In December last year, I popped the big question. Vera is a pleasantly witty lady with a dark sense of humour. We had met in college three years prior. After graduation, I landed a marketing job at an insurance firm. Vera had joined her family’s city automotive business finance department.
Right after that proposal, I dropped another. Hit the iron when it’s hot, they said. In any case, she would spend days on end in my Buru Buru rental apartment. Vera still lived in her family home, in ‘….a chilly, quiet town that never makes news, that Nairobi forgot and stuck away like a useless belly button.…’
Accept my apologies, Great People of Limuru.
Move in? She said: NO!
She could not move into a ‘filthy man-cave smelling of cigars, old books and a faulty shower head’. She nominated and vetted self to head the all-important Ministry of Housing in our fledgling government.
One: The non-functional hot-water shower head in my apartment was deliberate sabotage. As a way to save on expensive power! That thing would chew power tokens like Njugu Karanga!
Two: My marriage proposal was not overly driven by love. This union was in part inspired by its convenience and usefulness in the pursuit of some personal goal!
In self-defence, love for my fiancée has grown tenfold in the five months we have shared a house.
Three: Peer pressure from my gang, but - the good kind. My gang is made up of the four people in the world I’ve known longest - college friends. We had branched out into the corporate world, from insurance, banking and marketing.
We all had an almost identical salary bracket - but, by virtue of all four of my friends married to working spouses - I had a different income bracket. Their households had a double income! I always seemed to play financial catch up.
Naturally, financial talk regularly comes up when hanging out. For them all, the phrase ‘my wife’ always came up.
Ndun’gu buys a plot of land: My wife surprised me with half the....
Mark upgrades family dudu to a SUV from Sacco dividends: My wife is a magician in investments…
Someone locks in a new client: My wife touted my horn on her social media page…
Clearly, two minds are better than one. Oh, two income are better than one.
Besides her effortless beauty, ethnic curves, excellent cooking skills and unconditional love, Vera had something else to bring to the table - a GOOD INCOME!
Oh, plus attractive perks like an annual vacation, a car and medical insurance!
I’ve read extensively on marriage and relationships. Vera is also quite well-read. We are both in our 30’s, mature and both working stable well-paying jobs. We had largely symmetrical hobbies, likes and dislikes.
We have few things the other doesn’t like. Like Karaoke, for instance.
Vera’s religion is Karaoke, she loves singing. If I leave the toilet seat up, lose the cap on the toothpaste tube - or, generally mess up - I know to make it up to her on the next Karaoke Wednesday. Meru toxic masculinity frowns on singing, so I usually sit and intermittently play either hero or villain of her R&B song.
Meanwhile, she gradually fills our table with brightly-coloured complementary cocktails with little umbrellas and difficult-to-pronounce names. Overall, we are a terrific couple.
But - there’s always one - we have been some really bad fights.
We didn’t fight like couples. We did not fight over drugs, infidelity or meddling in-laws. All our fights have been about money. And, mostly - no, all the time - it’s usually me messing with our finances.
The one thing I had thought would help me slay the demons that keep me awake at night was bringing them around to the daytime.
I’ve always wanted to get rich. Not, crazy rich level of white-gloved valets, chauffeurs and huge banquets. No, just comfortable rich level. Of debt and rent-free living, good schools for my kids, a decent investment portfolio, health insurance and early retirement.
That’s what being rich means to me.
But, as I get older that goal keeps getting further from my grasp. That itch started a few years back, I started my savings’ journey. Saving has been touted as the most sure-fire way to financial stability. My father, and his father before him - are great adherents of the savings’ gospel.
My fiancée, too - is big on finance, and savings.
Vera has diced up her entire monthly income into financial pigeon holes: Personal expenses, Investments, Emergency funds, Shares, Family expenses, Vacation….and so on. Wait, she has instilled in me that financial discipline, too.
Further, we decided to set up a joint account with one of the banks, separate from our regular account. Here, we would both deposit money for the household bills and utilities, or other family expenses. Things like rent, fuel, food and occasional shopping for clothes, electronics….name it.
On spending, we are quite sane as a couple. The last two months, though, I made vague withdrawals, and even used an overdraft facility attached to the account.
This has been the source of our fights. Vera is furious with me. She insists, that the major issue is me making undeclared withdrawals on our joint account. I was guilty as charged.
A man tags along much more than their heart, loyalty and commitment into a new marriage. Unlike the woman, a man still has his background and culture clinging fast on his back. The traditional provide and protect roles goes beyond a man’s immediate family.
Now, boundaries are important here - but often get blurred. Because, background.
As school’s re-opened for the second term, I had received a call from my cousin Mercy. She had her son in junior secondary, and the fees were astronomical - needed assistance. She asked for Ksh10,000, a very legit request.
Now, in our domestic constitution, a cousin fell beyond the lines in what constitutes ‘assisting the extended family’. That clause featured parents, and immediate sibling.
But, it would have been hard to narrate to Vera just how instrumental Cousin Mercy had been in my upbringing. Mercy had been my de facto nanny in my earlier years. We shared a very special bond. I had made the withdrawal, and paid the fees.
A week or so later, I had received a frantic call from Uncle Tosh. He’s the youngest dude, on my mother side - around my age. We had grown up together, like brothers. Tosh had been busted in a raid on a local liquor den, and needed Ksh5,000 cash bail. To think of Tosh spending the weekend locked up was a little distracting.
I could not explain that to my fiancée, Vera. I hit the overdraft on our account.
Right now, I’m praying hard that my beloved Grandma does not call me for money. Poor, old lady is often behind with her set monthly contributions to her Women’s Guild at the local PCEA church.
Man, I have no clue how to balance between sticking to our financial constitution as agreed with my fiancée, and keeping true to the expectations borne of my background and culture.