The word antagoloser doesn’t officially exist, YET(, here I come). It refers to a person who comes into your life purposely to piss you off, without provocation, for some vile reason of their own. You’re not in an argument with this person. Their appearance in your air/web space is in fact something you’re rather happy about until they start to bait you.

An example of somebody who is NOT an antagoloser is the sumbusa woman across the road from whom you buy your breakfast.  When she places the sumbis on the ground, in a position where the dust thrown up by cars whooshing past is most likely to contaminate them, she’s not hating on you. She’s just filthy.

When asked if he’d ever met an antago-loser, Tony says ‘Usually, I’m able to shut such people up before they cramp my style with their rubbish, but last Saturday, I wasn’t so lucky. I was hanging with an OB at steak out who thought that just because he’d been a prefect in school, he still called the shots. The guy punished our ears for hours with boring story upon boring story about the ways he used to punish people in school. We couldn’t tell him were to stuff his nonsense because we needed to hitch his ride to hooters. When we got there and he was still maintaining his ludicrous MO, I gave him what he deserved.

What? A fight?

‘No. I told him, ‘dude? Shut up. We’re looking for fly chicks and you’re still on that weak jazz? Nigga, get your mind out of the 20th century”.

An antago-loser will find you reading a book like ‘Love Is A Dog From Hell’ by Charles Bukowski whose poetry is old, coarse and brilliant, in your opinion. They’ll look you up, down, side to side and say, “Bukowski writes common man poetry” then look away dismissively. You have to be careful not to explode with indignation, because that’s exactly what they want.

Another kind will come up behind you as you write and say ‘The first sentence of that paragraph is lazy. Change it’ as if they know a lot. Jeer.

Martin says that at one point, he had too many people like that on his facebook list, but he recently blocked them. ‘My phone? It has over 10 blocked numbers. I’ve always wondered if they get some sort of kick from goading people, whether they feel nothing unless animosity/ hurt feelings are being directed at them’.

Hanging out with a pretty girl will make you a target, according to Raymond. He says, ‘I used to chill with this girl who some joker named Maurice wanted. He clearly had nothing to say to her, if the way he croaked and gulped around her was anything to go by. Anyway, he came up to us one night and started saying all sorts of funny things about my hair, clothes, even belt. I was like, man. What’re you doing looking at my belt area? He was trying to get her to make some kind of comment, to gauge her level of interest in me.

Others just want to win all the time, be trend setters. If you don’t tuck in like them, they’ll attack. If you don’t wear over-tight briefs like them, they’ll attack harder. This world is home to all sorts of neuroses”.

If you’re a softy, people will target you, says Liz. ‘One of my girlfriends sort of made me her bullseye. She kept snipping at me without provocation for months until I told her to take her drama somewhere else. I’m now a bullshit free corner’.

According to my interviewees, people do such things because:

They don’t quite know how to express a certain way that they’d desperately like to be. For example, they try so hard to appear outspoken/eccentric that they get one everybody’s nerves with wild, unjustifiable opinions.

Bored: Bastards. They’re restless and unhappy and you look so contented and unperturbed in your seat. How dare you not be as aimless and irritable as they are? They plot for the downfall of your peace of mind like people in soaps, speaking loudly to themselves and using both of your names. Like, ‘Musa Nsubuga is going down. Look at him. So happy. I am going to show him’ then they come for you.

Holmes. MBU: Here, the offender is trying to make you seethe with such anger that you’ll spill your guts, tell all your secrets, end up in tears and then decide to write an autobiography dedicated to them. When people come and try to piss you off for nothing, don’t give them the satisfaction of a negative reaction. Giggle.

How to be ‘cool’.

Ok, this is the deal, yea? There are two camps. The cool kids (TCK) and The Roaches (TR). No middle ground. Obviously, nobody sets out to be a weasely, limp-wristed TR. From the minute your parents shudder you into being to the moment you turn 21, life is furiously chipping, sand papering, and chiseling you into an unmistakeable member of either, or, but not both of the groups.  

