Do people begin their stories by laughing at themselves? Well, this one will be good, so, buckle up!
It began like any other Sunday. And like any other Sunday, the kids were ready in time, as were the parents. The young adults, the men who had just grown beards, and the women who had just started forming ideas about independence, also known as my siblings were still in bed. Since we are a large, really large house household, we sometimes take two shifts to church.
I managed to sneak past my dad who was already at the breakfast table, to the spot in the house where we ironed. A few minutes later, my 7-year-old brother came and stood by me, and announced,
“There’s only one car today,”
The way he said it, so casually, like he did not understand the implications of this warning that my parents had probably sent him to convey.
To translate for non- Teregian households, this warning loosely translated to,
“If you delay because you are lazy moreover at this age (most Terego rebukings use age as a benchmark) you should have woken up at 6am, swept the compound, prepared breakfast, cleaned the dog’s plate, dusted the cobwebs off the mango tree. In short, that you are just waking up is an insult to our proud ancestry. If I finish this tea that I am calmly sipping right now and get into the car before you, you wait. You are finished.” Haha. The struggle.
Obviously, I could not make that impossible time line.
There’s a joke in my household, that when my old man warns you that he is getting into the car, after he has sat and tied his shoe laces, which he does slowly: he has issued his warning, he who has ears let him listen; when he reaches the corner of the house where he is safely out of view, he does a light sprint to where the car is parked, hurriedly starts it, and then drives off, probably laughing loudly to himself about how he has left these amateur children behind.
The next minutes went something like this: there was a hoot from the car. Warning number 1. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the only one in trouble, so I went to check how far my brothers were with their preparation. The only one that could answer said, “1% percent ready”. Hehe. These people are dead. At least I have my dress on. A few minutes later, they jumped out of their rooms, collars popped, pale as ghosts, looking like someone just poured a bucket of ice water on them. Clearly they were still struggling to find their orientation on the earth.
We did not hear the second hoot. The car just drove off. One of my brothers asked, “But what is wrong with the other car?”, to which I replied,
“The tyre is flat.”
“Ho! We are dead.”
I went back to my room to finish dressing up, and look for transport money to go to church. Dodging was not an option. We had to follow the parents, and then receive our grilling from the church grounds, probably after church had ended. To stay at home was not even an option, it’d be a ten-hour lecture, a re-evaluation of our worth as young adults, a revisit of all our sins from when we were two years old. Lunch afterwards would not enter properly.
After I was ready, I decided to walk out to the compound to wait for the guys and then we all head to church together. You should have seen the shock on my face when I saw these boys crouched on their knees, fumbling with the nuts of the tyre.
They eventually managed to change the damn thing, and we went to church, but as I watched them, I thought, wow, all these years, I have argued equality of the sexes; this is something I just cannot do. Even the way I think is different from these boys. My simple female mind; in that scenario, there was a car, there are keys, but the tyre is flat. There is a spare tyre. Even if I could drive (which I am working on, do not judge me so harshly) I would probably just curse the fact that I could not use it, I would see if I can get help, maybe, or just go by public means. But these guys. They fixed the damn thing. They’d never fixed a tyre in their lives. But they just saw parts, assumed where these parts went, and the car moved.
In that moment, I was impressed, stunned. I realise, maybe this whole feminist thing is tired. Maybe it means something else. I still believe both men and women can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it, but, those 3 boys fixing a tyre humbled it. It was like scales fell off my feminist mind. There are just some things men should do. And some things women should do. I am going to take some time to re-read Chimamanda Ngozi. Adichie, and Toni Morrison, and Sheryl Sandberg, maybe there’s some 3D to this equality thing that I have missed. All the time I have wasted arguing with the mostly male chauvinist boys from my uni grad class, the poor boys from Entebbe that have had to listen to my arguments about “Girls can do whatever they want”, they can, but there are some traditional roles that should stay untouched.
We eventually got to church. My dad asked how we got there, his smile already forming, the one that shows contentment when he knows punishment must have been served, to which I replied,
“The guys fixed the tyre”.
That must’ve vindicated us, because he did not say anything further on the matter.