It must be rough being a young man or woman these days. This is not a lament for the mythical good old days, the halcyon days when everything supposedly worked perfectly well. The old days were not so good — diseases had no cures, so if you caught something major like kaswende or kuhara, you relied on fate.
If you woke up with a headache, there was no Panadol or aspirin to kill your pain — you suffered without bitterness for some time and, if the herbs administered by the village witchdoctor didn’t kill you, the headache would. That was a nasty, brutal and very short existence. But heck, we survived.
But those days were tolerable in one aspect, and that was dating and marriage. Or whatever it was that passed for dating — young men those days didn’t have colleges and universities to go to, and young women didn’t have high heels to buy and clubs to patronise, or chamas to sashay into for, say, gossip.
The girls were brought up with one aim in mind: turning them into wives as quickly as possible. The boys, meanwhile, pretended to be tough young mohines, running around avoiding taking a bath in the nearest river and smearing themselves in smelly fats and disgusting red earth.
The dating, when it came to that, wasn’t much. The boy would identify a girl he liked, get his mates together, waylay the poor girl on her way to the river to fetch water — or on a firewood-gathering excursion — and cart her off to his hut.
Having made his mark on her, dowry negotiations then followed while she remained his wife. Job, more or less, done. Ha! Basically, back in the day, guys used to kidnap women and turn them into wives! Crude, but hey, who was complaining?!
Today’s kids are in for a more peaceful but far more challenging experience. First is the sheer competition: a girl today has so much competition trying to find a suitable boy to hit on her. There’s the traditional expectation that the girl will play coy and let the boys chase her. But if too many boys pay attention to her, she looks slutty and all of them lose interest. If too few pay attention to her, she risks ending up with a useless man.
And all this while, she is competing with married women, sugar mummies, female politicians and other assorted cougars for the attentions of those young boys in college. The pressure is sometimes too much, leading these poor girls to paste on all manner of artificial enhancements — fake hair, fake eyelashes, fake eyebrows, fake bottoms, fake breasts, fake nails, even fake accents — in a quest to nab a boy and hold him down. The erstwhile hunter is now the hunted.
Gone are the days when men had to be competitive, to be worthy of someone’s daughter: a lazy, good-for-nothing noisemaker would not be allowed to even entertain thoughts of getting near someone’s daughter. These days, it’s all about shortcuts. Young men with dubious sources of income flash a couple thousand shillings here, a big car there, and they bag the hottest chicks in the village.
It has left the hard-working village man with a desperate race to find a wife, a race that he is not winning any time soon because the girls want to see cash, cars, big weddings and long trips to far-flung places for these strange things called honeymoons. Bring those old days back, someone!