I grew up in a middle-class estate in Nairobi. My parents worked for the government as accountants. Therefore, with their salaries, my siblings and I had a moderately good life. We were five of us, three girls and two boys. Due to the restraining nature of white-collar jobs, we couldn’t afford a luxurious life. Personally, I have always dreamed of walking into a supermarket and pick anything I wanted without looking at the price tag. You know, that feeling of not caring how much it will cost because you can afford it. However, my parent’s budget limited me. I couldn’t get the latest smartphone. Neither could I buy brand new clothes without denting their wallets. Everything we wore, from shoes to clothes, all were second-hand clothes.
Still, my parents borrowed loans and leased their lands to get extra money for school fees and basic needs. They made sure their children went to good private schools and got the best medical care the insurance company could give. I am really thankful for their efforts. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted that high life. Some of my school friends came from wealthy backgrounds. They went to popular events and in turn, they became popular. I wanted that. I wanted to waltz into celebrity joints and clubs without care. Even if that seemed impossible, having the latest smartphone in the tech world would be more realistic. I finished high school, got excellent grades and joined college.
Freedom and Extravagance
Finally, I was free from parental surveillance. The freedom was soo intoxicating. I saved money from what my parents sent me for upkeep. At times, I would sleep hungry just to save enough coins to buy a concert ticket. I met a wonderful guy in one of the house parties I attended. We hooked up and weeks later, after exchanging countless texts and phone calls, we moved on to the next level. We were in a relationship. Mark was just like me financially. He came from a middle-class family, but what made him different was his side hustle. He was a photographer with numerous photoshoot sessions with countless clients. With him at my side, I was never broke. My parents still sent me money that I used for fun and shopping.
My boyfriend financed my lifestyle. And with each week and every fancy place I visited, my taste and style became expensive. Everything has its breaking point, and Mark’s no point of return was me. The extravagant lifestyle was way beyond his affordability. So, he dumped me and I was back to saving what my parents gave me. This trend went on throughout the four years in college. Relationships grew and withered due to my luxurious taste. The thought of grabbing myself a sugar daddy once crossed my mind, but the health risks outweighed the profits. Plus, there were so many incidents of young women my age getting killed by their sugar daddies when pregnancy or money issues got involved. So, that was out of the equation.
Back to Rugs and Hustle
After graduation, I had to face life without parental support. I had no boyfriend at the moment. Therefore, I sent applications to every job advert that involved my profession. I waited for three months, eight months until a year. All the jobs I applied for, none sent a response. I resorted to manual jobs. This was a low blow to my expensive lifestyle. Since I was 23 years old, marriage was definitely my way out. I just had to trap a rich young man to give me what I needed. I was tired of waiting tables and selling generic smartphones in the city stalls for a meager Ksh 15,000/= monthly ($147.90). Worst of all, I lived in an estate where theft was rampant. Wet clothes and pots on jikos were stolen in broad daylight. Personally, I had lost three pairs of sandals after leaving them at my doorstep. I had to change my fate.
Setting the Bait
After months of cleverly searching for a rich young man to fancy me, I succeeded. It was the end of the month and I had bought a ticket for a celebrity event in Nairobi. With my pretty face and the fanciest dress I had bought myself a month ago, I looked like a million dollars. Thanks to my smile, fluency, and smooth skin, I easily passed as a financially stable lady. I met him in the crowd as I was talked to another lady guest whose name I couldn’t remember. He introduced himself as Michael and proceeded to whisk me away from the conversation. We sat at a bar and talked throughout the event until it ended. We exchanged numbers as he called me an Uber.
He was rich. I could tell it from his phone, watch and perfume. Also, he asked the bartender for the really expensive drinks. Then, he paid for our drinks with his credit card, a platinum Visa card. Yes, I was keen and bedazzled. He was 32 years and handsome. How lucky was I? For the next two months, we met at the cafe’s, restaurants, hotels, and theatres. We had a good time and my sixth sense told me he was slowly falling head over heels for me. A year down the line, he proposed. I remember screaming ‘yes’ even before he popped the question on bended knees at a popular club. At last, my seduction and good looks paid off.
