October 30, 2016      16:30

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In Defence Of "The Other Room"


azubuike.ishiekwene's picture
Azubuike Ishiekwene

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Since President Muhammadu Buhari made the off-colour comment about his wife belonging to "the kitchen, the living room and the other room," social media has been on fire trying to figure out exactly where "the other room" is. Or what it means.

I've heard wives trying to check with their husbands just which of the three compartments they belong, and husbands specifying during phone conversations exactly which location they are taking the call from.

Why are we trying hard to find what is not missing? Or to figure out the obvious? The three basic compartments of a home are: kitchen, living room and the other room - the bedroom. Of course, Buhari didn't say the other room was the bedroom, but if he did, the same prurient netizens would have been first to accuse him of being politically incorrect.

Yet notice that holding back has made that last part even more titillatingly sensational than the parts said.

While we may criticize Buhari for suggesting that a woman's place is in the home, we have him to thank for what is perhaps the most eloquent compartmentalization of the home since Antediluvian man.

We know the missing link - and I'm not talking about the locker room, that woeful bastion of Donald Trump and his disciples. The missing link is the office, the place that has made modern life all the misery that it now is. If I had my way, I would make the essential Buhari enclave - the kitchen, the living room and the other room - the fulcrum of modern life, especially the other room.

Think about it. As I said early on, all the miseries of modern life come from striving to exist outside the enclave. Greed, consumerism, complex power relations, and, of course, predatory behaviours are downsides of existence outside the enclave.

In her moments of frustration, my wife has often said if I could pay her well, she really has no strong incentive to venture outside the other room. I often responded by saying I feel the same way too; if she could pay me well enough, why would I hunch over a computer either in the office or in the living room for hours on end? Didn't she read of the story of 36-year-old Jennifer Mulford who gave up a full-time job for life in the other room with her husband?

The point Buhari critics fail to see is that life outside the enclave is so fierce and brutish that any man who has the single-minded agenda to fight corruption will be looking over his shoulders every minute to be sure his wife is on the straight and narrow.

If she does not want to be corrupt, there are too many people out there - friends, friends of friends, friends of family, business people and politicians - who will not rest until they have used her to give their husbands the forbidden fruit. And if she's naturally glint-eyed, then the tempters don't even have to try too hard. She'll be lining them up to feed her own greed.

I honestly don't know why Buhari insisted that Aisha belongs to his kitchen, living room and the other room, but I think it would be somewhat hypocritical for us to pretend that we have forgotten that the man made it plain from the outset that there would be no Office of First Lady.

OK, maybe Aisha didn't believe him. Or maybe, like Jacqueline Kennedy, one of the most famous American First Ladies, she wanted to be more than a Campaign Wife. But she cannot say she had not been warned. She could have learned a thing or two from the forbearance of Jackie or, closer home, from the guile of Stella who knew when and how to pick her fights.

I know there's the risk of someone out there asking me whether I will seriously recommend life in the kitchen, living room and the other room to any of my daughters. My answer is that it's too late in the day for me to worry about that. I have already done my job by them. They'll have to make their choices for which they would be fully responsible.

The time to squabble over where to spend the rest of your life - kitchen, living room or the other room - is not after 27 years of marriage. It's long before you say, I do.