BY MPHO KUHLMANN
Botswana’s most notorious contribution to the English language is possibly “small house”. The two word phrase which has made its way into the mainstream local English lexicon is an attempt by Botswana men, to give a culturally acceptable frame of reference to their otherwise stigmatised bit of fluff.
Concubine or mistress now referred to as side chick in pop culture “is one of the most common social and maladaptive issues or problems of our generation”, according to Pontsho Leagilwe, a counselor at Por Vida Counseling Services in Gaborone West
Despite Batswana men’s inventive wordplay, the paramour liaison is still the love that dares not speak its name. Ms Leagilwe told Sunday Standard Lifestyle that “we regularly speak to young women about understanding their worth.. this being said, it’s so sad today to see a lot of young bright, beautiful, well educated ladies waste years or months of their lives in pursuit of unattainable men, to be fair and honest some ladies do not know that some of these men are married or have a girlfriend because some men are skilled in hiding their significant other. But there are some ladies who are fully aware that a man is taken and has a family but still fall in love with him, which ends up distracting him from his basic duties to his family.Why dedicate your life to a man that may never be yours? Why play number 2 or believe a man when he tells you he’ll make you number 1, why breakup a happy home? Why be with a man who left his wife or girlfriend for you? If he leaves his wife or girlfriend for you? How are you sure he wouldn’t do the same to you? Why build the foundation of your relationship on someone’s sorrow? It is valid to assert that some of the ladies who this applies to are living in a “self inflicted fantasy” where their minds and cognition are fixed on having a fairy tale ending with another Lady’s Man or husband.”
The “small house” has existed in Botswana long before reality TV and tabloids. Back then it was not uncommon for a man to have a woman at home (usually the mother of his children) and then a pretty young thing on the side. Everybody, including the wife, would know about the “other woman,” but everybody played their position, minded their business and kept their opinions to themselves. The modern day “small houses” who are mostly kept woman are a liberal and enfranchised throwback to concubines of the old traditional patriarchal society.
Modern day side chicks are sometimes women in a position of power who want fun without all the emotional complications.Rather than holding their heads down in shame, these 21st century paramours are taking a stand and being heard. They are busy woman who are comfortable with booty calls and late night texts, never interfering with a man’s ‘real’ relationship, but they don’t just quietly parlay in the shadows. There is no real shame in the game anymore. The objective for most side chicks is to get what they can get from the man in exchange for giving up their goodies.
Maipelo Fane works at Auctioneers Botswana and she says side chicks are no longer women who were desperate.”I have noticed a lot of women at the professional level who are okay with being the “side chick”. Any woman is capable of falling for this trap, that’s why women have to be careful what type of behavior they accept and what type of person they allow into their live. Women just think they’re on deck. Next up. Waiting patiently. Sadly, they actually believe him when he says he’ll end it. But we all know, that never happens. Also, women who are side chicks think they have to settle for someone who will give them any attention (even if it’s not their full attention), they tell themselves they like the lack of commitment because it gives them free time.
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says the side chick phenomenon doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. “For most men, what else could be exciting than having a side chick? Having a second woman who you can call your womanÔÇöand more importantly, who knows about the other woman but has no problem or will not act in any way to alert the other, so they mostly say. Most of the side chicks have hidden agenda, well concealed between the space they seem to fill in your relationshipsÔÇöand for some reason, they can be exceptionally fun, stealing your attention from the main chick-be it the wife or girlfriend.”
Laone Diphale a waitress at Cappello restaurant in Gaborone. She says “On the flip side of the side-chick coin, one woman told me that she has a side-guy. She liked the lack of emotional attachment she has with her side-guy. Also, she let me know that she doesn’t feel sexually satisfied by her boyfriend but loves him, and couldn’t possibly leave him. [the side-guy] made me realise how I should be treated in a relationship. I had never been treated the way he treated me. Although I know that we were doing was wrong, it never felt wrong when we were together. I had honestly never been treated with such respect and dignity by anyone I had ever dated.”