 I myself am so deeply geeky, so absolutely nerdy that if you take this advice seriously; friends will be to you what fur is to a 17 year old cat: Scarce. But if you’re a loser, it’s not like anything can make you more socially inadequate than you already are.  Enough aimless blah. Here’s some of the ways you can convincingly make like you’re a cool/cultured person in Uganda:

 GET Dreaded: there’s a theory that alleges that dreadlocks aren’t really hair. They’re what brilliance looks like when it’s exposed to air. Apparently, those people who’re rocking the medusa look are so cool, so smart, so removed from localness that their heads, failing to take the pressure, ooze a coagulated substance that the world has ignorantly labeled ‘dreadlocks.’ This is a lie, obviously. Anybody can turn their silky smooth hair into dreads with a tub of wax and a tiny comb. People think them cool because any person wacky enough to subject themselves to one hairstyle for life, one that requires monthly attention in order not to become shaggy and hideous just HAS to be cool.

 Get Grungy:The more advanced a community is, the less attention they tend to pay to the clothes they wear and cleanliness in general. There’s a golden rule that’s only broken by stupid females. It goes: If you’re a woman and are bad to look at, you’re an irresponsible heifer who deserves to be kicked out of the gender.

 INTOXICOOL? You have to be able to take mad amounts of liquor and not puke all over your friends. You’re also supposed to coo in dismay when you see marijuana growers paraded on 9pm news or else you’ll be ostracized for going against ‘the cause’.

 RARA. RA:  First Switch on that accent and we see. Have you got enough rar in your tongue? According to anonymous, Cool people’s words are supposed to sound like dollops of caramel being dribbled onto freshly baked bread.  The way you speak can be the difference between a pocketful of phone numbers and painful rebuffs. So if your words jerk out of your mouth sounding like they’re surprised to be in the open air, if they put people in mind of traditional drums or if somebody has ever dissed you mbu you sound like you ate America and had indigestion, you’re not cool. If you misuse the word apparently, you are also (seriously) not cool.

 PRUDE:  It doesn’t matter how sanitary your personal linens actually are. You’re required to occasionally switch the prude on. Wait for the most scandalous bits of your friends’ stories, the point where usually, you’d give them a hi-5 and suddenly, scrunch your face up. Touch palm to cheek and gasp with so much hypocrisy and affectation that your poor friend who is by now indignant and confused by your bastardliness will slink from your presence and find the Lord. Your conscience should remain clear, because you have, after all, driven somebody to the Lord.

 YOU DEEP? Cool=swag, so you have to be able to be a deep ‘feeler’ in order to exude the required amount of swag. Everybody knows that writers feel a lot, so ask yourself: ‘Do I ever write poetry or prose? Do I even know what those words mean? Surely I’m a member of one of those poetry fraternities, because if you aren’t, cool is lost to you. You’re on the frozen cucumber side of the scale when half literate posers send you facebook invites to poetry events with descriptions that read: Come and sip poetic juice from that calabash of poetry which tastes like guava juices in the morning rain.  

 LIBERAL: Because even the kinds of things that shock you, that make you yell with disapproval/ gusty approval say something about which camp you belong to. For example, a certain percentage of Ugandan girls are only liberal about homosexuality because they’ve, at one point, pretended to be bisexual to impress a group of slavering males. How one reacts to really bad grades has also been turned into  a litimus test of coolness.

 GROOVE UG, MAN.: Snobbery is allowed but when it comes to music, you’re not allowed to even think bad thoughts about the one made in Uganda, apart from Rachael K’s which is NOT rock. You’re expected to be able to gyrate as hard to my miss as you do to The catalyst (not that anybody gyrates to the catalyst).

If you take offence at anything in this article, you are not cool.


Idiot’s Guide to Getting a Job.

With Mildred “Workhorse” Apenyo

PUT intoxicants in a room and people will gravitate to it with a zeal that surpasses all understanding. At no time during this toxin-binging should you bring up a subject like ‘unemployment’, not even if a silence thick enough to lose machetes in has descended upon the room.

If the gods have, in their infinite wisdom, decided that your cause of death is going to be awkward silence, so be it.

Because if you mindlessly stray into these dark and perilous waters, an argument so heated and robust will ensue that a week later you’ll be writing about it in a section of the paper which is supposed to publish topics like “Does Beiber really look like a 40-year-old lesbian?” And not “The chronic scourge of victimization in neo-colonialist republics”.

I’m an idiot much of the time and I have a job, so this is pretty sage advice. Pens and notebooks please.

Legs: Are all you need to march into an office and dangle your intellectual cojones in the faces of potential employers. Dangle them with so much force and class that by the time you leave, you’ll be an employee in their minds. Thirty-six months of dodging course work and bar/club networking at university should have left you well-schooled in the art of bullshitting.

