Continuing from the last post, while I appreciate that a normative cultural milestone in a person’s life is that of marriage and children, I also feel that we need to nurture a mind-set or paradigm that does not equate an individual’s sense of fulfillment in life with that of tying the knot and finding completion through another person.
The concept of mulu sew or whole person hit me some days ago as I was watching a news report on the yeshi gabecha (one thousand marriages) event as one of the married interviewees declared “now we have become whole persons”. This comment further affirmed to me that the pressure put on single men and women to wed is closely tied to perceptions of inadequacy of a single person. More women than men are pressured into this frame of thinking, where the various milestones they reach in their personal lives are considered insufficient unless they become part of a union.
The experience of pressure is not only my story. It is also the story of my friends and many unmarried women in Addis, whose extended family and friends continually paint a picture of the “unfulfilled” and “fruitless” single life. Were we Chinese, we would be called “Sheng Nu” or the unwanted – basically unmarried women above the age of 27, as officially declared in Chinese dictionaries.
Indeed humans are social creatures that thrive in companionship of many sorts, not limited to marriage. I have witnessed through my parents 40yr marriage that the hallmarks of such a union are love, respect, shared values and life goals. Yet I also understand that their success is a product of their labor. The question arising in my mind being, how many urbanites tie the knot because it is the norm and their friends are doing it? How many are pressured to fit into the cultural normative mould? (I don’t talk here about forced marriage and bridal kidnapping).
Some months back I came across a vivacious and quick 4year old girl. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, without missing a beat she hastily replied – a bride! Indeed kids say the darnest things yet it left a query in mind percolating – are girls in urban settings still being fed the concept of aspiring brides that Disney has played out over and over in the 80s? (I leave it to percolate with you if it strikes anything).
Withstanding the many well-intentioned match making people I have encountered who want to introduce me to this one or that one because “we’re a good fit”, the ones I find frustrating are the unsolicited preachers who give a sermon on “how a pretty girl like you should settle down now” and command that I should get married with very little regard to the many other facets of my being.
The many comments I get:
- “Enough with the education, you should get married now”!
- “You’re still not married”?
- “So when do we feast at your wedding”?
- “You know you won’t find a husband after a certain age”?
- “I want you to be happy”
These and others are all from married people of course. So what I’m really curious to find out from my married readers, is why the obsession with the singledom of singles and why apply such pressure?
I leave you all with a humorous line I heard some time ago:
“I always hated weddings because the elderly would come over and poke me saying “You’re next.” They stopped doing it when I started doing it to them at funerals.”
Love & Light