KBF said … An old man is needed in a country

“Mag mat naa bayyi ci’m reew”

Ahhh – the elders. “Respect” was the only word I ever associated with them growing up. It was like their word was law. If you ask my mother, she will still tell you that their word IS law. It may be because she’s one of them now … an elder.

I love the wisdom that they bring to our lives. They carry so many stories and intellectual artifacts that can be valuable in understanding some of the things we’re going through as the “younger generation.” I admire their resiliency and persistence. Because in my mind, being around after everything they’ve been through says a lot. And I want to get to that point where I can pass down this knowledge I’ve gained over the years to my “younger generation.” I want to be able to provide stimulation and provoke the minds of the youth so that, I too, may learn from what they have encountered. That last point is what I think is missing for our older generation, our Senegalese elders.

You see, in Senegalese society, there is no room for the youth to have opinions, thoughts, room for mistakes, and God forbid, the freedom to make their own choices. We are bound by sayings like “fii laniou ko fekk, tei fii laniou koy bayi” or “khale khamoul dara.” Loosely translated, it means “we leave things as we found them (generation-to-generation) and “kids don’t know anything.” The first one, I’m more lenient about because of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Some things are broken but we’ll get to that later. The second saying that children don’t know anything bothers me to my core. Because what it should say is something along the lines of “children don’t know the same things we do.” That gives credit where credit is due.

As a child, respecting your elders in Senegalese society means the following (not an exhaustive list):

  • Don’t disagree with anything elders say.
  • Don’t challenge their decisions or thought processes.
  • Don’t disobey them.
  • Even if they are telling a blatant lie, agree with them.
  • Don’t turn down their unsolicited “barging in” in your life.
  • Don’t talk back, even if they ask you to answer them, because that counts as talking back.
  • Don’t make your own decisions. Always consult them and make your choice, their choice.

A quick glimpse into the hierarchy of elders-to-youth in Senegalese culture shows you that Kocc Barma’s saying that “an old man is necessary in a country” holds true in many ways. Not because it’s true. And not because it’s not true. But I want to challenge you to think about this differently. In this series, starting with this chapter, I want to invoke a new way of thinking about this and other historical sayings so that we can adopt new ways of understanding them. Allow me to elaborate.

If I start with the saying that adults are necessary in a country, I can’t help but agree. As I stated earlier, they bring wisdom, experience, knowledge, and tried-and-tested methods to surviving this life. After all, they did make it to old age. I don’t just give children credit where credit is due. The elders deserve it here too. So what exactly is my problem with this saying? Well, my problem is when the valid experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and rationale that the youth bring with them is invalided by feelings of hierarchy and/or dominance. The youth, in this saying, don’t have consideration or weight in “grown-up” discussions. No matter how old they become, they will always be seen as children in the eyes of their elders and thus, must succumb to the same treatment of children.

This becomes much more prominent and problematic when it becomes time for said youth to make not-so-youthful decisions, such as who to marriage, career choices, traveling (informing versus asking for permission), how to raise their kids, and even how to spend their money on large purchases. In each of these pivotal moments, an adult must be consulted. And more than consulted, their “advice” must be taken as final or else, the youth runs the risk of being called disobedient, hard-headed, and/or “too westernized.”

This leads me to a point I want to talk about – the theory of cultural modernization. This idea that the evolution of norms and traditions applies also to the cultural realm. I’ll spare you the technical details and boil it down to a Wolof saying I adore: su diamono di dox, danguay dox ande ak mome, loosely translated to as generations walk, you must walk along with them. I love this saying because it simplifies the theory of cultural modernization so well. As the world becomes smaller, as the displacement of people becomes more and more commonplace, and as tradition merge with modernization, we as a people must adapt. It’s not about throwing away our values. It’s not even about plagiarizing those of others. It’s about creating a cocktail of the old, plus the new, to have a more holistic view of the real, true world we live in today. It’s about integration and harmonization. It’s about the first generation 20 year old young woman who was born in Senegal and must find the balance between hanging on to her roots but assimilating to her known life in the US. It’s about the 6 year old bilingual boy who must instantaneously switch between English and Spanish during a parent-teacher meeting to translate for his mother whose English isn’t perfect. How about the 28 year old African-American man who must practice basic Japanese customs and phrases the weekend before he meets his future parents-in-law because he wants to impress them? Let’s not forget about the Muslim hijabi who has to educate men around her office that her not shaking their hand isn’t a sign of disrespect towards them – and not get side eyes for daring to step out of her “traditional role” as a house wife. Cultural modernization looks different everywhere we look… with one common denominator: the world as we know it is changing. Things are looking different, more interconnected and old sayings/traditions/norms are simply no longer a litmus test for “right.” Right looks different depending on who you ask and yes, it’s the youth that brought on this change. Whether it’s the youth of today or the youth of tomorrow, it really doesn’t matter. In every generation, the youth brought something that wasn’t there before and we, as humans, are forced to adapt.

If I pull the reins in a little, back on topic, I insist that yes, elders are necessary for a country. Because of the wisdom they bring and the experiences they share. But they must remember they were the youth to whatever was their older generation at some point. It’s a cycle and everyone must have their turn. So when I throw out the challenge for Senegalese elders to give a little more credit and dare I say respect to the younger generation, I say it with full acknowledgement that one day, I will be part of the older generation that must accept that things will look just a little bit different than from my time. But it’s just that: different.

As we journey through the remainder of Kocc Barma’s sayings, let’s keep this in mind: it’s hard to know what is better or worse – you’ll always get a different answer depending on who you ask. All we are certain of is that something is different. So let’s not punish the younger generation for having a fresh way of doing things, especially when forced to do so by their surroundings. I’m sure when Kocc Barma said mag mat naa bayyi ci’m reew, he didn’t mean at the expense of the youth.

TIDIANE

CLARA: “ñaareel xaritu jëkkëram” – second wife

I know he loves me more. He left her home so many times to be with me and I never understood why he stayed with her if he said he loved me so much. She’s basically his maid; she does everything in the house. I gotta give it to her because I don’t have the patience. 

When we were dating, he always told me about how she would nag him to the point where he felt like he had to go look for peace somewhere else. He calls me his paradise, his al-jannah! ❤

We dated for three years before we got married. It took three years because I was in school and my parents wanted me to finish before jumping into marriage. I still didn’t wait until I finished; all my friends were getting married and I can do school and married life at the same time. It’s really not that big of a deal.

I will say that our age difference makes a lot of people look twice. He’s 19 years older than me. I’m 20. I really don’t think it’s that big of an age gap personally, he’s not 40 yet! We’re happy together and that’s all that matters.

His wife got pregnant before they were even married. I never can truly respect her. He told me about it while we were dating and it was in the back of my mind every time I thought about joining her in that house. It was one leg up I had on her. I couldn’t wait to use it as ammunition one day. 

The bottom line is if he was truly happy at home, he wouldn’t have come to me. These first wives think they have such a hold on their husbands. Little do they know the things they’re up to when they leave home. My theory is I didn’t go chasing after anyone – he came to me and we clicked. I bring new meaning to his life that his wife could never and if she doesn’t like that, it’s not my problem. We’re both his wives now so that whole “I have been here for 15+ years” narrative is dead. I have just as many rights as she does and my kids will have just as much access to his heritage as hers.

HENRIETTE: Clara’s mom

I wanted more for my daughter – higher visions and hopes! I grew up in a polygamous household and I saw all the troubles it brought with it. There is never true peace and tranquility inside those homes; somebody is always upset about something. For me, it was seeing my mother expend all this effort to please my father, only for him to rinse and repeat that treatment with his other wives on different days. None of it felt real.

