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