I decided to write this article about the social stigma never married single women have to deal with especially single women over 30, after reading the article Being Nigerian and Single.
In that article the author, a Nigerian single lady was narrating what she's had to deal with as a never married single woman. I thought the article was interesting and I understood completely how she must feel about it all especially since she's only 21. And I sympathize with her.
However my problem with that article was the way she made it seem like such kind of social stigma against single women only happens in Nigeria. And the way she repeatedly said "these Nigerians" just almost annoyed me. I'll quote from her article:
It's as if these Nigerians expected me to graduate from college with a ring on my finger.
These are the same people who all but glued a note to my forehead saying "no boys allowed" all through my 16 years of school.
in the eyes of Nigerians, I will continue to be "le struggle.
So I thought I'll write an article to clear this, share other never married single women's experiences who are not Nigerians and use the opportunity to show my support for and encourage all mature single women out there since I'm facing the same challenges too being a mature never married single.
Majority of Nigerians ignorantly always think that the reason for all their problems is because of the country they live in. The country is backward, the country is uncivilized, the economy is poor, and the culture is archaic they'd say. While some of these things are true to an extent, it doesn't mean that other people in other countries are not facing the same thing we're facing here.
The issue of social stigma against single women exists everywhere. You'll only be more sympathetic to the author's situation as I was because as I said before she's only 21. But in Nigeria here, once you're a female and you're done with college, people hardly care about how old you are. They think since you're done with school the next logical step should be to get married. And if you don't do that then they'll be on your case until you do. But even then I'm sure there are a few countries too that stigmatize their single graduate women regardless of their age. After all India still marries off children who are barely teenagers. So it could be worst.
If you're young and stigmatized for being single, the pain is not as bad as when you're a mature single lady especially over 30 and never married. At this age you'll have not just the pressure from the society, but also the pressure from yourself.
I'm in my early 30s. I would have never thought when I was in my early adult years that I would still be single at my age. But sadly and not so sadly (you'll understand the later part at the final part of the article) I'm still single. And if I have to describe what it feels like to be a never married single woman over 30 here's how it feels like. Just imagine...
You know you're old enough for marriage (more than old enough actually). You know you're ready for marriage, your body, mind and needs tells you you're ready. You know you're prepared for the responsibilities marriage brings. You have the physical and inner beauty. You know you'll be a great catch for any man. However for some reasons you're yet to be attached. You try to keep up appearance, act like it's no big deal, rejoice with your friends when they announce to you their upcoming wedding, even though in your mind you're asking God, why can't that be me? When will I find my own man and get married and bring honor to myself and my family? And behind closed doors you cry sometimes while praying to God and pleading with him to send the right man for you. After all it was his arrangement of things. You know you can date different men to feel the void but that's not what you want. That's not how he (God) planned it to be. He instituted marriage. I Corinthians 7: 1b, 2 says: (quoting from The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures)
It is well for a man not to touch a woman. Yet, because of the prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband.
Take note of the line each woman have her own husband. See more bible verses on marriage.
So why is he not sending you a husband? Even when you pray fervently? After all the bible says in Luke 11: 9-10: (quoting from The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures)
Accordingly I say to you, keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened.
You put yourself out there by making yourself available but you are just not meeting the men that want what you want. But mostly you're not meeting the men that are capable of giving you what you want. And sometimes you're even unlucky and fall victim to men who are users, men who take advantage of your situation.
You wonder, "What is wrong with me?" I've been a good girl. I've played nice. I do my best to be honest and straight forward with people and not toil with people's emotions. I've not messed around. Why can't I just find the right man for me? Even some of the ladies who've lived a wayward life, dating multiple guys for the money and having several abortions have gotten married, some even married some of the best men! I know I'm not asking for too much.
Whenever I let myself think about it, the feeling for me is exactly as I've described. And I'm sure the feeling is almost the same for every mature single woman. But as if we don't have enough to deal with already, people (friends, neighbors and sometimes family members) feel they have the right to mock and insult us.