I wanted Clara to finish her studies and get a great job, providing for herself. But she’s rushed into this marriage despite my warnings – especially going into a situation where one, the man is so much older than her and two, she doesn’t have him to herself. Everyone has this notion that all men are unfaithful. I like to think that’s not true. I married my husband after 3 years of dating and have stood firmly on my values of respect and honesty. I imposed that on our relationship from the beginning and he knew exactly what kind of treatment I would and wouldn’t accept. I am not saying he would never cheat on me. I am saying he knows if he did, I would never stick around for it. That’s the major difference. We can’t tell people what they can’t do – especially adults. But you can tell yourself how you’re going to react and I spent my entire adult life wishing away the scenario I grew up in for my own children. I wanted better for them so I went to school and built a career for myself and showed them that each and every single one of them must be independent!

I am not saying I failed Clara. She’s an adult and she has to make her own choices. I am just saying I wish she made a different one.

ABIBATOU: “Aawo buuru këram” – first wife

I met him when I was 14. We went to school together and everyone knew we liked each other. Around age 16, we started officially dating and have been together ever since. 

My parents liked him from the get-go. Our dads were companions and were touched by the idea that their bond would be further strengthened if their kids ended up together. This was nice … until it stood in the way each time I complained to my father about Tidiane’s behavior. Whether it was cheating, verbal abuse, physical abuse, ignoring me for days on end, or humiliating me in front of other women, the answer was always the same: “divorce is not an option. Go back to your home.” It didn’t help that I had our first child before we officially got married either… doesn’t leave me much room for bargaining.

It’s not always bad. In fact, some days are really good. He can be sweet and gentle when he wants to be. It’s just when this shirt isn’t washed properly or that dish isn’t prepared the way he likes that we quarrel. But when we do, it’s bad.

I remember the day he told me he married Clara. Well, not really much of telling; more like I found out and confronted him about it. One of my girlfriends called me one evening and broke the news to me. I still didn’t say anything because I wanted to hear it from him directly. He sent his best friend Pape a few days later instead. There was very little respect or regard how what he had done. “I’m allowed to have up to four wives Aby. I didn’t sign up for monogamous marriage with you!” There wasn’t much I could say to that and telling my parents would be a waste of breath. My father was polygamous.

I don’t know how to feel anymore. Over the years, I’ve learned to censor my feelings to the point where they almost stopped counting. There was never anything I could say to make him do anything that he didn’t want to do. Our marriage is very one-sided with me doing most of the work, emotionally and otherwise, to maintain the peace. 

SOKHNA: Abibatou’s daughter

I know my mom is hurting but I’m more furious.

Clara is my age. She cannot be my aunt. Not under these circumstances. And the most frustrating part is people look at me as if I have 10 eyes when I express my anger – as if they can’t fathom why on Earth I would be upset.

I am the oldest of my siblings. I have two brothers and three sisters. We are in school and trying to get everything done and make our parents proud. I am in my 3rd year of Uni and just so angry that I get these phone calls with a new problem every day. It’d be one thing if Clara came into our house with peace declarations. Everybody is already unhappy about my dad’s decision and she comes in adding fuel to the fire. She’s disrespectful, petty, and conniving. My father can’t see any flaw in her so usually, if she gets into it with anybody, she’s automatically protected and forgiven by my father while the rest of us receiving lectures about “respect and accepting God’s will.” It’s such a cop-out excuse.

I hate going home for Holidays or from breaks from school these days. It’s always negative energy. I stand up for my mom but she tries to keep me quiet too… she doesn’t want me involved in any way. But I don’t really care. As long as that witch keeps coming for my family, I will be sure to put her in her place each and every single time. Spare me with the “she’s your father’s wife” drama. She’s a bitch and that’s all she’ll ever be in my eyes.

PAPE – Tidiane’s best friend

I had to be the one to break the news to Abibatou. She’s been a part of my life since we were young – we all went to school together, man. It was a gloomy day telling her that Tidiane was getting married. I got dragged into it because apparently, I had to be the one to console her. Me. Not Tidiane. Let me know what sense that makes.

I decided I could never get a second wife. Not after seeing how it ripped Aby apart and especially not after seeing how Tidiane’s life has gotten 10X harder since he married Clara. Our conversations revolve around his issues every single day. We can’t talk about anything else. It’s consumed him.

I don’t want that for myself. Our group of friends have a hybrid of men who have multiple wives and those who have just one. And I can tell you the ones with just one have a lot less stress when it comes to the married life department. I warned Tidiane against doing it but these things, once set in motion, there’s very little that can be taken back. Clara’s hopes were up and he had gone too far, he couldn’t take anything back.

I feel for my brother. He just has to accept the consequences of his actions and take it one day at a time, I guess. I mean it’s literally something new every day. If the wives aren’t fighting, his kids are rebelling. It’s crazy how quickly things can change.

TIDIANE: “ndéyu mbill mi” – the cause of it all

I love them in different ways.  They each mean something different to me.

Abibatou is my heart. I met her so young and we grew up together. We taught each other so much in life and there will never be another woman who can replace her in my heart or in my life. Nothing could ever make me un-love this woman. Over the past 18 years of marriage, she’s let herself go a bit. I know the kids take up a lot of her time but she just doesn’t try anymore. We’ve had more frequent arguments because everything has a comeback – she has a response for everything and I can’t tolerate that. I’m never going to give up on her but she definitely has her flaws.

Clara, my sweet Clara. She’s my fountain of youth. Meeting her gave me a new ticket on life when I thought mine was headed downhill. She’s just been so perfect and understanding of my situation. A lot of people fault me for “stepping out” on my marriage and “abandoning Aby.” I didn’t do either of those things; I just reclaimed a happiness that has escaped me for so long. And I couldn’t let that pass me. Many will disagree but Clara means something so special to me. She’s a sweet girl with so many ambitions. The spark in her eyes sets my soul on fire! I see nothing but greatness in our future.

I would never choose between the two of them. They hold special places in my heart and I stand by that. 

The arguments and the fights, they’ll subdue. Over time, everyone’s hearts will become more accepting of the situation and it’ll become easier. My pockets won’t make it (this polygamy business is expensive!) but we’ll get there and it would have all been worth it. You just watch.

To my family, know that I didn’t do any of this with ill intentions. I love you all so much and hope we can make this work! Allah declared that this would be my destiny and there’s nothing I can do about that.

THIANDELLA

It was the night of their wedding and all the guests had gone home. They were preparing for their honeymoon but there was something standing in the way. Madeleine owed her family one clarification before leaving: her virginity. They had to give the verdict.

It was 4 AM, three hours after the couple snuck off from the wedding party and made it to their honeymoon suite. Both had showered and mentally prepared themselves for their first night together. Neither of them were virgins but they did wait for their wedding night to be with one another. It was an awkward encounter, despite the year they dated and spent many moments alone.

The next morning…

Madeleine was sitting on the bed, crying uncontrollably. She didn’t know what to say.

Thiandella: Madeleine, talk to me. Stop crying.

Madeleine: I’m so sorry! 

She couldn’t even look up at him.

Thiandella: Look, There’s no need to cry. Talk to me like the adults we are. 

Madeleine: What could I possibly say after such a huge disappointment?

Thiandella: What disappointment? Madeleine, please don’t tell me you’re crying about this whole virginity thing? Listen, I know that’s a tradition but I’m not into that stuff. I mean, it would have been nice to be the first man to have you but I never made it a requirement.

Madeleine: You don’t understand. My whole family is waiting on your call right now.

Thiandella: I can call them.

Madeleine: And tell them what!? They’re going to want proof.

Madeleine was from a very conservative family that “has never been shamed” and she didn’t want to be the first to bring that shame.

Thiandella: Baby, I am going to tell them that I’m very happy with my wife … because I am. I love you and I didn’t want our first night together to be of you crying nonstop. 

Madeleine: They’re going to want proof … the white sheet my mom gave me last night. There’s no blood.

Thiandella: I can’t believe we’re doing this right now. 

Madeleine: That’s easy for you to say. My badiane is probably on her way over here as we speak. This is what they do.

Thiandella: And did you really think the night of our wedding was the appropriate time to tell me about all these protocols? Why wouldn’t you say something earlier? 

