My wife and I exchanged smiles when a pregnant young woman said she was expecting a son instead of a daughter. It was her third child and the previous two were both girls. Her eyes betrayed her own words when she philosophically said that “it is all the same” since boys and girls have equal roles in the modern world.
We agreed and reminded her that we had been in the same predicament some years ago. We knew exactly how she felt. We prayed for a baby girl and each time a version of myself popped out. It was only the fifth time that our prayers were answered. She smiled but was not convinced. It was at that moment her husband walked in. He did not have much to say about the subject.
But then men have rarely something to say when a woman has to do all the work. When you are in your twenties and already saddled with three children just a year apart, a woman might feel a little trapped in the maternal role. Their men smile brightly, say little and go out a lot.
To fathers, it is just academic whether the second or the third child is a boy. They mumble something sympathetic when their wives complain but silently take all the credit for their role in the production room.
They have to make an excuse each time their mobile phones ring and go out under false pretences. Where they go when the wives are busy in the nursery room, is anybody’s guess. When they come back and smell of something they shouldn’t, the women can only say it with their eyes.
Lack of concrete evidence and perhaps too tired to wrestle the truth out of a man, they just cradle the baby and lull themselves to sleep. As we were saying goodbye to the couple, I cracked a joke about “loose men” and it was picked up by the wife. Quite innocently, she quoted her mother-in-law, saying, “Husbands are only yours when they are at home and they are up for grabs when they step out of the door.”
I stole a quick look at the man of the house and he smiled sheepishly. I winked at him and he turned his face away. Either he disassociated himself from the remark or the words hit the target. I would never know.
As we drove away, my own telephone rang but it was a childhood friend looking for a wife. He came over that evening and we chatted about the various possibilities of matching him up with a woman. I came with a solution. Since he had five children from the previous marriage, I suggested a divorced lady with an equal number of children.
It was a perfect match. He liked the idea. I also explained that they would not have to go through the nursery routine. It would be second time lucky for both of them. There would be no quick phone rings and a quick dash out for him.
With ten kids between them, I don’t think the woman would be worried about my friend being tossed up in the street and landing in the wrong hands. We left it like that when he drove himself home that night. He took my proposition seriously.
The man nagged me to start the ball rolling. But I lost my courage and asked him to do the rest. He is still pondering about it. I tell him to adopt the same technique he used years ago when he courted his first wife. I think he won’t because he is a little rusty and I might have to do for him in the end.
Saleh al Shaibany