Monday, 5 January 2015

Here’s TheThing... …About The Pressure To Marry Young (if it exists)

Apologies for my absence, last month, I thought I’d honour the Pink Ball Collector’s Edition by leaving my scatterbrain thoughts out of it. I’m back now…and I hope you even noticed I was gone…
Weddings are a huge part of Nigerian society. It’s a multi-billion Naira industry, providing incredible amounts of job opportunities for so many. It is often a spectacle to behold, so much so that much like going to church on Sundays. “Wedding Saturday…” is a no-brainer.
There is an ideal that exists in Nigeria; the belief that a woman’s life is perhaps not as complete without the family dynamic – that by a certain age, a range narrower for women than men, one ought to be married, with plans for children already underway; a rather traditionalist ideal.
For some, there is an increasing pressure, sometimes unspoken, other times quite vocal, which comes with each birthday. The closer you are to 30, the more fervent the prayers become; relatives praying for the man to “find you.” Accusing you of being too picky, or not praying hard enough or whatever fault they may find. Marriage is a lifelong commitment and thusly I would imagine that any woman or man (with the right intentions) would want to make sure that they are entering into such a long-term relationship with someone that they truly believe is worthy. Forever is far too long for you not to take your time and ensure that you’re making the right decision to the best of your knowledge.
But sometimes the individuals create these pressures. Wedding Saturdays become a weekly reminder that your circle of single friends is becoming more intimate, and that you are nowhere near that march down the aisle. The queries come less from relatives and more from the voice in your head that so happens to be louder than your voice of reason.
The Nigerian man and woman have become more individual; there is a more focused search for one’s purpose as a whole. I am surrounded by immensely intelligent, and talented young people who are building lives for themselves, by themselves. I love the fact that they are able to focus on what they deem most important to them at any given moment without the hovering presence of the nagging voice that sounds like that game some of us used to play in Primary School: “when will you marry? This year, next year, sometime or never?” There is now a firm desire to make one’s mark, find oneself and then if the spirit moves you, attempt to find true love, if you haven’t already. However, there is always the cautionary voice saying, time is of the essence. When will you start focusing on finding a husband/ wife?
The truth is this marriage is a wonderful thing. It is, but it is not something that I feel the need to put a timer on, or constantly have to defend myself about. You cannot nurture a successful relationship with that kind of pressure in your head because your intentions become tainted. I think men and women are well within their rights to take their time, if they feel so inclined, to find a worthy partner, so what if your friends are getting married before you? Is it a race? Well, is it? Age is not the “be all, and end all” of one’s life. Not having a baby in one’s twenties does not immediately mean a woman is condemned to a life of unwholesomeness (this isn’t Mean Girls, your friends won’t hiss, “you can’t sit with us” at you… I should hope!)
I will be controversial and say that the pressure to marry young, if it does exist, shouldn’t. It is not a one-size fits all approach; it is hugely individualistic and should be treated thusly. One couple may be ready to tie the knot at 26, and another may wait a while longer. Some women are ready for motherhood at 28 while others are not. One group is not more superior or more complete than the other. So go to the weddings of your loved ones, have fun, laugh, enjoy yourself, but do not leave there feeling like you are failing because that wasn’t you walking down the aisle. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, marriage is not a race, it’s a commitment. It’s ideally not a trial and error dynamic either; it’s something you hope to only do once, and never again, all things being equal. So do it in your own time, and if the voices begin to pressure you before you’re ready, go to your happy place. Relatives may pray for the man to “find you”, say amen. But remember that they’re not the ones in that relationship, you and your spouse are. The voices in your head may taunt you with sneers; tune them out.

Here’s a quote from a lovely play called Three Sisters, by Russian author and playwright Anton Chekov: After all, people marry, not for love, but only so that they can fulfil their duty. This play was written in 1900, let this not be your belief in 2015.

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