Madeleine: I’m sorry! I’m just scared about what to do… I don’t know what to say.

Thiandella got up at this point and walked into the kitchenette in their hotel suite. Madeleine sat up, worriedly, on the bed, contemplating her next move. She heard the coffee machine whirring from the bed. She quietly gets up from the bed and walks into the kitchen, to join her husband.

Madeleine: I can’t say it enough, but I’m so sorry for putting you in this situation. I wish I knew what to do.

Thiandella: Do you love me?

Madeline: More than you know.

Thiandella: Okay and I love you. That’s really all that counts for me at this point. And I know your family is into this virginity shit but I really think it’s time we set them straight. Be honest with them. How many more years are they going to keep this tradition?

Madeleine: You want them to kill me?! Are you mad? My mother would never let me live it down and God, my dad. I can’t even imagine. 

Thiandella: You’re my wife. If I don’t make a fuss about it, why should they?

Madeleine: This mental utopia you live in is just too good to be true. I know we don’t live here but the realities still exist! 

Thiandella: That may be true but you know I’m right. I don’t even want to call anyone regarding my wife’s virginity. It’s no one’s business.

Madeleine: It’s my whole family’s business.

Thiandalla: I’m going to fault you on this one. Not because you’re not a virgin because I knew that but because you wait until now to have this conversation with me. We should have been on our honeymoon by now! I would have been better prepared if I had known your family was this zealous about it!

Madeleine was quiet; she knew he was right. Every time she wanted to bring it up, she thought it would run him away. That it would be too much for someone who didn’t grow up in that environment to understand. Thiandella’s family was so open-minded and free. His sister never had to undergo this phase when she got married. But her family was different. They are very traditional and don’t plan to budge on those traditions anytime soon. Both she and Thiandella lived in Seattle, Washington but wanted to have their wedding back in Senegal around family and friends. They didn’t realize that came with a hefty price.

Thiandella: Look, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to add more stress to what you’re already going through. Why don’t you take a shower and refresh while I make us some breakfast. Ca te fera du bien.

Madeleine: Okay.

While Madeleine was in the shower, Thiandella got a knock at the door. It was Madeleine’s infamous badiane, here to retrieve both the news of her virginity as well as the white sheet she spent her first conjugal night on.

Thiandella: Please, have a seat. I will be right back.

Thiandella discreetly grabbed a knife on his way back to the bedroom. The shower was still running and Madeleine was having a full blown concert. He was happy to hear her blowing off some steam in the midst of all the drama. He walked over to the bed, knife in hand, and examined a spot on his body appropriate for cutting. He was going to honor his wife one way or another. Swiftly, he made a small incision in his chest, squeezing tiny drops of blood out. With his fingers, he guides the blood from his chest to the white sheet, staining the sheet. He rubbed the sheet into itself, attempting to reduce the freshness of the blood. Feeling satisfied, he lifts the sheet from the bed, fold it neatly, and put on a hoddie, and walk out into the living room.

Thiandella: Badiane, I want you to know that I am very pleased with my wife. Everything I have ever wanted, I have. Here.

He hands her the sheet, which she readily accepts.

Badiane: Alhamdoulilah. You just lifted a huge weight off my shoulders – off of our entire family’s shoulders. Thank you very much!

Thiandella: That’s no issue, Badiane. Thank you for everything. 

Badiane: May Allah reward you both with beautiful children of Islam!

Thiandella: Ameen Badiane.

Badiane: Amatouma togguay [I can’t stay any longer]. Her mother is waiting on me to get back with the news. I’ll be on my way.

Thiandella: Here, use this as pass.

Thiandella takes 10.000 cfa from his wallet and hands it over to Badiane.

Badiane: Yallah nako Yallah yombal dom. Dieureudieuf!

After Madeleine’s shower…

Thiandella: Badiane stopped by.

Madeleine dropped her lotion in shock.

Madeleine: What?! When?! What did she say?

Thiandella: Shhh, calm down. I already took care of everything. 

Madeleine: What do you mean?

Thiandella grabbed her hand and sat her down on the bed. It was at this moment she noticed the white sheet her mother gave her was gone. She stared at her husband in disbelief. Thiandella opened the zipper to his hoodie, revealing his bruised chest.

Madeleine:Oh! 

She immediately started crying.

Thiandella: I made a vow to you, to always love you and protect you. And that has nothing to do with your family. I didn’t think I had to protect you from your own family, especially not so early in our marriage but I want you to know that I’m willing to do this and even more if it means keeping you safe and happy. You’re worth more than this to me Madeleine. 

She was at a loss for words. She couldn’t believe what he had done for her.

“How can I ever repay you?” she cried out between tears.

Thiandella took her into his arms and consoled her. “Our relationship will never be quid pro quo. We will never owe each other favors or keep track of points. We’re in this together and that’s that.”

She didn’t know what to say. That seemed to be her anthem throughout the night.

Thiandella: But you have to tell me everything. This night could have gone down completely differently if you told me about your mom and Badiane long ago. We can’t have a solid marriage when things are left out.

Madeleine: I know and that was 100% my miss. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.

Thaindella: Consider yourself forgiven! Now can I please enjoy our first moments as a wedded couple in peace? Bari ngua ay caprices trop!

Madeleine smiled shyly and followed her husband into the kitchen. She felt a wave of relief flow through her.

Madeleine: I love you so much.

Thiandella smiled and grabbed the honeymoon welcome packet sitting next to the coffee machine! “So, Tanzania, huh?!”

BALLA (ADAMA’s sequel from women’s series)

**At the Ndiaye residence**

Balla stared at the destitute plate of food in front of him. He attempted yet again to make a meal for himself. It had been a long three weeks of not speaking to one another. At first, Adama tried to explain herself but eventually gave up as Balla refused to believe her. She was coming to a dead end. Three weeks without a word from him. Three weeks where he didn’t spend the night in their conjugal bed. Three weeks where she prayed endlessly for him to come back to his senses. Three weeks that led up to this moment.

Adama walked down the stairs in jeans and a floral long sleeve top. In one hand was her cell phone. With the other hand, she was dragging a suitcase behind her. Balla immediately stood up.

Balla: Where the hell do you think you’re going?

Adama: Oh, so you can speak? 

Balla: Don’t patronize me. Where are you going with that suitcase? 

Adama: Don’t play stupid. How long has it been since you even looked up at me? And it’s now that you care?

Balla: Don’t be ridiculous. You know what you did.

Adama: I am not even going to stand here and reason with you. My brother is picking me up and taking me to my parents’ house. If you have anything to say, you can come say it there. 

Balla: You’re not leaving this house! We don’t need to involve anyone in our problems!

Adama: Are you kidding me? How are we supposed to resolve any problem with you ignoring me like I don’t exist? There is nothing you can say to keep me here today. Move!

Just as Adama was pushing Balla out of her way, her elder brother, Samba, walked in.

Samba: Move out of her way. Don’t even tempt me.

Balla promptly stepped away and looked in disbelief as Adama strutted out of their house with her brother holding her suitcase.

**At the Diop residence**

Adama: I honestly didn’t want to leave. But I knew I had to in order for Balla to truly know my worth. 

Nabou: Girl, I can’t believe you still wanted anything to do with him. He treated you like shit.

Adama: I know but it’s not that simple. Marriage isn’t something you can just walk in and out of whenever you want to. Even coming back here is humiliating to me. I want to be in my home.

Khady: Please spare us this “marriage is so sacred” speech. Gënoo ñu ko xam ! (we know that too!) But you don’t deserve to be treated like that. Balla dafa fuuy! (Balla is arrogant!)

Adama: Don’t talk about my husband like that!

Nabou: Haha well, excuse us!

Khady: Listen Ada, nobody is telling you to break up your marriage. But you do need to sit back and think about the kind of treatment you are going to accept from him. He went three weeks without talking to you and it wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. Over something so silly. It took you packing your stuff and leaving before he said anything!

