One day the Missus said, “Did you know Tamms keeps a diary?” I said, “Yes, the school diary for homework.” She said “No, like a private diary that she writes her own stuff in.” I said, “No, but that’s nice.” Then she said, “You should read what she writes about her best friends…” and I said, “Whoa, wait a minute, you read her diary?” She looked at me ludicrously and said, “Uhm, yes?”
“Are you shittin’ me?”
“Are you kidding me? Why would you do that?”
“You can’t read her diary!”
“Yes, I can, I’m her mother!”
“Oh so that comes with a license to read her private thoughts, because you are her mother?”
“She’s 8 years old! What private thoughts do you think she has?”
“Of course she has private thoughts. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in a diary, would they? And if she wanted you and the rest of the world to know her thoughts, she would have made a mixtape!”
“It’s absolutely harmless stuff, just thoughts of a little girl, stuff to do with her friends and her brother and school…”
“Yes, private things. Even 8-year olds are people who would prefer it if their diaries were not read! If you are reading her shit now, I doubt you will stop when she is 15!”
“Don’t be dramatic, mothers read their daughters diaries all the time. My mom read mine. And Tamms will read her daughter’s, it’s how the cycle of motherhood works. If something is going on with her, I need to know.”
“If you think something is going on with her, maybe you should ask her.”
“And she will tell me? I can prevent many things from happening as long as I’m in the loop…”
“That is despicable. Truly and utterly despicable. ”
“And low. Truly and utterly low.”
“One day she will discover you read her diary, she will go to bed and have an epiphany…then she will write things that you want to read.”
“When that day comes I will know.”
“Because John the Baptist was your relative?”
“Because I’m a mother.”
Later, it occurred to me; if she is reading a diary belonging to an 8-year old then imagine what she would do with a diary belonging to a 38-year old! Damn, I thought, surely she must be reading my shit too! She must be reading everybody’s shit. Our phones and iPads and laptops weren’t secure anymore. So I changed all my passwords from Ginene1987 to something with an exclamation mark. I then looked around the house for hidden cameras. Then I made a mental note to go online and find out who sells those gizmos for sweeping a room for bugs in case my car is bugged. Have you ever felt that your car is bugged? Come on, you must have. Finally I hid my own diary.
You know, nobody starts a diary so that the whole world can read it. You start a diary so that you can entomb (love that word, I could have used “preserve” but then what will accountants use?) your thoughts. I think Tamms one day sat in the car while she was being dropped to school and thought, “You know what I need? I need a diary. I need somewhere I can write about the things that I’m most passionate about; like dolls. And cake. And social studies. And Nickelodeon.” So she got one, a fancy-ass one with Sophia the cartoon character on the cover. Rather, her mom got it for her. They went to buy books and she helped her pick it. Do you see the level of betrayal building here? Do you see the big setup? Can you see the kiss of Judas in this narrative?
I have seen the book around the house once or twice but I never thought it was a diary. It’s not like she keeps it hidden, this diary of hers. Why would she anyway, when she thinks she lives with trustworthy people who would not read her diary? When you have a mom who is catholic you wouldn’t think she would read your diary right? You are wrong. Mother’s cross the line all the damn time brandishing their motherhood immunity in the faces of moral police.
My mom was SDA and she was nosy as hell, oh she would read your diary without missing a beat. Hell, she would add a few lines of her own in your diary if she wanted to. But I don’t know why Catholics just don’t seem like people who would read your diary. In fact, I wonder what the Pope would say about this. I really do. Does the Pope condone parents reading their children’s diaries? Hell, what do Mavuno people think about this? Pastor Wa, please tell us.
I will be honest, since the conversation came up, I have secretly wondered what is in that damn diary myself but I’m not a mother and therefore do not have the right certification, so I have resisted the temptation. So far. Whenever I see it lying about I avoid looking at it directly. But I wondered. What does she write about in there? I don’t care about her best friends and school stuff or stuff on TV or her favourite music or what she thinks about her teacher’s hairstyle. I don’t care about any of that. What I care about is if there is something in there about a boy. Oh, that’s eating me. I think I deserve to know that. I think I deserve to know if there is a boy she writes about because really there are guys out there raising hyenas for sons. The next Generation Mafisi; with stronger teeth and a sharper nose for even more mischief. I need to know. If there is a boy, I need to know how to deal with him. I need a plan. I think father’s with daughters are allowed that, surely. If there is a mention of a boy in that diary I will need the father’s number and I will need to call him and get dialogue out of the way first before I consider abduction and /or waterboarding.
Hi, is this Baba Ian?
