I’m a Kenyan woman.
In Kenya, the stereotypical life cycle of my kind, women, is grow, go to school, get a job, get married, have babies, cook for your husband and babies till the babies grow up and leave, then cook for your husband till either of you dies. A lot of people expect this of me, most on a subconscious level that only becomes clear when I voice my intention to stay single for as long as I possibly can.
If you listen to a lot of the radio shows that air every morning on bus rides as people are headed to work, it becomes clear that this is the cycle expected of any ‘sensible’ Kenyan young woman. Once, I even heard a woman call in to say,
“Me? Stay without a man? I can’t.”
Well, I can. Many women can.
It baffles people and perhaps makes them itchy in a place that’s uncomfortable to scratch when I say I want to be single.
Many are convinced I’m this way because I’m bitter over a heartbreak. Some think I’m this way because I hate men, which I don’t. Some think I’m this way because I’m scared of love, which I am because everybody ought to have some reverence for something that powerful. But that, surprisingly, has nothing to do with why I want to remain single for most of my life.
A lot of my older friends have told me that I feel this way because I’m young, it’s a phase, it will pass. Well, if they can explain a phase that involves feelings that keep getting stronger as I get older, I would love to hear it. Others say, I just haven’t met the “right one” yet. A concept which, by the way, I do not believe in, which is something we’ll talk about some other time.
One of my lecturers once gave the girls in my class advice. He told us to lower our standards and give the boys around campus a chance because one day we’ll be thirty and expired and they’ll be hitting their prime and only getting better with age. I think he called us mangoes and called them wine. He told us we would keep rejecting the boys only to find ourselves single at 30, running back and licking their boots to be with them. I was quite livid that day. Understandably. I hate mangoes. Couldn’t he have picked a better fruit? Anyway.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from my uncle, who is one of the coolest guys I know, after my dad. He was concerned about how much I vocalize wanting to be single and was worried I would chase away potential suitors.
“You’re a nice and sweet person. You should show this to the world.”
I agree. I am and I do. Being single is not me being mean, or unkind. Ask any guy who’s ever hit on me. I’m never mean. Wanting to be alone should not be construed as intentional cruelty.
I can share myself with people outside of the context of marriage. I’m a sister, a daughter, a friend, a cousin, a teacher, a student, an aunt…so many things. I’m more than just someone’s potential wife.
Then yet another man, a few days later, said to me,
“You should be careful when you say those things man. You’ll be single at thirty and you’ll wish you hadn’t.”
There it was again the 30-year ceiling. The year when a woman’s worth begins to deteriorate? The year she stops being someone worth anything? Maybe it’s the year past which her words when spoken have no meaning? Could someone please tell me? What happens to women who are happily single at 30, outside of the societal pressure to be bound in matrimony and procreate? Perhaps there’s something that happens then that lights a want-to-be-married fire. I refuse to fall for it though. I refuse to believe that there is now an eight-year deadline on my potential that expires when I turn 30, just because I happen to have ovaries.
I can be alone. I will be alone and no, my being alone has nothing to do with anyone else.
It does, however, have everything to do with wanting to travel the world and meeting new people without worrying about someone else all the time.
It has everything to do with giving myself time to enjoy a career that I’m only just starting to get excited about.
It’s about having freedom, about giving myself to causes I believe in wholeheartedly while I have the energy.
It’s about my dream of living and working on every continent for a few years.
It’s about saving my energy for living life instead of investing it in recovering from one heartbreak after another.
Now, for anyone who will construe this as blanket advice that everyone ought to be single. Don’t. Love is a beautiful thing and I admire those who have the courage to take the risk of giving their hearts over to another. I salute you. I’m grateful for you. You’re a hopeful part of this world.
I will be here cheering you on. Alone and happy about it.