Growing up as a young girl in Nigeria, it was almost inevitable to observe that expectations of marriage and children were placed on women. Not just that, it was also inevitable to observe too that singleness in women was spoken about in pitiful and miserable terms.
If a woman was above thirty and unmarried, even if she looked happy, people would assume that she was spending her nights covering her pillow in tears because there was no man to give her his last name.
Now, there’s another group of people I’ve come to dislike as I’ve grown older. It is the people who say that women should marry and should stay married so that women can get support and not “die alone”. I dislike these people because if one doesn’t introspect, their statements can easily be read as coming from a place of genuine concern.
This is especially when one observes how marriage often leads to a sacrifice and erasure of women’s personhood, dreams and career. So pray tell where is the support that she should get?
In addition, I dislike the above people because more often than not, the advice to marry so as not to ‘die alone’, is always directed to women and women alone. A man who is 28 years old and intentionally staying off relationships to focus on building his career, is praised as dedicated and focused.
But when a woman of the same age doesn’t want to date and voices how she loves the peace that comes with her single state, she is told dismissively to get married because of a “biological clock” and so that she won’t “die alone”. This in turn makes her settle for just any man so that she can be a mother even if she may end up doing the bulk of the childcare and looking older than her age.
But does the “dying alone” trope care about women or is it another way to get more women to rush into marriage and do the bidding of men?
Or is it a way to ensure that women never leave relationships where they labour for men out of fear of being viewed as miserable?
Because if it cared about women’s emotional wellbeing then won’t the makers of that statement advise women to be intentional about healthy relationships?
Won’t they preach on choosing partners who are partners in the true sense of the word and not those who are burdens?
To further understand why women are rushed to marry or stay in relationships so as not to “die alone”, I spoke to two women.
For Tari, a writer, she believes that it all boils down to the ideas of marriage and the double standards we hold men and women towards.
In her words: “Marriage has always been the benchmark of womanhood in a society like ours and when a woman is married she is seen as complete.
Many African cultures hold it so tightly. I’ve heard things like “a woman’s pride is her husband” and “women are not to have their lives”, as everything is tied to marriage and how she ends up at her husband’s house. If a woman is not married at a certain age she will be viewed as lonely or ill company.”
Speaking with Tonia, a social media manager, she believes that it is a manipulative tactic to get more women to settle down with men.
To quote her: “The way I see this, if the pressure is coming from men, it’s mostly just a manipulative tactic because they cannot wrap their heads around how women can feel whole alone.
Think about it, men always want women around them. Either for love or just for sex. Men desire attention from women more than women desire theirs. It is more common to see a woman who hasn’t been in a relationship for years and is also not getting any action but men? Whether they’re in a relationship or not, best believe they’re getting some. I say it’s manipulation because they know they want us more than we want them (most times) so instead of sticking with the truth, they try to convince us that we will be lonely without them and most times we buy it and we give in.”
She went on to say: “On the other hand, if the pressure is coming from women, they’re just projecting their own personal fears onto others. For some, they must have a man by their side otherwise what are they doing with their lives? No shades to them or anything although I wish we all understood the magnitude of the power we hold. So, for these people when they see women without men thriving, they swear the person would regret not making time for men. They’re convinced of it because it is what they fear the most.”
If much of society paints singleness as a miserable journey for women it shouldn’t be surprising when women get into bad relationships so they can avoid being called miserable.
While it is okay to crave companionship, singleness should be seen as a default state that most humans embody and not as something that we must do all we can to escape.
It should also be celebrated for the focus and clarity it brings to women especially as we have more time to pay attention to our goals and aspirations.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.