A hairdresser’s guide to keeping a man

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.”

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“I Don’t Want to Get Married”

Ladies, I know I don’t have to ask if you’ve ever uttered those words. Except you have been absolutely sheltered from heartbreak, or you’re one of those annoyingly lucky people who happen to find their perfect partner in the first guy they date, you must have uttered these words at the peak of hurt, frustration or downright anger against one man or men as the situation may be. Of course, there are many women who TRULY do not want to be married; the idea of such a hectic commit takes a difficult bearing on their psyche, but this post is not about criticizing or approving anyone’s choices regarding marriage. This post is about the women who REALLY DO want to be married but feel it’s a crime to admit it.

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In a typical long term relationship, most women start settling into the routine of things; they cook religiously (I mean enough food to last the dude a couple of weeks), they clean as soon as they arrive at his apartment (why some women make sanitation of their man’s space their mission is still beyond me), and of course, they give up the cookie as often as he wants, in any bendy twisty direction he likes. Afterall, the way to a man’s heart momma never told us about is something other than food. But here’s the thing, many women, in spite of fulfilling these wifely duties, and fitting the role of the perfect wife often find themselves confronted with one of these statements from their man:

“I don’t think I’m ready to get married” (The usual reaction is there’s a bit of hope he’ll be ready soon).

“I’m not sure I am the best for you” (what they actually mean is “I’m not sure you are the best for me” but this is lost on many women so what do they do? They go on a mission to convince him he’s the best they could ever hope for, even if they know deep down he certainly is not).

And of course, there’s the “I don’t want to get married” statement, which either sends a woman into shock or confusion or a very common act of defensiveness. Most women usually respond with the same statement thrown at them “I also don’t want to get married”, and this is where things really start to go downhill.

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You see, in our society, a desire for marriage has been labeled to be some kind of latent desperation in women. This is not to say some women are not desperate to the point where they’d marry an empty three-piece suit; yes, those women exist. But also there are women who genuinely want to be married because they want to raise a family, have a husband, have someone warm to cuddle next to during the winter nights, and someone to go to the beach with during summer. It’s a desire that comes from a place of sincerity, but for the sake of not coming across as desperate, many women are ashamed to admit they want to be married.

Modesty, lack of identification of desires, and a general feeling of guilt for admitting what we want to others, are some of the reasons women think it’s OK to let their men know they don’t want to get married, even though they are dying inside. I find it very weird that anyone would want to kill their desires simply because someone else is not onboard with them. Why do women sink themselves into relationships that head nowhere all in a bid to not appear too needy or desperate? What exactly do you intend to achieve by claiming untruths and establishing them as your reality?

First things first, if a man says he’s not ready to get married, chances are you’ll feel like a nag. Why bring it up? You’ll ask yourself. ‘Now he’ll think I want to dictate the pace of the relationship!’ Well, I don’t know about dictating the pace, but I do believe the more probable reasons your man is saying he’s not ready to get married are a.) he doesn’t see himself spending eternity with you, irrespective of how hard you may have worked to prove yourself; b.) He’s really not ready because he’s not as mature as you are, and feels he’s been trapped in a relationship with you, while his friends sowed some wild oats. So yes, there might be hope, but there is also a huge chance of disappointment. It’s up to you to decide what’s likely to happen based on his character.

“I’m not sure I’m the best for you” – this right here is the oldest trick in the book. This is the seed of guilt that somehow chips away at you, and eats away at the corners of your heart. How could he possibly think he’s not perfect for you after all these years? Surely you must prove him wrong. DON’T! When a person says they don’t deserve you, believe them. By all means, please believe them. Don’t try to prove them wrong by devaluing yourself, and overdoing to compensate for their insecurities. If they don’t consider themselves good enough for you, chances are they will project their insecurities on to you. Sometimes, this is a statement that actually means “pack up and leave. I’d rather be with someone else”.

“I don’t want to get married” is sometimes an incomplete statement that ends with “to you”, but they know it would be too cruel to tell you the whole truth so they’d rather leave you to go into confusion trying to understand how you never realized you both didn’t share the vision of marriage. To alleviate the risk of losing the love of your life, you will claim in all entirety that you do not want to get married. You will tell him how you love what you both have, and don’t want to mess it up by getting married, and of course, you will start to question your desire to be married. STOP!!! If you want to be married, girl be bold enough to say so! There is nothing wrong with wanting to be married; yes for some people, you’ll be coming on a little too strong, but we are talking about what you want here. Why should you apologize for it? Why should you beat your heart till it stops beating for your sincere desire? Why should you let someone else dictate what you want or do not want? It’s difficult, I know, but it’s best to leave. If a person doesn’t want to get married (to you as we now know), why stick around to fulfill that person’s desires at the detriment of yours?

I understand many of us women still subconsciously reside in a patriarchal society where the needs of a man dictate the pace of the relationship. I am onboard with that if his needs are aligned with yours! So before you utter the words “I don’t want to get married” next time, ask yourself what it is exactly you’re doing- Are you killing your desire to fulfill his dreams, or are you just scared of losing the love of your life, who by the way is probably not in love with you anymore? XOXO