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Toochi Ugoala: Spring Chicken at 40



One of my closest friends recently turned the big 40. I was extremely excited, because in Lagos, we do not let some things pass – like a 40th birthday party bursting with fancy cupcakes of different flavours, a lot of wine, food and Young John the Wicked Producer on the beat. In addition, we certainly love to dress the part because #pepperdemgang is a full-time job.

So imagine the pain I felt in my chest when she said that she did not want a party or even a small get-together. She wanted to sit back at her house alone and reflect on her life so far. My first instinct was to ask her why her life’s reflection was getting in the way of a good party. Couldn’t it come before or after the party? Instead, I asked her what’s going on. Her answer shot me in the chest.

“Toochi I’m 40. Like 40, 40. I don’t have a child. I’m not married. Hell, I don’t even have a steady relationship. Not that it matters to me a lot but do you know what people are saying? My mother called just to tell me that my youngest sister just brought a man home and to remind me that my biological clock is rapidly ticking away. What is wrong with me? Am I too ugly? What am I doing wrong?”

Even though I wanted to grab her and shake her till she realised that a good party equalled a fulfilled life, I couldn’t help but think about her reasons for sacrificing my party and I was saddened by the answers I got in my head. She was right in a way – a major one actually, because this is Nigeria, and it doesn’t usually matter whether a woman found the cure to HIV, marched single-handedly into Sambisa to free our girls, or solved the power supply issue, she will still be considered unaccomplished for being single. The more depressing thing about this is that, our women have come to accept and embrace this notion, so much so that it’s not uncommon to see a woman telling her fellow woman that she is single (and will remain single) because of her character. This is always a knockout punch. I need not mention the fact that our families, especially mothers, are not helping matters at all.

Here in Nigeria, a woman is not allowed to not want to marry and (or) have kids. It is almost abominable. It is as if there’s a law set in an invisible stone that a woman must desire (and pursue) marriage and kids, that her ultimate success is in getting a husband. Screw what she has accomplished as a human being. As a result, we have lots of women entering into unhappy marriages just to escape the wagging tongues of the society.  Then we have the likes of my friend, who despite being extremely successful, still feel like there is something missing – even when they don’t know exactly how marriage will impact their lives. The unfortunate thing is that these women begin to feel like something is wrong with them. However, it is no longer news that for one single lady with a particular flaw, there’s another married lady with same flaw. So what exactly is the problem?

Oh, and this stigmatization almost never applies to men. A successful 40-year-old bachelor is viewed as taking his time so as not to make any mistake in getting a partner. Why can’t the same go for a 40-year-old spinster? One of my friends will even argue that the Bible says ‘He that findeth a wife’ not ‘she that findeth a husband’. Why aren’t men receiving their fair share of shaming in the society?

The answer to that question can be traced to our basic family units. I vividly remember a time my sister made a horrible pot of Oha soup. Mama asked her if this is how she will cook for her husband. She was not asked if this was how to cook Oha soup properly. I still can’t cook and I don’t remember being asked if that’s how I’d not be able to cook for my wife. Our parents unconsciously raise wives before women, and these women in turn raise their kids same way and the cycle never ends. It is high time we started telling our daughters to cook well simply because a human being should cook well (if they decide to), not because they need to cook well for a husband somewhere. It is high time we started telling our boys to sweep the floor thoroughly because they are human beings who should keep neat surroundings and not wait for a wife to do it for them. We should stop conditioning our girls to aspire to marriage as the ultimate success. Love happens when it does, and whether we believe it or not, not all love leads to marriage and (or) children.

And to you single ladies who are 40 (and above), the phrase that life begins at 40 applies to you as well. Live, laugh a lot, travel and see the world, let your hair all the way down and flirt at a birthday party, get your groove on and dance. Nothing is wrong with you. You don’t have to feel pressured to settle into marriage. If you must be married, if you must have kids, please let it be on your own terms and turf. If someone says your biological clock is ticking out, please email me. I have new biological batteries at very affordable prices. All you have is now and you need to make a conscious effort to enjoy it. Because a 40-year-old spring chicken is tastier; a 40-year-old bottle wine is fine and luxuriously exquisite and rare – very rare.

Photo Credit: Alberto Jorrin Rodriguez | Dreamstime


  1. Chibaby

    October 25, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    You Better Preach!!!!!!

  2. Zee San

    October 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Yesssss!!! Let the boys learn how to take care of themselves

  3. chiomah

    October 25, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Love it!!!

  4. CHIKA

    October 25, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    LOVE THIS!!!!!!!

  5. Nuellla

    October 25, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Preach it! But from a doctor’s point of view…the clock is ticking indeed…all the anomalies in childbirth spike up after 35 :-p… oh well we have ivf clinics for that …:-p nonetheless celebrate life girl!

    • momo

      October 25, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      my dear truth is yes the biological alarm is ringing at 40 lets be honest ..marriage matter aside after 35 most women fertility reduces …this is biological fact if kids is what you want do it before you have to spend millions on painful procedures ….better if there is a father around to be one.

  6. Akara Pancake

    October 25, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    I was a spring chicken once. The things I did in my youth were foolish, reckless, nasty and selfish. I broke the hearts of many hens. Took the innocence of many chicken-heads. Did not save money during bountiful periods – I was spending it recklessly like it was chicken-feed. I did not value friendships – I once betrayed a good friend before the cock crowed thrice. Lost a good pal – he was my wing man too.

