Marriage — The Symbol of a Successful Life of a Nigerian Woman
In this century, it is not unusual for an eighteen year old Nigerian girl to start getting advised by her parents on how to live as married woman. Some families even begin giving the advice from age 15. The Nigerian girls being described here are those with formal education at least up to the university level. For me, by the time I was 16, neighbors and extended family members were already forecasting “the kind of lucky husband this beautiful girl will have”.
By the time the girl completes her university education, the pressure for marriage mounts. All of a sudden, every conversation her mother has with her will be on how to conduct herself in her marital home. This covers cooking, homemaking, raising of children and the likes. By the time she is 22, family members, friends, neighbors, church members, co-workers, etc will start to ask her the famous question, “When are you getting married?” For me, I answered this question with a small smile saying,” Very soon ma/sir”. The inquirer will then smile and say, “Don’t make it too late oo”.
At 22, it is common for an average Nigerian lady to have completed her University studies. Every male friend her family members sees her with is a suspected potential suitor. During this period, many of her friends would have started getting married and she would have been on the bridal train of most. The pressure for her to get married increases. Sooner or later she would have to bend to the pressure that society put on her. In Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, it is said that, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”. The Nigerian version of this statement would be that “A young single lady having completed her university education must be in want of a husband”.
The Heights of Societal Pressure
No one asks the lady what she would want to do with her life by the time she is 25 as much as they would ask her for the date she would be getting married. Marriage becomes the apex of achievement of a lady who bends to the pressure of this society. For the few Nigerian girls who choose to have a career path, or focus on working as entrepreneurs, they are labelled as “Career women who marry late and usually fail at raising up their children”.
I had a roommate who had a goal for the upcoming new year to be married by that new year. You would not blame or judge her because at age 34, family member, neighbors & church members already labelled her as “old”. She got depressed when that new year was ending without her having a husband.
For a society where marriage is seen as the highest form of achievement for a lady, it is not uncommon to see single women in their mid-30s who are successful being discriminated against. People say things like she will never be able to keep her home with so much success happening in her life.
The Church & “Late Marriages”
Most unmarried Nigerian ladies dread hitting the “Big 30”. Once you are 30, you are no longer a single lady but a “matured single lady”. Churches now organize special prayer and fasting programmes to deal with spirits & demons behind late marriages. Every single sister wants the miracle of a husband. In some of those programmes, some single ladies got miraculous phone calls from men they have not spoken to in 10 years asking their hands in marriage. The lucky sisters who experience this miracle go ahead to start their wedding preparations. The so –not-lucky ones elongate the periods of their fasting & prayers with the hope that one day, they will have their own miracle.
Some pastors now help out with matchmaking. This may be the pastor’s way of helping out a sister or a brother to actualize their miracles. This way, both the guy and the lady start off with faith as a common ground. Many of the couples who engage in this matchmaking always look so happy on their wedding day. They are finally free of some sort of societal pressures.
40s & Beyond
For single Nigerian women in 40s, society see them as cursed with no hope of redemption. Witches and all sorts of elements of the supernatural are blamed for their misfortune. Even the biological clock of these women seems to be ticking faster by this time. The thoughts of whether or not they will bear children is always on their mind. Even the society tries to help by giving them the choice of husbands they will end up with mostly by match making. Only a few emotional & psychologically strong women are able to withstand the pressures that the society puts on them as regards marriage.