That mouth: So you can speak English. Tick! Our neocolonialist mentality loves you already. Without Sebaggala-esque grammartricide? Now they want to marry you, then pay you peanuts to sit around learning the ropes and making tea.

Social networking: If you know how to Facebook, you’ve got no excuse. There are lots of soulless research jobs floating around the web-o-sphere. Also, it’s allowed to be a bit calculating when sending FB requests. What might this extra person on your news feed contribute to your general well-being? We should try and make chat into something more than just medium for qwencing people and setting up trysts.

That pen: If you can write at all, start a blog and fill it up with any old nothing. You never know which executive will stumble on it during his bored blog-trawling. If you’re not absolutely atrocious, they might offer you a job or at least consider your application when you drop it with their catty receptionist. Online magazines are cropping up like tangle weed in a cabbage patch. Your pen is where that sexy pair of boots lives.

Stay put: Does your mom stand at the door, arms akimbo and glare at you every morning without fail/reason? Does your father try to trip you every time you walk past his chair? If no, there’s no excuse for your fervent attempts to skip the coop. YET. There’s nothing exciting about bills and evil housemates. Playing house stops being fun when bills roll in and your friends quickly stop being impressed by your apartment when they start being able to see your ribs through your suit. If your rent quaffs more than a quarter of your salary, get the hell back home.

Hang smart. Now there are friends we love because of the way they’re able to acquire some really hard-to-find intoxicants. Others we love because they make us feel better about ourselves. Make a few who’re likely to point you in the direction of some sort of employment and others for the simple reason that they don’t have drugs and booze tattooed on the brain.

Wardrobe: For some reason, the corporate world has taken a firm stand against the hip hop bum look, the sensitive indie rock chick look, the suicidal death metal look and the absolutely dirty and smelly look, so even if your mind is growling “sell-out” at you, even if that jacket makes you look like a very hated relative, brave it for a bit. Give them a thorough shock on week three by coming into office dressed only in eye make-up or in a flower bikini or in a suit with a skull and cross bone-motif.

*##$% Luxuries: Unless your personal accountant sends you urgent messages every hour about how you really need to think about opening your own bank on account of the insane amounts of money you have, you can’t afford to hide behind things like awkwardness, shyness, laziness, anxiety… etc. Buy yourself a self-help book already.


A road trip and then some is what you should expect if you’re starting a journey to Arua. You have to go through so many districts that if you’re as fidgety a traveler as I am, you’ll start to entertain paranoid thoughts like “We left Uganda miles behind and I’m being abducted by Congolese warlords for my LV bag”.

There’s a place in the middle of the nowhere between Kampala and Arua where ingenious people sell warm milk and other refreshments to the weary traveler. They’d be perfect angels if they didn’t try to poison their custom with rotten waffles. A bitter strawberry waffle is an expired waffle. No two ways about it.

The trials, tribulations.
Your marrow solidifies, your bum, giving up all attempts to bear the pressure shifts out of the way exposing your bones to the seat. Rigormortis, unsure but excited, starts to creep in, like a chicken that has gotten as far as the middle of the kitchen on its way to a tray of groundnuts.

When you get there, Arua is pretty cool, except (yes, of course I’m complaining. I’m a diva) for the lizards.
Say what?

Lizards are to Arua what cats are to Katanga. Now I know that some people, mostly male, feign a closeness to lizards and other such abominable looking things. They’re lying. No human being can be friendly with a creature that looks like a stunted crocodile. One Jim goes as far as calling himself nswaswa, which is the luganda word for Monitor lizard. He likes them so much that a feral looking one is his facebook picture. And all because it has been proven that monitor lizards can count up to six.

The ones indigenous to Arua are terrifying because:

Nwyip: They can talk. Either that or some bastard with a talent for ventriloquy had it in for me. When I needed to use the ladies’ a querulous little lizard fella jumped in front of me and refused to budge. I wouldn’t have been so disturbed if he hadn’t been…talking. That’s right. He was making a nwyip nwyip sound. His throat was trembling with hysteria.
I looked upon this stupid creature that was getting between me and nature’s incessant call and considered drowning it. It only survived death by angry-woman piss because when I looked around, I saw that I had a bit of an audience.

