Married people and the imbalance in roles

Sunday December 17 2017


By Eugene Mugisha

We were to meet for drinks, but one of the ladies, Stella, was running very late. Sam, Esther, Grace and I had been there for over an hour. But we were okay with it. Stella is a married woman. She has obligations. Well, Sam is married too, ‘but, he is a man..’. There, right there! That is what started the argument. Interestingly, it was Sam who pointed it out.
I arrived last, and after settling in, asked about Stella. Grace said Stella was on her way. she was held up at home. Then she turned towards Sam and said, ‘man, are you like this to your wife too?’ Sam just laughed.

But Grace insisted. She wanted to know if at his home, Sam’s requirements took precedence over his wife’s. Gingerly, Sam gave a vague answer. Thankfully, Stella arrived, breathless, and apologised for coming late. Then, as if she knew what was being discussed, said, ‘ Things are not easy for married people. But for Sam it is different, he is a man...’. He should have let the comment pass, considering that Grace had already picked on him. But he asked, ‘what do you mean by that?’

‘Of course you are not subjected to the same restrictions as I am. You do what you want, when you want,’ Grace said. And I chipped in with, ‘exactly what, Stella?’ Stella replied with ‘lets put it like this, it is not as easy for women as it is for men in marriage. We are not at all equal”.
At first, I thought the discussion was about equality of men and women. But these two were specific to married people. Sam would not tell how he treats his wife, Stella insisted that her husband’s needs came first, and Grace supported her because she said she ‘saw how her elder sister is treated by her husband’, and so she considered herself knowledgeable on the topic. Esther just kept quiet and listened attentively. She was engaged, soon to be married. She was probably picking pointers.

But Sam rubbished Stella and Grace’s claims. Marriage is between two people. The relationship he had established with his wife was different from that of Stella and her husband. Maybe it appeared one-sided but it could hardly be called oppression if the other party put up with it. It is a delicate balance, give and take. The girls looked at him and burst out laughing. Clearly, they thought he was joking because according to them, there was no “give and take”. It was all about the man taking, his “lordship”, they said, rolling their eyes and laughing.

I had nothing to contribute, so I asked Stella what had held her up. Giving me that ‘can you imagine’ eye, she said, ‘he couldn’t find his cuff links. We had to look for them. And that means I had to look for them, because he cannot find anything. He is helpless like a little boy.’ Frankly, she did not seem resentful about babysitting her husband. Sam put it nicely by saying, ‘sounds like it was a fun activity for the two of you’.
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