Nabou: And he only said something because he knows it would look bad on him if you told your parents the truth. 

Adama: I know, that’s what really worries me too. I don’t want to be in a trap of him emotionally torturing me and then making it seem like I’m the one in the wrong.

**At the Diop residence**

Diop: Adama, tell me why you have come back here. 

Adama: Papa, I am sorry but Balla has changed so much recently. He’s been ignoring me for three weeks now. He refuses to eat my cooking, doesn’t sleep in our room anymore, and won’t speak to me, no matter how hard I tried to get him to.

Diop: What did you do?

Adama: I didn’t do anything! I went to the market one Saturday afternoon to pick up some things for dinner and some stranger asked me for directions. I didn’t even know where he needed to get to and I told him I didn’t know. I come home and Balla accuses me of having a boyfriend, out of nowhere!

Daba: Adama, you know jigéen buy sëy nga, dangay xool fooy teg sa tànk! Looy dox di wax si mbedd mi? [Adama, you know you have to be more careful as a married woman. Who are you talking to in these streets?]

Adama: Mais, man je rêve ou quoi? Xanaa li ma leen wax deggu leen ko? The guy was asking me directions! We’re talking about a stranger! [Am I dreaming or what!? Are you guys not hearing me?]

Diop: Princesse, I know what you’re saying but you know people are left up to their own interpretations. You have to be careful. 

Adama: I am just waiting for the time he can get some flame for his behavior. EVEN IF I knew that guy and the conversation was about more than directions, the least he could do is be mature about the situation.

Daba: Yow sañ nga wax lu dul loolu ak jambur yaw? [You don’t dare!]

Diop chuckled at that satement.

Diop: You know your princesse, she’s always been friendly!

Daba: She needs to nip that in the bud if she wants to stay married!

Adama: Maman, I am not denying anything you guys are saying. But this is just ridiculous.

Diop: I will summon your husband for a conversation.

Adama: Don’t take his side deh.

**At the Ndiaye residence**

Balla received the dreaded phone call from his father-in-law. The days of being angry were over. Now he had to go explain himself or at least show he cared. And he did. He just wanted to punish Adama a little – he never expected this to go this far. What would he say to Diop? In his mind, he truly loved Adama and didn’t want to lose her.

**At the Diop residence**

Balla: Papa, I just want to first apologize for the inconvenience I’ve caused.

Diop: It’s no problem, son. We just want to get to the bottom of it. Tell me what happened?

Balla gulped. He really couldn’t figure out how to explain the story. There wasn’t much substance … nothing to really tell the more he thought about it. Shit, he was about to make a fool in front of his in-law.

Balla: Well, I just want Adama to know that she’s a married woman now. Anyone could see her in these streets and interpret her actions however they want!

Adama couldn’t help but laugh at the evasion of topic Balla decided to go with.

Adama: Please don’t go that route. Man up!

Diop: Ada! Don’t speak to him like that. Let me handle this. Balla, what exactly did she do?

Balla: I saw her standing with a man when she claimed to be going to the market for a short trip. I wasn’t even meant to leave the house but I had to meet up with a friend quickly and saw her while I was out. 

Diop: So she told you she was going to the market?

Balla: Yes.

Diop: Did she have groceries with her when she got back?

Balla: Well, yes.

Balla knew he was way in over his head; he could see where this was going.

Diop: Look, I am not taking my daughter’s side. But I just struggle to understand what led you to conclude that man she was talking to was her anything.

Balla: Uhm…

Diop: It looks to me like there was some miscommunication. You two need to talk it out.

Adama: I don’t have anything to say to him!

Diop: You don’t? Is that why you’ve been moping around here the last few days because you missed your husband?

Adama: No! 

Balla smirked.

Diop: Balla, son. I don’t like these kinds of interactions. It’s a waste of time. You two are adults and things like this shouldn’t have even escaped the four walls of your bedroom. You can’t make assumptions without proof of anything. We’ve talked to Ada to be more careful of her surroundings but honestly, there was nothing to quarrel over. You are the man of the house and should do everything in your power to ensure things like this don’t happen. Both of you, don’t let this happen again.

Adama: Papa, it can’t be that easy! He ignored me for weeks.

Diop: Forgive him. Work it out among yourselves. Get out.

Adama frumpily left the living room and headed straight for her bedroom. Balla followed.

**In Adama’s room**

Adama: I can’t believe you showed up here with an actual story. You thought you were onto something, huh?!

Balla: Don’t be so hostile. I honestly didn’t know what to say to your dad. He’s not the most approachable man.

Adama: Well, I’m not surprised. He and everyone else are the only reason why you cared enough to show up here. I don’t have anything to say to you.

Balla: Ada, I’m sorry. I don’t even know what to say.

Adama: You think that’s it, huh? That you show up here and my dad says what he has to say and that’s it. I go back home with you and we live happily ever after.

Balla: Please don’t make this harder. I recognize what I did was wrong.

Adama: You are so disrespectful. And so selfishly entitled. Me make this harder?

Balla: Don’t say that. Baby, I’m sorry.

Adama: I’m not going home with you. I am not going to be manipulated by you or my parents – not after the shit you pulled. THREE WEEKS BALLA?! Are you really that immature?

Balla: I know, I know! I’m sorry! Please, just give me a chance. My jealousy got the best of me.

Adama: Control your jealousy. You don’t own me, Balla. I am not your property that you need to keep tabs on. 

Balla: I know. And I will work on that. 

Adama: This isn’t over. 

Balla: I know, let’s just talk it over at home.

**In the Ndiaye residence**

Balla and Adama walked back into their home, Balla carrying her suitcase. The tension was still there but they tried to mask it with small conversation. Adama was thinking of all the things she wanted to say about how she wanted to be treated going forward and Balla was just happy to have his wife back home. As they walk in, they notice the living room light was on.

Balla: Hello? Who’s there?

Nogaye: Hey baby, it’s so good to see you! I decided to move myself in, I just couldn’t wait anymore!

Balla dropped the suitcase. He was speechless.

Adama: Who the hell is this?

Nogaye: Oh he didn’t tell you … Hi, I’m Nogaye, Mrs. Ndiaye. Desormais, I have an extra key and I live here.

Nogaye confidently stared Adama down.

Adama: What!?! Balla, who is she?

Balla wasn’t just silent in the three weeks he went without speaking to Adama. He got married, for the second time. Adama now had a co-wife.

[to be continued]

MOUTAROU (guest writer)

***Unlike the other stories in the men’s series, this story is real. I’d personally like to thank our very own Moutarou for sharing his personal story.***

In Senegal there is a lot of social pressure.  Practically everyone throughout the country faces this phenomenon, women as well as men.

As for the effect on me, I am the eldest male in the family, which gives me the status of breadwinner. In Senegal, most of the time families are large, which means that children are often called upon to provide support to help meet the needs of their families. I am in this situation since I am the first boy, even though I have two older sisters. Woman in the family are meant to get married and leave the compound, they are not expected to be breadwinners. Nevertheless, it is changing given that women are now supporting their own families. So, I need to support my family because my father is older now and II am the only one with a decent job. Thus, there is an obligation to give the daily expenditure and to assure the other family needs are met, such as the education of my siblings and the needs of both my parents.

I started feeling this pressure when I was 23 and I was in College.  It was a strong pressure and I had to ensure that the family lacked for nothing.  This burden over my head was so heavy that it had consequences in all areas of my life.  I had to succeed in my studies to prepare for a good job that would satisfy me and enable me to support my family.

Since there were a lot of strikes at the university, I could not afford to miss the deadline, so I left school to look for work to help my father. Consequently, I could not really choose what I wanted in my life, I just had to find a job regardless of the salary.  In some ways, my life choices did not really count because my duty was to help the family, whatever the sacrifice to my own life.  The whole family expected my success to be effective in bringing food to the table, in allowing everyone to have an education, and in ensuring the good health of everyone.  So far so good, the family does not lack for anything, but there is a part of me that does not live the life he would have liked to live.  But it’s life, it’s Senegal, it’s like that.

