In Tanzania, they have a proverb that says it’s a disgrace to marry your mother. By which they mean that a wife should not be older than her husband. It was brought to my attention in 2009 because, yes, I am several years older than Tisa, my Tanzanian husband. I’ve been living with it ever since.
It came up again just a couple of weeks ago in Morogoro. We stayed a few nights in the Hilux Hotel, and on our last morning there, ate breakfast in their large dining room with a larger than usual group. From their accents, Tisa recognized them as fellow members of the Nyakyusa tribe and chatted with some of them. They’d traveled to Morogoro to attend a wedding. After breakfast, they drifted out to their chartered mini-bus. Tisa went out to check the oil and water in our car, right next to the Nyakyusa bus.
As he worked under the hood, he overheard the wedding guests on the bus deep in a heated discussion of….me and Tisa. What do you think? Is our brother actually married to that mzungu? The answers were split between:
1) Impossible! She’s much too old; and
2) Of course they’re married! You can see that they love each other.
This went on throughout the oil check. As Tisa moved on to the water, some people on the bus pointed out that Tisa was right there outside the bus, and if people wanted an answer to this pressing question, they should ask him. He’s our brother, we are all Nyakyusa, just ask him!
So, they called him onto the bus and asked him. He said yes, the mzungu is my wife. At which point, the doubters didn’t say much, although I imagine them making all those Tanzanian noises of surprise. Eh! Huh? Etc. Others, those whom I think of as being on my team, said that age doesn’t matter if you are in love. True love conquers all.
I came out into the car park as the wedding bus was pulling out. Tisa told me about the discussion, and we had a good laugh. Then I went to use the ladies’ before we started our drive. As I washed my hands, I spent a few moments staring into the mirror, checking for new wrinkles.