Skeletons in wardrobes


By Mankhokwe Namusanya:

Those days, when the Pentecostal movement was just gaining notoriety, there was a pastor in Blantyre. It was a time of calling them apostles, so she was an Apostle-something.

Once, realising that the number of unmarried women among her flock was increasing, she invited them to a special service. It was coming after three days of fasting and prayer. Like that one the Biblical Esther did.


At the service, she prayed with them and told them that soon (there was no specification of the actual period), they would find a life partner. Then marry. And have kids. All their life problems – because it was assumed their life problems started and ended with being unmarried – would come to an end.

As a mark of faith, she told them to speak life into their wishes. They needed to live their dreams.

She instructed them to buy a suit for the man they wanted to marry. For their wedding day.


“Buy that suit, keep it with you, and every day before you go to sleep, look at it and say to it that ‘my man is coming and this is the suit he will wear for our wedding’ and thereafter pray over your declaration. Do this daily,” she told them.

The one who told me the story, a less reliable witness, said there was a raiding of good shops in Blantyre. In a week, men who had actual weddings were struggling to get a suit. A few weddings were postponed because the groom could not get a suit.

“Only suits of your height pint-sized could be found, because these women really had a choice when it came to the height of their ideal men,” my source said, with no generosity.

The other source that corroborated the story added a new bit of info: one woman who, after those prayers, got to meet a man whom she liked and would perfectly fit in the suit – and other clothes she bought him long before they met – actually lost the man. One day, in a feel-home moment at the woman’s place, he came across the clothes and the suit in a wardrobe. He was a snob – or an agent of the devil meant to test the woman’s faith – so he did not ask but just jumped to the conclusion: there was another man. He walked away.

When I tell this to the person sitting opposite me, he laughs. Says my other source had a penchant for making up stories. That it sounds fictitious.

I agree with him but say, not in a disagreeing tone, that sometimes reality is actually stranger than fiction. And, then, I quip:

“Does that summarise your life?”

He shakes his head. Says ‘not really’. He does not see the connection.

“But, you know, if these women had those suits and I walked up to them with all the intentions of getting to marry them, they would turn me down because I would not fit in those suits.”

“If you say it like that, then it makes sense.”

“So, this is your story?”

He says yes. Not as in directly just saying ‘yes’ then walking away declaring that the conversation is over. He just starts talking.

“For me, it has not been physical qualities. It has been behaviour.”

I say that he should not just dwell on my story. It was just an analogy. It might actually be fake news. A false story.

“Yes, I get that. In context, it makes more sense. I think that is what I have been looking for. Like I have set expectations and I expect the person coming in to fit in those expectations and qualities.”

“That is not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Yes, and at first I used to think like that too. It was more less like asserting my value. I am able to define boundaries. But now I am realising that human relationships are not built on that. One has to make compromises.”

He goes into stories. Tells of the relationships he had and how they collapsed. One thing stands out: the partners did not fit his ideal image.

The other was loud, talkative and pushy. She was a charmer. And romantic. But “she lacked that modesty of a woman.”

One had that ‘modesty thing’ yet was not a charmer.

“No surprises, just plain routine. I walked out.”

And there were others who fell along the way over one small misunderstanding. A little confrontation. A forgotten request. A dishonesty to do with when they would meet with him.

“You are not perfect, are you?”

“I am not. Nobody is.”

“But, somehow, you keep looking for a perfect person?”

“No, I just look for a person who will meet the qualities that I look for. They might be imperfect but they should possess those qualities.”

“You are looking for one to wear that suit you already bought?”

He laughs.

I say it is not a laughing matter.

“It is like you have a skeleton, a shape. And you want someone to come with flesh to append to that skeleton to make it a full human.”

“You make it sound like a bad thing.”

“I think it is, you need to compromise on some things. I mean, you should have boundaries. Limits. But also you should have things you can compromise on. Or, unless, you want to be some God and make your own person.”

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