Since I actively avoid weddings, I don't often encounter large groups of women like what was present during the 3 days following my father-in-laws death. As women filed in and out of the house, all types of discussion were taking place; gossip, recent events, more gossip. Feeling a bit like Typhoid Daisy, I stood and greeted every woman that entered with the mandatory handshake and kisses on the cheek despite my 1o2°F fever then returned to shivering quietly, curled up under my abaya and layers of clothing while seated on a sofa in the corner of the room. Not up to participating in the topic-du-jour, I listened-in as the chatty women resumed whatever issue was being hashed out before disruption of greeting the latest batch of mourners.
"Are you still looking for a house?", one of the older women enquired of a younger woman who'd come with her mother, whose tight off-the-shoulder "bad-girl" abaya barely contained her girth and made her the topic of discussion after her departure.
"I found one next to so-and-so's house in such-and-such neighborhood", she responded as a group of old, toothless women across the room began paying attention to the information she was giving.
"For rent?", the older woman continued her inquiry. "Who owns it?"
"I can't remember the exact family name, my husband knows it, but he's got two wives and…", Miss Tight Abaya was cut-off before she could finish by one of the old toothless women.
"That's my son's house", she exclaimed, taking a proactive approach to the conversation before the women went too far into the "two wives" issue.
"When did he marry again?" another older woman asked with a surprised expression, obviously an old friend who'd lost touch with the polygamist's toothless mother.
"Last year" she answered her friend as more and more of the two dozen women in the room dropped whatever lines of meaningless discourse were taking place to substitute it with eavesdropping on this meatier topic , "I don't know why though, his wife is a good wife" the toothless mom added.
"So why'd he get married again?" a previously uninterested middle-aged woman interjected as the room began to go silent to listen in to the reason.
There are a number of supposed certains in a woman's life here regarding marriage. Some of which are as follows; if you do x,y,z for your husband, he won't get married again. If you are a good wife, you're husband won't have a reason to get married again on you. Being a "good wife" is of course a very subjective matter but some of the general qualities of a good wife are: your house is clean, you make plenty of babies, you cook well, you don't get fat, you don't look old, you take care of your appearance, you are not demanding, etc. If a man marries again, it is assumed for certain it's because his first wife was lacking in some way which forced him to go forth and seek greener pastures. When people hear a man has married a second wife, the question which immediately follows is: "why?" Everyone wants to know what was wrong with the first wife.
The entire room of mainly middle-aged women eagerly awaited the toothless mom's answer. Every woman wants to avoid the pitfalls of other women who've inadvertently forced their men into the arms of a second wife and even if this isn't their main motivation for paying attention, having dirt on the first wife is reason enough to listen intently.
"She's a good wife", the toothless polygamist's mom said again. "She's a good cook, her house is clean, she has three kids, she's not ugly…", she went on extolling the virtues of her seemingly infallible daughter-in-law.
"So what's his problem with her then", another woman impatiently enquired of the toothless mom?
"He says she's too skinny and he wants to be married to a fat woman", the old woman announced to a silent room which was instantly transformed into a sea of confused faces. For a few moments, the women in the room pondered the grammar and word order of the sentence with which the evidently confused old woman perplexed them.
"You mean she's too fat and he wants to be married to a skinny one", one of the eavesdroppers corrected her after concluding that the senile woman had inadvertently switched adjectives. After all, this order makes sense to everyone as they nodded their heads in agreement with the semantic correction.
"No", the toothless mom asserted, "his wife is thin and he wants a fat wife!"
The initial confused silence continued for a few more moments, left over from the toothless mom's first statement and compounded by her second. Logic and reason were turned on their heads, the sun began to rise from the west as the earth reversed rotation on its axis for these women. All of the sudden, in a simultaneous explosion, every last woman in the room burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
Women doubled-over with convulsive laughter while clutching their jiggling belly rolls and crossing their thick thighs as they wiped away tears from their plump cheeks with their sausage-like fingers. Miss Skinny Abaya popped a button in all the commotion. My MIL covered her face with her abaya trying to mask the hilarity, which was completely unbecoming of a grieving widow at the wake. Not one of the women in there was less than 15 kilos overweight and no doubt, the majority had tried many dieting methods and failed. Earlier that same day, DD's female cousin passed out and was having bad stomach pain from taking diet pills on an empty stomach. This laughter continued unabated for several minutes until, after catching their breath, some of the women wanted to clarify the facts of this distinctive second marriage.
"So was the first wife like, chemotherapy skinny?"
The polygamist's toothless mom answered, "No, she has a nice figure, not scrawny or anything. Just thin."
"They're never happy are they", I added my 2 cents to the conversation. "If they have a tall wife they want a short one, if they have a fat wife they want a skinny one, etc."
The old women all nodded their heads in agreement. The grass is always greener on the other side, or is it fatter?