It may seem like an outdated notion that is no longer prevalent – especially with all these pesky feminists that never seem to shut up about it* – but unfortunately, that’s not so. It might seem like this happens mainly among some ethnic (Non-European-American) circles, nonetheless, it is something that bothers me tremendously as a girl. Period.
I may not know exactly how to put it into words, but I’ll try a number of illustrations and maybe you will understand what I mean. For instance, there is this unfortunate running joke about how when a Nigerian girl graduates from university her parents throw her a graduation party, which they then hope would turn into an engagement party also.
As a girl (especially one from an African household with an involved mother), you’re taught from a very young age how to keep a home and keep yourself, and prepare yourself for what will definitely come in the future – marriage to a husband whom you’ll have to keep appeased and interested. Now, it’s all fine and dandy to learn these home keeping skills, so I am not about to go on a feminist rant about it – relax.
But, what does bother me is when you sense that some people (some parents, as well as girls sometimes) see marriage as the end all be all, the ultimate life accomplishment, the reward of being a good and Godly girl, the supreme aspiration, and the happy ending every accomplished girl should have.
Now, I’ll step away from Africans for a bit and widen the scope here. Think about how many Rom-coms and animated movies you’ve seen where the main female character (or maybe even her pathetic side-kick) was rewarded with a “nice” husband in the end. This idea is pounded into our heads over and over, and subconsciously, most people begin to feel that it’s just the way it has to be.
For instance, the recent Disney movie Frozen, ended with the older sister regaining control over her magnificent powers, and her Kingdom as well. Yet, a lot of people have expressed some discontent, and hope that there will be a second movie where she gets a husband and with that, her “happily-ever-after.” Because, regaining an understanding and manageable relationship with her sister, her kingdom, her powers, and her pet snow man, apparently is not accomplishment enough, or a good enough reason to be happy.
So, let’s reconsider – yes, this notion is prevalent, what it is not is relevant. It sometimes makes girls and young women feel like rapidly wilting flowers that have only just bloomed: So, if you don’t get married within this five-to-six-year gap, you’re either a child bride, or an old maid!
I know I may sound cynical at this point, so let me just set something straight. Of course, I do hope to get married down the line, but it is NOT my ultimate ambition, nor should it be! I have hopes and big dreams that I feel should be encouraged and supported just as much as if I were not a woman – and these aspirations shouldn’t always be planned around or limited by the expectation to be married at a certain time (which is something I find happens a lot).
I know quite a few brilliant women who have given up, or put their careers on hold indefinitely just to make that marriage deadline, and it kinda hurts to watch. It is especially painful when the husbands of aforementioned women are then encouraged and supported to go on and have long-lasting careers (sometimes not even as brilliant as she would have had -_-).
What really troubles me – and perhaps encourages this idea – is when a married woman is accorded more respect and reverence than her equally accomplished (except for marriage, I suppose) unmarried peers. As an active member of an African and Christian circle of friends, I have seen this happen a lot more than I would like to admit – it should not be happening at all in my opinion!
Yes, to be married is something to be desired (if it is a happy one), but it should not be something you pine over and plan every minute of your present and future life around – unless of course you’re already married, then you should definitely give it your all!
But, for those of us young ‘uns who are not “hitched”, just remember this – Marriage is a gift, not a reward. It’s a gift from God to find and stay with someone who He’s destined for you to be with.
*I do consider myself a feminist, and this sentence was intended to have a wry sarcasm – just FYI, before anyone says anything harsh.