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Gidi in Heels with ‘Layemi: The African Woman & the Choices that ‘Choose’ Her

'Layemi Olusoga

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A few days ago, I went out on a lunch date with some of my female friends. It was supposed to be a lazy Saturday afternoon date at a classy restaurant. The whole ‘women lunch act’ is part of a resolution we made a couple of years ago to meet-up frequently and inspire one another towards the attainment of our goals. You know those goals that pretty much revolve around corner offices, women empowerment initiatives, Banana Island addresses, picture-perfect families and walk-in closets.

At these lunches, we catch-up on our achievements since the last lunch, give candid no-holds-barred advice, and as you can imagine, after some meetings two people end up not speaking to each other for a few days or weeks – depending on how ‘candid’ the candid opinions were. Sometimes those meetings are so brutal that we kinda go on a friendship hiatus until there is some new hot gist ‘juicy’ enough to put aside our bruised egos and contribute our quota to nation building by gossiping having a meaningful discussion about it.

Anyway, at this particular lunch date, we met another group of women lunching and we all sort of ended up having a conversation about life as an African woman. One of the ladies from the other group told us a rather interesting story about a woman she had recently met in the course of work. This woman was a very successful professional who had made a decision in her mid-twenties never to get married and at almost forty she was still very happy about her decision and was sticking to it.

Yes – the woman in question is a full Nigerian. No – she has never lived abroad (so it is not a Yankee/Jand mentality syndrome) and according to the narrator of the story, this woman has been in a committed relationship with a very great guy for almost three years now (so apparently the only closet she was hiding in were the ones on Fifth Avenue and Bond Street –  judging by the very vivid description of her wardrobe by the narrator. I can’t remember how the conversation drifted to her wardrobe).

Naturally, we were quite surprised as it is not every day you hear of a successful, good looking African woman who has chosen to remain single. Her reasons were very clear and simple according to the narrator– this woman wanted a life where she could put in all her time and effort into her passions, travel the world and create a collage of mind-blowing memories. She did not want children as she did not think she could be a good mother and still have the life she had dreamed of, and of course, not wanting children kind of limited her options of potential spouses.

Apparently when asked what she would do if she met a man who wanted the exact same things that she did and wanted to marry her – her response had been she would still decline because she simply could not promise anyone anything more than she was offering right now and did not want to take chances.

This particular conversation was very emancipating for me – in my head I was like… Yes! Finally! African women are taking charge of their lives, choosing their own paths and not allowing the pressure of being normal get to them. However, most of the ladies around the table had completely different perspectives. I will sum up their many perspectives in three categories:

Category 1: Her decision was as a result of a devastating heart break that had made her give up on men completely and so instead of admitting this, she had made up all these fancy dreams as an excuse for not trying to find the right man.

Category 2: Perhaps she had found out she could not have children and did not want it to become public knowledge and so had cooked up all these dreams as an excuse for why she did not want to get married.

Category 3: Her not wanting marriage and children is a very serious attack from her village as it is abnormal for a woman not to want a husband or children.

The ladies around the table concluded that whatever the reasons were for her resolution to remain single, it could be cured by prayers and counselling. They were sure that in her old age she would regret the decision and wish she had made a different choice. There was also talk that it was a selfish decision to make as if more women decided to make this life choice, it would be a threat to the continuity of the human race. The final reason why they concluded it wasn’t a great choice was because she could not be a good role model to the younger generation if she did not exhibit respect for the values of the typical African woman.

I probed further as to why they thought the values of the typical African woman was a consideration here and the conclusion was that the typical African woman knows it is part of her purpose to get married and have children.
The conversation quickly moved into an easier and less controversial topic but I couldn’t stop thinking about the perceived purpose of an African woman.
These are the questions that I have been pondering over:
1) When it comes to the fulfilment of purpose is there such a thing as being selfish? Can I choose the life I want without having to consider the implications of my personal choices on others or does being a good person mean putting the greater good above my personal desires?

2) Would the perception of this life choice be different if it had been made by an African man?

When asked my opinion, I had simply quoted the classic affirmative ending in William Henley’s Invictus – I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.

Do African women make their own choices or do their choices choose them? Are African women truly empowered or is there a need to change the narrative?

Photo Credit: Foto.com.ng

Layemi is a career woman, a writer and a relentless dreamer. She is an eternal optimist, hopeless romantic and an advocate for equity. She wants to be remembered for impacting the world and inspiring billions through her writing which she hopes will someday earn her a Nobel Prize in Literature. She occasionally tweets with the handle @luola12

19 Comments

  1. larz

    May 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    I love itt when people embrace who they really are and not try to pretend to be what / who they are not. Some people will probably criticise her choices for being un-African.

