Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
The subject of this week is a 55-year-old woman who opted for early retirement this year. And is spending most of her time with her husband, children and just stopping to smell the roses. We talked about sex, financial advice, feminism and everything in between.
If you got in a time capsule, what’s the first thing you’d tell 25 years old you.
To wait small before she gets married. Not that I have any regrets, I got married at 21 and we’ll be celebrating our 34th anniversary later this year. Next year is 35, we’ll throw a big party. But getting married delayed my career. I’d have peaked sooner if I hadn’t. I had four children, and I didn’t start working until the fourth one was in primary school. Then, the order of things for many women like me was finding a good husband, raising a family and then maybe pursuing a career. The last part wasn’t compulsory. I see many young women doing the last these days and it makes me happy. Interestingly, I also see fewer women doing the first.
What do you think about it? By my age, you were married, but I don’t see it happening for me for several years.
No one gets married at 21 these days, and no one should. When my daughter turned 21, I remember having a conversation with her. I told her to take her time looking for a husband. Marrying a useless man will derail your life in unprecedented ways. So be very picky. It doesn’t matter if you get married at 25, 30 or even 35, the most important thing is that it’s to a very good man.
Is there anything you’d have liked to do at my age that you never did?
Not really. You people seem so full of energy. Things were slower paced then. I’d have made some bolder choices here and there, but I can’t think of a specific thing. Put my foot down about certain things more often. But my biggest dreams as at the time I was entering university was getting married. Getting a degree served to increase my prospects. I’m not as short-sighted now and we live in different times, but that was how it was.
How does feminism in our age look to you?
It gladdens my heart. Women your age are bold, maybe sometimes too bold, but in general, you have a fire in you, you would only find in a handful of women when I was at that age. But one thing you ladies forget is that it didn’t start with you. You are only picking up from where we left off.
My daughter gets in very spirited arguments with me over certain things and it usually ends with ‘mummy you can’t understand you are old’. I tell her, ‘I’m 55 but feminism is no stranger to me’. My father had 15 children, 9 of them were boys. He put us all through secondary school when it came time for me to go to university, he said I didn’t need it. My mother wasn’t having it, I wasn’t having it. A woman of my pedigree won’t have to fight for that sort of thing now.
What’s the best career advice you could give me?
Follow a conventional career path. There are all sorts of career paths these days, and they might seem new and exciting. But will they stand the test of time? Can you see yourself doing it for decades? The most fascinating one I’ve heard of is being a Youtuber. That’s creating videos for YouTube only. My son says it classifies as a career, I asked him, would that still be relevant when you are a 45-year-old man with a family?
If you have a good job in a place where you see yourself growing for a very long time, stay there even if the pay is low. Money is not the most important thing when you are in your 20s. My kids fight me on this. They say the structures we had in place to support that in my time are gone, but I stand by this.
What concerns should I have about getting older?
How old are you?
Right now, none. You shouldn’t even be thinking at all about getting older, you should just be living your life. I still felt like a 22-year-old when I turned 35, then I turned 36 blinked and suddenly I was 50.
I don’t want kids. It’s something my heart is set on, but everyone says I’ll regret it. What do you think?
I have four and they are my pride and joy. I think I love my children to death, but I could have still lived a very full and happy life if they weren’t in it. It would just be a different life, but I don’t think I’d have been miserable. You know I had a friend who never got married, never had children. Wait, actually I think she got married once in her 40s, but it didn’t last two minutes. If I were to judge a book by its cover, I’d say she’s as happy as a lark. I have friends whose children bring them nothing but sorrow and those whose children bring them nothing but joy. To each their own. But the key to your happiness doesn’t lie with your children. But I would say to you, never say never. Children are a gift and when raised right they’ll make you very happy.
What’s one thing I should learn now?
How to deal with loss. The older you get, the more loss you experience, it’s biology. I lost my mother first, when she died I didn’t eat or sleep well for months. I cried all the time, and it severely affected my health. My husband had to report me to the rest of my family that I was trying to join my mother in the grave. By the time my father died, I didn’t cry until a week after the burial. If you let every loss you experience consume you, you’ll stop living.
Could we talk about sex?
I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. What do you want to know about sex?
Well, I think I know the fundamentals, but how’s your sex life? Are you still sexually active?
Yes, I am. In fact, I think I had this conversation with my daughter and one of my sons last year and when I said I was still having sex with their father they started squealing and squirming like an earthworm, they put salt on. So I asked them, what is it you think we do behind closed doors all day – my husband is also retired -. They said reading, gisting and sleeping. Then I asked them if that’s what they do with the opposite sex behind closed doors, and they started squealing and squirming again.
So you are saying all you do is have sex now that you are retired?
You are not serious. My kids were right, there’s a lot of reading, gisting and sleeping but I’d say that we’ve been more sexually this year than in the last couple of years. We enjoy having sex with each other. It’s not as acrobatic as it used to be and sometimes it lasts 5 minutes before we both collapse in exhaustion. But it’s fascinating to me that you people think sexual urges will just disappear with age.
What’s the best dating advice you could give me?
Don’t jump around too many men first of all for the same reasons your mother must have told you by now. Sexual health, unwanted pregnancies and such. But also because men age you. For every man you engage, a forehead wrinkle awaits you in the future.
On becoming more spiritual with age.
It’s hard not to draw near to God as you get older. You’ll go through so many unexplainable things that the only option you’ll have is to seek out a higher power that will guide you through. I didn’t grow up spiritual at all. My family couldn’t decide what they wanted to be. One minute we were Christian, the next we were Muslim. I’m Christian now but it doesn’t matter where you pitch your tent, draw closer to God now, don’t wait to get older. Your life can be cut short at any moment.
You seem to be in very good health, what’s the secret
There’s none, it’s just by chance. Eat well and exercise, but I can’t tell you that I do any of those things religiously. The truth is, you could be as healthy as horse one day and the next day cancer is ravaging your body. Your health really lies in the hands of God, so pray more.
What’s the best financial advice you could give me?
I love this question, and it’s simple. Have your own money, by whatever means. It’s so important, women get married and start saying things like ‘my husband said I shouldn’t work, I should take care of the kids’. That’s fine, but you had better be running a side business at home. Squirrel away as much money as you can as often as you can. If you are married to the kind of man that would buy you everything on this part but not give you money, first of all, know that’s a wicked man who doesn’t have your best interest at heart.
Second, sell the things he buys for you. If he buys you gold, sell it and replace it with panda. You can’t be wearing gold when you have nothing in your bank account. If you have to leave the marriage in a hurry, you might not be able to carry your gold. I know a woman who left a 23-year-old marriage with only the clothes on her back. So have your own money always.
You look fantastic for your age and I’d really like to add photos of you to this interview.
Please, no. I look like this because my enemies don’t have the opportunity to feast their eyes on me often.