By Toyin Falola
Nigeria is a country of meddlers. Joy is derived from intruding. The busybodies are happy. If you tell your Pastor, the snooper, something in private on Saturday evening, the next Sunday morning is about you: the private message will fly to the pulpit. Don’t try it with your Alfa, the tattlers; they have a way of branding and presenting your matter during their wáàsí (sermon). Try it with a motivational speaker, the nosey parker, and you become an example to the world. If you are a woman, prepare for a life that the prattlers will mess up, a life preparing you to become Mother Buttinsky and the transition to Grandmother Blabber.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Óyá see now:
At 16: Face your education. I do not send you to school to have a boyfriend. Ask your dad; he met me as a virgin. If you like, let me turn your vagina into a dustbin.
At 17: I heard you are talking to a cultist. Is it true? Ìwọ ọmọ yìí. Before you kill me, I will use beating to reset your brain. I didn’t kill my mother and won’t let you kill me.
At 19: You have been posted to Kano. Are you planning to bring a Hausa boy to my house? God forbid. A no wan see Gambari o.
At 22: When will you marry? You have completed your education and NYSC. What are you waiting for? Don’t let my enemies mock me o.
At 30: Where is your husband? Eight years of waiting is not enough? When do I start seeing my grandchildren?
At 31: I asked you to get married, but I was not expecting you to bring an Igbo man as a husband. Igbo báwo?
At 32: You married last year, but you are not yet pregnant? I know one Babalawo at Surulere. He is the best in the entire Lagos State.
At 33: Did you hear that Sola has bought a plot of land at Lekki? You and your husband go to Yellow Rose at Ikeja to eat all the time. Oniranu meji. All your salary is for food? You better think.
At 34: When are you going to build your first house?
35: Thank God you are now pregnant. You must go to Houston to deliver so the baby can collect an American passport. Or do you want to give birth to a Nigerian? What do we do with the 200 million that we have?
At 36: Is it only two children you are going to have? And both of them are girls? O wrong nau.
At 36 and a half: What kind of life are you living in Nigeria? All your mates are now in America, the rest are in London. Japa jo!
At 37: I love how Yinka has done the funeral ceremony of her dad. Will you do the same for us? Don’t invite Professor Falola, or do you like the man who did not want his student to publish? Olè burúkú ni man yen.
At 38: I am retired. What is the plan of you and your brothers to take care of me? Even if it is $3,000 a month, send it. I suffer on your head nau.
You got the gist. I hope you know it is a bad idea to come to the world as a Ms. Toyin Titilope, incidentally both my names, although I am a man, alias “Sisi Toyin.” Toyin has fetched me some nice suitors; Titi has given me Zaddy! Only the Falola is a problem, as they think I am a juju man, the Baba Idan, who dictates a topic to the computer and three minutes later, the essay appears.
Let us leave the questions for men till another day. Enjoyment must not be concentrated in one day; otherwise, you become an Ayamatanga! If you don’t know Ayamatanga, you can visit him at https://www.premiumtimesng.com/opinion/612305-ayamatanga-by-toyin-falola.html.
You probably know her. Bimpe, a 26-year-old independent young woman who had just graduated from one of the prestigious universities in Nigeria, had posted her graduation pictures on social media expecting family, friends and well-wishers to congratulate her on her achievement. They congratulated her, but each time, it was immediately followed by a prayer for a husband, even before a good job! Some clearly stated that they expected the boda to come and “greet” them soon. It was not different when she visited home to communicate the good news to her family. After congratulating her, her mother called her to her room and asked if a man was in her life and when she planned to marry. “All my friend’s children are married, and they are all younger than you are. Don’t turn me into a laughing stock o, you should do it quickly as time is no longer on your side” became her mother’s anthem. Mama Bimpe’s mantra in Church is “God’s time is the best!” To Bimpe, Mama Bimpe’s slogan is “Time waits for no one!” Such is life!
Bimpe is not alone. Many unmarried women, younger or older than Bimpe, are reminded daily of their need to settle down early. There is always someone to remind them. Yoruba will say ilẹ̀ obìnrin ò kìí pẹ́ṣú (“a woman does not have the luxury of time”). A man can decide to get married at any age he deems fit, not a woman.
It is disappointing that disparaging comments about unmarried women largely come from women. (Even though their marriage sef no balance) Women are the ones who set a time limit to everything in life and then ridicule you for failing to attain a certain set standard at a particular age. The other day, I was at a wedding ceremony with friends and colleagues when a young lady walked up to exchange pleasantries with women at our table. As she greeted, one of the women asked the young lady if she was now married, but she replied negatively. The women then started giving responses such as tì ẹ náà á dé o (“It will be your turn soon.”) Another woman advised her to find a man to marry her before it was too late for her. As the young lady left with displeasure written all over her face, I realized that the pressure on women to get married keeps getting wesser.
There is freedom of speech and expression, where anyone can say whatever they want and are much uncultured to interfere in other people’s lives and businesses, including their relationship status. The tales of an unmarried woman are ceaseless prayers, sarcastic comments, the ultimatum, and pressure from friends, families and even acquaintances. What people term as advice, words of encouragement, prayers, and “meaning well” often turns out to be filled with prejudices and unreasonable expectations.
