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Broads, bumps and bellows

Kale women don’t scream.

No, we don’t. We never scream.

Decorum dictates that we approach intense situations with a quiet passion. A culturally silenced one. A tamed one. This quiet is our personal brand – it’s consistent, handed down, refined.
Public displays in screams and tears are considered too messy a barbeque of emotions, one which is reserved for women who haven’t been raised under the thumb of another atavistic kale woman. Our effort is directed toward learning to let your body speak for you, towards stoicism. Not screams.

I have three scenarios to show it.

Scenario one: a kale woman in the height of pleasure. Or rather, of being pleasured.
There will be the random crescendo of, “Oh yes. Yes, yes. Yes.” And, “Harder, do it harder.” Or, “You’re the daddy.” A string of dirty talk she has personified. A moan maybe. A shrill halleluiah which catches in her throat. Eyes may roll back in her head. Her lips could curl into a sensual ‘O’. You’ll have to pay attention for this one. But there won’t be a scream.

A pal of mine – let’s call him Sammy – once told me how he hooked up with a mami from Eldy who confused the shit out of his game. Sammy is busy, he’s wekelead that thing. And he’s working very hard at it. He’s sweating his ass off like he’s ploughing in the noonday sun. Heehe. The kale mami is chewing gum and eyeing him with stupefied look on her face. One that said, ‘Is that all you gat? Hm? Is that it?’
Now take the same scene and the same script, and export it across counties to Muranga. Sammy with a kuyo mami. Sammy said she screamed as if he was the best she’d ever tasted. She called him Shabba Ranks and said he was a champion lover. Talk of an ego boost. Heehe.

Second scenario: a kale woman in active labour. June 2008, I spend eleven hours with my sis at Aga Khan. Child birth didn’t evoke a scream from her. The most she said was this odd phrase which she whispered over and over the eleven hours I spent rubbing her lower back: “Wacha tu, wacha tu, wacha tu.”
I don’t know where she picked it up from. Or why she chose it to acknowledge surrender. But it came out in this raspy kale accent that made us laugh when we talked about it later. Lamaze nothing.
Last February, I’m with my pal in the early evening of a loose Wednesday. We’re at Nairobi Hospital. She’s three hours away from delivery, and hockeying her way to the thick of things. But she didn’t let out a scream. Nor did she have an odd phrase to cling on to. (She would later tell me she was focussing her breathing on managing the pain.)

The labour room was quiet. Her mano and I didn’t know where to stand or what to do with our hands. He was on his phone, locking and unlocking it. I tried to be useful – I tied her braids back, I cooled her forehead with a wet towel, I told her she’s doing great. All she returned was a nod and a vacant sweep of her eyes. He and I resigned to how helpless we both were. I remember we had one of those urbanite convos, those ones which go nowhere. Those ones which are screaming to be ended before they even begin.

“Hey?” he says.

“Wsup,” I say.

“You good?”

“Yeah bana. I’m easy. Easy. You?”

“Keeping it,” he says. I don’t even know what he meant by that. “Baby things.”

He chuckles. I crack a smile. I see a hash tag and a letter ‘z’ festooning that last part. Do you?

More silence.

Just then, the snack he’d ordered from the kitchen checks in. And he went on to have it right there, in the labour room, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the day to audience the birth of his son. I sat at the edge of the bed and returned to The Economist.

But that’s what you do when a kale woman is in labour: you have a bowl of fruit, you read a magazine, you clip your fingernails, you organize your phone book, you archive your emails, you engage old pals in empty WhatsApp convos. You will carry on with the mundanity of your selfish activities because there will be no screams from your kale pal to let you know if what are doing is right or not.

Third scenario: kale women in mourning. Not even death can smoke that scream from the pits it harbours. Kale women mourn behind closed doors – in their bedroom, their car, the restroom. It’s a silent and solitary affair but one that stings just as much.

My Mum is the closest example. She’s lost her folks, her brother and her sister. With her sister – her only sister – in the early ‘90s, my Mum told me how she shaved her head clean, stopped dressing up pretty and slouched with grief. Each time she looked in the mirror, she saw a wrinkle appear where her smile once were, one grey hair sprung forth after another. She aged. She was in a funk for months, years maybe, and she didn’t even know it.

*

But this isn’t really a story about women who scream. This is a story about how this preggers kale broad discovers how far out she can stretch in a pre-natal yoga class. The story starts in late July, when I am at 24 weeks. 6 months in.

I call Sheila – a yoga instructor in Westlands referred by a pal – and say, “Sheila, I feel as sexy as a loaf of bread. What can you do for me?” Sheila laughs. She tells me she can either give me a massage, or I can join her yoga classes. I tell her I am greedy, “I want both.” She laughs some more. “But tell me more about the yoga.”
Sheila says the charge is per class. But I can sign up for the package of 10 classes. I will get a discount and pay in instalments. The 10-class package includes an extra session where the new momsies can come in with their new-borns.
Sheila tells me each class runs for one hour. The Sunday class is from 9.30AM, the Tuesday class from 5PM, and the Friday one at 10AM. “It’s recommended you yoga thrice a week,” she adds.

