The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Know Thy Woman's Body, Dear Man

column

During my period of rest and brain-deadness I have been watching a lot of lifestyle television shows and I recently saw one that got me thinking. The basis of the programme is that men who do not like the clothes their wives wear get to throw out what they don't like and are given some money to buy their woman a whole new wardrobe.

For most of the episodes I have seen, without expert help, the exercise is usually a fiasco. The men have absolutely no idea what suits their women.

On the one hand, I sympathise with the men. You meet this lithe young woman who is always dressed up wonderfully for your dates, has beautiful long glossy hair and smells fantastic.

You marry her and suddenly the weave comes off and you have an entirely different and less sweet-smelling creature on your hands. Your glamorous girlfriend is now your frumpy life partner.

Meanwhile, the streets continue to be full of stylish young women that are appealing to look at. And you know that your woman knows that you are doing plenty of looking and you will get into massive trouble if you are caught.

So you imagine the solution is to get the clothes (and hair) off those other women and get them onto your partner. However, just because those other women can pull it off, it does not mean your woman still can.

We grow and we change; any adult must be cognisant of that fact. We change not only in our heads but also outwardly. Some of us grow larger from contentment and home-cooked meals; some of us have babies and never quite shrink back to pre-baby status or lose the stretch marks.

Some of us encounter the dreaded cancer and come away with scars on our once-prized bosoms; some of us have receding hairlines that scare us into shaving off all our hair. A great number of us prioritise our budgets and fashionable clothing is not on top of the list - children, bills and other projects take up too much space. For men to expect a never-changing partner is unfair and unrealistic.

One hapless husband on the TV programme spent a whopping 1,000 pounds buying his wife several pairs of high-heeled shoes and some delicate jewellery.

Did I mention that this man is a dairy farmer and he and his wife live in a rural area where she helps him in the farm? So where do a stack of pretty necklaces and uncomfortable colourful shoes fit into his wife's lifestyle? Or his, for that matter? How many men really know what their wife's daily schedule is like and what she would be comfortable wearing? Another husband bought his wife things a lady of the night would blush to wear!

Most of the men did not know their wives' sizes and many had never bought their better halves a single piece of clothing - rather, most admitted that their partners shopped for them.

On the other side, most of the wives were terrified of their man buying clothes for them and had absolutely no confidence that they could get it right. To such women, all I have to say is men get away with whatever you allow them to.

Sometimes we think we are being good wives when our men have no idea what the children's sizes are or what his own shoes and underwear cost. However, if you keep mollycoddling the man in the shopping department, he will eventually leave it up to you.

If he has the right to complain about how you look, then he should be able to take the responsibility of browsing through the women's clothing with you and helping you pick out something you are both happy with.

It was not all tears and gloom; many of the men realised they had seen the body changes and insecurities of their women. They had not understood the toll that lifestyle took on their women or the sacrifices they regularly made.

The women admitted they could not get away with wearing pyjamas all day in the name of comfort. There were some open and honest discussions which I hope a lot of the viewers will also have in their own homes.

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