    I ask them this question. How will you feel if your loved one (sibling/ children) end up marrying and having kids with someone who wasn’t cut to be like that and they spend the rest of their life making your loved one totally miserable. God forbid right? Well that is exactly what you are promoting the need time you join in adding pressure on people who aren’t cut in that way. Because, somewhere, their decision to accept society pressure will be the reason why someone else’s loved on is miserable.

  2. olami

    May 19, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Impressive piece ‘Layemi, these indeed are the realities of our today. When can we read part 2???

  3. Nasa

    May 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Woww! This is an extremely liberating view from the writer, i dare say i agree 100% with the rehash of the quote from Invictus, indeed we are the masters of our fate. Why is there a separate purpose for an African Woman; and if I may ask, as defined by whom. This same ‘purpose’ that has become the undoing of so many intelligent and beautiful women. To the first question you ponder on- by all means I would say “Do You” with a reasonable measure of consideration of the implication on others that one deems significant.

  4. teresa

    May 19, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Sometimes your choice is just nt enough it better u do wat makes u happy alone and den suffer alone @ d end.

  5. preci

    May 19, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I agree with you, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,” with God on my side of course, Lol. But I can’t help but cringe at regularly, socially gathering with African women that think that part of the typical African woman’s purpose is to get married and have children. I tolerate people like this in the real world, I don’t want to deal with people like that in my social circle, especially if we are going to be talking about our success and encouraging one another. That’s how you’ll tell them about your new accomplishment, meanwhile they’re thinking to themselves, “but you’re not married aunty.”

  6. Cheekie

    May 19, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Well….I believe or think the African Woman has evolved or is evolving. Today’s woman is a blend of heritage,western cultures and different cultures. She sees the world differently,and her experiences in this global world we now live in is different. She has a plethora of choices she can choose from. She can be who she wants to be,she is confident,assertive,strong,a woman of faith and intellect. An African woman who isn’t just defined by culture or society ideals/norms. Our background,upbringing,cultural dynamics,life experiences etc shape us into who we are/become. It may not define who we are,but it contributes to who we choose to become. We can learn and unlearn traits we want or don’t want..

    The African Woman has a voice,has a choice,can choose to be herself or conform to what society expects of her. Some want to marry,some choose not to,i agree it could be as a result of some of the categories highlighted in your article.. And it could also be independent of those categories,we can’t all want the same thing. We are not wired the same way,and we see life differently.
    I have always believed there is more to my life that marriage and procreation,i have never had a wedding fantasy,i don’t see babies and wish i had one(Yet i volunteer at orphanages)….Say yes to the dress is a show i love,but i never watch and day dream about my own wedding day/dress…Sounds weird,but it’s the truth. I don’t think i want to marry neither do i want to have children…It’s okay to be selfish,i love my life just the way it is. I don’t come home after work to cater to kids and a husband,i can go anywhere,anytime,i don’t have to attend functions i don’t want to.
    My parents are both Professors and very liberal minded,(they been happily married for 40+ yrs) they are fine with my decision to not marry..And open to my life choices,after all it is my life…Having a companion,friend,partner would be good for most women. But in such relationships intimacy will be in sin,and for women who just want kids no marriage it’s still sin. Sometimes i wish the bible could be re-written or modified to fit/suit this world we live in now. Respecting people’s choices is key,that they don’t want what we want,doesn’t make them deviants…Not everyone woman is a mother,some women are just pushed and forced by ‘societal pressures to have children.
    It is hard to even speak out your truth,there’s always this fear of looking odd,or people labeling you. All in all,marriage is beautiful with the right person,and it’s a personal decision and choice.

  7. meninnist

    May 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    What women say to other women is VERY DIFFERENT to what they say to a man they’re in love with. very few women tell the truth to each other.

    I have a female “friend” over 30 who preaches this whole independent single women talk to other ladies. When we are in Bed together she can start crying out of no where talking about “where is our relationship going?” and Gets mad when I say its only sex. and shes White not African. All those years of nacking different guys, she meets someone she likes and wants to settle down with. She should accept her fate and stop lying to these other ladies as if shes happy with herself.

    If this African lady is truly happy I commend her but most women will lie to one another when their relationship is terrible they will say its good, when they are lonely at times they will say they are happy.

    • Weezy

      May 19, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Color me skeptical as well. We haven’t heard from this woman’s boyfriend and what he has to say.