What’s odd about all this is that my dad pushed me all the time to get married very early, at the same time wanting me to support him in his own family.  For me, the two could not go together because – if I had married as he wanted – I would not have been able to help him suitably since I would have had a wife to feed and maybe children to support.  But my father could not see that and said that only God knows what’s in front of us.  That is true but, at the same time, the human being proposes, God disposes.

Another pressure I endured for a long time, and continue to suffer from, is to get married.  My dad wanted me to marry at the age of 24.  He wanted me to marry a girl I did not know and had never seen in my life.  He still keeps putting pressure on me since I came out of a marriage with an American woman that he did not accept at all because – for him – to marry a woman who is not Fulani is as if I am still not married.  Even when I had my American wife, he always kept telling me to get married.  I laughed and I said yes, soon.  He did not stop pressuring me and he always reminded me of my duties as a Muslim and, especially, as a man and elder of the family.  He wanted me to show a positive example to my brothers who came after me.  At first, he told me that I had to marry a Fulani woman like me from my family, meaning a cousin of mine.  Then, since I did not follow, he changed tactics, telling me to look only for a Muslim girl   Finally, he told me that it would not bother him if the girl was not Fulani but a Muslim from a good family. 

He reminded me every time I saw him. Since I lived in Dakar and only visited Thies my hometown once a month, he did not hesitate to put pressure on me to marry. Since today, I live with this burden and social pressure. I think, we need to change the way we make babies and think about their future too. 

MBAYE

Mbaye: I am sorry. I’ve done everything anyone could think of…

Laila: Shhh. Don’t beat yourself up about this. It’s not a big deal. I can wait.

Mbaye: But you have been waiting. And it’s not fair to you.

Laila: Baby, we’ve talked about this. We’ll just keep trying and going through treatment until we see improvement. Be patient.

Mbaye: I don’t know how you’re so calm about this. It’s driving me insane!!

Laila: Haha I wonder why (smiles playfully). Look, I’m gonna start breakfast. Let’s get out of bed and do something with our day!

I playfully jumped off the bed and pranced into the bathroom to shower, not even giving a second thought to the conversation we just had and have had time and again. We’ve been married four years now and he has ahem, a situation. I think you know what I mean, please don’t make me spell it out. It sucks, yes, but I don’t dwell on it. I know it’s nothing he can really control and he’s getting treated. All I can do is hope and pray that there is avail at the end of this tunnel. Mbaye is a good husband and man – that’s enough for me now. On another note, he jokes that I have toys hidden in the bathroom to self-serve and that’s why I’m so calm about this haha! I guess we’ll never know!

But seriously, I never complain. He stares at me in disbelief sometimes, as if I’m going to leave him any minute, He claims I’m this “young and beautiful woman who could be dealing with a totally different scenario than this.” And maybe he’s right. But every time he bring it up, I have to remind him that that alone wasn’t why I married him. There’s so much more to it! Our vows had no mention of sex or erections so we’re not going to hold our marriage by those strings.

I finish my shower, slip into something light and head into the kitchen to make breakfast. Mbaye’s mom has been staying with us for a few months now. It was meant to be for two weeks (upside down smiley) but it is well. We love her dearly.

What I don’t love is her unsolicited commentary on our marriage. We were on great terms until I passed our one year anniversary without a pregnancy. Things turned sour at that point and I almost have to laugh at this mandatory milestone imposed on marriages. Like let’s forget for one second about the fact that her son can’t get it up (is that too mean?). How about free will? Not being ready for a child? Not wanting one just yet? I guess those don’t matter. I have learned how to handle her over the course of her time here; I refuse to let her invade my peace.

Just as I was preparing the day’s quick snapbacks for my beloved mother-in-law, I hear her come down the stairs. Let the games begin.

I was humming to music that was softly playing on my phone as I prepped veggies for my omelet.

Fatim: You know you can’t cook and listen to music at the same time; you’ll be too distracted! Please don’t burn my eggs because I woke up very hungry today.

Laila: Your cholesterol has been up lately so I actually was planning to make you some oatmeal. Good morning by the way 🙂

Fatim: Are you a doctor now?

Laila: Ah I wish. I would have diagnosed myself by now so you wouldn’t be having breakfast without at least one grandchild to sit on your lap.

She didn’t even flinch at my comment haha she walked to the living room and sat down with her prayer beads, probably wishing something very bad on me. I must admit, she’s gotten good at this banter thing. Good for her!

Mbaye: Good morning, yaye boye!

Little prince comes down and kisses his wicked mother on the cheek before coming into the kitchen to give me  a kiss. I decide to draw it out teheheh!

Fatim: If you did that where you should, in the bedroom, maybe I would have had that grandchild on my lap by now.

Mbaye: Mother!

Fatim: What? You’re the one tongue wrestling with your wife in front of me! Where is the respect?

Laila: I’m sorry, mom. We’ll hold it together.

Mbaye: Can you two just behave? Let’s have a peaceful breakfast, for once.

Laila: You’re right! Let me hurry up with it and we can maybe go out and do a little shopping later!

Fatim: Oh yeah, so you can spend all his money, is that right?

Was this the time to break the news to her that I make more money than he does or is that too petty? I decide to smile it go!

Mbaye: Breakfast was delicious, baby! Thank you!

Fatim: Thank you.

Laila: No problem, I’m glad you guys liked it! Let me clear this up and start getting ready to go!

I cleared the table and loaded up the dishwasher, which I’m sure Fatim was giving me the side-eye about. Why wouldn’t I want to stand for three times the amount of time to wash the dishes? What am I? Normal?

After straightening up the kitchen, I start heading up to my room but overhear Fatim talking to Mbaye in the living room. I generally wouldn’t have second thoughts about this but something was different about this conversation. Mbaye was talking back. I tried really hard to keep walking but something told me to stick around and listen. It was hard to hear what they were saying but I could make out a little.

Fatim: Think about it before you totally discount it. She’d understand.

Mbaye: I don’t think you realize what you’re asking me to do.

Fatim: Oh please. Don’t make it sound like it’s never been done before. You’re making me look like the bad guy.

Mbaye: That’s not it. You just don’t have the full story and you can’t put me in a situation like that. I love my wife.

Fatim: No one said you didn’t. But son, think about your future. Who will take over for you?

Mbaye: You’re missing the point. That’s not something we even talked about before getting married because it’s not a condition for us staying together.

Fatim: And I’m not asking you to separate from her. But you need to take a second wife. You’re the only son I have and I don’t want to see your legacy wither away under the guise of this wild love you guys have going on. There’s more to life!

Mbaye: I’m not doing that.

Fatim: So you’re going to pick this woman over your whole family? Over your own mother?

Mbaye: It’s not like that.

Fatim: Then what is it like? Because I’m not sure I understand why it’s so worth it to you.

Mbaye: I’m the problem. I always have been.

Fatim: What?

Mbaye: Four years of marriage and I’ve never been able to perform my duties as a husband. And you just waltz up in here telling me to betray the woman that’s been with me through all of that and not once complained! You don’t have that right!!

He was yelling at this point. I felt a tear drop on my chest – shit! I didn’t even realize I was still listening, I was so immersed in my own translation of the situation. At first, I couldn’t make out if that’s what Fatim really wanted but that confirmed it. And that set my tears free. I knew she wasn’t my biggest fan but really?!

Mbaye: I want you to respect my marriage and respect my wife. I did not want to have this conversation with you but you pushed me. Now please, respect our boundaries.

I tried to run up the stairs before Mbaye could reach me. I would be mortified if he found me listening to his conversation, even though it was about ME!

I run up the stairs and heard footsteps behind me. I’d been caught. I sat on the bed, waiting for Mbaye to come in and chastise me about eavesdropping. To my surprise, it was Fatim at the door. My heart shrunk.

