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 personsâ€. 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 ” unfulfilledâ€ and ” fruitlessâ€ single life. Were we Chinese, we would be called ” Sheng Nuâ€ 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 fitâ€, the ones I find frustrating are the unsolicited preachers who give a sermon on ” how a pretty girl like you should settle down nowâ€ 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 nowâ€!
- ” You’re still not marriedâ€?
- ” So when do we feast at your weddingâ€?
- ” You know you won’t find a husband after a certain ageâ€?
- ” I want you to be happyâ€
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.â€
Love & Light
loved it. so on point. i never get the obsession with the whole idea. its a blessing when its with the right person for the right reason. and a huge disaster if not thought about carefully.
I was actually smiling on your thoughtful comments (Part I and Part II). A lot to ponder of course. I have been raised and living in this society where i can only be accepted as a “full-being” when i get married, well, i got over it long time ago. I haven’t actually been thinking about that for long time – For many the priority fantasy is wedding , and then marriage, but relationship comes at the end.
It is beyond the culture we have grown up in Ethiopia. the most accepted people in the society has usually been married people – i don’t know when it started but labeling people respected on their martial status is lame from my point of view.
A lot to discusses here. But my journey to be full started long time ago – well, it is half done, and happily not married yet and not planning anytime soon – if not never!
As a newly married 24 year old woman, i can’t claim to know what you are going trough. However i do understand the amusement and contempt you have viewed our traditional conception of personal fulfillment achieved trough the “inevitable” bonds of marriage!!! I am in love with my husband, which is why , much to my surprise, I agreed to marry him this early in my life. I will confess my expectations with regard to my involvement in matrimony were confined to my mid thirties at best. However, the lovely surprise that is life happened and volla! I am a married woman!
This by no means stops me from finding many peeves in the societal expectations of my perceived fulfillment so early into my marriage. Am i happy? Of-course i am! I am happy and excited and intimidated by the daunting task of linking the rest of my life to one person. But i have not fulfilled my potential by simply dawning a wedding ring….I have so far to go!!!
My question is, why does it have to be one or the other? Its your chose to love, marry or otherwise. Your choice to have a family. YOur chose to fulfill your self and realize your potential, Educate yourself, build a carrier!!! Why must it be one or the other? Why does it have to follow some kind of chronological order? Why not accept the blessings in life as they come???? And if they don’t happen a certain way…so be it!!! When they ask me what has changed since marrying the man i have cohabited with for the past year, i reply, absolutely nothing other than these obnoxious questions i keep being asked!!!
I am still me and my goals are still my goals. Nothing has changed except the presence of one more ring on my finger, a symbol of the commitment i made to the man i love. I am still me and will act no different! Its like they expect us to have morphed into one person!
You and your great mind! Why are women (usually it’s them) perceived as half a person when a man is often seen as the winner of it all being single, he has then the freedom to pursue his dreams. People are and will be individuals, some meet a person who are their soul mates and find the love and respect but some are so obsessed with that they have to be a part of a “union” that they look beyond the flaws and the fact that many should not at all be wed! Even though I don’t recognize the culture in Ethiopia (beyond the friendship of you and others) here in the north we also have find this pressure every day. Once in a relationship not only is there the pressure of getting married but people seem to be very keen on knowing when you are planning to have kids, I didn’t know the sex life of others was such an interest to some! I loved being single as much as I love being married. I am glad that I found someone that will continue pursuing my dreams as well as his but does that make the whole difference in the world, I should be able to do that as a single person without the comments or pushing of other people. Let’s put pressure on people to pursue what they want to do, not what the society or others think they should do, be it carrier, studies, living, single, married, children, no children… u got the point 🙂 Miss you loads!
I wholly agree! I for one, think people question others about when they will marry and when they will have children because they want for us what they have (the good and the bad). They want us to understand their joys and commiserate in their unhappinesses. Of course all of it has to do with how each society views its people and what roles society has constructed for them, but for once I would love to have someone tell me, “Screw getting hitched! Have a few partners, practice polyamory if you want, but focus on you and what you want to get out of life!” Much love, loves!