She stepped out the car and her four-inch heel touched the red soil. She immediately knew her white dress was a mistake for such an event. She smirked as she opened the door for her nephew; the rest of the ladies would have something to say about her outfit. After all, who comes to a child’s birthday party wearing a white body con dress, a flamboyant hat and four inch heels?
“You look lovely,” said her husband who stood behind her assisting to close the door. She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips, he always had a special way of reading her mind, and that’s why she married him six years ago.
“You don’t think it was a bad idea bringing Timmy, do you?” she asked as they walked towards the house.
“Nonsense,” Greg replied, “it’s a child’s birthday.It was lovely to let his parents enjoy a Saturday afternoon to themselves. Plus the rest of the children know him already.
Timmy was the son to Angie’s blood brother. Today’s birthday was on Greg’s side. She was thinking beyond mere appearances and was thinking about what the cousins and aunties would say behind their back. You see, the whispers had started but she did not want to stress Greg. He was a peculiar guy, always relying on facts. He did not understand why gossip would hurt you if it were not true. But his exception was Angie. If she was stressed, so was he. And if Greg was stressed, it showed in his work and in the way he related with people. He was an architect, and whether he admitted it or not, his emotions drove his passion to draw despite his practical mind.
Timmy rang the doorbell and turned to face his aunt and uncle. He asked if they were sure Fred would be there. They nodded and assured him that his only Star wars playmate would be there. And true to their word, a tiny Darth Vader opened the door and challenged his friend to a fight. Off the kids ran to the backyard as the adults walked in casually.
Cathy saw them by the entry way and walked towards them to welcome them to her home. She happily received their gift, and thanked them for coming with Timmy. They were then guided to the dining room where they could eat before joining the other adults.
Cathy always had impeccable taste in decor and ensured her house was a clean showcase whenever she had events. In the dining room directly opposite the large window was a huge A1 portrait of her family of five. Whenever they met the rest of the cousins, she made sure to remind them that taking care of three children and running a successful business while maintaining a happy marriage was no joke. But she always thanked God for the Grace she had and hoped that the rest of her female cousins would have the same grace if not more.
With lunch out of the way, Greg kissed his wife goodbye and went to join the men. Angie decided to pass by the bathroom to retouch on her makeup before joining the ladies. They were in the living room and their talk and laughter could be heard audibly.
As Angie walked into the room, silence creeped in first as they all turned to look at her. She felt self-conscious but managed to let out a little smile and say hello.
As always, Cathy came to her rescue welcoming her and showing her where she could sit. Once seated Angie immediately removed her hat. She was quite overdressed compared to the other ladies. I mean, Salome had shown up in sweatpants and a head wrap to hide her bad hair day. Angie took a mental note to stick to jeans and a casual blouse for such events. Martha was the center of attention today. Her eight year old son had made it to honor roll and was the best pianist the school had. He was going to England in a month’s time to compete against kids who took piano lessons as a life time career. It was quite impressive. And her business was doing great too, only last week she had made it to the top 40 under 40 women in the country, all for selling baby cribs!Everyone was happy for her and all the ladies agreed to a toast in her honor.
“Are you feeling sorry for yourself yet?” whispered someone into Angie’s ear. Se turned back only to find Tess behind her. She smiled upon seeing the one person she felt understood her. They hugged and Angie moved a bit for her so that they could share the couch.
“Am I glad to see you,” murmured Angie while holding Tess’s hand, “it’s been a long time since I last saw you.”
Tess smiled.”Well, I’ve been globe-trotting in the hopes of landing me a husband and getting accepted into the inner circle.” They both laughed at this comment.
The family saw Tess as a rebel, a woman beyond reproach. She had a wonderful daughter but she continuously refuse to marry the father of the girl. Of course they lived together for about a year after her daughter was born but things went south very fast. He cheated on her to the point of bringing those women home. He even slept with the help. So Tess left with her baby girl. A few months later he came back remorseful, pledging to be a better man, that her would never disrespect her again. But Tess’s heart was closed. She forgave him but she could never reunite with him. Tess’s mother and aunties did not understand what Tess wanted. They said marriage was hard and you stuck through the thick and thin. They said Tess was lucky that the man even apologized. They said if they were ever to tell her what they’ve gone through to keep their marriages Tess would happily take him back. But she was headstrong, said if he had disrespected her once, he would do it again. Said maybe she was stupid for not listening to her elders but she would rather be stupid and happy than unhappy and pretending to impress the world.
