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50 years ago an unmarried 25-year-old African woman was seen as odd. A husband and family was supposed to be your life’s goal. Thank God we’ve moved on. Of have we? If you’re an unmarried late-twenty-something African women in the diaspora, you’ll probably have had to explain more than once to family members that there’s nothing wrong with you. Don’t bow to the pressure!
I’ve reached that shame. I mean stage. I am a 25-year-old Congolese woman and I’m still not married. I don’t even have a Mr. Potential. Typically, an African woman in my shoes – worrying about not getting any younger – might contemplate ceasing the search for Mr. Right and settle for Mr. Alright. Before you do ladies, ask yourselves the following:
“Should I really drop my standards for the sake of marriage?”
“Is my culture worth more than my happiness?”
“Is marriage going to fulfil me at this point in my life?”
50 years ago the answer might have been yes, when African women were subject to patriarchal control and their sole aim – so they were told – was to live for a family and nothing more. Independence was frowned upon. When DR Congo gained its independence in 1960, there were only four graduates in the entire country (a country the size of Western Europe), and all were male. 53 years on it doesn’t seem as if we’ve made much progress as most managerial, office and government jobs are still taken by men and not many women are graduating. Patriarchy is still prevalent, women’s rights are not much exercised and many women in Congo still happily acquiesce to the status quo.
Sadly to say, this mindset even exists among Africans here in the UK. Our parents who were born and raised in Africa and came over to the UK at a later age still cling to this mentality and expect us to have the same ideals. So when you reach 25 and haven’t met your potential partner for life, they remind you that when they were your age they were married with 3 kids.
Our parents fail to realise that living in Africa and living in the UK are two totally different experiences. We have grown up in the latter with more freedom to do what we want along with the opportunity to do and aim for more in life than settling down to get married and having a family.
Now, before you begin to wonder, I’m not anti-marriage or bitter that I’m not married, nor am I trying to rant against Congolese or African culture. I once read a sign that said, “a man is like a parking spot, the good ones are always taken; the rest are too far away.” In most Congolese households, and I presume most African ones (but I could be wrong), 25 – 28 is the critical age bracket when all eyes turn to you in anticipation of the day you bring home a man for the “presentation”.
Back in Congo, however, if no one is knocking at your door around those crucial ages, then there must be something wrong with you. “How can a fine woman like you not be getting marriage proposals?,” people will start to mutter. As the tongues wag you soon find yourself wondering if, indeed, you haven’t passed your sell-by date.
Matters aren’t helped when everyone around you is changing their relationship status on Facebook to “engaged”, the countless wedding invitations that start pouring through your letterbox once you reach a certain age (I received 17 last year, I kid you not), or the church aunties who never stop asking if you’ve met someone, and when you say no respond with, “Don’t worry, the devil is a liar; we will break the yoke of singleness and pray against this spirit of unwantedness.” Thanks aunty, if I didn’t feel like killing myself before, I certainly do now.
We all know that in Western culture there isn’t a right time to get married (the right time is when you’re ready), so there’s no need to rush. So when our parents say “But we’re Africans,” we have to remind them that we don’t live in Africa as much as Africa lives in us. It’s not a competition and we’re not in a race against time, though I understand, as an African woman, that my culture tells me otherwise and my mother wants grandchildren. This is the issue that many young Congolese women face and I worry that the cultural pressure and parental expectations is what causes so many young African girls to rush into marriage before they even know how to cook fufu. I fear that most young women are more in love with the idea of getting married than to marriage itself.
When you’re doing your own thing on the way to achieving your goals, the laws of attraction suggest you will meet an equally driven partner, so you don’t need to settle for anything less. Otherwise your guests and family members will be happy and filled with food on your wedding day, but when that’s over and it’s just you and him reality will bite. We need to be happy and fulfilled within ourselves before we can be with a husband, otherwise we become a liability to someone else.
Honestly, I would rather be happy and alone for the rest of my life than rush to get married and be in an unhappy marriage because my biological clock was ticking, even if the consolation is kids.
Before you say “our parents did it and they’re fine,” we should remember that that was then and this is now; society was different back then. Our parents set examples for us to follow, but while we accept the broad brushstrokes of those examples we also need to apply them with consideration for who we are now and what we need; this is how we will set a good example to our kids, who will, in turn, accept only the broad brushstrokes.
It’s not carved in stone that every woman must get married. The ratio of women to men on the planet is still roughly 1:1, even if it feels like 3:1. If it’s your fate to meet “the one” you will meet him. We can’t fight fate any more than we can nature. So if you’re 25, not married and worrying about it, relax, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Literally.