No fear: These devils are completely unafraid. Forget the pathetic variety that move around in quick little bursts and try to blend in with wall paint. These ones are bullies. They’ll zig zag infront of you and refuse you to overtake.
Moving on:

When in Arua town, don’t attempt to read as you walk because you will die. The moment you take your eyes off the road, a woman with a large basket on her head will knock you to death with her bicycle.

Ripoffs: Nothing sounds more soothing at 4am in the morning, when all your nerves are shouting insults at you than a hotel named slumberland. After you shuffle in and get a room, be sure to make as much a mess as you possibly can. This will help you feel better about things like: their breakfast, which wouldn’t suck if it weren’t so wallet stabbingly expensive and the ecosystem in their mat.

Bathroom mat: When I placed my feet on it, something went squish. I didn’t jump off when I felt this squish, because I wanted to be sure, like how you might poke a snake at the foot of your bed to convince yourself that it really is a snake. Anyway, suffice it to say that that mat was alive.

Good points: My first stop was the public library, a homey looking building with a most eccentric collection of books. On one shelf, I found a Canadian encyclopedia, Greek cookbook and On Writing Well, a brilliant book by William Zinsser that every writer should read at least twice.

Travel advice: 
Don’t travel with somebody square else the highlight of your visit will be a tour of St. Phillips and an encounter with the world’s most terrible and perverted lizard.

Largely Irrelevant: Arua, the word has a nice ring to it. You can base a whole vocabulary on it, you rua?


The Laba street art festival took place on Mackinon road last Saturday. This is how it went:

Achieving ‘cultured’ status in this country isn’t hard anymore. You don’t have to have gone to a ‘big’ school or to have finished university; hell you don’t even have to be literate. As long as you can transform a pile of rubble into something even marginally better looking than before you tinkered with it, you’re an art genius, and therefore cultured.

Rubble? Sure. Art? Sure.

To go with this new artsy you, you need dreadlocks; the art world can’t have you looking too conventional.  With a dreadlocking gel and a head of hair, you’re good to go. One of the signs of a society on the rise is the level of indifference it shows towards convention. The more ahead it is, the more interested it’ll be in a grungier look.

At LABA, all the monsters in the woodwork that is Kampala crawled out and gave such a raw, unabashed display of talent that the journalists in attendance could be recognized by the way they were bolting from tent to tent trying to admire and scribble simultaneously. They looked so ridiculous that they were probably taken as whole exhibits of their own.

People danced A LOT: A group of lightly muscled Adonises kept giving performances the mechanics of which people were too distrated to pay much attention to because of the hard macho tones in which their biceps kept communicating with their triceps.

Closet transsexuals: According to one Collin, this group’s ridiculous gyrations and cloying theatrics were representations of the way women behave, a sort of fun way of delivering a satirical message. If that was their intention, it was an epic FAIL. Women at their most ridiculous/decadent/ disgusting don’t even begin to resemble them, because they’re pretty and look positively alluring in red lipstick. I hated those bastards. They crossed from limp, over done satire into latent homosexuality.

Mantis: Nyange dancing troupe was at the first tent and it performed all day. One of their performances stood out because this one man would start doing a dance that looked like agwara but just like that! he’d turn into a praying mantis, and not by magic either; just really creepy bodily distortions.


There were also kids who were trying very hard to twist their bones and irreparably shatter their spines and crowns by dance. Are break-dancers suicidal?

Sparkly stuff: From the amount of jewelery that was being sold, it’s safe to assume that half the Ugandans who’re involved in art deal in it. Some pieces were fantastic, some atrocious. The ones exhibited at Isha’s gallery tent however were so extraordinary that my first reaction was to thank the lord for my girl parts, after which I saw the prices and nearly died. There’s nothing like a street art fair to alert you to just how meager your resources are.

African Yoga: Yes, it exists, and no, yoga did not originate from the Middle East, as was explained by Pablo, an eccentric but charming man whose only claim to body hair was one long katutuwa at the back of his head. If his descriptions are anything to go by, yoga is the best thing since deodorant and should be tried by absolutely everybody.Find him at In movement- Kansanga for more information.

Solitude: If you’ve read Marquez’s 100 years of solitude, I’m sure you share the view that he moaned way too much about the subject. You’re also aware of the solitude-paranoia that it leaves one with. When I lost my friends, as is inevitable at a street fair with thousands of tents, all that boo-hoo solitude drivel from the book was making me feel pretty pathetic, so I went and had my face painted.

