In Nigeria there is a stigma that comes from being unwed. Especially when you reach a certain age. Especially when you are a female. When these two instances happen to coincide you are usually deemed a lost cause, you become the subject of many a prayer and the object of many a pitying glance. The lack of that three-letter title, “Mrs.” affords you disrespect, sympathy and even prophesies of doom.
In Nigeria a man is seen as a woman’s shield, her shelter, her protector; and when one does not possess this armor one is open to attacks both of misguided kindness and downright cruelty. Religious individuals, of which Nigeria is full, say prayers for you, drag you from shrine to pulpit and introduce you to many a pastor hoping that someone can break the “curse.” There are talks of what you may have done wrong
in the past to evoke this present tragedy, there are speculations as to whether you were too picky – either by being too superficial or seeking something too substantial back when you were a “spring chick(en)” and how you are to blame for your current situation. There is much ado about nothing.
Although the topic generates much discussion and much revenue (through the production of movies, the traffic on radio talk shows and advice columns, etc.), all the hurrah and the panic are baseless. Congregations hardly need to go up in spiritual arms, nor do families need to fall down in grief. Self-hate and regret need not be woven into a noose around the single person’s neck. There may be a stigma,
but being single is certainly not a curse and there is no need to pick apart one’s family lineage or attempt to identify the demon that must first be exorcised before one can enter a state of holy matrimony – most times single is just single.
Perhaps one is single because they are set in their ways and those they have met would more likely compete with them than complete them. Perhaps the individual would rather make life choices without having to weigh them against the plans and passions of another. Perhaps the person would rather not compromise, commit or cater to another in that fashion. Perhaps the person has loved and lost and is unable
or unwilling to love again in that manner. Perhaps someone does not want to settle for less than love and has not come across his or her “better half” yet. Whatever the supposition, the fact remains that being single does not come from the devil and marriage is not synonymous with being blessed or divine or better off.
There are many marriages that end in divorce, death or destruction and when people are attempting to shove you down the aisle they tend to gloss over that part. There are many unmarried situations that end in self-fulfillment, Then again there are marriages that indeed embody “marital bliss” and lead to the creation of the “ideal family.” It all comes down to the individuals within the institution. It is
important to bear in mind that all relationships are atypical and unique – there is not one kind of marriage, just like there is not one kind of single. The right to choose exists for less life altering/ending decisions than Roe vs. Wade, and the right to be married or single is indeed at the discretion of the individual.
No two individuals will travel along the same exact life journey, and just because someone may not be on the same path as you that does not mean they are lost. Just because they may have passed the fork in the road towards “Marriage” and gone straight on their single journey does not make them a pariah or a prayer point.
There is only one time for marriage – the right time. When the two adults who are packing up their individual hearths and homes to become joined as one feel the time is right, then the time is right. No sooner. No later. Ageing does not equate the need to wed. There is no rush. There are talks of biological clocks ticking as a major excuse, but what argument is there for bringing a child into a potentially unhealthy
family? There is none. Marriage can wait and sometimes it can just be thrown out of the equation of an individual’s life completely.
Why do I feel like a traitor to the nation for speaking on this?
I understand the beauty of what God intended with the institution of marriage, and am keenly aware that ‘he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour with the Lord,’ but that does not mean it must be a chapter in the lives of all and sundry. There are so many unhappy singles, not because of their status but because of the pressure that comes along with it, because others are hovering over their
ovaries and counting down their fertile eggs as the years pass by. Then again there are so many miserable marriages that were the result of someone else’s opinion or urging, marriages that rob one of their peace of mind and leave their self esteem in pieces. And we all know that once one weds in Naija, the popular follow up is till death do them part – despite extreme depression or dysfunction that may take up
resident in the unhappy home and lead to the individual dying a thousand deaths inside.
I am all for being wed…or not. I just want the former to be formed on the terms of those signing the certificate and no one else. We all have a right to choose. Don’t be cornered into the argument of “you are getting old” or “you are being too picky.” There is always the single life and all sorts of variations of an existence; there is late marriage, there is adoption, etc.
A marriage certificate will not buy you peace of mind or contentment; and the approval of those who were urging you to enter into the institution surely will not be enough to give you that “happy ever after.”
By Zeni St. John