“No wife material out there anymore. A girl spent the night at my place and I asked her to cook rice. She cooked it in my kettle because she didn’t want to spoil her nails when washing the dirty pots. This generation is in trouble.” I read this online a few days ago. It was posted by a frustrated young man who felt aggrieved at the actions of his girlfriend who failed her audition to be his wife. I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes. Where does one even begin to break this one down? Let me try. *No wife material out there anymore*
According to the established stereotypes, a prospective wife should be able to cook (ideally with actual pots and pans), clean (entails scrubbing said pots and pans with bare hands and not a machine), shop on a budget (provided by the male breadwinner), give birth to children and take care of them (with or without support from Mr Man), have sex on demand (whether in the mood or not), not talk too much (too aggressive) not be too quiet (the children of a quiet woman might turn out to be daft) not ask too many questions (especially where are you going? or where are you coming from?).
A good candidate must be able to match the fortitude of her mother and the perseverance of her mother-in-law. Anything short of this is unacceptable. Yes, wife material is probably going to continue to be in short supply if the list of unrealistic expectations continues to grow. *A girl spent the night at my place* I will pass on this one and leave the anti-fornication, no sex before marriage experts to respond to this. *And I asked her to cook rice* A pretty young lady gets invited to spend the night by her beau. The cheap fellow can’t take her out for a treat, at least to lay the ground for anticipated post-dinner activities. Let us say he is unemployed or broke, can’t he offer to cook the rice just this once? He did not see the need to impress his girlfriend?
Obviously, she was the only one auditioning for the role of wife; he did not see himself in contention as a caring, loving husband willing to chip in when required. That is what male entitlement looks and sounds like. One of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten was rice with Geisha fish and sauce cooked by my handsome gap-toothed boyfriend years ago. I found out later that it was the only thing he knew how to cook, but I was so bowled over with his efforts and willingness to impress me, I didn’t mind doing the cooking while he helped with other things. And for the benefit of the busybodies, the boyfriend became my husband! *She cooked it in my kettle* This one is tricky. The lady guest either gets an A for innovation (for thinking outside the box) or an F for falling far below expectations. She was obviously given an F, but sometimes people are set up to fail.
Why would you send a guest to cook in your kitchen when you have no clean pots? From what you posted, the rice looked nice, so she accomplished her task, why call her out? *She didn’t want to spoil her nails* Young man, do you have any idea how much a manicure costs? Did you pay for the manicure, or are you willing to pay for it should she ruin her nails? Since you pushed her in to your kitchen to cook rice instead of serenading her at a nice place for dinner, it is safe to assume that you did not invest in the manicure. Do you know if she had an interview the next day or an important family event, and needed to have neat looking nails? *When washing dirty pots* You should be ashamed of yourself. A fine babe comes to spend time with you and you want her to wash dirty pots. If she cooks (with pots or a kettle) it is only fair that you do your bit by washing up. It shows chivalry, good breeding and a commitment to fairness. I am sure you were taught how to wash pots but you don’t think it is necessary to apply the skills since there will always be a woman around to do it – a mother, sister, girlfriend or wife. Now you know that next time a lady friend is coming over, you have to wash all your pots so that your kettle does not end up with rice in it.
*This generation is in trouble* You mean this generation of you and your babe? No, you are not in trouble, you are alright. Your case is like that of the person who wants to die who meets the person who wants to kill him. You are very compatible. Two selfish, lazy souls who have found each other. You are not in trouble, at least not yet. Let me lay it out for you. You will move on to date another lady who meets your criteria of ‘wife material’. She will be very pretty, but not too pretty to cook, clean and throw out the trash. She will attend church regularly and all your family and friends will love her because she is respectful. She is well educated and has a good job, but not accomplished enough to threaten you. After you marry her, within two years you will notice a difference. The perfect ‘wife material’ will turn out to be shrewd and cunning, exploiting your need to have your huge ego massaged. Your family and friends who were so enamoured of this perfect wife of yours would have been systematically weeded out of your life with her cold stares and rudeness. She will not put up with your behavior so she will complain all the time.
Soon, your pleasant co-worker Amaka in the office will become your close friend and will graduate to your mistress. Then she will get pregnant and your perfect wife material will find out. Then, you will be in trouble. You will be so miserable that you will wonder what would have been if you had chosen the girl free spirited enough to cook rice in a kettle.
This generation was brought up by a generation who had certain core values around human dignity, decency and respect. However, it was also a generation steeped in patriarchal norms and values, with devastating results for women, and these values are being passed on without an assessment of their consequences. Our mental health institutions play host to many older women who landed there due to one issue or the other triggered by a man in their lives.
If young women in this generation decide that they are not going to end up like their mothers and grandmothers, we can’t blame them. We have to listen and hear what they are saying. The rice in the kettle episode was an act of rebellion with a clear message. The world has changed. The roles of men and women are changing and if we can’t accept that, we will live with the fall out. I am not saying women should not know how to cook or do chores. I am saying that the value of a woman should not be determined by how good her food is or how clean her pots are. We cannot continue to raise our daughters in service to entitled, lazy men.
Marriage is an institution in which two adults find love, respect and peace together, with emphasis on the word adult. These fundamentals keep the union together through the good and the challenging times. In the scheme of things, how or where rice is cooked or who cooks it, makes no difference.
By Erelu Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi