Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Keeping His Temper for Him

This a trap, lying in wait for any woman who has spent her growing up years learning that any level of male savagery has to be lived with.

I have caught myself doing it.

I had a meeting of African women at my place in early Feb. Well, I meant to but only 3 turned up. We had a great gossip. That's how people know what they are doing is normal, by discussing what other people are doing. One of the main things we discussed is domestic abuse, because we are at an age now, in our early 30s, when our contemporaries are going through it. Guys we went to school with, sane and normal men we talked and laughed with, are battering their wives. Women we admire and associate with are turning up with bruised kidneys and black eyes. Trophy wives are living with thumping, and coming up smiling tautly at us. "So and so broke off her engagement quoting beating. She went back in time for the wedding, and we don't think it has stopped..."

Why is this happening? Is it political, because Kibaki is a laid back guy who is tolerant of the current extremes of Kenyan male misbehaviour? Is it written somewhere as a condition of marriage? As Julian Rathbone put it in A Very English Agent, 'Nobody wonders at it if a married woman turns up with a black eye, everyone knows how she came by it. A single woman with a black eye, though, is an occasion for comment.'

I was once at a party (in England), where one elderly lady had a black eye. It was obvious from her husband's hangdog, solicitous behaviour how she came by it, though she murmured something about a door. The truly appalling thing was everyone else's behaviour. It was my grandma's house, I took my cue from my elders (Why? Brutality is brutality, why should I condone it? But the woman was so plainly trying hard to make her world normal again, one went along in sympathy) and pretended I saw nothing. After all, if she thought it was so normal she could appear in public with it ...

I was told something vital by a Kenyan guy long ago, and didn't really believe it at the time. He said the woman has total power in the relationship. Any male/female relationship is completely in the woman's control. She conceives it into being and says what goes, what is acceptable behaviour.

It follows that the way to address the domestic violence issue is to tackle the women. Domestic violence is part of a continuum of disrespect that contains, among other things, men in their 40's footling off with ndogo ndogos in bars every evening. Never mind what they say, this is not because the girls are young and beautiful and the wives are not any more. This is because the wives are over thirty. 'By then women have lost their docility, they have awareness, they know too much,' - Nicky Gemmell, in The Bride Stripped Bare. the best book about sexual awakening I have ever read.

Imagine what would happen if you started running How to Have Sex And Enjoy It Immensely classes, for Nairobi women. The most erotic thing is having personal power, and the biggest turn on for a sexual partner is for you see to it that he turns you on. Imagine the stiffening backbones, the brightening eyes of diffident suburban housewives, as husbands began to turn up at home sober, every evening. As men began to concern themselves with what they might need to do to ensure that their wives got to bed not too tired and in a good mood, in the hope that today they might feel risque.

As men began to concern themselves with what behaviour their wives like. I'm getting so side tracked here, but I must just digress to eulogise this potential route to getting great head.

Women have not needed to be placated enough in this world for a culture of giving great head to your woman to develop. This is yet another indicator of the different ways men and women handle their tempers; any sex manual you pick up will have a chapter on 'How to Give your man the Perfect Blowjob/Handjob'. There's never 'Ten Steps to Giving your Woman Great Head'.

Proof positive that personal power increases your erotic capital. The art is so worth studying, and so neglected. Did you know a man can make you come with his tongue even when you're not in the mood? It was such a surprise when I met a guy who could do that; I thought cunnilingus was THE most intimate thing that only works when you're totally in the mood and totally in love. No, it just needs a guy to listen hard when he's learning and do EXACTLY as he's told. I didn't even like him that much, but my, could he get results every time.

Well, to get back to the nitty gritty. Things have been hard around here lately. We work awful funny hours, to facilitate childcare, and Himself hadn't been getting enough sleep. This meant constant war with me, and accusing me of everything under the sun. Why? When I'm out of sorts do I blame Himself for everything? No, I figure out why I'm out of sorts, and I deal with it and/or explain it.

It was reaching ridiculous levels. I was fighting from my back foot all the time. My daughter got to watch me fight a losing battle every time he lost his temper. Raising bewildered defences which somehow always missed the point, against accusations of laziness, of lack of understanding about the difficulties of the racism at his job, of greed for money ... with the constant assumption that it was me, my fault, I was making him angry, I was doing the wrong thing, the selfish thing.

I worked later and later to stay away from home, and then got yelled at for not being there to take the baby so he could get his last hour of sleep. I could feel myself cringing sometimes, flinching, waiting with truly no idea, to see if the next time he came through the door he was going to shout or smile, trying hard to keep the smiles going if they came. They could so suddenly disappear, one moment to the next. I never knew which trigger would hit the shout this hour, and I could never safely risk discussing it in a sunny moment either. This is a bitterly humiliating situation to be in. I got to wondering if I was doing it, if it was something about me that forcibly made a domestic abuser out of any decent man I might end up with.

I stood at the sink one evening trying to plan my next day to cause minimum aggravation, and I thought, why is that my responsibility? Sure as eggs is eggs, Himself isn't planning his day so as not to aggravate me, because if I get aggravated that's my business.

Next time he came downstairs and opened his mouth to shout I said, "You hold onto your temper."


"I keep my own temper. It's the only temper I keep. You look after you own one," and I glared.

He opened his mouth, closed it, turned away into the sitting room ... and next time he started losing it, the conversation suddenly turned, halfway through, as he talked himself into calm just like I would. "I'm really hungry, I don't mean that, let me just go get something to eat first ..." you know the kind of thing. Now, weeks later, he's saying things to try explain to us both why I might be upset when I've lost it. It looks like I finally managed to make the man think by refusing to think for him.

The relief.

The broadening out of my life into having energy to think about other things.

More than that. The continuation in the improvement. Nothing else I've tried has had an effect half so long lived. This one seems to be growing from strength to strength. I tried fear once, a wonderful story that deserves a post to itself, but I highly recommend refusing to keep his temper for him. Maybe it's me the change has happened in. I have refused to take responsibility for things which aren't in my remit.



At Sunday, March 18, 2007 , Blogger Lioness said...

Wow, that was a strong move. I think women want to sort out the man's emotions because, 1) of our motherly instincts - hell, I'm not his mother, 2)we're too insecure and afraid to be alone, 3) we don't understand that sacrifice is NOT accepting to be abused in silence, but letting go of one good thing in exchange of or hope for another.
Having been in a physically abusive relationship for over 6 years, when I realised where my mistake was (yes, from all the above, you can see my contribution, I took off like the devil was chasing me.

And yes, it is true that women set the pace for the relationship - by 'accepting' that first slap despite tears, sorry, etc, we open the door to all sorts of abuse.

At Sunday, March 18, 2007 , Blogger wasmaniac said...

Excellent post and so true...I wish more women could just learn to respect and love themselves a lil bit more...then perharps, domestic violence (the part coming from the man) would be history. Plus,the cunnilingus part, i need a few tips...

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 , Blogger Mama Wangari said...

Okay! I have one more day of annual leave, will have a go!


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