To make matters worse for this set of women, the usual marriage age is between 18 and 27 years, and for a woman to be unmarried at age 30 or above, it must be that there is a problem with her. Her singleness becomes an affliction that must never rise. She is taken to MFM for deliverance if she has a spirit husband hindering her from getting married. Her mother’s friend recommends Cele for a fast-fast solution. There, she will be bathed in a flowing river with kàìn-kàìn ìbílẹ̀ (local sponge) after the second crow of a purple cock just before dawn. In the afternoon, she will hold seven lit candlesticks in her hands, and as they burn, seven alagbà (elders) will encircle her and pray. At night, three wolis (prophets) will beat out every anti-marriage spirit from her body, soul and spirit with brooms. Her deliverance is complete. Her husband is on the way. They will meet on a bus tomorrow. Hallelujah!
The pressure and expectations placed on unmarried women are similar to that of a married woman who has yet to conceive. Everyone counts days and years of marriage, prescribing spiritual solutions to her problem. Womb watchers! Medically speaking, a woman’s prime age for reproduction is between her teens and late 20s. A woman’s chances of getting pregnant start to decline at 30; by the late 30s to age 45, it may be difficult for a woman to give birth. Hence, the pressure on women to settle down early in their 20s so that by their late 30s, they must have given birth to the number of children they want.
Nevertheless, marriage is a choice. When to get married and whom to marry is a choice. A woman can decide whether to marry or not. In this part of the world, a woman is expected to make her life choices, considering that marriage is the most important, irrespective of how successful she is. There should not be a stipulated time for a woman to marry; once she is secure financially or can support herself and has found her Mr. Right, only she can decide the ideal time for her to get married, not her parents or society. So, rest and stop pressurizing the singles!
Women were forced into marriage as early as age 14 in prior civilisations. In some parts of Nigeria, child marriage is still prevalent. The system of belief that a woman’s biggest achievement should be marriage and childbearing has led many young girls astray. Early marriage sometimes prevents a woman from attaining her desired level of education, discovering and maximizing her potential, and developing healthy relationships with peers.
The reasons for late marriage differ for every woman. For some, it is difficult to find a suitable suitor, career pursuit, financial freedom and stability, heartbreaks, etc. It is clear that women now have various options rather than pursuing marriage. It is believed that successful women find it difficult to get a man who would love them genuinely without being threatened by their successes.
This reminds me of a friend whose mother forces her to get married on a note that when she reaches a certain stage in her educational pursuit, she will be left to be given as a gift to any available man. How funny! Professional and career women would not settle for less by marrying a man who is below their class. The older and more successful a woman becomes the fewer her chances of getting married. Her success becomes a threat to insecure, selfish men. Some men will only be in a relationship with her so that they can access her money. Barau! Just carry a gun instead, so you will be properly identified as the thief that you are.
Rather than tying the knot forever and committing to the marital vows of “for better, for worse, till death do us part”, some women have decided to go for other alternatives like cohabitation and having baby daddies instead of going through the stress of getting married. Who likes Wahala?
Society has associated a woman’s pride with marriage and childbirth. Even when a woman gets married, her children and husband are the most important elements of her marriage. They must come first before her. If it is about having and raising children, women who have decided to stay unmarried now opt for other options such as surrogacy, sperm donors, intrauterine insemination (IUI), In vitro fertilization (IVF), and adoption. But Dupe’s sister-in-law says adoption is not God’s will for her life and continues to take Dupe’s picture to Shiloh for prayers, even after Dupe has refused to attend.
The effects of societal pressure on women to get married have led to further separation, divorces and broken homes. “People are talking” is never enough reason for a woman to get married. Marriage is neither a requirement nor a necessity but a choice. Marriage is hard work and a lifetime commitment. The society that pressures a woman into marriage will only be there at the wedding ceremony but not in the marriage with her. These same people will begin to count days, months and years for her to get pregnant. Another prayer session will start; if they pressured her into marriage through constant prayers and reminders, they would do the same for her to get a child and keep her home. It never ends there. Monitoring spirits!
Another purpose of marriage is companionship, having someone to talk to, share life’s issues, and grow and build with. As beautiful as this is, a marriage that is rushed into is unlikely to have a happy ending; it is most likely to end in tears and regrets. Nobody wants to be blamed for another person’s misfortune, so it is pertinent that society learns to mind its business with unmarried women in their prime age. Women are even encouraged that marriage is supposed to be endured if it cannot be enjoyed; so far, the “for better, for worse” vow has been made.
A woman herself sees the need to get married and settle down, but she does not have the luxury of time; it is nobody’s business to put her under pressure; let the pressure be hers. If a woman is self-sufficient, financially independent, does not want to be subject to a man, and decides to be unmarried for life, let her decisions be respected. There is no need to feel sorry for her. After all, we make our choices and our choices, in turn, make us.
If the pity is that she will have no children, we already have a large population of married people who will produce children and replenish the earth. Some married people even lack the resources to take care of their children. Staying unmarried or single is better than being in an unhappy, depressing or abusive relationship. Marriage is beautiful, and wedding ceremonies are glamorous, yet a woman’s worth should not be tied to whether she has a crown on her head or not. Crown ko, Ade orí ọ̀kín ni.
If a woman will have to wait for her Mr. Right, let her wait for him. In the end, it will be worth the wait for her. If your mother pressures you the next time, just tell her it is my fault: at 70 plus, you can appeal to me to propose to you. Just buy me the ring. I will marry you, but you must arrange the dowries on my behalf! So, let the singles breet. Na marry dem never marry, dey no keeh person!