The first time Ange heard this term, she thought about an actual shower that was given to a bride-to-be. But bridal shower was a slightly different notion to an actual shower. It was a showering of gifts and affection at a ‘bridal shower party.’ By 2016, these parties had evolved into elaborate events where attendees had to match clothes and look their best. The only think lacking was a legion of paparazzi and a red carpet. Indeed, Rwandan bridal showers have been imported straight from the American culture.
When Ange finally attended her first bridal shower, she knew that it would also be her last. She hated it. What hit her was the way these parties were organized: The gift gathering was coordinated by the bride’s close friend, also referred to in contemporary lingo as BFF. She would snoop around for other young bridal friends, young female family members and would add them to a WhatsApp Group named Bridal Shower – Bride’s name.
In the first days, the messages would be courteous, polite, well-mannered and femininely suave. Then slowly, as if the bridal shower attendants pulled by an irresistible string, would start sharing the most up-to-date, insane, sometimes riotous jokes of Kigali, stolen from other WhatsApp groups. And finally would come the ultimate mission: The Best friend forever who was also the Group admin would share a list of items, as long as the Nile River, to potentially offer the bride.
It was as if all of the bride’s friends dreamt the previous night about offering gifts and they were waiting for an extra push. The list would comprise a mountain of domestic items as if the future Mrs had no plans of equipping her house with stuff she would personally choose. The catalogue would be made of numbers sometimes ranging from 1 to 100, including items like kitchen utensils, bed sheets, dustbins and cleaning soaps. Then the friends would play the friendly game of being a good friend by dividing between themselves different numbers. In order to motivate others, the admin would launch the mission by typing:
“Njye, I’ll take number 6, 18, 37 and 65.
Dies were cast. It was very important to pick up your numbers right after in the brief time-lag when affordable numbers were still available. And you would gain a bonus of likability that might push the BBF to recommend you as a faithful friend and a potential bridesmaid. The admin would send polite but gently aggressive reminders that the bridal shower date was coming soon as if they did not know! The list numbers had to reduce, girls had to generously prove that they were true friends.
Few days after the initiation of the compte-à-rebours, the admin would send tenacious reminders, sharing the vacant numbers. That would put too much pressure on the ladies’ purses but they would give up although they had other pressing needs and hadn’t budgeted for this in their tight economical lines. They would create tangible reasons in their minds that would permanently blow away the depressing, gloomy sentiment of guilt:
“We’ve been friends since high school.”
“Yarantabaye papa yapfuye!!”
“Elle ferait exactement la même chose pour moi!”
They were too afraid to dare to show up to the ceremony without an offering. Otherwise, they would be disqualified as friends; no one cared whether they had to borrow money or whatever sacrifice they had to make. No one cared that they had planned to offer a different and more meaningful present to the future bride. The bridal shower admin would never get discouraged which would make Ange believe that she had a real mission. A few days before the actual gathering, which had now become key in Kigali marriage celebrations, the best friend would send at least three reminders:
“Ladies, here are the free numbers, please pick them: No 11: Fridge. No 19: Water dispenser. No 21: Rice Cooker. No 83. 12 kg Gas cylinder. No 92: Bread toaster.”
Expensive utensils that sometimes could be indispensable for a house to function; at least in the African, Rwandan kitchen. That’s why Ange hated Kigali’s Bridal showers; wondering if Kigalians- female Kigalians, did get time to surf on websites such www.WikiHow.com to get an idea of how to organize a successful American bridal shower.
The upsetting part of it that would piss her off was the lack of minimum originality and creativity. was Ange remembered how Melanie Trump had been severely ridiculed for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. Yet most bridal showers were similarly guilty of zero originality!
Ange thought how it was much easier to call others duplicators and ignore similar imitation on ones part. But Ange was still open to the idea of offering a financial contribution to a person-to-marry, because this is something that resonated with her values, with her Rwandan culture. That culture that had its own version of pre-wedding gatherings where old women would give marriage tips to young females. If not, Ange would rather prefer imihuro, evening gatherings before the wedding where sometimes young people would devote themselves to fleshy, sensual, immoral pleasures.
As these thoughts ran through her mind, an online survey reached her laptop screen. The question was simple – what do you think about Rwandan bridal showers? Her answer was even simpler. She simply clicked on ‘dislike.’ With no regrets.