Food: Biryani, pork and chicken was what laba had to offer. The quantities were tiny in proportion to the money charged, I thought. Apparently, fatcats are expected to be svelte nowadays. To be fair, the food wasn’t hideously priced if you weren’t feeling cheap.

Hugs!:  There was a sweet group of people, headed by Roshan, Founder of poetry in session, who traipsed up and down the street, arms outstretched inviting people to fall into their bosoms. It was even allowed to double and triple deal which made some girls very happy. People even started placing themselves strategically in the way of these hug givers.

To crown it all, there was a brilliant concert where Ife thrilled the crowd with her eccentric dance moves that she dubbed ‘getting funky with the earth’. The Zimbabwean emcee was funny enough, but he made an unnecessarily large number of boda boda and porthole jokes.

It’s true that our art society has leaped and bounded over the past two decades, but it’s equally true that a lot of bullshit is disguised as art. There’s an unhealthily large Emperors-clothes complex where by people are afraid to be the first throw their hands up and say “Ahh ahh .This Piece is utter bollocks”.

Gomesi, be far from me.

The first thing that an inexperienced gomesi wearer notices is that they’re huge. Gomesis swallow you whole and don’t even burp. They don’t balk or cringe at the sight of the kind of XXXXL woman that only Uganda is capable of manufacturing. What they do is take one look at her and say, ‘bring it on’ and when they’re done with her, people look and say, ‘Wow. How dignified’ Instead of gasping and squeaking ‘She’s so…so large’.

Person in gomesi.

They have a capacity for stateliness that spandex dress-tops for example can never dream of replicating. For all the heat they trap in, all the discomfort that their slippery material will cause your perspiring skin, they can give just about anybody the gait of a 35 year old headmistress (which is (usually) responsible and dignified).

Gomesis have a life of their own, which means they possess that one aspect that is common to all living things; a bad side.

Hot: Gomesis are the food-flask of clothing. They have only two outlets for your body heat, the arms and bottom. This heat is used to rising off your skin with total ease, seeing your wardrobe is filled with sundresses and sheer tights, not bodysuits. At one point, it feels like the dress is trying to bake you into submission because the more you fidget, the worse the discomfort.

Heavy: They can weigh upon you like a dirty secret. Like a dirty secret made of slippery fabric and sequins.

Suspicious: You can wear almost anything to a club in Uganda, but try getting in wearing a gomesi. At Fat boys, one particularly bold and/or high lady wanted to enter and party, same as everyone else. The guards, apart from being amused, were very suspicious. They insisted on checking her more thoroughly than the rest of the people in the queue, which made her livid. She screamed about violated rights and assault, but the guards stonily told her to go away. That was a good day to be at Fat boyz.

Potty trouble:  According to Bree, gomesis are similar to wedding dresses in that when you’re wearing one, a maid to help gather its folds wouldn’t hurt. Woe unto you if nature starts to beep and then incessantly call. She says, ‘You have to wear many kikoyis inside the gomesi so that it looks good. When you need to use the ladies, things can get complicated. I peed on mine once- at an introduction. It was horrible! I just went back to my seat and didn’t get up until the end of the ceremony’.

Tassels: What, in Bwaise’s floods, is the use of the tassels at the end of the sash? (The sash which by the way hangs down like two unfriendly phalluses.) So far, all they’ve ever done is somehow get under my shoe and make me trip in a way that has been a source of much merriment to onlookers.

Russian doll: Damalie thinks these dresses look best on full figured women. She’s right. Smaller bodied women have however figured out a way to beat the gomesi’s size restrictions. All one has to do is wear as many kikoyis as are necessary to fluff out one’s figure enough for it to look smart. This is all very well, but what about the heat? What about the fact that you’re now some sort of Russian doll from the waist down?  She maintains that, ‘without the right number of kikoyis, a gomesi can look very miserable on a woman like me’.

(whoops)Galore: There’s no article of clothing with as many ways of embarrassing the inexperienced wearer as the gomesi. You can trip and eat dust. You can realize, in the middle of a function that you tied your sash in the wrongest way. It can also unravel.

It’s not the only traditional dress that can spring open and let loose the floodgates of hot shame over your head.

This is Ruth’s story:

Back in high school-during a music competition-my house had a piece where everybody had to wear a pseudo-gomesi type thing. Anyhow, this girl next to me had her boob sticking out the entire time we were on stage and she didn’t realize. Just imagine all the clapping and swaying and wild smiling involved in the traditional presentations that we used to give in high school.

