So for Africans, just being who we are, with all our global experiences, all our joys and scars, all our consistencies and contradictions, is revolutionary. And I decided that for revolution, I must love myself, even if no African man would. I believed that women like me would find authentic African men to marry only in the next generation. So you can imagine my surprise when 1) I fell in love with an authentic African man who loved me, and 2) I said yes to getting married.
But with yes came parents, meetings with relatives, and oh God! the wedding. The wedding! I hadn’t given it a thought, and before I knew it, people were asking me the theme colors (by the way, I don’t quite enjoy those two-color wedding themes; they tire my eyes and start to feel like uniform). Then came the questions – who’s doing your dress? the décor? your hair? Honestly, I hadn’t given all that a thought. But I soon discovered that I was supposed to have answers at my finger tips if I didn’t want to horrify my friends with my apparent lack of preparation.
And later, at a site meeting with the person who was doing the décor for the wedding (I eventually conceded to have the venue decorated), I found out that actually, the answers to those wedding questions were supposed to have been in my mind since I was six years old! And apparently, says Joan Thatiah in last Saturday’s Nation, feminism and liberation haven’t stopped the average Kenyan woman from dreaming of that walk down the aisle. So when the lady doing the décor asked me what theme colors I wanted, I said I really had no idea. And then she asked – but what was your dream wedding?
Truth is, I’m one of those women who did not dream of my wedding day. Neither did the writer of the blog “She likes sweet things” (Her post “Scratching the itch” is a fabulous read). So the short answer to the question about my dream wedding was that I didn’t have one in mind since I hadn’t seen myself getting married.
And the long answer is this: I never wanted a wedding day to be the only great day, or the best day of my life. I wanted it to be one great day in my life. At one point, I even didn’t care for walking down the aisle – I went to a wedding where the couple walked into the church, down the aisle, together, and it still looked good.
Besides, over 15 years ago, I was traumatized by an essay written by a student in my freshman class about her wedding day. I had asked my reading class to write a short essay on – yes, that stereotypical topic – the best day in my life. This student wrote that her wedding was the best day of her life because all eyes were on her, a whole church congregation stood up for her when she simply appeared at the door, and she was treated like the most important person in the room.
That essay felt less of a celebration and more of a regret; a regret that there was no other day she will feel special in her life. And I was determined that that would not be my story. I was determined that I would have an impact on the world through my ideas, that I would not need everyone to stand up for me to feel important (my ego isn’t fragile like a politician’s), and that I would have more than one day when I would feel special.
Years of reading feminism and the works about freedom written by great African men and women had also made me forget, and thankfully so, that global consumer culture plants in each girl, a dream of being a princess marrying a handsome prince, dressed in a white billowy dress that reminds one of Cinderella or the other European folk tales that shouldn’t be told to African children.
So I knew that if I did get married, I probably wouldn’t wear a white dress. But I’d no idea what color the dress would be, until my then fiancé literally decided it for me. We were on a romantic date at the Aboretum, talking about revolution as usual, when he mentioned that he used to tell his friends that he’d like to attend his own wedding in jeans. And people would ask him in which Kenya he would find a woman who would accept that. And so, since that woman is me, then jeans it was going to be.
And so we wore jeans to our wedding.
Meanwhile, we had to whisper to our family and close friends that I wouldn’t be wearing a white dress, so that they wouldn’t get surprised on the day. Or so that, we joked, the women coming to collect me at home on the morning of the wedding would not believe that I wasn’t yet dressed and ask me when I was going to get ready.
Long story short – I didn’t dream my wedding. Unlike my student many years ago, my value has been affirmed on many days, in many other ways, besides getting married. And I got a dress that was inspired by my husband’s outfit, rather than the other way round. And now I have a dress which I can wear again. Incidentally, my best-maid's dress was also a re-wear- she wore the African themed dress coat that I had made for her for her own wedding.
But I didn’t appreciate my re-wearable dress until I had to deal with the anti-climax of the end of the wedding. The wedding is such a high energy event that takes months to plan, and ends in a few hours on one day. The hype that my student was talking about – of being the most beautiful girl in the room – is a high that abruptly ends in the evening (or the next morning) when everyone goes home and you’re left alone with your new husband, with no adrenaline of wedding planning to share. Psychologists even have a tech term for these post-wedding blues: they call it “postnuptial depression.”
If I had worn a billowy, frilly white dress to my wedding, the blues would have probably been worse. A one-day wedding dress would have been a sad reminder that my special day had abruptly ended. But a beautiful dress that I can wear again lessens that potential of me being fixated on one day in my life, and makes me look forward to many more special days with this great man I am blessed to call my husband. And here’s to you, my beloved, for making love and revolution personal for me.
Juliet, a student and a good friend, beat me to blogging about the wedding, and she's done a me a great honor that I hardly deserve. Read here.