I, I’m willing and able
So I throw my cards on your table
I want to love you, I want to love and treat, love and treat you right
— Bob Marley, Is This Love
Bob Marley manages to portray deep feelings of love and commitment towards his object of affection in his song “Is this love“. The quaint-cottage-on-a-hill, butterflies-and-a-garden kinda love. Each time I listen to this song I catch myself thinking, “Wow Bob, you must have really loved this person”. Recently, something else in the song caught my attention: the “want”, the “willing” and the “able” side of love.
Young women in their mid-twenties and beyond face a lot of “when are you getting married?” hassle. Unlike Bob Marley, pressure-givers do not seem to work any brain cells wondering if these women are willing and able. I am not referring to family interventions or sit-down meetings with apparently concerned observers, nothing as dramatic. No.
It is the short and seemingly innocuous “Next year by this time it should be you” kind of comments we throw around. It is the “When is yours?” question we thoughtlessly blurt out when we are very much aware there is no wedding in sight. Heck, there is no wedding beyond the horizon. And, really, what is it with the desire to insensitively point out to unmarried women that their “expiry date” draws nigh? Excuse you!
Whenever an age mate, a colleague or a friend announces a wedding, the floodgates of “your turn” are swung wide open. Is the desire to see all young women married, based on a false assumption that every woman wants to be married, so strong? Some girls grow up dreaming about white silky wedding gowns, a prince charming and little rascals screaming “mummy”. Some girls fancy changing diapers at 25, others would rather to do so at 35. Some would choose not to walk down any aisle. Whatever the type of girl, there will be many more happy young women if we will all just chill and allow them to do their thing. That pressure to say “I do” is irritating and undesirable.
It is not only undesirable, it is unhelpful. Close to a month ago, I was told a story about a set of twin sisters. One twin was married, and had just had a kid. Good for her. The other twin was unmarried and working overseas. Why can’t that be good for her? The hell she faces, even the devil may not know. What you, and her pressure-giving family may not have imagined is this: Miss Unmarried does not want to go back home because she is tired of being asked the “Won’t you get married?” question. As if a “no” response would put an end to the matter. So who wins?
We live very diverse lives. We have very different goals. Our sense of fulfilment in life is not and should not be tied to anyone’s standards. Florence Nightingale, “founding philosopher of modern scientific nursing”; Jane Austen, the amazing writer we all know; Mother Theresa, the super humanitarian and Nobel laureate; and Coco Chanel, whom we will forever thank for the little black dress were never married. This stops no one from celebrating them. Life is huge and the path to attaining that “there” point is one complex labyrinth, a criss-cross of roads you cannot begin to clearly map out. We will do well by not stamping a marriage aspect onto that map, making it a compulsory hurdle to jump over. Otherwise, we just may be blocking someone’s path to the “there” point.
Let us even assume the lady is willing, how do we conveniently overlook the fact that the she may not be able to because she has not found someone? There are women who have planned their entire wedding: the white colour themes, the dainty four-inch heels, the bling bling tiara and the Shatta Wale and Davido hits to be featured on the wedding playlist. They cannot wait to say “I do”. All they need is a charming prince on horseback. Of what good is the pressure to these women then? Are we saying, “grab anyone and be done with it?” Is “I do” meant to be a start to something beautiful or an end to constant questioning?
Are we so concerned about women being with someone, just anyone, that we do not care much whether or not they are ready, or willing, or happy? Is it of no bother to us whether I do comes from the deep depths of a warm heart filled with jolly mushy feelings left by cupid or whether it comes from the hollow pit of a dark dark place? Seeing as being married is such a huge responsibility anyway, it really is not too much to ask that we allow women to don the gown when they are ready to bear the responsibility.
The pressure never ends, not even after the wedding is over and the decor is brought down. We do not only force people to get married, we advise, encourage and compel them to stay married when things go horribly wrong. We extend the pressure to having a child, because a married couple, by our standards, must never be childless. And then soon enough, there is the pressure to have two, and then more, because one child is not and cannot be enough. Do we ever think, “enough, let them be?”
Next time you find yourself itching to ask the woman next to you when she plans to get married, do take a cue from Bob Marley, ask yourself whether or not she is willing and able. If you do not happen to know the answers to these questions, then it is time you had a nice, personal and open conversion surrounding her wants and needs. If you are in no position to have a conversation of the kind with her, note that you most likely have no business even wondering when she is tying the knot.
Bob Marley got it so right. Respeck.