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.
The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 36-year-old woman. She talks about how she went from wanting to get married and have children to never wanting any and why she loves getting older.
Tell me something interesting about you.
On all my birthdays, I do something crazy, selfish to celebrate getting older. It might not even be crazy or selfish, it might just be something that people don’t expect from me.. This year I got a piercing on my tongue and a tattoo just around my pelvis. Now I can’t stop wearing crop tops everywhere even with the size of my belly. I love it.
Did you always love getting older?
Actually, nope. In my 20s, I was scared of getting old because I had so many plans and things I wanted to do before certain points in my life. I grew up around women who dreaded getting old. Small white hair on their head and they’re screaming and fretting. My mother told us that we all had to be married before we turned 25. 25 was the mark, and after that point, you became old and useless if you were unmarried. By the time you turned 30, ah no redemption for you.
That’s how it was for me. In fact, the day I turned 25, I cried hard because I was unmarried and didn’t have a boyfriend. Meanwhile, just a few years earlier, I was so sure that I’d be married at 22 and be done having children by 25. I thought that was the perfect life.
I had been dating someone who cheated on me on and off for a year and was even engaged to him. In my head, we were perfect. I’d catch him cheating, he’d apologise and I’d forgive him or take him back. We were about the same age, but he said he wanted me to be a housewife. This was even before social media was big. My family thought he was great too.
One day, my head reset. I didn’t tell anyone, but I broke it off quietly. My mother still hasn’t forgiven me. In the past, about the time every year I was supposed to have gotten married, she’d say, “Your marriage could be x years old right now, your children will be big girls.” — stuff like that. Ever since I told her why we broke up, she hasn’t said anything about him again. She still badgers me to get married but about that ex and the life we could have had? She’s kept quiet.
Have you dated anyone since then?
Just one. I’ve mostly had situationships and entanglements. My last serious relationship was disastrous because he turned out to be a distant relative, and I only found out when I introduced him to my parents. This was about the time I turned 26. We broke it off immediately. After this incident, my mother began to believe that I was cursed. Tears. She’d come by my bed and pray for me. She has taken me to many places and brought several pastors to pray on my head. Once she asked me if I was a lesbian, and I told her that being a lesbian doesn’t stop me from being in a relationship. She called everyone to know to talk to me because I didn’t outrightly say I wasn’t a lesbian.
Lmao. Wow. So how did you get comfortable with your age and not being married by 25?
This didn’t happen until I turned 30. I was kind of taking stock of my life, and then I realised that I hadn’t achieved anything I wanted. It wasn’t just marriage or kids. It was with work, finances, even socially. I felt horrible and was depressed for the longest time. Every awakening I’ve had in my life has been very subtle. Like the time I realised I didn’t want to do life with someone who constantly cheated on me. That realisation didn’t come in any groundbreaking moment. I just woke up and realised I was done. It was the same thing with turning 30. I woke up one morning and told myself I couldn’t continue beating myself up. To turn 30 years no be crime.
Once I had internalised that, it was easy to deal with the rest.
What was the rest?
Friends who felt and feel sorry that I’m over 30 and not yet married, older family relatives who feel the same way, my mother and all her numerous pastors and prayer warriors. It was so exhausting, I caught myself slipping back into that I hate myself phase a lot of times, but nothing has ever completely pushed me back.
What’s your worst experience?
Can I even count? The landlords that won’t rent their apartment to me because my age and status — unmarried woman in her 30s — is very questionable. One even subtly accused me of being an ashawo after he considered my appearance and car. The men that use my age to joke — I can’t stand that at all. One told me he usually likes to date younger women, but me, I’m different…
There’s nothing you won’t hear. There’s a way Yoruba people say it, something about your time has gone and night has come. I can’t exactly translate it. But yeah, that’s what a lot of people believe when it comes to older women.
Was it also at the point you realised you were no longer interested in marriage and kids?
This was actually quite recent — about a few years ago. I realised that I never really wanted kids or to get married, it was all just handed down to me as the thing that I was expected to do. It was only just clicking recently when I asked myself: “Why do you want kids?” “Why do you want to get married?” I couldn’t give myself any reasonable answers. When I asked myself about the reasons not to have kids or get married, I came up with a list of wonderful things people might think are selfish. Like being able to travel whenever I want. I can make decisions quickly. I can decide to be jobless for months or a year and survive. I can spend nights out without thinking that I need to come home to take care of my kids.
Sounds like freedom to me.
Every woman should honestly live like this. I don’t know any other way to live. I think I made the best choice. And there’s nothing stopping me from living my life. I embrace my wrinkles and all the many signs of getting older. I love it all.
So you don’t think you’ll ever get married?
Nope. But never say never. What if I need to get married for a better passport? Will certainly tie to knot oh.
What’s something you’d tell to your younger self?
Stop trying to rush. Time dey.