Fatim: I am so ashamed.

I didn’t speak. I mean, what was I supposed to say. I still had remnants of tears in my eyes so she for sure knew I heard everything.

Fatim: I’ve been too hard on you and it isn’t fair. I had no idea what you guys were battling and I blindly took my son’s side without understanding.

I was still quiet. What did this woman want me to say?

Fatim: Listen, you probably hate me right now but I hope you can understand where I was coming from.

That statement set me off. This woman was actually trying to justify her behavior. I thought this was an apology.

Laila: Actually, mother, no I don’t. What gives you the right to invade our privacy like that? And not only that, to insult me and my marriage for your own selfish desires? You don’t get to decide who has a kid and when!

Fatim: Yes, I know and I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to insult you.

Laila: You think you’re the only one who wants to see us have kids? What about us? You don’t think that’s something we’ve prayed for time and again? You already have your own life and kids, stay out of mine.

Fatim: I know you’re upset.

Laila: That’s an understatement. I just don’t know what it is that I’ve ever done to you to make you treat me the way you do. Now your relationship with your son is yours alone – I won’t impose there. But you need to respect me! I’m not doing the back and forth with you anymore.

Fatim: I agree, I’m sorry.

I walk over to the door and open it.

Laila: I would like to be alone. Please.

I had had enough of this constant pair of eyes judging my every move.

Fatim: I want us to keep talking. I want to fix this, it’s not too late.

Laila: I’ve been called every name in the book because you and your family didn’t have proof of my “innocence.” Nobody respects me because you think I OWE you something. All the while, I’ve been to every hospital and every appointment with your son to find out what’s wrong with him. I don’t really care what you want at the moment. What I want is for you to leave my room.

Mbaye walked in as I said that and I felt a rush of emotions over me. Tears started streaming down my face again.

Mbaye: Laila, calm down. Mom, can you please give us a moment.

Fatim slowly walked out, feeling defeated.

Mbaye: Baby, I know how you feel right now. And I’m sorry you had to hear those things from my mother. It’s not the first time she’s brought it up but I want you to know that I would never do that to you. You’ve shown me so much grace and patience that all I can think about, every single day, is how to put a smile on your face. I would never betray you. Please believe me.

Laila: It’s just so hurtful.

Mbaye: I know but I want you to know that you have a husband who loves you, respects you, and cherishes you. And it’s not because you’ve been with me every step of the way through this condition. It’s because we have history together. Before this even came into the picture, we built something beautiful together and I have chosen to dedicate my life to making you happy. Don’t ever forget that.

Laila: I haven’t forgotten. And I know that. But she needs to understand the meaning of boundaries.

Mbaye: I will take care of that. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. I promise. Now, can you please cheer up so we can go shopping?

Laila: Is she coming?

Mbaye: Don’t be petty.

I would gladly leave her in this house by herself while I spend the day with my man. But since I’m in the business of not holding grudges, I let it go and decided to move forward, especially since my baby stood up for me the way he did. At least now she knows that the solution to our childless problems was not adding another woman into the mix. It never will be. It definitely was a good feeling for her to finally know, even if it had to be at the expense of poor Mbaye and the total unveiling of his condition. Needless to say, the afternoon shopping trip was very awkward. She even tried to collaborate with me on “fixing Mbaye.” Haha this woman never gives up. I am glad she instilled that same drive in Mbaye though because he’s determined to get himself treated. Almost as determined to find that stash of sex toys I apparently have hidden in our bathroom 😉

BAMBA

All I’ve ever wanted was to be enough for my family and for myself. It’s hard when you have so much weight to carry on your shoulders. I sometimes think to myself that being a man is so hard when you’ve got all eyes on you. The older you get, the more responsibilities fall in your lap and most cannot be rejected.

I’ve lived a life of constant worry … worry about being a good son, friend, boyfriend, husband, father, employee, you name it. People often overlook the struggles of a man because we’re supposed to be so strong. Strong for everyone else. There is never any room for us to take a break, request support from anyone else, or show signs of weakness. All of these thoughts have been culminating in my head recently, weighing heavy on my heart as I think about the most important people in my life. Did I do right by them?

My dear Kine, I know I have not measured up to be the best husband – the one you deserve. You’ve been there with me through thick and thin and I can only pray that God allows me to bring you the happiness, peace, and joy you deserve. We have been together for a long time now and you never strayed. I wish I could say the same – it kills me inside to know that I have stepped out on you and our marriage. It pains me even more to know you have forgiven me for that. I can’t look you in the eye – not the same way. I do not deserve you but you still love me the same. I promise to keep working on myself so one day, you can say that everything you’ve been through has not been in vain.

My Twin boys, at a time in my life when I wasn’t ready to be a father, God surprised me with you two. I remember the pit in my stomach when I found out the doctor announced that the pregnancy was with twins. A wave of emotions flushed through me – fear, excitement, anxiety, and even flight. We didn’t plan to have even one baby at the time, let alone two. But again, this was one of those responsibilities that couldn’t and shouldn’t be rejected. When you came into my life, I knew for the first time what it meant to be a man. I knew that the word selfish had to be thrown out the window. I could no longer *decide* whether or not I wanted to do right by you guys (a choice I messed up with your mother on more than one occasion). I had to do the right thing and the right thing was to love you, provide for you, teach you, and inculcate morals and values into you that would make you better men that I was. You’re almost “grown” now and it’s been a hard but rewarding journey to see you become good, young men. If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it’s to never take your anger out on those who did nothing to deserve it. Stay grounded and stay gentle.

Souhibou. You’re at a fragile age where you’re so malleable and I feel like I have a second chance to get this parenting thing right. You’re very stubborn – just like I was so I guess I can’t fault you. But it terrifies me to you see how similar you are to how I was at your age. It makes it more challenging and makes me wonder, “Is that what I put my parents through?” But you’re smart so I trust you will figure this thing called life out much better than I did. I trust your sense of humor will keep you from wallowing in the dark realities… I pray. Even though you’re young, I can see the potential for so much greatness in you. I don’t have favorites between you three boys but I sense a different connection with you. I know that God brought you into my life when I needed a reality call the most. I was taking so many things for granted and you re-purposed my life and gave it meaning. I immediately felt like I owed it to you, your brothers, and your mother to get my act together. Thank you for that.

My parents. May the soil of this cruel Earth be light and gentle over you. I had intentions of making you proud. I don’t know if I succeed – at least not while you were still here. I know I gave you both a hard time at certain junctions but I hope you know that I did not do anything with malice. I was just trying to find my place on this Earth and establish myself as my own man, not merely a surrogate for your choices. I haven’t succeeded in all areas of my life and I know if you were here, you’d be lecturing me about one thing or another, especially you Mom. But I have to be honest for a second and say I’ve done pretty decent for myself, especially given the amount of pressure you put on me and the not-so-exemplary choices you made… forgive me if that is not my place to say. I miss you both.

Dior. I am sorry for everything I put you through. I could blame it on being young and dumb but that blame only takes me so far. I failed you and I failed our love. We had something special and I know I didn’t fight for it as hard as I should have. And of course, with time, we both moved on from that but I can’t help but wonder if you think about me from time to time. I certainly think about you. I’m sorry for all the things my mother said to you and I’m sorry I didn’t stand up for you. I always hoped you would understand my situation, even though I never gave you the closure you needed. I don’t have your news but I hope you are living a life of happiness and success – you were always so bright…

Bamba. It’s been a long journey to who you are now. And it won’t get any easier. If anything, there will be more accountability. Don’t shy away from it. Embrace it and admit it when you make mistakes. Not just to yourself but to the people that matter. That’s one thing you always held a grudge about when it came to your own parents. You aren’t invincible and you’re not always right. Admit that to yourself and try to be a better person, husband, father any chance you get. Be humble.

