My mother came to me with gist, as she always does when we haven’t spoken for as long as one full week. A friend was getting married. It was not an unusual thing. I, for one, have heard more marriage announcements in the past 6 months than I have heard in my entire life. Let us chuck that up to being surrounded by peers of marriageable age.
But, what worried my mother about this was that her friend was previously married and had three children in that marriage. My mom was not shocked or against it, not at all, she was just worried about what people would say, as she had gone through a similar experience.
Marriage has to be the most enigmatic concept of the present time. It has twisted and changed and taken different forms and norms over time. And now, it is amazing that people prioritize their happiness and health even in a union. But being from a place in Africa that hides a large number of atrocities behind “culture”, a woman getting married a second time is still highly unusual and regarded with disdain.
For the men, it really is no big deal. Men have had concubines and children while married, they have taken wives even when married, or have done it right by remarrying after one marriage is ended. Widows in a family are even expected to marry a man related to her husband to keep her children and remain the ‘property’ of that family. All of these are somehow seen as the norm and not an eyelid is batted.
But older women remarrying still rubs people off the wrong way, regardless of status, wealth or calibre. I remember the buzz when the mother of popular Nigerian singer, Simi, had her wedding to her second husband. It was a celebration; she had found love and happiness again and she was starting a different chapter of her life even as she was over 50. But Nigerians, including the younger, more exposed ones, used it as a topic for social media. So why is that?
Many African traditions expect a woman’s focus to be on her children.
From when we are born, there is some kind of patriarchal programming done. Girls are advised to hurry up with school, get married early and have children soon. We are discouraged from long career trajectories, moving out of our parent’s houses, earning enough to buy a car or property, and all of that sort. The point is that these things would intimidate men and scare them away from marriage and children, and remember, that is the ultimate goal.
And you would think that would end there, but no, even a woman that has older children is expected to focus on them even as they move on to their various lives.
Nigerians think women have an expiry date.
“You are 29? How do you think you would have all your children before it is too late?” “You are 35? You need to stop looking for a man with all qualities and find one that will agree to marry you.” “A man, any man is what you need right now” “A woman can have everything and every accomplishment, but what does that mean if she is unmarried without children?”
Nigerians really think that after a certain age, a woman is ruined. A woman as a single mother? Also ruined. And so when a woman finds love after a certain age, it is assumed that someone finally agreed to marry her, and not that she fell in love or chose him. The same goes for women that are marrying for the second or third time.
Women are not expected to be attractive or expressive after a certain age.
This society really expects me to be tying ‘village meeting wrapper’ once I hit 40. Watch me wear a bikini and sip a bloody-mary on some island in Cabo when I turn 50. Because they expect women to focus on everything but themselves–children, husband, family– they don’t expect women to even find themselves attractive after a certain time. They don’t expect you to love your body if it is not the perfectly toned Instagram bod, And if you don’t love yourself, they don’t expect someone else to do it for you either.
But all of that is terrible social constructs and should be erased from our mindsets.
Women can love themselves at any age. Women can and should find themselves outside of being a mom, a wife or a homemaker. Women should feel confident, loved, and so on. They should experience love and happiness and new adventures of every shape or form at any age. Women can go on dates, take solo trips, switch their careers, relocate, and frankly do whatever they want to do.
Life is short, and life is fun. So, no one should miss out on all the love and laughter that their heart longs for.