Interactions like that, even amongst people who are from essentially the same culture as me, remind me that our relationship doesn't really fall within the bounds of the stereotypical, gender role-wise. Here in Isinya, it's more pronounced for both of us. I think I am the only woman in town who wears trousers. When I wore a dress the other day, I was greeted with "you look smart!" and nearly audible sighs of relief from teachers, who just seemed kind of unsettled, rather than actually offended, by my insistence on dressing like a man from the waist down -- like seeing some hapless foreigner wandering your town with their shoes on the wrong feet or mittens on their ears or something.
The other day Jeremy went to pick up some groceries at the stalls of the "mamas" in town; when our friend Jacky at the Mpesa phone store saw him, she left her store -- you know, to keep him company during his errands, giving him helpful pointers like "put your yoghurt in your bag -- don't just carry it around in your hand," by which we later realized she meant to save him from the embarrassment of being a man buying foodstuffs (other than a side of goat).
Last night we brought dinner over to eat at Jacky's, where she lives at the back of the phone kiosk. We were talking about our one month anniversary, and responding to her question about how our marriage is "going," when a couple of male friends of hers stopped by. I was saying how my wonderful husband brings me coffee in the morning, and we almost made the guys barf up their nyama choma. More than disgusted, they just seemed... well, baffled. David, a Masai, said "in my culture, a man never cooks for his wife -- even if she is sick, he can call his mother and have her do it. If my father saw me in a kitchen, he would ask me if I had lost my mind." And my wonderful husband said, "if my dad saw me in the kitchen he'd ask 'What's for dinner?'" David told us that in his culture, a man's wife is like another child, which seems to me like it would just be sort of boring. Who wants to have only other children to talk to? All in all, it was a really interesting conversation -- no rancor, no problem (which actually is hakuna matata in Swahili). It was just some people chatting about the different ways of seeing a thing like marriage. As we walked home arm in arm in the spectacular moonlight, talking and laughing together, I felt so grateful that we got to be who we are -- husband and wife because we are partners and friends first.