One of the easiest things I’ve ever had to do in my life is oft considered unpatriotic. You know those things that make you inherently Kenyan? Well, I went against the grain and became supposedly unKenyan. I became a vegetarian.
This tumultuous journey started at the tender age of 11 at a dining room table. We were having a guest for lunch after church. This man passed up on all the chicken and meat that was dangled in front of him. Eyes wide, I asked ‘You’re vegetarian?’ He replied in the affirmative. When I asked how long he had been so, he said ’20 years.’
3 thoughts ran through my mind. 1, no wonder he was slender-ever seen a fat vegetarian? 2,why in the world?…and 3,how cool would it be if I could say I’d been vegetarian for x years, and watch people’s eyes widen in awe and amazement because of my iron will, my admirable self-control and my-albeit unpatriotic-lifestyle choice?
So I stopped eating meat. It really isn’t as hard as everyone believes, except for the fact that my parents kept forgetting and acting surprised when I wouldn’t devour a drumstick. And the way everyone’s default line after finding out is ‘Can I make you some eggs?’
Seven years later, I returned to the land of the omnivores. I had told myself seven years was all I was going to do. Impressive enough.
What turned out, interestingly enough, to be harder than going green, was being a virgin. Let’s be honest; I know a scarce few who still have their cherries – outside of religious reasons, or not having yet reached puberty. The chances that you will meet a Kenyan person whose territories are still uncharted, so to speak, is about as likely as Kenyan politicians admitting that maybe they should step down from power. Sex is everywhere, and has been for years, and you know how they say everyone’s doing it? They’re right. The models on advertisements more often than not have absolutely nothing to do with the product. Kenyan-made programming is beginning to try and incorporate our hypersexual lifestyle – anyone watched Higher Learning lately? Remember when The Bold and The Beautiful was as scandalous as it could get? There are black people – who we know!- making out on tv. If that’s not a symbol of a sexual revolution, I don’t know what is.
And if there’s anything that is more stick-in-the-mud conservative than being a virgin in this our Kenya, I am yet to discover it. People’s faces start twitching when I mention it, like they want to ask “What ARE you?” or “But you’re…Kenyan!” As if on my passport there should be a section to indicate my sexual prowess, or lack thereof. We’re a surprisingly small number, dwindling by the day. It’s no longer a badge of honor-it’s more like something you hide until you absolutely have to admit to your…’flaw’. No one understands it anymore, especially the reasons behind it, whatever the logic. We’re like UFOs or Safaricom dividends-mythical creatures reputed to be sighted but not believed to actually exist. Now, it’s hard enough to find a virgin, much less sleep with one.
Doesn’t help that all red-blooded males run for the hills whenever the confession is voiced. It’s like an automatic rejection, like an out-of-office reply. The sirens start whirring and the dude starts backing away,*beep.beep.beep.* next thing you know, you’re left to your own chaste devices. I’ve seen it a million times.
Point is, it’s not that big a deal. Vegetarianism and virginity; in a sense, both are simply refraining from the flesh. Until I find a good enough reason to cross that line, I’ma be ‘vegetarian’ for a while yet – and still a law abiding Kenyan citizen. OK…most laws.