The folly with running a column as intimate as ‘My Mother and I’ is that you start to let out the family secrets. Obliviously, good naturedly and passively so. Their dirt hangs on the sinews of these words, it reeks from the title right to between the cracks of your paragraphs. Each post is a tell-all. And one day someone will run to your kid bro and say, “Oi, I see where that shyness comes from.” Or your big sister, “Kumbe you’ve always been a crazy bitch. Heehe.” Or your Mum, “I didn’t know you had a thing for soaking stuff?”
But flip the dice on it. You realize that writing this is a confession box in its own right. You come here to find forgiveness for your own sins, to separate what cures your disease from what maligns it. You exorcise your demons here, cleanse your soul. This, for me, is what the Greeks call cathartic – a purification of your emotions through a work of art.
I can’t achieve my desired level of catharsis without uncluttering my people’s closet. Not without stealing stuff from them to use as material for these pieces. Or running the risk of them finding out that they were the spark behind my selling idea. I’ve messily failed if I get caught. Because people recognize themselves in your words and taunt you for being so sardonic. It’s inescapable. You could be smart about it, attack it with some ladylike tact – you could mask your characters with new names, bend the truth a little maybe. Throw in some blind hints. Some red herrings. You know?
The reason why I ask about being a spill-all type of girl is because I know it’s a habit my Mum frowns upon. You can’t go around calling yourself a lady when you take every encounter as an opportunity to sift through the shambles of your household, she said. It’s a taboo to.
Remember that line from Margaret Ogolla’s River and the Source? Where Akoko (or was it Adhiambo? Awiti? For the love of me, I don’t remember that name) suspects that her husband may be unfaithful before he ends the affair? Do you remember what she said when she considered – then reconsidered – confronting him about sticking it where he shouldn’t? She said, “Not everything in marriage has to be talked about.”
I love the simple power of that line. Go on, read it again.
I will steal that. And I will stretch it across the nooks of every girl’s life, like the skin across a drum. Keep your mouth shut, darling. You don’t have to share everything. Because you will spill your shit. You will search frantically for a listening ear. And they will listen alright. Only that they won’t think you are a woman looking for a more astute, more conjunct perspective. They will think – nah, scratch that, they will know – that you are a lonely girl who doesn’t know when to put the brakes on it.
And that ain’t pretty.