I tell her I am good for the Sunday class, thank you. “So what do I need to come with?” Sheila says that all I need is a bottle of water and comfortable clothes (read: breathable stretchy cotton). The only other thing I need is a yoga mat, “You can carry yours, if you have one. But, if you don’t, we will give you one at the studio.” I quip that I’m kale, I don’t own a yoga mat. I laugh. She doesn’t.
(I have always found it sexy when I see those tattooed, lissom chicks carrying a yoga mat in those hand-stitched kitengee bags. It seems so eccentric. So bourgeois. You want to stop her and ask her what she’s all about.)

I tell Sheila I will see her Sunday.

Acacia Studios is on the third floor of Viking House. Right off the Westie roundabout. You can’t miss it.

The yoga room really is a studio. Think dance studio; wooden floorboards and mirrors lining all the walls from floor to ceiling. I catch a reflection of PwC Towers. To our backs are sliding windows which pour out into the eyeball of Westie. Sheila shuts them and she shuts the racket out.
There’s light soothing music playing in the background. Some Lisa Gerrard or Enya or someone. Incense burns at the back of the room.

Sheila is a dark, squat woman with sunken eyes and a firm, fleshy lunje bottom. She has small mounds for breasts. She speaks in broken sentences, with the hint of an accent.

I am at 24 weeks at this, my first yoga session. It’s a class of five – two Kenyans, three white mamis. I would later learn that my bump is the most progressed. But it doesn’t count for much. Unless, of course, you are looking for an excuse to falling behind the class.

The class kicks off with each of us sitting on our yoga mats facing Sheila – legs are crossed with your arms on your knees, thumb and middle finger touching in a relaxed pose. Sheila tells us to focus on the light in the middle of our heads. Do you know how we see this on TV and you imagine it’s a joke? Well, guess what? It isn’t. This is how it really goes. It seems so… theatrical.
I want to burst out laughing.

We warm up for a few minutes – neck twist, shoulder roll. We stretch our backs like a cat; hands flat on the mat with your toe nails digging in, bottom is high up in the air and your head turned in to look at your belly button. The downward dog stretch. Again, easy peasy. I begin to wonder what the fuss about the strain of yoga is all about.

Until the tempo and intensity is turned up, and the real stretches begin. The hell.

Sheila bellows the instructions and we move to as she moves. It’s like a choreographed dance. It looks practised and fluid from the outside, but from the inside, it’s grinding teeth and shortness of breath. We stretch, twist and bend. Squat and pump.
She shoots the instructions in quick fire, “Right leg forward, left knee bent and arms spread out. Now slide down to second warrior position and hold for one, sink in deeper, hold for two, sink in deeper, hold for three. Now release. Let’s take it to the downward dog stretch… Belly off the mat.”
I am sweating. My thighs and legs are killing me. I am groaning in pain, all that kale bravado has been flung out the window. I hear the German cuss in her native tongue, something like, Die Drecksau. Hehhe. My face is a contorted mask. But Sheila calls this out, “I don’t want to see any tight faces. Smile. Smile. Let me see those beautiful smiles. It’s easier when you smile.” And you bloody better smile. Even though you are just about ready to call it quits, you better bloody smile.

At one point Sheila’s voice lowers several notches to a caressing whisper: “Now put your hands over your belly, hold that beautiful life inside of you. Rock gently from side to side as you imagine that beautiful soul.” It’s very intimate then. Very galvanizing.

I am only settling into the mood when Sheila raises her voice again “Now let’s go down to all fours. Right leg stretched back, left palm facing up…” And so it goes. On and on and on. Until the hour lapses.

We wind down with lying on our left then close it off with a “Namaste”, bow your head in response and hum then, “Namaste.” (I swear, heehe.)

*

I’ve done this on almost every Sunday morning since that first time in late July. It’s one of those private pleasures that grow on you. It gets easier and funner as you go along, the ballooning bump notwithstanding. You only realize just how much it helps with your back until the day you skip it once.
A few times, class was cancelled because we didn’t have quorum; si you know how temperamental and hormonal preggers mamis can get. Other Sundays I slept in cause I’d tired myself out with a swim.

Last Sunday, at 36 weeks, I caught sight of my drooping belly in the mirror and thought, Damn, I will miss this. It’s been a good run. A bloody good run.

Oh yeah, one last thing, make sure to take your socks off before you start to yoga.

0
More guns than roses
Art and Craft

Comments (9)

  1. Modern Mom

    Wow. Captivating. It’s so funny what you say about Kale women. My best friend is one and I felt like you were describing her.

    • fra

      Cut from the same clothe, aye?

      Thanks for stopping by, Modern Mom, and for leaving a comment. Make sure to subscribe.

  2. Dennis Debett

    Am marveled by your diction, Real Kale Observations. To be Honest these need to be shared. Kudos!!!!#akalewouldsay

    • fra

      Heehe. Your comment is humbling, Dennis. Thanks, man.

  3. Dennis Debett

    Quote of the day “She speaks in broken sentences, with the hint of an accent”

  4. Mo

    So did you scream? I have been waiting for a post on labour or atleast motherhood…:-)

    • fra

      Hahhaa. No, I didn’t. Typically.

      Bebe and I are a few weeks in; the story is writing itself. It’ll be up soon, Mo.

  5. Linda

    wow, i love this. Stopping by here for the first and cant help but wonder when the next is coming….

    • fra

      I’m humbled, Linda. Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving your comment.
      Make sure to subscribe.

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@_craftit
Florence Bett-Kinyatti

@_craftit

Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,
Me

#craftit
  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Anyway.

To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 

Ha-ha.

No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.

Ha!

It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)

(Ahem.)

The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker
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