For two weeks, I have been walking around like a woman who does not care much for appearance. With my hair undone and my eyebrows ‘unwaxed’, dressed in my joggers and a dowdy blue sweater, I have scared many people at the grocery store and on one occasion, scared myself as I walked past the mirror in my closet. While I don’t have any explanation for my choice of outfit these past couple of weeks, walking around with my super-coiled mass of hair boiled down to my lack of cornrow skills. If I knew how to cornrow my hair, my looks would have easily been sorted with a crotchet needle. But asking me to cornrow my own hair is equivalent to asking me to pee while walking – difficult and to be honest, unnecessary. Besides, I cherish the few times I am able to visit a salon to have my hair done.
So this week, when I finally admitted to myself that I could not continue to look like I had given up on my life, I went in search of a salon in the area. I dreaded the idea of going to the salon I tried a few months ago, where the hairdresser had insisted on how her hands can grow hair, yet left me with traction alopecia after my first plait. The other salon which is closest to my home has the most unfriendly set of faces I have ever seen. Every time I walk past, I wonder if they are gathered for mourning. I decided to check the high street and was lucky to find a well-located yet almost empty salon. The stylist greeted me with a warm smile, drawing me in with the assurance of her ability to cornrow my hair without inflicting pain on my scalp.
I felt assured and took a seat in front of the mirror. As she combed out my hair, she asked me the usual questions most people did. “Where are you from? How long have you lived in Johannesburg? How often do you go home?” I answered them as briefly as I could and was about to stick my nose in my cellphone when she asked me an unexpected question:
“How do you keep a man happy?”
Erm… Was this my moment to act like an expert on the subject of men and offer my own perspective of them as a woman? Nah. I told her I knew nothing about men and how to keep them happy but I wanted to know why she was asking.
“Well”, she began, “they have been teaching us in church about how to keep a man happy. We have a group where we exchange ideas and thoughts to help people build good relationships”
“Oh” I responded. “Is there a similar group for the men?”
She laughed “My sister, no. You know the responsibility of keeping the relationship alive falls on the woman.”
I tried to smile and failed. I could see in the mirror that what I had managed was more of a grimace than a smile. She continued speaking.
“There are three secrets we have learned to keep a man happy. The first is to make sure you are his peace. When he comes home, you need to be in a calm state of mind, ensure that the home is clean and the food is ready. The second is to learn what he likes and do it for him all the time. For example, my husband loves wrestling so I watch with him even though I don’t like it.”
She looked at my face, saw I had no intention to speak and continued.
“The third secret is to make sure you respect him. We women just need love, men need respect. That is why the bible says we should submit. So to keep a man happy, you must learn not to talk back during arguments and to just let him express himself. If you are a humble and quiet woman, even a bad man will change for you.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Sister, you don’t believe me? Some men can go out and cheat but when they remember they have a good woman at home, they say ‘no, she does not deserve this’ and they return home.”
I almost chuckled but I didn’t. I was really interested in hearing more so I let her talk some more.
“For example, my husband does not watch Telemundo with me, while I am watching, he sends me on an errand and changes it to Africa Magic because that is what he likes – those movies where fire flies out of trees to strike people.”
Me: Why doesn’t he respect the fact that you like Telemundo?
Her:He thinks Telemundo is silly and unintelligent.
Me (in my head): but movies about crying trees unleashing balls of fire on unsuspecting villagers are not? What a wonder!
“So what do you do when he changes the channel before you return from the errand?” (the part about being sent on an errand was something I was still trying to understand)
“I go into the room to sleep. There is nothing else I can do. I can’t force him to like what I like, and though they have advised us in church to watch TV with our husbands, I just can’t stand those movies.”
“But you watch wrestling with him. Why not those movies?” I asked
“Ah! I can’t stand them. I watch the wrestling so he can know I at least have an interest in what he likes.”
“Shouldn’t he show an interest in what you like?”
“Sister! You know these men can easily find another woman that will do what you are not willing to do so you need to be ready to sacrifice.”
For the rest of my time in the salon, she shared many tips of how to keep a man – all of which centered around keeping the house clean so he returns to a place that feels like home with you as his peace, not talking back and doing only the things he likes so he does not feel tempted to go elsewhere.
As she plaited the end of the last row and I got up to leave, I turned to her and asked “do you really think these tips will help you keep your husband?”
She looked at me and for a few seconds seemed to be deep in thought before she shrugged “I don’t know my sister. Sometimes I think the people in this church group are just playing games with us.”
Credits: featured image from racked.com