Last year when I was an assistant Diction teacher in a primary school, I remember asking the pupils what they would like to be when they grew up and when I got to a particular little girl, I asked the same question “What would you like to be when you grow up, Simi?” she stood up gingerly and said in her high pitched voice “I would like to be a wife and a nurse”. I was taken aback and wondered how a young girl of ten could be thinking about being a wife already but then I recalled that as a female in Nigeria, old or young, marriage is a feat that should be taken quite seriously which is why we see kids of five years with big dreams of fairytale-like weddings.
Marriage in most religions, is a sacred union which originates from God or a supreme being for the basic purpose of procreation and companionship. Although it was placed as a responsibility upon man, God never made it a law or a commandment which would attract certain punition when not successfully obeyed and there has been no law whatsoever that requires everyone and anyone to marry or to be married, which would attract frightening penalties following disobedience to the law(s).
We live in a world that is evolving swiftly which would automatically mean that our mentality towards how we view and understand things we call ‘the norm’ will transform into one more open-minded and civil and less hide-bound but it is rather gobsmacking that it is not quite so. An example of how myopic and our society is, is the unjust and biased manner in which mature women who are single are ill treated. While it is rather conventional and expected of women who are in their prime to marry and start families of their own, it is not an obligation or a must-do. A lot of women suffer from depression and deep anxiety as a result of their unmarried state, they are forced to endure these negative emotion not because of the debatable loneliness that singleness might induce, but because of the damaging and disagreeable attitude of others towards them for not being able to find a husband.
Women are looked down upon and disrespected when they show up at summits, seminars, conferences without a ring on their finger indicating that they have been wiped clean of the dreaded stigma of being mature and unmarried and this has propelled majority of women who have to attend such events to purchase wedding rings from stores and wear them on their ring fingers, feigning marriage. An independent woman who has attained remarkable educational qualifications, achieved an outstanding extent of positive exposure and has a well-paying job is commended and applauded quite insipidly and mildly for her level of success but if perchance she adds that she is married, the commendation is taken several notches up and she is given a roaring applause and deeply respected because according to most, her level of success has been complemented and is at its peak which would mean she has reserved the absolute right to refer to herself as a ‘successful woman’. How provincial!
Many single women have been tormented mentally by our society to the extent that they will do anything legal, manipulative, fetish and spiritual to bag a husband thereby bringing a welcome terminus to their despair. I use that word “bag” because that is exactly what finding a husband means; a trophy, a worthwhile and essential prize to be added to her long list of accomplishments for it to be acknowledged, and this saddening truth brings to mind the accurate words of WanaWana’s poem where it was written that a woman’s “heavy medals of success are meaningless until they are smelted into a ring” on her finger.
The pressure and anxiety society metes out to mature unmarried women is undue and bigoted, a man can decide to stay unmarried for as long as he wants and society will not raise their eyebrows disapprovingly or bend their mouths in condemnation but when a woman decides to, yes, a woman can decide to stay single willingly, she is coerced to endure the baseless speculations and conclusions of society. Speculations such as “she is being haunted by a dark past that is why no one has agreed to marry her” and conclusions such as “She can never find a husband as long as she keeps up that haughty behavior working in a big company, no man wants to be intimidated by her” among many others, and I find this unsettling, horribly befuddling and terribly partial.
Society should not stifle a woman till she has to manage a marriage with a man she does not really like or marry a man she is not compatible with. Society should not dictate to a woman how long she can stay single before tying the knot, society has no right to subject any woman to unwarranted distress and tension or form unfounded speculations and conclusions when she resolves to remain single or when she has found none worthy enough to promise her entire life to.
Albeit it would sound far fetched and unlikely, women should choose to not yield whenever the choking hands of society are beginning to deny her, her right to make life changing decisions for herself. Society will not be there when she decides to put a bullet in her head or take a healthy dose of sodium hypochlorite as of a form of reprieve from the drastic tribulations issuing violently from the marriage she had been forced to manage.It would be liberating and right, if everyone were made to live their lives according to well founded principles and not conform to the parochial attitude and mindset of a retrogade society.