My aunt gave me some relationship advice

She will probably shake her head in mild disappointment if she finds out I shared this in a blogpost, but I’m taking the risk because my auntie gave me some sound advice.

We- and by “we”, I mean most Ugandan communities- have a tradition where paternal aunts are responsible for the sex education of the girls of the family. What I have heard of this is ridiculous enough for me to decide that I will not play this role in my brother’s children’s lives. I figured that there were parts of tradition that were okay to let go of, and my immediate family is too mixed, too displaced to do tradition anyway so it would not be missed. But a recent interaction with a woman that has played the role of aunt in my life has made me reconsider this. My connection to her is on my mother’s side but she is aware that my siblings and I laid to rest our last surviving isenkati, the wonderful vivacious Auntie Phoebe, in 2012 and might have been trying to fill that space.

This is what she told me, as we stood in the middle of a sidestreet with her hand on my arm, holding me still so I would pay special attention because this was more important than everything else we could say while we walked:

She told me to have alone time for my partner, for us to be alone away from the chaos of our friends and families. “Don’t take your friends or sisters when you go out with him. There will be family times, but make sure there are always times when it’s just the two of you.”

She told me to take care of him. “Do your part with one heart. Give it your all, and don’t stress out about him not doing his part.”

She told me not to be so quick to break up with him because people had the same faults. “Don’t go because he cheated on you once. The next one will cheat on you too.” I am not comfortable with the idea that I should stay after indiscretions, or that all men are the same and all are cheaters. But she made me re-think my deal-breakers and how we have all grown up with the same system so our collective faults are more common among people, even when we like to make each other individually responsible.

She ended her mini-lecture with- and this is the part that makes me love this woman especially- “after you have done your part, and he is not doing his, you tell me and send him to me. He will then have me to deal with.”

I don’t know what kind of dealing with him she meant but I felt safe because she switched from Luganda to Kinyarwanda to say mbwira [you tell me] so I know she was serious and he should consider that a threat. It was equal to “you treat my daughter good…or else.”

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