In Nigeria, marriage is seen as the highest reward for being a good woman. I’m lucky to come from a family where my parents care more about my other achievements than being ‘chosen’. Unfortunately, that mindset isn’t shared by other family members. I have avoided going to weddings or any gatherings because I get asked: “When is your turn?” There is always one uncle or aunt or cousin that asks that and it has become frustrating.
It doesn’t just end with the family. I can be gisting with my friends about guys then it will turn to how they want to find husbands. Fine, when it’s my turn to talk and I mention that I don’t want to get married, it’s always dismissed with “you with your oyinbo mentality. When you find a man, you will marry.” Or like, “You that I know?” (I really hate this one, because no, you don’t know me).
Now when it comes to the people I don’t have a close relationship with, I should learn to just shut up. I always find myself trying to explain my choices when I’m in a gathering and the marriage topic comes up. Again, it always ends up with the dismissive “you don’t have a man that’s why.” Other times, I can tell just by the way they look at me how much I’m being judged.
It has been emotionally difficult for me to be in Nigeria and be around people constantly acting like this is the most absurd thing they’ve heard of. As much as it has been difficult, I have gotten really tired of explaining (or trying to explain) how no two humans are the exact same people.
I am closer to 30 than I am to 25. Being a single woman at my age gives people room to ask me these questions. Questions I used to answer, but as I stated earlier, I have given up on. So from now on, I’ll refer people to this post whenever I get asked why I choose to be single.
For some weird reason, being single at my age seems to make people uncomfortable. I believe even up to about 5 years ago I also shared that mentality. People look at me with pity because they assume I’m lonely, unhappy and unfulfilled. When they actually have the courage (I don’t know why they assume it’s okay), they ask me in a judgemental way if there is something wrong with me. The worst is, “oh you’re one of those feminists? No wonder.”
I want to be clear about who I’m writing this for. It’s for the people who assume that everyone’s happiness is tied down to the same fate. If it hasn’t already been clear, people’s experiences are different and so are the life choices we make.
There are people who see marriage as a way to eternal happiness. That is fine, but that is not me and it is unfair that a man can say this and not be looked at or questioned in the way that I have. I am not against the idea of marriage, I’m just against the idea that I should do it because it’s the norm. I’m against the idea that my happiness should be limited to a box.
I am single now. Am I lonely? No. I know who to call when I need company and it pleases me that I can be alone when I want to be. My best moments in life are actually the times I spent with myself and it took me a really long time to get to that point. I used to always depend on the validation of men and it messed up my self-esteem. Right now, I am my favorite person on earth and it’s not like I’m proud of it because it has made me selfish.
My selfishness doesn’t stop me from being a good human (whatever that means). I’m only selfish about my space; physically and emotionally. It’s good to wake up without being angry about someone’s bad sleeping habits or have to ‘tolerate’ their actions when they’re up. That word even scares the hell out of me. I don’t want to come back home after a long day of tolerating the whole world and have to keep doing that in what is supposed to be my safe space.
“Aren’t you scared of dying alone?” Uhmm, nope. When I die, I’m dead and not even aware that I’m alone. But people always say that answer is wrong because the question means “don’t you want to grow old with someone?” Well, the answer to that as well as my family and friends exist. I also have plans to adopt a bunch of kids someday too. Probably will be an old woman enjoying life with my friends. After they have gotten their divorces or lost their spouses to death.
I do believe in love, I have been in love and have been loved too. I may even still love them to this day. But I believe that love can exist without the inconveniences of the life that comes with living together. That doesn’t make the love invalid because it does exist.
If you think marriage defines happiness or how deeply in love you are, good for you. If you are happily married, good for you too. All I’m saying is I don’t NEED to get married and I ask for the same respect I give to you. Don’t tie my happiness to your choices. We are not the same.
Why do people feel they have the right to judge someone’s happiness in society’s expectations of what life should look like? The intentions might be good, but the opinions are not welcomed. Nothing is missing in my life, so don’t feel the need to feel sorry for me.
If you have read up to this point and still think, “she’ll change her mind when she finds someone,” then I’m sorry for wasting your time.