Guest blog: My mother and the marriage question

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IMG 1502 764x1024 Guest blog: My mother and the marriage questionThis is a guest blog by Stephanie Kimou (pictured) who blogs at A Black Girl in the World

 

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Most of my American friends do not think about marriage until around 33. Particularly those who I went to graduate school with in DC, they would laugh at the crazy stories that I would share about my mother. Her trying to set me up with the white guy she met on her flight to Abidjan, her calling my aunt in Paris to see if the latter knew any available engineers for her single daughter. My mother believes that 30 is the new 60. She sees it as the end, at 30 there is no more hope and now your 20s are gone along with any prospective husbands. Between working abroad, exploring parts of the world my mother never even knew existed, and finishing up a very expensive graduate degree, she is STILL wondering why I couldn’t pick up a husband along the way. She’s forever wondering why I am still single.

According to my mother many women in the diaspora are suffering from the disease called single. She claims that you can catch it from hanging around too many of “your single American friends who take sinful trips to Vegas and go to nude beaches in Jamaica”. You can also catch it from spending too many years abroad trying to “find yourself” through travel like those crazy tree huggers who blog about their spiritual quests to India. Single is a very serious situation when you are the daughter of a traditional African woman who worked for most of your life to shield you from American or European ideals of success.

Many advanced degrees, careers with 60 hour work weeks and big paychecks, adventures around the world; sure, those are all beautiful, and our mothers are truly proud, but if any of those aforementioned activities get in the way of finding an “Ozzband” than those activities do not represent true success. Success in many African mothers’ minds is a husband from a good family, particularly from your tribe, who is a lawyer or doctor, who has a family home in Africa and is ready to impregnate you the minute you two say I do. So when you find yourself 30 and unsuccessful according to those guidelines, you begin to look at your life in a tainted light.

No matter how many declarations of revolutionary feminist ideals you throw your mother’s direction (“I do not need a husband to feel complete!” “I did not go to college to pound foo foo all day!” “Maybe I’ll adopt!”), secretly you begin to calculate how much longer you have until all hope is lost for finding that dream partner, having those beautiful children, throwing a wedding your family could be proud of. You even begin paying closer attention to photo albums on Facebook from your friends’ traditional wedding ceremonies in Lagos, Accra, or Free Town, clicking through in shameful envy at the presumed happiness of the bride and her new Ozzband.

Then you may begin to panic; anxiety can grip you as you see your “prime” slipping away, you begin to wonder if that internship in South Africa was the right choice, or if beginning that Masters program in London is that important right now? Maybe you should settle down, find a mate (because its that simple), and become the woman your mother has always envisioned. I wonder, through the years of conditioning by my mother, have I merely began to want for my life what she wants? Where do your dreams end and your family’s expectations begin? Why is your mother not praying for you to change the world instead of finding a good provider? Why has 30 become the new 60?

Anyone else going through this? Is your mother like this too?

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Born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and raised in Washington, DC, Stephanie Kimou is a blogger by night at A Black Girl in the World and a program manager at WomenCraft Social Enterprises in Ngara, Tanzania by day. She holds a masters in International Affairs and Gender Studies from Georgetown University in DC.

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  • Akua Afram

    Great read! I’m going through the same thing as well. Hitting the 3-0 next year and in in that stage where I’m planning for certain events in my life to take its course.

    Especially as I’m a DJ – my parents (who are Ghanaian) are even pressuring me more because of the lifestyle. It’s true, success to them is marriage having a bunch if kids and that’s it. Believe me I want that, however I can’t sit around waiting for Prince Charming, I have a life to live and wherever in the Universe I meet that special guy, it shall manifest.

    • Stephanie Kimou

      Amen sista, my mom keeps telling me, “When will you move from Tanzania back to Ivory Coast? Your ozzband is not there!” Wait how do you know where he is?! LOL, my life will bring me to the right person, but as you said, I gotta live my life right now!

  • sophie

    I totally identify with that gal! People keep asking “so when are we …” and in Africa its really their business to make sure you realis you need to get yourself hooked up. There are no stds for husband JUST GET A MAN…ANY MAN

    • Stephanie Kimou

      hahah at a certain age it does become a sense of desperation from your family? That feeling starts to rub off on you if you are not careful!

