A glimpse at newspaper obituary pages reveal that the rich always marry each other. Tales, too, abound of rich parents who hook up their children and subject them to arranged or forced marriages. Seemingly, the reason homes to some rich individuals have electric fences, hawk-eyed watchmen and fierce dogs is not to deter thieves, but to keep love from spilling over to ‘hustlers’.
It has been argued that for the sake of a happy relationship or marriage, individuals should pick partners in their social classes. However, there are men and women who, perhaps, take the phrase ‘love is blind’ quite literally and push their luck way too far by marrying way up or low the social ladder. But those who marry individuals from higher social background seem to be the ones who suffer most.
Take for instance the sad tale of a certain Sharon who requested anonymity and whose prospects to ‘eat life with a big spoon’ after marrying a city-based tycoon’s son backfired terribly.
Rejected by in-laws
First off, her in-laws didn’t wholeheartedly accept her. Her sisters-in-law, for example, not only sneered at her, but also turned her into fodder for their gossip, calling her all sorts of names.
“Despite my relatively good academic papers, some of my in-laws labeled me a ‘gold digger’, even when it was clear they that were nothing much but school dropouts, working as errand boys and girls for their rich father,” says Sharon, a self-confessed victim of a ‘mixed-collar marriage’ that didn’t work out.
She adds: “What’s more, my then mother-in-law always forcefully micro-managed our life to probably ensure that her grandchild acquired the right social class”.
Sharon says for the three years she was married, her in-laws hardly tolerated her presence and always said unflattering things about her.
“I used to find it very difficult to even invite my friends and relatives over because they always stuck out like a sore thumb. Again, my in-laws hardly tolerated them, making them look out of place,” agonises Sharon.
She goes on to say that for the sake of real happiness, individuals should stick to their social classes when looking for partners to settle down with.
“Whenever they talked, I hardly understood or even laughed with them because most of their jokes were always rarefied and exclusive,” says Sharon, adding that she also hardly enjoyed the pointless ceremonies and pomp with which everything was done.
“You can get away with many things on the dating scene, from cross-generational dating to marrying a partner who looks uglier or prettier than you are. But the biggest mistake you can make is to settle with a partner who happens to be a son or daughter of a rich man. You will see hell,” says Allan Otieno, a businessman in Nairobi who claims to be speaking from experience.
He goes on to joke that when you are born and raised in the slums like himself, chances that you are going to enjoy hanging around golf courses, enjoying champagne and other exotic wines and food just to fit it are very low.
A common complaint from those who have dated children of the rich is their lack of life skills. Perhaps because they are used to being spoon-fed, some just can’t make most the most out of life once they move out of their parents’ homes.
Reportedly, making such types get in touch with realities of life is an uphill task that their partners struggle with all the time. Phillis Wanja, a 29-year-old finance officer at an advertising firm in Nairobi says she has had the misfortune of dating a tycoon’s son. She says they met a popular city business school as students.
“We both studied business, but he could not successfully run a business. His parents had to be involved in all his businesses. He was conned by his business associates countless times. Virtually all his activities had to be micromanaged by his parents for them to work out,” says Wanja.
Wanja says she could not stand settling down with an individual who is not his own man. That his parents would perhaps be required to manage his marriage to work out turned her off. “Why would a sane woman date or marry a man who can’t do anything unless daddy or mummy sanctioned it? The place he lived was chosen by his mother. His car was his father’s preference and choice. Some of the friends he had were only those whom his parents approved of,” says Wanja.
It seems women who date or are married to men from wealthy backgrounds have a lot to deal with. It is even worse where the parents are meddlesome, or so it seems. They will have a say in everything. For instance, where to go to church, whom they marry, venue for wedding and attendants, too.
Stories have, for example, been told of big weddings among tycoons’ children, where only a third or so of the guests are friends of the bride and groom. The rest of the attendants always comprise of friends and associates of the rich parents! Even after the families settle, some rich parents are said to be so influential to their children that they determine the schools the grandchildren go to.
As Sarah Mwilu* says, most of such children are said to be very receptive of this micromanagement because if they don’t parents would cut down their monthly allowances as punishment! “As a woman in such arrangement you have no option but to agree to everything,” she says.
Advantages of marrying kids of the rich
It is, however, important to note that some kids of the rich still make great partners, both in relationships and in marriage. Following the rise of economic segregation in today’s society, the possibility of meeting, dating and marrying someone of a different class is very high.
Some of the couples we spoke to who consider theirs ‘cross-class’ marriages offer a lot of hope and proof that most of these differences can be navigated.
“Love has a way of crossing the class lines even in profoundly unequal times. With rise of segregation among people of different classes, inter-class marriages have become common and successful,” says Philip Oduor who claims to be from a fairly well to do family yet his wife is from an humble background but the two are happy.