By: Bethelhem Teame
Yes. Yes, we , Hbeshas have a different take on ‘love’ and we do it differently. In fact, it is a little quirky how socially we are wired about love and loving. Absurd, would be the understatement of the year.
In Eritrea, there is this saying that goes like this.. “Fikri Hindi bderfi, fikiri Habesha bxerfi.” Roughly translated as… “As songs are the expression of love for Indians, insults are for Habeshas.” The first time I heard this I remember rolling my eyes in disbelief at the dysfunctional take on love by my people.
So as far as this theory goes, in my country, the man who insults or picks on you the most is the man who supposedly is truly, madly, deeply and desperately in love with you.
In Ethiopia, when a man loves a woman, as Percy Sledge would put it, ‘ Can’t keep his mind on nothing else.’ He goes all flowery and turns into a Shakespeare in love. So you can imagine how it would be if a blatant Eritrean man tries to woo a woman from Ethiopia using his countrymen’s method? She would slap him hard till he sees stars flying and hear birds singing. The other way is also more funnier, if a true Ethiopian man, as mentioned above, a Shakespeare in love, tried to win over a conspicuous Eritrean woman who is used to the way she has been treated before?
“NAY ENDAMENADIUE LAHZAZ MEXIEUNI?” That’s the question she would be asking in response to his wooing tactics. The translation would go something like this, “ Who left this retard at my doorstep…?” It is much better than a slap on the face though.
Okay, so far it has been on how we express love and loving within the Habesha dictionary, but how as lovers, we, perceive love as a notion couldn’t be quite different to the way the rest of the lovers in the world perceive it, well a little different, let’t just leave it there.
This is what happened to me the other time my friend and I went to the hairdressers without leaving the key to the house under the secret place she always leaves for her husband of many years now. They said he keeps losing the keys, so they came up with this solution. He was on the night shift duty and wanted to get to his bed right away only to discover that his genius wife has forgotten to put the keys where they always put it. Finally he had to drive to the hairdressers to get the key…..my friend was panicking. Why? He never has seen her real hair underneath her weave.
“Are you kidding me right now?” I asked,
“Nope. And don’t start right now. I am going to send out one of the girls here.” She was biting her lips, the way she does when she is worried.
“I will give him.” I said, still perplexed, how her husband hadn’t seen her real hair all this time and why was she freaking out?”
She looked at me as if I have lost my mind, my hair was on rolls, so big that it buried all my small head and half of my face.
“Never show a man your whole sides or ugliest side…” she said as she pushed me back to stay put and never entertain the idea of going out like that. “Wow, really?” was all I uttered that instant, but deep down I said, “Alas, Habesha!”
Really? Never show a man your whole side. And people wonder why I don’t fall in love. This is the very reason why I choose to stay an aloof observer in the drama we assume is love. When I fall in love, I want to risk everything and not look back. I want all the stakes in and give my everything to that love. I don’t want to save some of me or hide another half just with the thought that I might get hurt one day if I love with all my heart.
My friends, all Habesha, think love is some kind of a power play, a game- which has a stronger and a weaker parties involved. The one with the upper hand and the other. I refuse to play this game anyway- but all my friends want me to try this popular game of our era. I hate playing games….because it makes me want to win; care more about the scores than the other player. For me games are all about winning. I tend to have a competitive side. And I hate losing but that is just a human trait, right? So you can have a sneak preview of how love turns into a fierce competition for power when Habeshas date or love.
So if I am going to love, it will not be in a Habesha version- a promise I made with myself.
Whenever I write down a love poem and post it on my blog or Twitter or FaceBook, my friends and acquaintances usually bombard me with phone calls and in-boxes. They are all of the same nature…’did you finally fall in love?” Finally? Sometimes I feel like I am in the Habesha version of the Truman Show movie, living in a constructed reality and my friends are making a bet on my love life.
But why is it important that I fall in love, the Habesha way or other? I never said I am invincible to love and its powerful mojo but that I am too pessimistic to do the dance of love. I ask way too many questions, including love itself that it is a bit hard to fall in love in this state of mind- I am a lunatic, and a Habesha, can you imagine how twisted I am?
A friend who lives in Paris- the city I love the most in Europe, promised to supply my annual demand of J’adior- eau de perfume- the perfume I love most if and when I fall in love- be it the Habesha or the other kind. This made me more skeptical about love. Is love something we willingly do? Is it a choice? Or as many would love to believe a strong feeling of the heart towards someone? Million dollar questions but no firm yes or no answer…..a bunch of explanation based on experience, books, psychological analysis, movies and crazy ramblings like this of mine.
I believe in love. I do. But why hasn’t my heart experienced it yet? Maybe I don’t take kindly to any insults, the way my countrymen express their love for a woman. But I believe my heart has experienced love, I love my family, friends, and books….all in different level of love but also in its truest sense and definition as far as I am concerned. I cant control my heart when it comes to them. I am powerless in the face of those I love. If you ask me why I love those I love I really wouldn’t be able to supply you with an answer except that I do. I do love my family and friends…..despite everything else and all the gap that makes us different from one another. And none of them have expressed their love in insults, maybe they have….I am not sure. You see for Habeshas expressing love in insults is almost normal, some might say a given.
But I do know this, when I love I know I am going to love him the way we read or see it in romance novels and movie flicks, as long as he doesn’t insult me to express his love for me and use all his Habesha tricks on me. I want to love without any regret and without holding back. I want to give him my all and try everything in my power to maintain and protect that newborn love. I want to love him with all my heart, with no game or foreplay of any kind. I want to come to the table with my whole heart and I expect to get the same from the other side.
If I get hurt, then I would have wounds of love. I believe wounds and scars of love are badge of honor and I will wear them proudly any day, anytime. I want to love the way other great love stories of our time had happened. True, pure, loyal, special, magnificent and more than anything else wholesome.
So what do you think?