CLARA: “ñaareel xaritu jëkkëram” – second wife
I know he loves me more. He left her home so many times to be with me and I never understood why he stayed with her if he said he loved me so much. She’s basically his maid; she does everything in the house. I gotta give it to her because I don’t have the patience.
When we were dating, he always told me about how she would nag him to the point where he felt like he had to go look for peace somewhere else. He calls me his paradise, his al-jannah! ❤
We dated for three years before we got married. It took three years because I was in school and my parents wanted me to finish before jumping into marriage. I still didn’t wait until I finished; all my friends were getting married and I can do school and married life at the same time. It’s really not that big of a deal.
I will say that our age difference makes a lot of people look twice. He’s 19 years older than me. I’m 20. I really don’t think it’s that big of an age gap personally, he’s not 40 yet! We’re happy together and that’s all that matters.
His wife got pregnant before they were even married. I never can truly respect her. He told me about it while we were dating and it was in the back of my mind every time I thought about joining her in that house. It was one leg up I had on her. I couldn’t wait to use it as ammunition one day.
The bottom line is if he was truly happy at home, he wouldn’t have come to me. These first wives think they have such a hold on their husbands. Little do they know the things they’re up to when they leave home. My theory is I didn’t go chasing after anyone – he came to me and we clicked. I bring new meaning to his life that his wife could never and if she doesn’t like that, it’s not my problem. We’re both his wives now so that whole “I have been here for 15+ years” narrative is dead. I have just as many rights as she does and my kids will have just as much access to his heritage as hers.
HENRIETTE: Clara’s mom
I wanted more for my daughter – higher visions and hopes! I grew up in a polygamous household and I saw all the troubles it brought with it. There is never true peace and tranquility inside those homes; somebody is always upset about something. For me, it was seeing my mother expend all this effort to please my father, only for him to rinse and repeat that treatment with his other wives on different days. None of it felt real.
I wanted Clara to finish her studies and get a great job, providing for herself. But she’s rushed into this marriage despite my warnings – especially going into a situation where one, the man is so much older than her and two, she doesn’t have him to herself. Everyone has this notion that all men are unfaithful. I like to think that’s not true. I married my husband after 3 years of dating and have stood firmly on my values of respect and honesty. I imposed that on our relationship from the beginning and he knew exactly what kind of treatment I would and wouldn’t accept. I am not saying he would never cheat on me. I am saying he knows if he did, I would never stick around for it. That’s the major difference. We can’t tell people what they can’t do – especially adults. But you can tell yourself how you’re going to react and I spent my entire adult life wishing away the scenario I grew up in for my own children. I wanted better for them so I went to school and built a career for myself and showed them that each and every single one of them must be independent!
I am not saying I failed Clara. She’s an adult and she has to make her own choices. I am just saying I wish she made a different one.
ABIBATOU: “Aawo buuru këram” – first wife
I met him when I was 14. We went to school together and everyone knew we liked each other. Around age 16, we started officially dating and have been together ever since.
My parents liked him from the get-go. Our dads were companions and were touched by the idea that their bond would be further strengthened if their kids ended up together. This was nice … until it stood in the way each time I complained to my father about Tidiane’s behavior. Whether it was cheating, verbal abuse, physical abuse, ignoring me for days on end, or humiliating me in front of other women, the answer was always the same: “divorce is not an option. Go back to your home.” It didn’t help that I had our first child before we officially got married either… doesn’t leave me much room for bargaining.
It’s not always bad. In fact, some days are really good. He can be sweet and gentle when he wants to be. It’s just when this shirt isn’t washed properly or that dish isn’t prepared the way he likes that we quarrel. But when we do, it’s bad.
I remember the day he told me he married Clara. Well, not really much of telling; more like I found out and confronted him about it. One of my girlfriends called me one evening and broke the news to me. I still didn’t say anything because I wanted to hear it from him directly. He sent his best friend Pape a few days later instead. There was very little respect or regard how what he had done. “I’m allowed to have up to four wives Aby. I didn’t sign up for monogamous marriage with you!” There wasn’t much I could say to that and telling my parents would be a waste of breath. My father was polygamous.