    Dabbled in activities that could have turned my body into fried chicken. Like binge- smoking cigarettes and an having unprotected sex that could have given my cock sores. I eventually went cold turkey thankfully

    Now that I am in the cockerel stage of life, I have earned my spurs. These days I see the value of being cooped up in the crib, taking care of my kids, rather than chasing promiscuous chicks with huge thighs and breasts. No longer do I seek illicit thrills as a feather under my cap. I save money these days, and I am looking to build a nest egg. I watch my words carefully so as not to hurt people I care for with fowl (sic) language.

    • newbie

      October 25, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Love this. Every single pun. So apt for the topic too.

    • John

      October 26, 2017 at 12:52 am

      Sire…u won the Internet for me today…the thing weak me

  7. Manny

    October 25, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Akara pancake. Who are you???
    Please don’t kill me with laughter. You’re damn too good. Let me say you’re a good bird ?

  8. Hotspice_yimu

    October 25, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    “Our parents unconsciously raise wives before women..”
    that up there is the reason for so many problems relating to marital status (single or married). meanwhile same parents are unconsciously raising boys to remain boys in adulthood.

  9. newbie

    October 25, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Love this. Every single pun. So apt for the topic too.

  10. Simi

    October 25, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Quite well said. If you spend your whole life preparing for an exam and you never get the chance to even take that exam, it feels like failure.

    That said, it can be hard if you truly desire to be married to put the thought aside. You know you are supposed to be living. Your brain knows it. In fact, you have moments when you are truly living. But then when the other times come…..

    So my two cents is be prepared for those times and make your strategy for dealing before they arrive. And also, let your friends help dig you out, okay.

  11. John

    October 26, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Sire…u won the Internet for me today…the thing weak me

  12. Loki

    October 26, 2017 at 10:16 am

    This is really nice, unfortunately, it’ll take more than a well written article to change centuries of conditioning among Nigerians. Even in the 21st century workplace, think of how many nasty comments follow a no nonsense female boss who is unmarried or whose marriage breaks up. Anything other than a cheery disposition must lead to the inevitable scornful “no wonder she’s not married”. Or “no wonder her husband ran away, if na. you nko?”. This comes EVEN FROM WOMEN.
    Only a single woman will understand how irritating the question “What are you using your money to do? It’s not as if you are married” is just because she mentioned being broke. Or “what did you spend your weekend doing that you’re tired? What should the married women do” just cos she yawned on Monday morning. It’s insane. Or my very favourite- you are not a WOMAN until you are married. At best you are a lady”. WTF?.
    At least things are getting better now. Apparently Single women can now drive cars and furnish their bachelorette pads without the damming “YOU WANT TO SCARE MEN AWAY!!!”.
    It takes a very tough minded woman to ignore all the madness and go bungee jumping.
    Speaking of,…where’s my damn bungee cord?
    TL;DR- Nigeria sucks for single women. Move to Canada.

    • MMM

      October 26, 2017 at 11:53 am

      this is true! When I bought my car…. my mother questioned my sensibility of owning a car since i was not married as i will scare away potential men. I ignored. But boy was i in for a surprise. It turned out exactly … Less men approached me as a result. It took time to find my husband. Luckily after years and years of praying hard i found a husband. But just before that happened i was at break-point … fighting with my consciousness whether or not i should just park my car and take a bus once a while. … It really takes a strong woman to ignore all the madness of society!

  13. Cameron pepper

    October 26, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Toochi nwa ugoala, what an article! Good job buddy. Truth is that, you simply said it all. A man should be taught to clean, cook and mend. It has got nothing to do with wether he’s meant to or not. Our parents and the generations after them should learn to raise a woman before a wife. Teach her to be independent, strong, focused and above all, to love herself.

  14. Mark

    October 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    SPOT ON!… I have tried to talk to my female friends about it too, but most don’t seem to be able to shake the mindset off, almost like its biological. I have told them the bible arrangement of the man finding the woman. I have told them they should learn domestic skills for themselves not cos of a man, I even added that they should stop using virginity to determine worth (this one is a gist for another time). I have spoken and spoken… but nothing changes. The men aren’t entirely the problem. Most of these ideals are started by men, but peddled by women (my opinion and its not up for any analysis). Most times it is the mother that will remind the child that his/her clock is ticking, it is the mother that will tell the child to learn to cook or behave this way or that way just so they’ll find a good husband. This is why once a girl marries, everything stops most times, cos she was raised to believe marriage is the pinnacle of a girl’s life. I don’t blame the mothers, its society has made them accept this standard. This is why I keep telling feminist to stop channeling all that energy into struggling with men, and instead help correct the mindset of parents as to how they raise their kids. If they can help the mothers understand that their girls than do much more than marry, a new generation of ambitious girls will come up. Start with erasing gender based chores and stop attaching marital value to every domestic activity. My mom is not a feminist, I don’t think she knows what it is, but she doesn’t have gender based chores, everybody does the work, according to her, you must be able to take care of yourself, boy or girl. She’s not raising children for marriage but to be useful to themselves. I know how i’ll raise my girl(s) when she or they come, and of course she will understand that I didn’t spend money on her because of a man, so she better rule the world.

    • Loki

      October 26, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      Your mom is a feminist. Whether or not she carries that label. Not every feminist is a man-hating, be loyal to everyone with a uterus whether or not it is warranted social justice warrior. Women like your mom are the reason girls go to school now, build careers and have an identity that is not derived from their relationship with a man. Quietly changing the world one step at a time.

  15. BUZOR

    October 26, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Yasssssssss! Preeeeeeaaaaacccccccchhhhhhhhhh! I personally think Marriage is overrated!

  16. Victor Nwokedi

    October 26, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Nice piece.

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