I was in an village upcountry alone and on my first day, as I strolled along a long empty stretch of dusty road to look for food to eat, three men on a boda boda begun trailing me, asking me to ‘love them’.
“Leave me alone”.
“No”, said the men generous enough to share one woman between them. “We are going to follow you on this motorcycle”.
“Fine”, I conceded. “Follow away. Good luck enjoying doing nothing”.
And so for a few minutes I walked, they hooted and hollered and soon begun to feel foolish I suppose. They drove past me and disappeared.
Lo and behold, they were the first men I saw when I reached the restaurant. This time they had a restaurant of men to give them more gumption. The catcalls begun in earnest.
“Fuck off”, I told the one who ventured too close to me and I hurried around the back to eat in peace. When I was leaving, the catcalls resumed. It is a wonder to me how as countries tell women to be ‘decent’, they have no concern for the men that shame the nation. As I stood and stared at these fellows outside the restaurant they honestly resembled goats in heat. All I had to do was bend over and out would come their ding dongs.
It was pathetic. One man desperately cried out to me, “But why don’t you want me to love you?”.
“That’s it!”, I snapped. “I want one of you to come out of that restaurant and stand in front of me and talk to me like a human being”.
One man stood up and the others rushed to come out and escort him.
“NO!”, I shouted. “Together you’re a pack of dogs that give each other courage. I want ONE MAN to come out here and the rest of you SIT DOWN!”.
To my amazement, the men all sat. The one left standing swaggered out to meet me. We faced each other.
“Who raised you?”, I asked.
“What do you mean”?
“Who grew you?” I elaborated.
“I don’t understand”, he was in unfamiliar territory and all his fellows were eagerly watching his performance.
“Who gave birth to you?”
“My mother”, he answered.
“And did your parents raise you to loiter around like an animal determined to give and receive AIDS, and to treat women with no respect? To treat yourself with no respect? Don’t you and your friend have any dignity at all?!”
The men shouted suggestions to him and I shouted insults back to the lot of them. The owner of the restaurant came out and seeing what was going on, went batshit. I don’t know what language she spoke but she was clearly not amused with the men abusing not just her customer, but a visitor as well. Her tongue lashed on, my tongue added to hers and the man I was talking to actually run away from me and escaped into the restaurant.
To be honest I did not want to return for dinner. But I steeled myself and went back to the restaurant. It had only one small table and whoever didn’t get one would find a chair and manage without. I sat at the table and one man came over with a plate.
“Excuse me madam”, he said politely. “May I please have your permission to share this table with you?”
I was impressed. It was his table not mine but my demand for self-respect had pulled off amazing results in the space of an afternoon.
For the rest of my stay in that village, the men would greet me, “Hello Commando!”