  • Sebeenah

    That question that sometimes makes me think im crazy: the advantage is that its your life to live that’s why a man shall leave his fathers home[read,man]–but before we get there let mama be mama,you will have much more to say to people in your situation than you imagine.

    Till then,enjoy

  • Medusa

    I can relate to this somewhat. The pressure isn’t really from my mom, but from my other relatives, from my parents’ friends, and from people that I barely know. Finding a partner and having children is not only not a priority for me, it’s not even on the list of things I want to accomplish. Some women aren’t cut out to be mothers or wives and would probably do a pretty bad job of raising children. I wasn’t raised in Africa either, so I don’t really understand why my relatives expect me to have “African” ideals. They don’t want to listen to your reasoning, it’s just “You’re African so you have to ___________. You’re a woman so you have to ____________.” Granted, i don’t think that’s unique to Africa- women all over the world are expected to get married and have children, but to a different extent depending on where you are. Also, I think in the developed world you aren’t thought of as used goods after 30. Maybe not, when I was younger I once went on a date with a guy who was 30 who said he “didn’t like going out with girls his own age.” (Creeped me out, never saw him again.) I could write a novel on how much this pisses me off, so I think I’ll just leave it at that.

  • ane

    Hahaha @ozzband!

  • Peju

    I am a 38yr old female, never been married, leaving on my own in Lagos.
    If I told a friend(usually male) I had a headache or complained of tight muscles, the response I often get is “when last did you have a shag?”
    If I speak about social issues and politics, I am told I need to get laid so I can loosen up a bit.
    When I write about the things I want changed in my country, again I am told if I was married I will not concern myself with this foolishness of change.
    If I speak up against injustice, I am chastised with ” is that how you will talk to your husband when you marry?”
    If I use cuss words, I am told that is why I will never find a man.
    My last date told me “you are over-doing being yourself!”
    The one before that said “I know you are smart but can you bumb it down a bit?” My mother totally agreed with him.
    My Muslim parents pay imams every year to go to Mecca to pray God gives Peju a husband.
    My mother dutifully sends prayer request every Thursdays to Alhaji Idris to specially pray for me.
    I have been advised to take a spiritual bath in the Atlantic so the ocean will cleanse me of any masculine traits I may have. Then reaffirm my femininity with a special perfume made by a priestess in a white-garment church, that will make me irresistible to any man I want..
    Every birthday and New Year’s Eve is such a hassle, I celebrate neither. My mother will call 12midnight on these days to remind me time is a-ticking, so is your biological clock. She does not say it in these same words, but God is mentioned after every few words.
    Unlike many other women I choose not to be married. I choose love, I do not choose marriage, there is a big difference. I do not expect everyone to understand this.
    My dear, my mother is worse than yours!! But we still love them, don’t we!!

    • Stephanie Kimou

      I’m floored Peju. WOW. I did not know anyone could trump my mother, but I think yours has! And to speak on the nonsense business of telling a woman to “dumb it down” or “jet get laid”, really speaks volumes to how our person hoods are not affirmed until we are spoken for. It is as if we need a penis in the equation in order to think clearly, without a man our thoughts, values, and ideals are incomplete. The horror. Thank you for sharing!

      • MsAfropolitan

        Ha hah! I think Peju’s mum does trump yours Stephanie. Ahh…

        “Too smart for your own good” as they charmingly say..

    • MsAfropolitan

      Peju, your comment is spot on!
      Although I cherish every opportunity to visit home, Lagos, I dread the moment of prayers with the Imam, not because I don’t enjoy the togetherness and meditation of prayer, but because at some point unfailingly someone translates for me that we have all collectively just prayed that I will marry soon. As though there are not more important things to pray for!
      Furthermore, I find it interesting that the situation –marriage –, which let’s face it, in many of our societies, for many of our sisters, will be the one that puts an end to her fulfilling her dreams, her personal aspirations, is being made to seem like the zenith of one’s life. The irony!

      I think marriage can be a precious thing but in our societies it’s by large still reeks of male dominance.

      Keep choosing love, it’s the best of choices!

      • http://1deelana.myvi.net Doyin Lana

        Marriage is not all its cracked up to be, many have found out first hand all the secrets that our mothers failed to tell us before we plunged in head first. Well said Peju, choose love over marriage. There is definitely a difference and you will be a lot happier. Remember never say never and ‘ce sera, sera!’