We, men, are often called on for the difficult responsibilities in a family. We are the providers. In hospitals, we are the ones tough news is broken to because it’s assumed we can handle it. I always found that funny. Our emotional grounding is never given a second thought and that’s not okay. We have our own demons we are fighting and we can’t continue to be expected to be superheroes all the time, for all things. These nights, I stay awake thinking about all the times I wasn’t a superhero and I am sure I’m not the only man in the world kept at night by such thoughts. All we can do is try our best but let me tell you, it’s no easy feat…

AIDA: A special self-reflection – « Jigéén dafa wara doxe ndank, waxe ndank » (A woman should not speak much)

My personality is strong. I don’t filter my thoughts and freely deliver my opinions as I see fit. I’m not ignorant or disrespectful; but I am confident and I am stern. I have been guided numerous times on how to “soften” myself up, especially if I want to find a good man to marry. Let me start by saying that I would love to get married. I have always wanted to have a family of my own – a loving husband and beautiful children all around the house. And I feel like I still have time; I’m 26 years old. By Senegalese standards, that’s old. Most of my friends are getting married and having kids and it’s not that I don’t want that for myself. But it’s something that cannot be anticipated or forced. As cliché as it may sound, it will happen when the time is right. It honestly makes my eye twitch that I’ve gone down that rabbit hole.

Let me start over. My name is Aissatou but some call me Aida. I go by either or…no preference really. I am the oldest girl in a family of mom, dad, and five children. I have an older brother, two younger sisters, and one younger brother. I grew up in a household where you respect your elders, do as you’re told, and don’t pushback. It worked growing up but at some point in time, I started to go against the current. Not out of disrespect but out of curiosity for what else was possible and genuine belief that I was doing the right thing. I had big dreams and they were fluid – wanting to become a psychologist, gynecologist, lawyer, and business woman all at different points in time. I made the first step towards whatever the goal was at the time when I graduated High School to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. My mom was hesitant about me going away for college and not living at home. This wasn’t typical. But I pushed through and two years later, my sister joined me at Miami where we kept each other company but each flourished in our own ways. That leads me to the next point of having the goal of setting an example for young women on what they could achieve with a little bit of direction and a lot of hard work. I’m by no means the epitome of success – I just strive for excellence, push the envelope a little, and encourage other young girls to do the same.

“Jigeen dafa wara doxe ndank, waxe ndank” translate to “a woman should walk slowly/light, speak softly” in Wolof. In other words, a women should be poised and quiet. I’ll spend a few moments talking about the positive aspects of this phrase but really spend some time dissecting why this phrase, like many others in this series, can be at the detriment of young girls’ empowerment and confidence.

In short, I think this phrase touches on the basic premise of how femininity is praised in Senegalese culture. “Saf djiguen” is another term that could be loosely coupled – meaning having that “feminine flavor.” It aims to emphasize that women are softer, more gentle than our male counterparts and as such, we should act accordingly. It is commendable – I think our femininity as women is one of our greatest assets and it leads me to the “negative” analysis I want to explore.

Being that our femininity is one of our greatest assets, I don’t think it should be tamed. It should be let free and encouraged to compliment other traits that don’t necessarily fall in line with molds that make us smaller, quieter, more obedient. This phrase ring-fences us in and prohibits us from straying too far. The way we act is tightly controlled so we don’t talk back, ask questions, or challenge the status quo. I believe the freedom should be there to be that quiet, soft-spoken woman or that outspoken and provocative woman or that walk in a room and everyone pays attention woman or whatever fits with the personality of the individual. The key here being that society should not prescribe how any one of us, man or woman, but especially women, should act. That defeats the very freedom we all hold near and dear to us.

I can be loud and chatty. I can be reserved and pensive. I can walk fast because I’ve got somewhere or nowhere to be. I can stroll down the street admiring my views. I can travel the world and get a different perspective on life. I can hide out in my room and listen to old-school music to find my center of gravity after a long day. I can choose to do what I want. I can be accountable for my own decisions and actions. I can choose. As a woman. Because I’m a woman.

MEDINA – « Jigéén dafa wara gàtt lammiñ » (A woman should not speak much)

My palms were sweaty and my heart was beating fast as I opened the front door to my house. I was a nervous wreck and didn’t know how tonight would go. But I had been sitting in my car for the last 30 minutes and it was starting to get late. I had to go inside.

MEDINA: Cherie! You’re finally home. I’ve been waiting on your for dinner.

I couldn’t even look her in the face. How would I muster up the balls to break the news to her? And why the hell was she in such a good mood? Did Medoune not stop by like I told him?

SEYDINA: Hey babe, yeah I’m home. Sorry I’m late, it’s been a hectic day.

MEDINA: Oh don’t worry, just get settled. I’ll finish preparing dinner so we can eat. I have a surprise for you!

Oh shit – so I wasn’t the only one with a  surprise! I whip out my phone as I head into our bedroom and ring Medoune, my best friend. He picked up right as I entered the room and closed the door behind me.

SEYDINA: Bro, did you talk to Medina like I asked you? She’s over here chipper as hell and I don’t know what to think!

MEDOUNE: I didn’t get a chance to stop by – sorry man! Today was hectic and besides, you were trying to throw me to the lions man.

SEYDINA: Man, what the fuck?! We agreed on this!

MEDOUNE: Listen man, that’s best coming from you. You know that.

SEYDINA: Whatever, man. You could have told me so I know what I’m walking into.

Seydina: Wa baakh na. (Okay, fine!)


MEDOUNA: Assumel rek! (Stay strong!)

I hung up the phone and changed out of my work clothes. I walked over to our bathroom and washed my face. I stood facing the mirror, contemplating how I would tell Medina this news. I closed my eyes and immediately started regretting the decision. Suddenly, I felt her arms wrap around me.

SEYDINA: Gasp!

MÉDINA: Baby, what’s the matter? You’re acting weird today.

SEYDINA: It’s nothing, just a little tired from work.

MEDINA: Ah, I feel that. I had a long day myself. But I have a big surprise for you! Come with me!

She dragged me to the living room, where she moved some furniture around and cleared the center. On the ground was a picnic-style spread of all kinds of foods. There were candles everywhere and soft music playing. I gulped.

MÉDINA: Have a seat – get comfortable!

SEYDINA: Medina, we need to talk.

MÉDINA: We have all night for that! Stop being so weird and let me get my surprise out.

SEYDINA: No, listen to me. I’m being serious.


MÉDINA: Wa toggual rek – lolou wessoul (okay, just sit down first).

I sat down next to her and grabbed her hand.

MÉDINA: Oh my God, why are you acting so weird. I thought you liked surprises.

She joked with a genuine laugh.

SEYDINA: It’s not that. Medina, I got married.

She looked at me with confused eyes.

MÉDINA: Married – what does that mean?


SEYDINA: I took a second wife.


MEDINA: Oh wow. Uhm … okay. When was this?

SEYDINA: Last week. I have been wanting to tell you but just didn’t…

MÉDINA: It’s okay. Please stop talking.

I immediately felt the shame overtake my body. Holy shit!

Medina and I had been married for 7 years now and honestly, the years have been nothing short of perfect. We had our minor differences but she was everything I envisioned in the perfect wife. I really fell head over heels for her since our first date and we’ve been inseparable since. The problem in our marriage was that we couldn’t conceive. We had been to multiple doctors and tried practically everything. The last couple of weeks were very emotional for us as we finished yet another treatment and it was starting to take a toll on our love, at least for me.

SEYDINA: Babe, please just hear me out. I know how hard we’ve been trying to get pregnant and I know the strain is only to get worse and worse – the more we desire it, the more it creeps into our relationship and causes tension. I just…

MÉDINA: Seydina, you don’t have to explain yourself. Eat your food.

I lost my appetite. How could I continue to face this woman?

SEYDINA: I can’t eat. We need to talk about this.

MÉDINA: No, we don’t. You’ve already made your decision, what exactly would you like me to say?

SEYDINA: Something, anything! Please!