  8. Niola

    May 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Life experiences have shown me that I am indeed not the captain of my soul and the master of my fate. God is! But it is our choice to be happy! In view of this , I see nothing wrong in the approach taken by the woman as long as she is happy, I do believe she will be fulfilling purpose some other way.

  9. Las

    May 19, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    This narrative resonated with me, simply because I think this lady knows herself deeply and is honest with others and most importantly with herself.

    C.S. Lewis said “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” This quote reminds me that it’s ok if one does not find what one really desires in this world. It’s ok to be an idealist.

  10. X-Factor

    May 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Recently i have come to learn not to apologize for MY convictions and live true to MY truths. so i ll say find yourself outside of societal dictates and be the best you can be.
    Beautiful piece Pee Layemz (you know who)

  11. Cheekie

    May 19, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    That a woman chooses not to have kids,doesn’t mean she has had numerous abortions,doesn’t mean her womb has been damaged… A woman who has decided to remain single,also doesn’t mean she hops from one man to the next. If she chooses to live her unhappy marriage it’s not because she want to mess around. Some of us are not virgins,some of us have been celibate by choice and faith for years,and we have never had an abortion in our life…
    What ever makes you truly happy seek it and be true to yourself always.

  12. Ginger

    May 19, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Not everyone wants to get married or have children. It’s mostly a social construct, and marriage itself is not the only way to live, as even Jesus’ disciples often didn’t get married, except those who especially had issues with celibacy. There are many people who get married and refuse to have children, and there are many people who have children and do the worst jobs because they aren’t cut out for the patient and nurturing job of parenting. A lot of men are freeing themselves from fulfilling such roles because their male friends and family aren’t as hard on them as women tend to be on other women, and it’s pretty obvious even from this post. Eg how many times have you heard a man discuss Oprah Winfrey’s marital status or childlessness, vs many women who have debased her numerous accomplishments based on that .

  13. Layemi's Fan

    May 19, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    No offence, but I wonder how you have friends who think like that in 2016, I could sense their condescension and myopia from here and it choked me. Even my mum’s old married friends no longer pressure their kids to get married. Marriage was designed for two things: companionship and reproduction. Not everyone craves companionship (or procreative sex), and not everyone craves the stress and dependency of child birth and rearing. Next time, ask your friends how many of them have truly felt more fulfilled by having a husband or partner. Your fulfilment is in God, not marriage or childbirth. Oh wait, typical Nigerians are “religious” but not true Christians with love. See how black and cynical their minds are

  14. Tunmi

    May 19, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    I could see myself in the woman they were talking about. I am still learning about myself, and I gotta admit I’m not too keen on having kids. My last relationship taught me to be more in tune with myself and be honest with my limits. If I were to have kids, it would be to see what half my genes make. And that to me is not enough reason. I love children though. I find it amazing to watch their growth and to see their personalities form. So yes to companionship and to my passions and traveling.

  15. Marian

    May 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I had a plan: finish my masters and travel the world. God had a different plan: finish my masters and get married. Will be getting married in three weeks 🙂 if anyone had told me 2 yrs ago i would be getting married this year, mehn, would have laughed like crazy. Me? marry @26? nah!!! not about that life, well till God kinda changed my plans. I feel like a lot of Nigerian ladies kinda follow a pattern. high school-uni-nysc-marriage. There is a whole lot more to a Nigerian woman than marriage. We are all different. A lot of people disagree with me when i say this but i strongly believe that Marriage is not for everyone. Know yourself and purse your goals but in doing so you should be flexible because goals do change. Be open to God’s plan. Shoutout to Le boo. The guy try o cuz my yanga was out of this world. I was very resistant to the change in my plans for a while like nah! but now we get to travel the world together and i will always have someone to take my pictures. lol.

  16. Temmy

    May 24, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Hmm….the global world we are in hasn’t done any damage, but to open our heart to many options in life I think.
    @Cheekie: Don’t mean to be rude; The Holy Bible is complete and can never be rewritten, Apostle Paul said ” 7:8 – But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am, 7:9 – but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Corinthians 7:1-9.)
    So, If your choice is to stay single…Oh tump’s up for YOU. But like you stated not having a side guy to cool off when your emotions crave for it (sin). Lol. I admire your courage.
    Well done Olayemi! (Post my comment oo BN) Thank you!

  17. charles

    May 25, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Part 2 please, Part 2

  18. davinci

    June 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Can we know what the boyfriend brings to the table or is he just a figure head or ceremonial patner? Is he okay with her choices especially regarding marriage?

    Answers pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee

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