I didn’t want to put ‘childless’ because of the synonyms and negative connotations attached to that word. People are brutal.
Anyway, this title relates to some of the categories that apply to me in at this point in my life. And with these labels come all sorts of expectations and standards.
Being a Christian, it seems like there’s a stampede towards marriage. I remember being encouraged from my teenage years to write a list of intricate qualities I wanted in a husband, to place it in my Bible and pray in advance for my husband-to-be (wherever he was). For the guys, I remember some dude preaching about how important it was for them to be specific about their future wives’ *ehem* physical attributes. “Gentlemen, if you want a size 12, draw her on a piece of paper (complemementary coke bottle gestures) and don’t settle for a size 8!”
I understand these Christian ‘leaders’ ultimately may’ve wanted us to set standards for ourselves and not settle for less than God’s best BUT they definitely had a strange way of going about it. My question is, why were they so focused on marriage? I think it’s far more important to focus on ourselves and making sure, as teenagers, we are growing into respectable young adults rather than trying to catch bouquets. Just my opinion.
1 Corinthians 7:9
But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
~New International Version
I didn’t get married young because of this scripture. Nor was it a shotgun wedding… I didn’t even plan on getting married young. I guess I just found the right person early on in my life. But us Christians tend to put a lot of pressure on relationships to develop into marriage even if – dare I say it – it’s not the right person or you’re not ready! Marriage is indeed an eye opener as well as a pressure cooker and trust me, it’s not something anyone should rush into.
Being African and Christian though, this pressure to wed intensifies by approximately 78%. African parents are crazy about marriage and they definitely transfer this to us. I’ve realised that this is because their parents treated their wedding days as their own so our wedding days, naturally, become their reason for life itself. Obviously this is a massive generalisation (I’m West African and some West African countries are more, lets say, invested in weddings than others).
As soon as university is over for African youngsters, the next stage is settling down. If you don’t have a ring on your finger on graduation day then na wa for you-o because yawa go dey! 3y3 asem paaaa! Those aunties will be all up in your grill asking questions, trying to set up blind dates or taking you to the side to pray against curses. Ah ah! Why do people assume that if you’re not with someone, there’s something wrong? What’s more infuriating for me is that people believe also the reverse is true too; if you are married young then you are ‘lucky’ or ‘extra blessed’ or that you are ‘#goals.’ You are treated as a member of an elite secret society (‘The Fellowship of The Ring’), put on a pedestal for all the poor, lowly singles to ‘aspire’ to. What if that marriage you idolise is absolute trash, rubbish and garbage?
I need to have a paragraph to discuss this topic in it’s own right to be honest because it grinds my gears something terrible. Why do people think marriage is something aspirational? An achievement? An award? I remember being in a group of girlfriends shortly after I became engaged and one of my friends asked “okay Helen so spill the tea, how do we get the ring?” I didn’t know how to answer… I mean, is it some sort of prize? Is there a formula or a secret code that us married people have been able to crack? I just happened to make a friend at uni who I later developed feelings for and made the decision to be in a lifelong journey with. No gimmicks. I’ve always maintained that it is very easy for people to marry. Yeah, anyone can get married! It’s really two people signing a contract in front of three other people – we’ve just added thousands of unnecessary pound signs to it…
The achievement, however, should be placed on having a successful marriage; that’s where the merit is.
The trick is to start with yourself! That’s what our society (married and unmarried people alike) should be striving towards – self development.
Okay so first comes love (or education, in an African household), then comes marriage, what’s next? A flurry of questions, that’s what! “When am I gonna be a grandparent?” “When are we gonna hear the pitter patter of tiny feet?” “When should I prepare myself for mini-Helen or mini-Massimo?” Ugh. Can I rest? What’s terrible is that as soon as I pop one out, you know they’ll be asking me about baby no. 2…
With marriage comes an expectation to reproduce. But what if you’re not actually interested in having children? What if you just want it to be you and your spouse for the rest of your life with no humans who hold you responsible for their wellbeing? What if you don’t want the sleepless nights, vomit-drenched clothes or to spend your evenings wiping poo from their bottoms, as appealing as that sounds? What if you want to travel? Is it so hard to believe that some people would rather not deal with teenage tantrums and extortionate school fees? And to be fair, I’m pointing out all of the negatives associated with having children as an explanation for not having them. Some people don’t want kids because they just don’t want kids. Some people want kids later. Some people can’t have kids. Why do we ask this extremely personal question when we may not be ready for a loaded answer? And why is this so difficult for people to grasp?
Being #young&married (have you realised that hashtags are labels!?), I have difficulty fitting into both categories separately. Let me explain…
Most of my friends who are the same age as me are single. Some of them don’t invite me out because they don’t want to ‘corrupt me’ or get me in trouble with my husband. As if I’m gonna be out sliding up and down poles, you know (unless, of course, it’s arranged through the proper channels…)! And as if my hubby is some sort of dictator that I should be afraid of! Sometimes I just want a night out on the razz with my girls and my husband is actually very understanding and accommodating (and trusting!). We are not joint at the hip.
I remember being at a bridal shower of a close friend. It was the ‘advice section’ of the evening and one of the young girls piped up and said that all of us should recognise that the bride has a new number one now so we need to, quote unquote, give her her space. What a load of tripe! And one of the older aunties responded with seasoned experience, stating that the opposite was actually true: “she needs her girls now more than ever!” I know single people get bashed all the time for being single (which I think is absolutely ridiculous by the way) but married people get discriminated against too! Don’t leave us out!
I’m also speaking to myself here. Most of my married friends are older than me and have kids; I am more than guilty of not inviting them to places because of their kids, assuming that they wouldn’t be able to make an event because they had to clean up sick or something. I suppose I’m putting off having children partly because I don’t want to be stuck at home with a pikni attached to my bosom whilst my friends are living it up! I want to travel and see the world and be spontaneous. But I have friends with kids – or superheroes rather – who still manage to do all that. So it’s more about doing what you can with what you have, or knowing what you want and going for it against all odds, or not living up to the status quo…
You know what they say: when you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME! Maybe this statement applies to all of the labels and standards and expectations that we have of each other? Maybe we should just live and let live.