MÉDINA: I don’t have anything to say. I heard you.

I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t read her reaction – was she angry? Mad? Hurt? She didn’t speak for the rest of the dinner and I didn’t eat. I couldn’t bring myself to.

After dinner, I snuck into the bedroom after sitting in the living room for about an hour after she left. I could barely move one foot in front of the other but I tried and snuck silently into the bedroom. I found her brushing her hair. I didn’t know whether to stand or sit. Talk or be quiet. I just didn’t know. Medina took off her robe and my mouth dropped.

She was in a sexy, black two-piece lingerie with a whip in her hand. I was scared – after telling her this news, I sure as hell wasn’t going to physically cause her pain. What the hell was I supposed to do with that whip!?! What the hell was she up to!?!

MÉDINA: Tonight, I want you to forget about all of your problems and indulge with me. Stop the worrying and quit being weird.

She started to walk towards me and my whole body tensed up. On the bed were all kinds of toys she laid out and let me tell you, my only plan for the night was to curl up on my side of the bed and keep quiet after dropping this news! I figured the less movement and talking I did, the less trouble I got myself into.

MEDINA: Listen, I don’t want you thinking I am phased by the news. I know how much I mean to you and I won’t let anyone come between us. Ease up and enjoy this night with me. I love you, forever and always.

The sound of her saying the words “I love you” reassured me and I started to loosen up a bit.

MEDINA: I’m going to finish my preparations in the bathroom – I have a lot in store for you 😉

I smiled at the idea and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips before she turned around to walk away from me. She drops the whip as she turned and bent over in the most sexy way to pick it up. Holy Hell – I am crazy about this woman! I was hoping Medoune could talk to her before I got home and calm her down a bit so I only had to deal with the aftermath but seems like we didn’t even need that. Wow, I’m a lucky man! I ran over to the bed to examine everything that was laid out. It was going to be a good night!

I decided to prepare and get comfortable myself for a wild night. I stripped down to my boxers and lay out on the bed waiting for Medina to come back. Moments later, just as I began fantasizing about everything we would do that night, the bathroom door opened. I perked up and greeted her with a big smile. But she didn’t quite have a smile on. In fact, she was fully clothed and pulling a suitcase behind her.

SEYDINA: Huh!? What the hell is this? Where are you going?

MÉDINA: Hmm, someone made themselves at home.

SEYDINA: I AM home – now answer me! What the hell is going on?

MEDINA: Actually, this is my home but we’ll talk about that in court.

SEYDINA: Court?!

MÉDINA: Shut up. Did you really think that was it? You’d tell me you got a second wife and I’d treat you to a night of pleasure? You must really be mad.

I stood up from the bed and started walking over to Medina. I didn’t look very serious with just my boxers on and you can imagine my downtown situation after all that fantasizing. I couldn’t be taken seriously but I tried anyways.

SEYDINA: Medina, stop messing around! What the hell is going on?

MEDINA: What’s going on is that I’m leaving you. You are really a piece of work.

Medina was staring me up and down with a look of disgust.

MEDINA: 7 years of ups and downs with you and this is what you repay me with? Nice, very nice.

SEYDINA: Let’s talk about it! It’s not what you think, I can explain. Babe, I just wanted us to have a chance at having kids.

MEDINA: Us?! How considerate of you. Listen, I’m going to keep this short. You’ll be hearing from me and my lawyer in the next couple of days. Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Sign whatever they send you.

SEYDINA: Yaw khana dangua doff?! Lawyer? You’re not going anywhere.

MEDINA: Step away from me. We’ll discuss everything with our lawyers present, including co-parenting guidelines.

SEYDINA: Co-parenting?!

MEDINA: Yes, you idiot. My grand old surprise was that I’m pregnant. But you just had to outdo me with your own surprise huh?

I was dumbfounded. She dragged her suitcase towards the door and I desperately hung onto her.

MEDINA: Get your hands off of me or I will call the police.

I let go of her arm and instantly started crying, begging.

SEYDINA: Baby, please stop. Don’t go – let’s talk this out! I’m sorry!

Medina kept walking, not even looking back at the mess she left behind. My life changed forever from that moment on.

ROSE – « Jigéén dafa wara ànd ak dallu ak teey » (A woman should be poised)

SEYNABOU: Do you think it’s possible to love two people at the same time?

ROSE: Maybe. I don’t know.

SEYNABOU: It’s just – he’s told me so many things. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

ROSE: Well, you have to trust your instincts.

SEYNABOU: I love him so much but I don’t trust him. He’s always going back on his word.

ROSE: Let me ask you this: when did you find out he was married?

SEYNABOU: On our first date.

ROSE: And that didn’t deter you from starting a relationship with him?

SEYNABOU: No because in this day and age, we all want to get married. I didn’t see it as a problem. And I honestly liked that he was so up front about it. I didn’t even ask him; he told me voluntarily.

ROSE: And what was it that kept you seated and throughout the date – throughout the relationship?

SEYNABOU: He knows all the right things to say. Even after he pisses me off and I lose all hope, he comes back with the most grandiose promises and I fall right back into his arms.

ROSE: That sounds familiar. We’ve all been there.

SEYNABOU: What do you think I should do?

ROSE: I can’t answer that for you because I don’t know how you feel about him, truly. Only you know that. But I will advise you to be as selfish as he is being. See, my situation is a little different. I have a family and kids to look after and give a good example to. I can’t make decisions just about me.

SEYNABOU: I think that’s how you’re able to stay so dallu ak teey (composed and poised). You have something to live for. I feel like Laye is my only reason to live sometimes. I don’t have a mother and I don’t have a father. I feel alone and he fills that void. So no matter how bad it is, it feels like it’s better than being alone.

ROSE: I can understand how you can feel that way. But take a step back and think about your life before you knew him. What were your ambitions and what were you living for back then? You can’t lose yourself in this search for romance and love. Take it from me, after 10 years of marriage, I can tell you love is just one element in this whole thing. Respect is just as important. Ask yourself if you’re being respected.

SEYNABOU: You’re right. But it’s easier said than done. I love him.

ROSE: Listen, I can only have this conversation so many times. I say it because I care – you have to make a mental health decision at some point. Do you want to be stay on this roller coaster of love with its impulsive ups and downs or do you want to see what other possibilities there are. It’s not a simple decision but you have to be honest with yourself.

SEYNABOU: How do you manage with life’s struggles? I’m sure you’ve been in my shoes before.

ROSE: I don’t have it together, as some may think. I cry a lot. I I lose hope sometimes. I question myself and wonder why I didn’t go down a different path or make a decision that benefited me every now and then. But then I realize it’s all temporary. Life is temporary and nothing is worth going into a steep depression in my opinion, especially when I have little ones depending on me each day. I have no choice but to keep going.

SEYNABOU: You know, you’re giving me a lot of advice but it seems you have a lot to unpack yourself.

ROSE: I don’t deny it. But I haven’t found the time honestly.

SEYNABOU: Then you can’t make it sound so simple for me to make a decision either. Maybe I haven’t found the time either.

ROSE: You’re right. But quoi faire ?

SEYNABOU: It’s complicated. I wish I knew the answers we needed.

ROSE: I agree.

SEYNABOU: shit, what time is it!? We’ve been talking for so long.

ROSE: It’s 18H30.

SEYNABOU: Laye will be home any minute! I need to finish making dinner.

ROSE: I’ll leave you to it. You know, it never gets easier stepping aside to let you have your two days with him.

SEYNABOU: I guess we’re in the same boat. I cry every night he’s in your room.

ROSE: Do you think he ever cries?

SEYNABOU: Only when both of us as menstruating at the same time! Haha!

ROSE: Sad but you’re probably right. What exactly are we doing here?

SEYNABOU: You tell me when you’ve figured it out. In the meantime, I’ll finish my dinner and consider therapy to deal with my dependencies on a man who can’t give me 100% of him.

ROSE: At least you had a choice from the beginning…