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In Zimbabwe, a case of mistaken identity

A youthful husband unwittingly puts his wife in an awkward spot.

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My husband is only nine months younger than I am. But lately people have begun to mistake him for my son.

Picture the scene. I have persuaded him to accompany me to my local supermarket in eastern Zimbabwe. I am relishing having someone to trot up to the bread counter, then back to the shopping trolley, off to find some vinegar, back to the trolley, while I muse languidly by the peanut butter. "I must do this more often," I say to myself happily.

We proceed to the till. A security guard edges closer to help pack our groceries. He greets me warmly: "Hello Amai" (mother).

I smile at him.

"Is this your son?" the guard asks.

"My son?" (My husband says afterward that my mouth dropped open.) I start to stammer. "He's ... he's my husband!"

I beat a hasty retreat from the store vowing to always shop alone.

Then it happens again.

This time we have been stopped at a police roadblock, one of several on the main highway between the capital, Harare, and the border town of Mutare.

An officer, bulky in his winter fluorescents, peers in through the driver's window. "Where is the daddy?" he asks.

"The daddy?" This time it's my husband who is stumped. "My father is at home."

The officer considers us. The thought of a fine keeps my lips clamped together.

"Well, look after the mother," he orders my husband before waving us on.

"He thought you were my son!" I say crossly, as soon as the driver's window is safely sealed. I turn and glare at my husband. "Can't you stop looking like you're 16 years old?"

"I don't look 16," he says mildly.

I study his profile: not the hint of a wrinkle there. I wonder: Has he been secretly smoothing on the face cream my sister faithfully sends me? If so, it must work better on him than it ever has on me.

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