My aunties are trying to find me a husband, someone I can wield like an accessory dangling on my arm when my cousins are trading stories about the men in their lives. They, that is my aunties, find it curious –suspicious even— that a woman of my age, in my prime, should not have prospects, and worse, that I am quite stunningly unfazed by it. There are also other aspects of my life that they find disturbing. “It is strange behaviour to sit in your room all day pressing your computer,” one of them says to me. “You mean you are taking a degree in fiction, but what will you do with it?” another asked, refusing to mask her disappointment. Then there is my favourite who recently said to me: “Have you heard about online dating?”
These women are connected to me by a long line of marriage and blood. They mean well and I love them, but they are also the last people on earth I want to discuss my dating life with. Or my career choices for that matter. But you see, the only thing worse than being a single African woman is being a disagreeable one. Here are people trying to help you and you have the audacity to give your opinion. I decided it was safer to play the dutiful niece. There was also the fact that I have a fast-depleting energy source, so I pick my battles carefully. Resisting my aunties and their piled-up good intentions would be exhausting and futile. So, I sat still the other day while my host and other aunties who had taken a long drive for our session demanded that I bring out my computer and join the ‘online dating.’
The thing is, there is an older cousin who is four years married now to a man she met in the ‘computer,’ as one of them would say. We Africans have this enterprising way of making a mass production out of one person’s success, so naturally, my aunties are all decided that online dating is the necessary pathway for the remaining single women in the family.
The only hiccup was when it was time to fill out my profile. It was a simple prompt really. Tell us about yourself. (Maybe not exactly in those words.) The problem was not that I did not know what to say, it was instead what I said: I like books, I like aimless evening wonderings, I like looking at the bends and arcs of tree branches, I like people, but after a short time spent with people, I like to be left alone. I am very clear headed about the woman I am. I am not trying to sky-dive my way into the next adventure. I do not like taking uncalculated risks, I am not a youthful thrill chaser. I flinch when I hear strange sounds in the dark, (I do not pick up a flashlight to go and investigate.) I wear my face masks, but also stay indoors. I am practical and self-possessed with the need to do what I think is right. Of course, my aunties did not let me put any of this in my dating profile.
They insist that I am boring. “You know men like exciting women, you have to try harder.” “We know you are a writer, but you don’t have to let people know.” In my mind, I wondered how much beating I would need to bend my persona into something flattering and attractive. Not for the dates, just so that these women in their mid-fifties would leave me to my afternoon nap. I also couldn’t help but remember a friend of mine who told me about one time, when he went on a blind date and could barely recognize the woman he planned to meet because she looked fundamentally different from her pictures and social media profile.
I think my aunties are right. The law of first impressions will always matter. But the first impression should not be click-baity. Authenticity will always be the real deal because it filters time wasters and glitter chasers from people who are fit for you. This is not just about dating but also about how we live; how we project ourselves, how we invite people into our lives. Society tells us to keep bending, because what you have is not sellable. But what if it is?
I did not say any of this to my aunties, I was not ready for a sermon. It has been three weeks now and they are still editing my profile. Between my being boring and their enthusiasm in helping me find love, I am sure we will reach a middle ground.