Angie loved Tess for you knew where you lay with her. She did not have time for family drama, picking sides and judging people. She believed that everyone deserved space to live as they wished and as family, we were there to provide a safe circle, nothing more. Her ideology of family therefore made her accepted in all circles, and was constantly used as a mediator of disputes when it came to the cousin squabbles. A
“Tell me about your fellow globe-trotter,” Angie said holding her friend’s hand, “your Facebook photos always leave me so jealous. I wish Greg had more flexible working hours then we could travel together.”
“Well, I’ve known him for about seven months now, and since there are many juicy stories involved, I would rather we have coffee this coming week and talk about everything in detail,”she said smiling. ” But let’s talk about you first.”
“What about me?” asked Angie now curious. “Am I in trouble again?”
Tess laughed. “Well, not really. But I thought it might be good for you to know what’s going on before you’re caught unawares. The aunties are at it again”
Angie sighed. That was code word for gossip. The last time she was a topic of discussion was three years ago. She had gone on holiday with her friends to the coast and aunt Bertha met her in town in a hot pant holding Jeff’s hand. Now, there was never an opportunity to explain Jeff was her best friend’s husband. By the time she got back home everyone knew she was having an affair with a man named Jeff. After all, what married woman dressed so provocatively whether her husband was around or not? Greg saw the humor in it all and said they owed no one an explanation, they can think all they want.
“Well, rumor has it you’ve advanced from a promiscuous gold digging wife to one whose husband cannot bear any children.”
“Oh no,” Angie said distressed thinking of how Greg would feel if he heard this gossip. This was the very first time he was ever a target of such malice.
“Yes, Greg cannot have any children and since you want to save your marriage, your back in the market looking for a man who can impregnate you. And it’s not short of you to look for a relative, that’s why you come to these family events dressed so seductively. You’re hoping that one of the men will notice you and-”
“Rubbish!” shouted Angie angry now.
The rest of the ladies turned to look at them confused. Tess started grinning sheepishly.
“Everything okay Angie?” Catherine politely asked.
Angie smiled in embarrassment. ” Yes, you know Tess and I, always getting carried away in our conversations.”
Cathy nodded and the ladies continued with their conversations.
Tess looked at how angry Angie looked and smiled. “Why are you so mad Angie? You know all these stories are lies.”
“Yes, but how can people be so, so mean? And they are the people who are supposed to have our backs.”
Tess smiled. “Ah, family. The glue that binds. It’s also the glue that suffocates. Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in a society where there are set expectations of us. You can dream, you can aspire to be more, but you must first conform to what we expect of you as a family.”
“Angie, do you think Martha would still be considered successful in the eyes of our family if all she had was her business?If she didn’t have a husband and children, do you think she would be accorded equal respect to Cathy? I mean, look at me. I am not doing bad, I may not be in the newspapers but I have my own house, my child goes to the same school as Catherine’s and Martha’s, I help out more relatives than the two combined but yet, they are accorded more respect than I am because they conformed to society’s wants before reaching for their dreams. It’s a double standard world and it’s stupid.”
“Tess, I understand where you’re coming from and I agree we cannot get approval from everyone, but why can’t we just let each other be? Why can’t we just mind our own business and support each other?”
“According to society, that talk is usually issued by the losing team. If you conform, you want to share your news and get approval. But people like you,” Tess said smiling,” people who just got married for the sake of love, are the ones that talk like that. Didn’t I tell you if you took long to have a baby people would start talking?”
“But we are not yet ready to have one.”
“Then you shouldn’t have gotten married. Marriage is for leaving a legacy, filling the earth as the bible says. A marriage is not complete without children, according to the society we live in. Having a spouse alone is not enough, it’s not complete. Unless you really can’t have children, then only will society let you breath.”
Angie sighed and looked at her dear friend. She understood so much for such a young age, and yet she rebelled. She put her happiness and self-worth first, which was something most women were never taught to do. It made her dangerous. She was the impossible turn true, a change from society’s thinking. But one would never know this simply by looking at her, for she was just viewed as a statistic of a single mother and failed marriage.
“What’s your secret? To preventing what people say about you affect you?” Angie asked, hoping to gain some wisdom on how to handle her oncoming situation.
Tess smiled. “Well, I always dance it off. Life is so much happier when you dance everything off.”