What a Nairobi radio hostess who busts marital cheaters can teach us about love.
Yes there has been a huge hiatus in my writings here. Since my last post, I’ve flown direct to Salt Lake City from Nairobi in 20 hours to see my grandchildren, compiled 53 tapes of interviews, and met, among many other experts, a Nairobi radio hostess, Ciku Muiruri, who wrote a confessional book about “busting” her call-in marital cheaters, literally hundreds, maybe thousands of them over the three year period her radio show (Ciku’s Busted!) ran.
Ciku handed me her book, Love is But a Dream (ISBN 978-9966-117-01-4) in a Yaya Centre copy shop. I was surprised at how sharply, wisely she wrote about her fans; a great testament to romantic disillusionment, with some really juicy quotes from celebrities like Woody Allen (“Love is the answer, but sex raises some pretty good questions.”), William Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker (“If you want to know what God thinks about money, just look at the people he gives it to.” ).
The book has a zippy Christian-feminist take on cheating and offers straight-up advice on letting go of unfaithful spouses and asking the painful questions about being a cheater yourself, if you are one. She’s also quite frank about why women fake the “O” word and why girls hold onto “star bulls” vs. “shy breeders.” [Some other tidbits: “How to tell if your man is a psycho”; “This is why you are raising someone else’s child”; “How to seduce your relative’s girlfriend” and, seriously: “How language condones male infidelity.”]
When it comes to romantic love, Ciku claims that monogamy, faithfulness, and honest romantic talk in Nairobi aren’t it. An April 2018 survey by the Kenyan research firm Consumer Insight appears to corroborate her view; it found that 24% of all Kenyans in relationships — marital or not — date multiple lovers while 77% are sexually active and more than 55% experience sex the first time before the age of 20. This is ironic considering that Kenya embraces Christian and highly conservative values manifested in both Constitutional law and social practice (abortion is forbidden, for example, and even women who are raped are not given the chance to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy; homosexuality among men is punishable with a 14 year jail term).
The gap between values and practice has actually prompted feminist legislators like Kiambu Women’s Representative Gathoni wa Muchomba to propose a national adoption of polygamy to eliminate fatherless families. Her idea is retro, basically: go back to tribal polygamy/polyandry. “Some of us were raised by fathers in polygamous families who did a good job and we grew up into responsible adults,” she is quoted as saying in Nairobi News. “What could be the crime in allowing polygamy as a solution to the problem of the many abandoned street children and even troubled individuals in families growing up without fathers?”
[Good point. I guess this matters to me because so many of my law students care about this sexual stuff.]
Back to Ciku and her book. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I suspect the radio hostess wants her society to emulate the qualities of real stuffed rabbits (and folks) she cites in The Velveteen Rabbit, the classic children’s book. “Rabbits” are roughed up, superannuated, eyes dropping out, hair loved off, but real: these are the ideals of true, mature love, Ciku asserts. A person only becomes completely real (aka trustworthy and wise) because someone, usually a child, has total and unconditional love for them. A child — whether that’s a real child or the child living inside a woman or a man — can confer wisdom on the unwise, turning unfaithful and shallow women and men into creatures more generous, faithful, and smart-acting. Indeed, the unconditional love of the child within and without us is what we crave most of all.
Ciku admires old people (I like this!) because she believes they are, at last, real. To paraphrase, real is what happens to you. It isn’t how you are made. It’s a state of mind. For example, an old person can call you out; an old person can tell you the truth with a glint in his/her eye without nasty judgment. Unlike youthful peers, an oldie can help sort you onto the right path without making you feel like an idiot. “An old person has zero chills and tells you exactly what’s on their mind, asks you what you want and tells you how to get it,” Ciku writes.
She wants us all to become “old and wise” while we’re still young. Actually, that’s impossible. Which is why so many cheat on their spouses or live their lives in quiet desperation trying to be faithful and not being so either mentally or physically. Which is why when the hormones finally fade away some of us come to our senses, learning to give and receive our greatest, deepest love.
I get the feeling Ciku wrote this book because she too is searching for a “real” love. Truth be told, I’m not terribly impressed with the sexual shenanigans she speaks of. But I believe her book is valuable for people who need straight answers and really want more from love; and it’s great insight into the life of cheaters in Kenya.
Personally, being single, I recognize now that in my life, the only real love I’ve ever found (aside from what I felt for my Mom and Dad and sister Rowena when I was young and even now, looking back; along with my children Grainne and Emmett when they’re not mad at me; and my granddaughters Avery and Autumn, who seem to love me unconditionally; and then there are a few dear nieces and friends who hang in there with me…) is the fundamental one I give to myself. That love has to come first. I’m convinced that without it, the rest is as unreal as it can be. I’ve lived in that unreality for too long, but I feel now I am real enough, and will accept both the children who love me and those who don’t.
This is why I’m looking forward to being “old,” in the Velveteen Rabbit sense. Finally I can be real and pursue my life in its rightful order and dramatic arc, establishing my priorities, running into and choosing the right people, as Ciku prescribes, whether by meteor or starry transit in a system that moves steadily across the heavens. I’ll take either option. I want to be as real as I can for as long as I can. If another Velveteen Rabbit comes along and isn’t too shabby, maybe this time Love will be enough. If not, there’s plenty to love all around me. One just has to wake up and really see it.