There is this west African man whom my close friend almost got hitched to a couple of years ago.
For the few months it lasted, she was eternally giddy with excitement. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that happy. This man said all the right things, supported the right football team (she is a football fanatic), and took her to all the right places, literally and otherwise.
This was of course before she found out that his name wasn’t really his name. That the money they splashed in fancy restaurants and sports bars wasn’t really from his grand business dealings but from bank accounts of unsuspecting men and women in Europe whom he was running scams on.
This man was crafty enough to convince a woman who can’t be described as naïve by any standards - a woman who has been burnt by love before - that he would wed her in two weddings in two countries.
Crafty enough to convince men and women that he was a real estate agent in Atlanta, a city in which he had never set foot in, and to get them to deposit money in his bank account. All this from a crammed apartment in Fedha Estate, Nairobi.
What I find almost admirable about him is that he understood that life is not perfect. He understood that the fairy tale life is a lie. He knew this and used it to have his way.
You see, he didn’t paint himself as the perfect Prince Charming waiting on a white horse to whisk my friend off to the ends of the earth.
He painted himself as an imperfect man in love. As a man who was head over heels for her but who also had some baggage in the form of a feisty ex and a couple of children back home.
And he was so good at it that he had her talking about wedding dress shopping in Dubai just a few months into the relationship.
He was selling her real life. There’s no perfect love, or perfect man, or woman. That there are good men but each will come with his own set of imperfections.
Every person who will let you see the real them will have baggage. Baggage isn’t always children. It’s not always an ex who just will not quit.
Sometimes, for that perfect-looking single man who is successful and has never been married or had children, the imperfection is that he has been single for far too long.
He is used to having things go his way, so compromising for him is an uphill task.
Some men are into big gestures. You know, the expensive dinners and grand declarations of love in public.
This however is not a requirement for the perfect love. It is not a prerequisite for dating. It’s a personal trait.
Some men have it and others do not. Do not let go of that otherwise good man because, unlike your friend whose boyfriend flew her to an underwater restaurant in Dubai to propose, yours simply asked over a homemade dinner; or while on the way to work one morning he just blurted out, “Babe, si tuwache kulipa rent ya nyumba mbili?” (Babe, let’s stop paying rent for two houses).
The fairy tale is a lie, one that we need to stop believing. More importantly, we need to stop feeding our daughters the same fairy tale.
Instead of feeding them these shallow stories of women who were fragile and helpless until a prince came and whisked them into a blissful never-ending happiness, let them read about the great women in our history.
The Wangari Maathai’s of this world. Women whose lives were not perfect. But who found happiness and their space in the world. These are much better stories.
This is an extract taken from Damn, Girl! Stop That – How women shoot themselves in the foot, by Joan Thatiah