I don’t know how to feel anymore. Over the years, I’ve learned to censor my feelings to the point where they almost stopped counting. There was never anything I could say to make him do anything that he didn’t want to do. Our marriage is very one-sided with me doing most of the work, emotionally and otherwise, to maintain the peace.
SOKHNA: Abibatou’s daughter
I know my mom is hurting but I’m more furious.
Clara is my age. She cannot be my aunt. Not under these circumstances. And the most frustrating part is people look at me as if I have 10 eyes when I express my anger – as if they can’t fathom why on Earth I would be upset.
I am the oldest of my siblings. I have two brothers and three sisters. We are in school and trying to get everything done and make our parents proud. I am in my 3rd year of Uni and just so angry that I get these phone calls with a new problem every day. It’d be one thing if Clara came into our house with peace declarations. Everybody is already unhappy about my dad’s decision and she comes in adding fuel to the fire. She’s disrespectful, petty, and conniving. My father can’t see any flaw in her so usually, if she gets into it with anybody, she’s automatically protected and forgiven by my father while the rest of us receiving lectures about “respect and accepting God’s will.” It’s such a cop-out excuse.
I hate going home for Holidays or from breaks from school these days. It’s always negative energy. I stand up for my mom but she tries to keep me quiet too… she doesn’t want me involved in any way. But I don’t really care. As long as that witch keeps coming for my family, I will be sure to put her in her place each and every single time. Spare me with the “she’s your father’s wife” drama. She’s a bitch and that’s all she’ll ever be in my eyes.
PAPE – Tidiane’s best friend
I had to be the one to break the news to Abibatou. She’s been a part of my life since we were young – we all went to school together, man. It was a gloomy day telling her that Tidiane was getting married. I got dragged into it because apparently, I had to be the one to console her. Me. Not Tidiane. Let me know what sense that makes.
I decided I could never get a second wife. Not after seeing how it ripped Aby apart and especially not after seeing how Tidiane’s life has gotten 10X harder since he married Clara. Our conversations revolve around his issues every single day. We can’t talk about anything else. It’s consumed him.
I don’t want that for myself. Our group of friends have a hybrid of men who have multiple wives and those who have just one. And I can tell you the ones with just one have a lot less stress when it comes to the married life department. I warned Tidiane against doing it but these things, once set in motion, there’s very little that can be taken back. Clara’s hopes were up and he had gone too far, he couldn’t take anything back.
I feel for my brother. He just has to accept the consequences of his actions and take it one day at a time, I guess. I mean it’s literally something new every day. If the wives aren’t fighting, his kids are rebelling. It’s crazy how quickly things can change.
TIDIANE: “ndéyu mbill mi” – the cause of it all
I love them in different ways. They each mean something different to me.
Abibatou is my heart. I met her so young and we grew up together. We taught each other so much in life and there will never be another woman who can replace her in my heart or in my life. Nothing could ever make me un-love this woman. Over the past 18 years of marriage, she’s let herself go a bit. I know the kids take up a lot of her time but she just doesn’t try anymore. We’ve had more frequent arguments because everything has a comeback – she has a response for everything and I can’t tolerate that. I’m never going to give up on her but she definitely has her flaws.
Clara, my sweet Clara. She’s my fountain of youth. Meeting her gave me a new ticket on life when I thought mine was headed downhill. She’s just been so perfect and understanding of my situation. A lot of people fault me for “stepping out” on my marriage and “abandoning Aby.” I didn’t do either of those things; I just reclaimed a happiness that has escaped me for so long. And I couldn’t let that pass me. Many will disagree but Clara means something so special to me. She’s a sweet girl with so many ambitions. The spark in her eyes sets my soul on fire! I see nothing but greatness in our future.
I would never choose between the two of them. They hold special places in my heart and I stand by that.
The arguments and the fights, they’ll subdue. Over time, everyone’s hearts will become more accepting of the situation and it’ll become easier. My pockets won’t make it (this polygamy business is expensive!) but we’ll get there and it would have all been worth it. You just watch.
To my family, know that I didn’t do any of this with ill intentions. I love you all so much and hope we can make this work! Allah declared that this would be my destiny and there’s nothing I can do about that.