanderthal setting. It worked at some point and sometimes, even in this age of the Internet and Snapchat, it has its place. You put your foot down. Or rather, you swing your feet from the bed and place them on the floor, switch on the bedside lamp and stare at her standing there in her sexy red lacy lingerie and you ask, “What time is this you are coming home?”
And she smiles coquettishly, and says, “It’s 3am, babe, I told you I would be late.”
You glare at her. “You said you would be late, I didn’t think you meant you would come back home in the morning!”
She chuckles, swaying on her feet – she’s had a lot to drink.
“Come on, it’s not morning, it’s only 3am. Are you angry at me?” (No, why would you think that? I want to hand you a plaque for the most responsible wife.)
“What do you think?” You snap back.
She pouts and tries to be serious but all that red wine in her head won’t allow her. She supports herself against the wall with an outstretched arm and lifts a leg to step out of her clothes.
“Don’t be angry, babe,” she says soothingly, “it’s the festive season, Jesus is about to die for us.”
It’s funny but you will be damned if you laugh. You switch off the light, get back into bed, and with your back turned to her, say, “This has to stop, we will talk in the morning when you are sober.”
Then she sighs and says merrily, “Oh come on now, don’t be mad, you are a happy soul.”
You realise that she has turned into you, because that’s exactly how you sound when you come back home from the pub; unperturbed, giddy and hilarious (mostly). The only thing she isn’t doing like you is singing off-key and asking, “Do you know that song?”
It’s easy for us to go out and come back home in the small hours of the morning but it’s not okay for our women, is it? It’s blatant double standards of course, and they will cry out and say, “Oh why do you get to come home late and I don’t?” And you want to say, “Because I’m the man!” But we can’t – we don’t – because we have been conditioned to act compliant in these times of equality. So we become angry at ourselves for not being firm and the thing with anger is that it doesn’t just float around our heads like a halo, it has to find a host, it has to append itself onto something in order for it to dissipate. So we resort to theatrics to feel like we are in control again. And that breeds more problems.
A friend of mine narrated to me how her husband locked her outside their house because she rocked up at 3am. She had been coming home late frequently for two weeks. She’s a big boss at some NGO, so she’s used to power and giving instructions, people listening to her final word and watchmen saluting her at the gate when she drives in. But that night, her husband, through the grills of the living room window, told her, “You will not keep coming to this house at this time! Now go back to where you have come from. They will open for you.”
She told me, “Biko isn’t that ridiculous? He comes home late more times a week than I can count! “
I said, “No actually, I’m glad he locked you out of the house.”
And she was like, “are you serious? I’m not some child to be given a curfew! Why do men imagine they can get away with some things and we can’t?”
I said, “Because cookie is made from dough!” (I say weird things, never mind me.)
As it turned out, she stood outside that window and tried to reason with him, then she resorted to harsh words and ultimatums and when the man left her standing there in the cold and retired to bed, she phoned him and said she was sorry and she would regulate her time in future. Only then did he allow her in. That guy’s my hero. You, a mother and wife, just can’t rock home at 2am thrice a week, unless you are working the graveyard shift. Forget that “if you can come back home at 3am so can I” business. It’s overcooked baloney. We are not comparing cojones here, so sometimes we just need to know when to say, “OK, enough! None of this nonsense anymore!” We have to learn, not to raise our voice, but to strengthen it.
A little caveat though; you can only have a voice to strengthen if you take care of your business at home. No two ways about it. I mean, if she’s paying the rent and/or paying your children’s school fees then you are toast, my friend. You won’t have legs to stand on, let alone a voice.