Beginning of the End
The marriage celebration was colossal. Michael’s relatives were filthy rich and common household names. I was surprised to know that he was related to a famous Hollywood star with an Oscar to his name. The event was a national sensation. The paparazzi were all over me and the guests had to pick up their jaws when I stepped through the cathedral’s double doors. It was my fairy tale wedding. I was Cinderella (I was as close as being a pauper as she was a maid) and he was my handsome prince.
The honeymoon was awesome. He=is surprise gift was taking me to my dream vacation destination. After the marriage blues, I quit my job to become a full-time mom. I got pregnant six months after the wedding. I had to please his family fast or give jealous in-laws space to bad-mouth me. As if luck knew my intentions, I got twins. The evil in-laws who thought I was barren had to bite their tongues and swallow the bitter shame when they found out I had twins during my baby shower. The babies’ ultrasound photos were plastered on the living room walls during the shower. A piece of irrefutable evidence. Fast forward. The delivery was tough. I never knew I could scream and curse at the same time while breathing out hot puffs of air. I was a dragon.
The Evil Cycle of Domestic Violence
The babies were adorable. A boy and a girl. It was a year after their birth- their birthday. As a housewife, I made sure their party celebration was a success. Michael, as usual, was not home. Since the twins came home after the horrific delivery, my husband changed. He came home very late at 1 am every week. His excuse was that he was busy and that the babies constant cries were distressing. Apart from this, he became irritable and distant. Any mistake I made in the house sparked arguments. Once, he even raised his hand to hit me but I threatened him with divorce. He stomped out of the mansion in anger and disappeared for five days.
The birthday went smoothly and the kids received charming gifts. However, their dad didn’t show up until 3am. He was drunk and in the company of an escort. She was beautiful, curvy and straight from the runway. Yet, I was slim with a belly recovering from baby fat and stretch marks. I was angry and mad. I tried to chase away the woman but he blocked me from touching her. He twisted my wrist and slapped me so hard I saw stars. The pain made me scream and in turn, the babies woke up from slumber with ear piercing cries. This made him angrier and he proceeded to call me names as he kicked and pushed me in the living room. The escort had excused herself to wait for him in his limousine. This was just the start.
Why I Stayed.
A week later, he brought different women into the mansion. When he was done entertaining them, he would either verbally abuse me or go out again. I always hoped for the latter each time he came home. Sometimes, he would wake up in the morning and act like the man I fell in love with. Another time, he would be all romantic and promise to change and be a good father. The twins grew up loving their dad. The kids were in a separate wing of the mansion when he became a monster and tortured me. Michael took them to international boarding schools in Europe once they turned 13 years. Thus, he fed his bad habit more frequently.
I thought of divorcing him, but how will I get a job at 37 years with all these youths flooding the market? Also, I have not worked for the last 15 years. What will my interviewers think of me? This is Africa, getting a job is as hard as planting an apple tree in the Sahara Desert. And if I walk out on Michael, how will I support my kids? I can’t even imagine the shock they will experience when they relocate from a mansion to a single-room shack in Kibera slums. Moreover, I still love him, though not as much as before. More than once, I had to get treated for an STI. He refused to get treated and blamed me for bewitching him.
Right now, Michael has rekindled his old flame. He has started going out with his ex. I fully oppose this but in silence. He threatened to disown his children and leave them without inheritance should I raise my voice against any lady he sleeps with. Furthermore, he doesn’t approve of me socializing with anyone. Whenever I go out, I am chaperoned by his goons who report to him on my every move.
My dear girls, learn from me. Gifts from men don’t come free. When you go on those dates or accepts his gifts be ready to give him what he asks. For this reason, ladies, learn to be independent. Work hard and earn a living so that no man can control you through money. There is pride in the work of your sweat.
To women in violent marriages, don’t stay in the name of children. The damage violence inflicts on children is not worth the sacrifice. They are better growing up in a peaceful home than in a rich violent home. Once a man beats you, he will not stop. It’s never too late to walk away. Choose life today.