“Na chali (And a boyfriend)?” This was my brother’s very worthwhile contribution to a list my mother was making on the first day of this year. She called it ‘family resolutions.’ We all gave contributions of what we thought the Gicovi family should, would or could do in 2014. The list eventually included everyone’s individual resolutions, starting with the youngest, my then 19 year-old brother, followed by me. I had 10 things written on my list when my brother carefully noted that I had left out a very important one. My mother agreed, and they both looked at me in askance. Why didn’t I want a boyfriend added to the things I wanted in 2014? I laughed and rolled my eyes and said something like, “OK! Throw it in there with the rest.” And my mother did, writing something very respectful like “the husband God intended” or something. Far from throwing it in there like I had said. After that, our conversation digressed to other non-dating related resolutions that I cannot remember. Does this happen to you guys when you make family resolutions? You don’t make family resolutions? What kind of life is that?
The next day, one of those hot, sweltering afternoons synonymous with January weather in Nairobi, I was interviewing someone for an article I was writing (for work). Now, I usually give my interviewees a chance to ask a few questions, usually about me, after we’re done. I do a lot of profiles and get a great deal of information out of people for my interviews so it’s only fair to give them a brief chance to “interview” me as well. So I have just concluded an interview with this stern, grandfatherly, very accomplished 70-something year-old guy, and I tell him about myself and what I do, blah blah blah, I love writing, blah blah blah, the importance of telling people’s stories… This is part of my (very sincere but may not seem like it because I say it too many times!) usual speech, but I digress. He asks how old I am. 25. He nods then goes on to ask, “Do you have a friend?” Friend? Who says friend? For the purposes of clarity and for the sake of people born after 1990, he meant boyfriend. “No. I do not have a friend.” He wants to close the interview with a prayer, and asks if I’d like him to pray for my “friend”. I agree (again, very sincerely) but also try not to look amused.
A few days later, I had a male friend applauding the fact that I am pursuing a master’s degree then pointing my left hand and saying all that remained was someone putting a ring on it. These three events took place in the first week of January. Since then, I have had different people ask me when they are coming to eat pilau (loosely translates to the ingesting of copious amounts of a spicy Swahili rice dish commonly served at weddings and other celebrations).
When my older sister, two years older, got married, three years ago, I did get the usual (for a slightly younger sibling I suppose), “You’re next” and “Yako ni lini? (When is yours?)” comments from a few relatives and friends, but I had just turned 23. I had graduated the previous year, and was a few months into my first job. These comments were not serious, playful even. Fast forward to present day. 26 year-old female, four years into her first job and nearly completing a master’s degree. When will she get married? Is she dating? No boyfriend? Oh.
I chuckle at these concerns. I never thought I’d get here. It always feels like someone else, and not me, who’s being talked about. I often wonder about this supposed course our lives are supposed to follow. These unwritten rules that we strive to abide by. Maybe I need to state at this point that I am not of the feminist movement. Neither am I jaded nor the fierce miss independent type (I like free food :D). Relationships, healthy ones, are wonderful, and marriage is a beautiful thing and I hope to be married, with the proverbial 2.5 kids at some point. Nonetheless, I am wary of the “don’t wait too long” “don’t be choosy” or “you’ll intimidate a man if you’re too learned (yes, there are people saying this in 2014!)” advice. I really doubt that anyone needs to be reminded that time is running out. We have Facebook for that. 😀 On a serious note though, I feel we need to respect the fact that everyone’s life takes a different course. There’s no written life script that we should all follow.
I also wonder about other matters in relation to this. How did marriage become an end-goal? Study hard, find a job, get married and settle down then life’s complete, right? Also, have we so romanticized the idea of finding a life partner and crafting the perfect wedding that we forget about the ‘ever after’? Do other significant life accomplishments seem to matter less to us if we are not married at a certain age? And how did we come to abnormalize(sic) the unmarried single of particular age? Surely something must be wrong with her/him. Really? Maybe we need a rewiring of sorts on this subject.