I often wonder at the reaction of most women (whether in movies or in real life) when they get a marriage proposal from their significant other. Usually it’s like this: first, shock (bewilderment even) maybe a wildly excited scream (like an ‘oh my god!!!), followed (nearly always) by tears of humble disbelief and sincere gratitude. Gratitude; that this other person finally reached the realization that she is ‘worthy’ to be his Mrs. and share his life with him forever more.
Now let’s take a pause so that I can elaborate on why I have found cause to contemplate this typical reaction. In my view, yes, a marriage proposal is something special and not one to be ‘casualized’ (that is probably not an English word, but you get my point). I just feel that a more realistic response, where the 2 people have been in a close, loving and committed relationship should be along the lines of:
Surprise (not shock): given that the man would usually not pre-inform the woman that he is actually about to take the relationship to the next level, surprise is a natural reaction. In some cases, the proposal never comes as a surprise at all because for all intents and purposes both individuals have, whether by conduct or verbal affirmation, alluded to the fact that the relationship is for the long haul and would likely head toward the altar. In such cases, the woman’s surprise should legitimately be over the unanticipated act of the proposal itself and not the implication of the proposal (stay with me here – that’s what you get when you have a lawyer doubling as a blogger).
Happiness (not gratitude): You should both be happy… as much as you are going to be spending the rest of your life with him, it’s vice versa baby. He will also have the privilege of spending the rest of his days with you, so point is you should both express the happiness together. This isn’t that historic period when a marriage proposal to a woman signified that her place in civilized society was forever assured… errrrrr, actually perhaps it is. Okayyy… so let’s park this marriage proposal reaction for another day’s topic as my last point just reminded me of how severely I have digressed from the topic of the week, which is actually: 30 – something and unmarried. So here goes:
I use the word unmarried deliberately, because you can be unmarried but not single (meaning you have a significant other). In Nigeria, if you’re a woman 30 or over and still dating, howbeit not officially ‘hitched’, you kind of find yourself in the same boat as those with no partners, except it feels like being in premium cabin, because your case is supposedly, doused with a healthy dose of hope.
In my experience, it would appear that in this country, for a woman to have clocked or crossed 30 without a husband to call her own, this status carries with it some kind of unspoken stigma. A stigma accepted by society, fuelled by peers, and unfortunately, endorsed by the unmarried 30 something year old Nigerian female herself. Why unfortunate you ask? I will try to elaborate in less verbose terms as follows:
Being unmarried is not a sign of failure on your part: It’s the look in their eyes, that look of ‘falling short’ of ‘true’ accomplishment … that nagging feeling of being somewhat ‘less’… it very often creeps up in the eyes of this woman. As earlier stated: cultural and fueled by society… but please dear 30 something year old unmarried Nigerian female, know this; that until you endorse it by your mental acceptance and conduct, this unwarranted and backward stigma has no power over you! You do not need any body’s validation to be who you are, the fact that you do not have a husband no less! We are first and foremost individual entities before we become symbiotic creatures – reaching your full potential in life should not be dictated by whether a man finds you’ worthy’ to crown his Mrs. Don’t get me wrong, having a husband to walk through life with you is a wonderful wonderful experience, I am not taking anything away from that. I am just saying, don’t let your marital status or the lack thereof determine how you feel about yourself or make you feel that in spite of all you have accomplished you have somehow failed where it matters most. God made it such that if any human being should decide not to marry in this life, the sun will continue to shine on him or her, just as much as on all those married folk out there. Emancipate yourself from the psychological slavery imposed by society but ultimately endorsed by you as displayed by that twinge of sadness in your eyes, that sigh of heaviness when you are asked ‘how is the family?’ But you have siblings don’t you?? And if you don’t, well someone brought you into this world, and if they’re gone, at least you didn’t fall from the sky… you get my point? Respond with confidence and refer to the family you have not the one you want to have. Don’t become reclusive and shut people out just to avoid the questions… you have not failed… be who you are even in your hopeful state – don’t undermine your own self simply because you don’t have a husband…. yet. And guess what – some people will never ever get married – it’s a fact of life. In any case, numerically speaking there may not be enough men to go around; and let’s not even distil that further by qualifying it with enough ‘good men’ to go around because the numbers will shrink even further : – ). If you strongly desire to be married, yes, pray about it but don’t become obsessed by it. Don’t let it consume you and ultimately define you and your happiness. This brings me to my next point:
Love yourself: Just love yourself. Revel in the awesomeness of ‘you’. Again, you don’t need external validation to be you – that is the beauty of being an individual. You must first love yourself before you can love any husband. You love yourself by being confident amongst friends of yours that are all married and have children while you have none. ‘Own’ your unmarried status – don’t feel uncomfortable when the subject of a family is brought up – don’t act like it’s you against the world. I agree: our society doesn’t help. People see or meet you and pose questions to you belligerently pre-supposing that you are married with kids… like ‘what school do your kids attend?’ … don’t be ruffled – although you can mentally go like ‘ bitch please….’ Once in a while – that’s ok too : – ).
Enjoy your freedom: Marriage is awesome and marriage is great, the fulfillment associated with having a family of your own is one that I can personally attest to, having married my husband at the age of 24 and am now in my 30’s. But sometimes I miss the times gone by when I got to do whatever the f*** I wanted to do; with no permissions sought, no one to consult but myself and my gut (my husband is going to kill me for this!) Dear 30 something unmarried Nigerian female: enjoy the freedom that you have while you have it… look at the glass half full not half empty. Pack a bag and go wherever tickles your fancy, for a day may come when you will no longer be able to just ‘up and go’ as you please. Husband may not approve or the baby will make travelling not even a choice. Whilst you are waiting for Mr. Right or waiting for that highly anticipated marriage proposal from your boyfriend – do not forget to live!
I feel a need to summarize again my position on this subject. given that me being married and writing about the struggles of an unmarried woman, is such juicy opportunity to judge the hell out of me for this post; like what does she know about being unmarried? I agree… I cannot legitimately claim to know what it is or how it feels or the struggles faced unless I myself have walked in those shoes; but I do know that happiness is personal and self -driven ; no matter how married you are if you are not happy as an individual you will not be happy as a wife. Love yourself, be confident, don’t let your marital status define you and most of all do not endorse this societal stigma. Notice I focused my points on the unmarried female’s reaction and not the actions of other people, because the only thing you really have control over is how you respond … you call the shots.