Friday, July 25, 2008

of marriage and validation

Of marriage and the need for validation

Whenever I speak to girls and even married women, talking about marriage and the individual’s need for validation has always cropped up. This is so, I realised, because a lot of girls and women in our society feel lost or inadequate without marriage. For most of them, it does not matter what they may have achieved ordinarily: as long as they are not married, they are not yet validated.
Then for the married, it does not matter what they may have missed, failed to do or even did below average: once they are married, they have paid their dues to the society. And, thank Goodness they are also able to produce children – male and female, mind you – all is well and they can be forgiven every one of their sins.

I have also spoken to boys (not men, yet). Not quite surprising, discussing marriage usually never comes up because that is about the last thing on their minds. When most of them are still in the higher institutions, there is not much pressure on them to marry. Rather, everyone is waiting for the day they will graduate and begin to bring in the "big dough". Thus, their own pressure is of a different kind and something I’ll talk about another day.

I know I’m treading on very delicate ground here but I’ll say what I know to be the truth: Marriage does not validate any individual, male or female. The earlier one believes this, the better for one. Though, its important for procreation & a host of other good reasons.

I would not be discussing this topic today but for a piece of advice given to some graduating students; this advice was given by no less a personage than a man of God, so, given in good faith. Last week, the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS) of a 9IJA University were bidding farewell to their graduating members.

During speech time, part of what the chief chaplain of the parish, one Rev. Fr. , told the graduating students was this: "For you girls, I want to tell you that most of you here have completed your spinsterhood because any moment from now you will go into marriage; but for you boys, this is where your bachelorhood starts".

I believe that the advice was well-intended but, pray, tell me, why would the girls among his listeners who are yet to be "hooked" not do all they can to get married before they are discarded as "too old"? Would we have any reason to blame them for being desperate for marriage?

Remember that most of them would have been receiving the "eye" (funny but irritating gestures and even outright questions on when the clinking of glasses would be) from parents and older relatives for at least a couple of years by now; add to it a pontifical pronouncement such as this and you would have a perfect scenario for "marriage desperadoes".

When I was an undergraduate, girls made statements like: "I must marry before I graduate, if not I would flunk courses", "If I don’t marry by the time I finish youth service, I don’t know where to stay because my mother has made it clear that I would not be coming to share her husband (the girl’s father) with her". I hear they say and plot intriguing strategies these days, just to hook a husband. These are girls in their early twenties. And of course their classmates are not the targets; established traders, bankers and other professionals are. Things have changed o.

This is because they have also been raised to believe that the men are the sole breadwinners and their contributions in the homes are not needed. Another wrong notion, I dare add. If we go biblical, Genesis 1:27 - 28 says "God created man in His own image…. male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ "

This means that the same charge was given to the man and the woman when it comes to being fruitful, increasing and subduing the earth. It means that, just as the man is expected to go out and work and impact the earth positively, so too is the woman. Just as the man is expected to leave a legacy, so too is the woman. Again, just as the man is not given a chieftaincy title just because he is married and has children, so too the woman is not eulogised simply for getting married and having children. If that were so, mad men and women would be made kings and queens because they too marry and are very prolific. See a mad woman protecting her child and you know that the sane person cannot give better protection given the same circumstances.

I am not saying that marriage is not good. Not at all; God instituted it and it is a beautiful thing, about the nearest thing to the relationship between Christ and the Church, as the Bible tells us. I am also not advocating that the husband and the wife are both captains in the house. Again, no way. Genesis 2: 18 tells us: "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Thus, the woman is a "helper" for her husband. Equally, wives are exhorted severally in Paul’s epistles to submit to their husbands.

My point here is that we must get out of the stereotypes where girls are railroaded into marriages and those "unfortunate" not to marry when we think they should are treated like outcasts. Many women have lost their sense of direction and, some I know, their sanity because they turned 40 and were still single. Many have taken baths in about all the rivers and beaches in their villages and Lagos, undertaken 121 days fasting "on the mountain", handed over their savings to unscrupulous "prophets" and "prayer-warriors", and done worse to attract the "elusive" husband (read validation). You would probably think I’m making it up if I told you about a particular case which was brought to me by two girls aged 24 and 25 who were desperate for marriage. There is no space for the story here but suffice it to say that ridiculous exertions are not the exclusive preserve of older singles, undergraduates too seem even more desperate.

Why not? They have been told and made to believe that marriage validates them. There are some who can afford to get a masters degree but would not do so in order not to scare the would-be husband. Among the workers, those who can afford cars will not buy but as soon as the husband appears, they buy him land cruisers; those who can live in decent places will not do so; they would rather manage "one room" or squat with relations. God, do we know what we do to our women?

Because our girls are not taught to know that they are first and foremost individuals, they tend to become nuisances to their husbands. They work but rather than invest their savings wisely, they channel them into frivolous things and soon waste everything. Ditto for the one involved in petty trading; she would never behave like an entrepreneur with vision. Our girls and women are rarely focused as individuals.

Sadly, when tragedy strikes and the man is no more, the family usually experiences nothing short of a total catharsis in terms of lifestyle: cars(s) are sold, accommodation is lost or changed to something cheaper, children are moved to cheaper schools while madam’s jeweleries are sold. In even sadder cases, she loses husband’s properties to thieving friends and relatives who usually know much more about the man’s affairs than she does.

While I was writing this, a mail came in from a cousin. She really was "in the spirit" because she was talking about another friend who lost an elder brother. The guy was 40 and had just finished a game of squash with friends when he slumped and that was it. She did not bother with details of what happened but from the tidbit she sent me, I can well imagine what the scenario looks like right now. Hear her advice to young girls and women (she wrote: those who are planning to marry and those already married):

"I lost my father the year I entered the university and I know the trauma my mother went through before, during and after my father’s burial, as well as the extra hard work she had to undergo in other to make sure all five children continued to live a decent life, and went to university. All this was possible because she was always a hardworking businesswoman, by God’s grace.

"(M)y advice for all women: please have a source of livelihood that will financially and intellectually support your husband, children and yourself, even if you feel you do not need to work for financial reasons. This will leave a lasting legacy especially for your daughters and stand you in good stead in case of any eventualities."

What more can I add? Girls, you were not sent here just to marry and breed children. There is something else in you; discover it and run with it. But we can’t do it alone; we need the help and support of parents, priests and alfas, and of course, those of our men – the husbands and the husbands-to-be. tory neva finish o.........Ciao.

1 comment:

nita said...

I agree with you. Most women think they are production machine and as such have lost sence of direction and focus. I wish every woman would read this.