    • tee tee

      I have no words. This is so true, it’s funny but not in a haha way. Just floored

    • E.

      @ Peju: “My Muslim parents pay imams every year to go to Mecca to pray God gives Peju a husband.
      My mother dutifully sends prayer request every Thursdays to Alhaji Idris to specially pray for me.
      “I have been advised to take a spiritual bath in the Atlantic so the ocean will cleanse me of any masculine traits I may have. Then reaffirm my femininity with a special perfume made by a priestess in a white-garment church, that will make me irresistible to any man I want.”.

      My mom is Muslim so everything you wrote definitely echoes in me. The last time, I went to see her in 2008, she spent her time shaming me in front of people, of imams: “Pray that she gets a husband. Se’s too skinny, make her understand that here in Africa, we (understand men) love women with some meat on their bones bla bla bla”). I heard it all: “Let’s bath you with this and that, that will cleanse you and all the men will flow to you.” I am Catholic, used to be very involved in my church, so off course, all this drivel didn’t/doesn’t bode well with me. So what is her next tune? “Those bitter nuns! Since they couldn’t manage to snatch a man, they want everyone to be like them”. SMH! Btw, did I mention that my mom was a… doctor? I just don’t get it.

  • Rochelle

    I love this blogpost and the amazing comments. I am full-blown american. Born and reared in New Orleans, LA However, I too was questioned, whispered about and told some things subtly and boldly when I, at 24 and a college graduate, had not really dated publically in front of my family, nor had a beau. I met and married my husband by 26 and was preganant with my fist child. This many years later as I turned 40 this year. I am still the odd one out as I divorce that man and still think highly of him and won’t do the “f’em” mentality that we’ve been taught in America. So this blogpost made me laugh out loud on my lunch break at work. And I know that we are all looking to create a new path of balance for us as women who want to be interdependent in our relationships. Let’s keep the conversation going.

  • http://fcommefashion.wordpress.com Grace

    Great and funny article and even funnier comments! It’s funny because without even wanting to generalize people, it really is an African thing! You can’t get older without having that question thrown at you at least 5 times a year. I laugh at the confused faces when I tell people that I am not yet ready for babies (I’m 26, got my first job 7 months ago and I am enjoying life, learning and growing up more than ever). When I told my mum I am thinking of doing a Master, the poor woman was about to lose it, haha! I hope our generation will make the difference by telling their children everything happens in its time. I love the idea of a beautiful wedding day and a happily ever after life with my beau and kids, but all in God’s time. Won’t make it happen by force nor by stressing for it to happen.

    • http://fcommefashion.wordpress.com Grace

      Btw, been following your blog for a while now MsAfropolitan, love it!

      • MsAfropolitan

        Thank you, Grace :)

  • E.

    I relate to what Stephanie wrote because I’m Ivorian too and I have always said that I’d never be able to handle/enjoy my solitude in Abidjan. Yet, at thousands miles away, I can’t help but feel like a walking failure. Never mind the degrees, the countries I’ve seen, never mind the career you built for yourself, you are nothing as per my mother’s criteria if you aren’t married, with children I should add (we all know how African people, especially other African women, sympathize with women who can’t bear children). It’s ridiculous, this idea that it’s better to be a divorcée than to have never been married. I haven’t gone back to Côte d’Ivoire for 6 years now and the truth is that I am too ashamed to show up there: SINGLE!

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  • LaKai

    Witty, endearing piece! Stephanie, thanks for penning; and MsAfropolitan, thank you for sharing. Sistahs around the globe can relate. I’m from Bermuda, 28 and single. While my parents have never pressured me to “find a man” (thankfully, they’ve always encouraged my sisters and I to “find God’s man” instead), nevertheless I feel the pressure of questioning eyes from others – like Akua. About five years ago, I lived in Cape Coast for an all-too brief but powerful time and had come across a book by Chinwezu entitled “The Anatomy of Female Power”. Despite being replete with controversial thoughts, I loved how Chinwezu illustrated exactly the type of man I DON’T want to “just find”. As I scan the available male population in my island home, I mainly see exactly these disempowered men who simply won’t do as a suitable partner for me because, as Rochelle described, it’s interdependence in a love relationship that is truly fulfilling. This was my first time reading MsAfropolitan. Hooked now indefinitely!