Yes, it is. Who is this?
My name is Biko. My daughter Tamisha and your son go to the same school.
Oh, fabulous! We have never met, have we?
(You know a conversation will go south when you speak to a man who says things like ‘fabulous’)
Fortunately, no, we haven’t met.
Don’t you mean unfortunately?
No, I mean fortunately. Anyway, I wanted to find out if you know that your son has developed what I would call an unhealthy obsession towards my daughter.
Yes, and I want you to ask him to get his foot off that pedal –
Whoa whoa whoa! Hold up. How do you know all this? Are you in the same class with them?[Haha. Good one, but I won’t laugh.]
I know all this because I read it in her diary.
You read your daughter’s diary??
The mom started it! She’s Catholic.
Look I don’t know what you are talking about. My son Ian is a well-adjusted child who never misses Sunday school, has accepted Christ early in his life and is very well behaved at home. He even keeps a rabbit so he’s very responsible…
The same rabbit he told my daughter he would love nothing better than to turn it into broth?
Broth? My son never uses words like broth!
What’s his favorite word, ‘fabulous’?
Sigh. He told your daughter that he would like to turn the family pet into soup?
That’s what the diary said.
Ask him.[Out of the earshot I hear him call out “Iaaan! Come down here!” followed by the sound of tiny footsteps bounding down and then I hear the father say, “Do you know a girl called Tamisha?”]
Yeah, she is my classmate.
Are you guys friends?
You are not friends?
No. I don’t even like her. She has a forehead.[Little lying shithead…apart from the forehead bit.]
Don’t say that Ian, nobody chooses their forehead. It’s God who gives foreheads. Did you tell her that you want to cook Kinkie?”
No!!!! Of course not. I’d never say that.
Are you sure, Ian, remember what I told you about lying?
I promise I never said that! I love Kinkie!
(His voice cracks like he is about to cry, such an actor).
OK, I believe you, now go back upstairs and play.
He comes back on phone and says, “Your daughter is mistaken.”
She isn’t. She wouldn’t lie about something like that. Wait, you call your rabbit Kinky?
Yes, with an “ie” at the end, not a “y”
Who gave her that name?
The same Ian?
This is the same kid you say loves Jesus as his savior? You don’t find it odd that an 8-year old would name his rabbit Kinky?
Not if it’s with an “ie” at the end.
You know what, watch that boy, that’s all I have to say. We don’t want something mysterious happening to him, do we? We don’t want him leaving Sunday school and turning into a pillar of salt, do we now? And please pass my regards to Kinky – with an “ie” at the end.”
And I hang up before he can say anything else.
Girls grow up too fast. It’s a bit scary. Tamms’s legs are getting longer. Her ass is starting to come out. She speaks like an adult. And she asks questions. Questions that are becoming harder to answer. The other day she asked for something and I said, “Let’s weigh our options,” and she asked, “What are options?” How do I explain what options are?! (Safaricom, over to you). Of course an ‘option’ is a ‘choice’, but when you are asked by a child and you have two seconds to give an answer, all you can come up with is a bunch of uhhms and eers.
TV now has a lot of blonde haired princesses kissing blond haired princess and I’m afraid when she is 12 years old she will stop thinking boys are silly. I like this point when she thinks boys are silly. I think boys are silly too. Utterly and completely silly. I wish boys remained silly for a long, long time. But one day she will be 15 years old and will hopefully be a well-adjusted lady (if she never discovers that the one person she trusted most in the world READ her diary), and she will put too much weight on whether or not boys find her attractive, fun or beautiful. Maybe she will obsess about her knees. Or her eyebrows. She will think she isn’t beautiful enough and she will think the true definition of beauty is to have knees that aren’t as “bony” as hers. You take them to decent schools in the hope that their confidence will be built so much that they won’t pay heed to their knees then boom, they lock themselves up in their rooms because their knees are not as shaped as they want them to be shaped.
And now they are writing diaries at 8. And having their mothers read their private musings over their shoulders because, what, they might be tempted to join ISIS? All mothers who cross the line should be brought to book, and I suspect there are a ton of mothers out there who cross the line daily. Mothers who go through their daughter’s phones and mothers who hide in thickets outside their schools to see if some old rich man from Ongata Rongai will pick them up in a darkened car. They say they do it out of love. Thieves also steal out of love – for money.
I say lock them up. All of them. Lock them up and put them in a cell and hand them their own diaries so that they can write down their reflections on trust.
I’m going to post this and when it goes live I will be in Addis. And we all know that if you want to plunge in obscurity, in a dark hole where internet hasn’t reached, go to Addis.