Sort of like this, but not.

I’m anti-traditional wear in general. Just the other day I was coming from a cousin’s introduction and I’d loosened the skirt of my mushanana. By the time I had to get out of the car, I’d forgotten so I when stepped out, it dropped! In front of a bunch of soldiers mind you. They had their evening’s entertainment at my expense and now, I’m backing away from the whole traditional get-up.


He fakes She fakes

Women are so good at faking things that the circulation of that stereotype alleging that as long as one is female, she is a natural born emotional con-artist comes as no surprise.

When, for example, a woman meets her ex with his new girlfriend, she’ll clutch the girlfriend to her bosom with such synthetic love and warmth that a whole friendship might spark up, when what she really wants to do is elbow the newbie’s front teeth in and tell her she’s the dullest, most unattractive person ever to exist.

In this case, it’s self-preservation. What she’s doing is guarding herself against embarrassment, a thing that men are yet to start being concerned about.

But men fake lots of things too, usually to impress or placate their mates, for example, the love of poetry, a particular genre of music and even devoutness.

Nerima says, “I don’t see any problem with pretending to like his friends, relatives or bone-jumping skills. These are relatively small issues in the big scheme of things and it’s only natural to go a couple of extra miles to keep the peace. A man can, however, fake anything from the very foundation of the relationship (in my case, fidelity) to his career.”

Long-distance relationships also provide the perfect conditions for a fully-fledged fake-athon. When Joshua sees his lover’s number flashing on his screen at an inconvenient time, he won’t answer her call and say, “Oh wow, honey. It’s just super that you’re calling now, when I’m right in the middle of a lecture and Eunice has her hand on my thigh.” He’ll just cite network problems the next time they talk.

Lies are an all too necessary evil, according to Jonah, because the company of a woman who is running low on self-esteem is intolerable. He says, “I always make sure that my girlfriend feels great about herself, even if there isn’t much for her to feel good about.

I will lie without shame if her ego is in need of polishing because it’s common knowledge that a contented woman is 10 times more likely to put out than one with the self-worth of a cockroach.”

Being emotional isn’t something that comes naturally to many men and yet it is a powerful weapon to have in one’s inventory. Not wanting to fall behind, they fake it.

Thalia says, “In my experience, they’re either using it as bait or as a way to deflect attention from the crimes they’d committed. You catch him cheating, he bursts into tears.

This has happened to me twice!” Men have been pegged for always wanting to have their cake and eat it. According to Sofia, a man will maintain a relationship with a smart, independent and assertive woman because she makes him look good in front of his relatives, workmates and friends at his local kafunda but he’ll get involved in loads of steamy affairs with women whom he’d rather be with.

She says, “Cheating is one of the nastiest forms of ‘faking it.’ The traitor will often convince his woman that all is well — with gifts and such — to keep her contented. He’ll then search for a simple, pliant, controllable and less intelligent woman who makes him feel powerful. Sex and fulfillment are two different things.”

Most men are out to make a good first impression (note the use of MOST. Some think their possession of cojones is enough) and so they’ll hold your purse, be extremely affectionate, treat you like an egg with a calcium deficiency, etc. They’ll even laugh at atrociously bad jokes.

Maureen says, “I’ve actually tried and tested this, so it holds good. If you want to find out whether or not your man is faking things, wear the sexiest outfit you’ve got and make the worst jokes that you possibly can. Make them so bad that even people on the street will stare after you in dismay long after you’ve gone. If he’s still nodding attentively and humoring you with laughter, he’s a faker.”

Justus comes to the defence of men with, “Generally if the chick is hot enough, whatever garbage that comes out of her mouth will be hilarious. Fact of life. If she’s hot, she’s funny/intelligent.”

Sharon in the Big Brother house must be one big exception then.

Faking isn’t a thing that can be attributed exclusively to just one of the sexes though. Relationship blackmail, which is practiced by absolutely everyone, levels the playing field.

For example, if Gary doesn’t pick Maria from the gym, he’ll sleep on the couch. If she doesn’t cook food that night — subjecting him to cold pizza for the fourth night in a row — he won’t pick her up from the gym and so forth.

This form of blackmail can only work if it’s disguised by buckets and buckets of affection, tinkly laughs, hugs and other pleasant facades.