No, I did not fix that rat. I called my (not so) little brother. He rushed over, put the rat in a paper bag, and threw it outside.

I hate stereotypes. That’s what I was thinking as I jumped screaming onto the nearest high surface I could find. I’m a smart, strong, logical woman. Why am I jumping on a chair just because a furry little rodent is running around on my floor? How did it get in? How long has it lived in the kitchen drawer? I really should clean up more often.

And as each of these thoughts sifted rapidly through my mind, I asked myself – again – what I was doing on top of the counter. I mean, it’s only a rat. Disney made them cute. They rarely bite unless attacked. It’s small enough to fit inside my hand. So WHY am I so terrified of something that’s potentially harmless?


When I lived in Dar, we often left the doors open, because it would get so hot and air conditioning used too much electricity. So eventually, a family of rats got in, and we had to poison them. But once they were dead, I was too squeamish to move their corpses and asked our watchman to do it. Now here, in Nairobi, faced with a living mouse, all I can do is stand on a table and scream into my mobile phone.

The fear of that mouse was entirely unconscious. It defied thought, time, and reason. In my head, I was listing all the reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid of a mouse, and counting all the ways I could get rid of it. But on the outside, I was hopping up and down and screaming getitoffgetitoffgetitoff! After it was gone, I still felt imaginary fur on my toes and squeaked at every dark piece of string within my eye-line.

Science will tell you this strange fear is some kind of primal reflex left over from my cave dwelling ancestors. It will tell you fear of mice is in my DNA, and that Tom and Jerry didn’t teach me to mount tables. It will laugh in the face of a feminist that changes her own bulbs and pays her own bills but is useless in the whiskers of a mouse.

And science makes me worry. Because … if all my character, intelligence, and confidence can’t overcome my instinctive fear of a mouse … then can any man get past his cave-man desire to shag every female in sight? And if he can’t fight an instinct wired into his DNA … then what hope does any woman have of her man being faithful?

♫ Kiss the rain ♫ Billie Myers ♫

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