Fortunately I have the best parents ever! And they've never bothered me about it, although they're aware of my situation of course and as every good parents prays that I find someone soon and get married. And my siblings are very supportive. They don't bug me with it but as people who love me and are concerned would mention it once a while but not in a way to make me feel bad. And my sweet eldest sister will sometimes put in a word with her close friends that she has a sister who's searching for a mate in case they know a friend who's searching for the same thing. She knows I don't mind, so there's no problem. I think people can meet through any means and some happy couples today met through a friend.
I look far younger than my age. So it's only people that know me closely that I've either told my age or have a close guess of it because of the different life stages they're aware I've gone through like knowing when I left high school, college etc. So that saves me from a lot of naughty comments from the society. My age isn't written on my face.
However my neighbors suspect that in terms of age I'm much due for marriage. Actually some of them even think I'm much older than I am because someone gave them that impression when the person said one time that I only look young but I'm actually not young at all. Since then, some of them started to make speculations about my age. Recently when I asked one of them how old he thought I was, he said 40. And I was like, what?
Anyway, they know I'm a mature woman that should be married but I'm not. And they've not been so nice about that. Everyone thinks they have something over me to insult me with if there's any misunderstanding between us. And they never let an opportunity to mock me or insult me for still being single pass them by. For the slightest of reasons they'll rub it in.
Some of them who pretend to be good neighbors will find a clever way to mock me. Make it seem like they're saying it because they care. I remember one very humiliating incident that happened one day. One of my neighbors gave birth, and I went to see her in company of another of my neighbor. And as we entered the room and I started congratulating the new mother, my neighbor that entered with me started saying something about how I should get married because time is not on my side. And immediately the new mother's mum heard that she started to pray that I see a good husband to marry. As usual I kept a smile on my face thanked her for the kind words and left. I immediately told my neighbor that I didn't like that comment at all. I asked her if I was actually that old that everyone including a woman I didn't know me from Adam should be praying for me. I mean there are never married single women over 40 that still find someone and get married. And she even had a sister who was also matured and never married. So I asked her to think about how her sister would feel if someone did that. She apologized, claimed she made the comment without any bad intentions.
Friends on their part wouldn't stop asking me:
Are you in a serious relationship now?
A close friend even asked me that this morning (as at writing).
Authors, researchers and psychologists wouldn't stop making speculations about never married single women. Different reasons have been given why we're still single. And among them is that it's our fault because we're asking for too much. We have unrealistic list of the kind of man we want.
Recently I read the article Never-Married Women in their 30s are Total Losers. And there Larry Ganong and Elizabeth Sharp both professors were said to have conducted a study on single women and published their findings in the book "I'm a Loser, I'm not married, Let's just all look at me".
Their study is based on an interview they conducted with 32 middle-class, never married women. And here's a quote from the article regarding their study.
"women felt the most social stigma between the ages of 25 and 35" they called it "a time of intense contemplation and concern for single women regarding their future family trajectories." and after that stage they accept their faith and presumably start adopting dogs.
And the writer of the article wondered why nobody is making speculations on the short comings of never married single men. I wonder about that too.
Some never married single women have come out to write about the challenges of being a mature single woman especially one over 30. And after I read some of the articles I realized people are being put through much more than I am.
For example from the article Why is it okay to Ask Me Why I'm Single? The lady shared some of the comments she's had to deal with because she's a single woman over 30. And some of these comments are just so...mean. Not even in Nigeria do they say things like that.
in my experience, the hardest thing about being single in your 30s is not actually being single, it's putting up with the constant barrage of comments and pressure to "find someone" and "be happy" (with the inference that if you are single, you must be miserable), almost all of which come from women.
"You should think about freezing your eggs."
So, I was talking to some friends of mine who are adopting a child…"have you thought about adoption?" (said to me at the ripe old age of 31)
"But wouldn't you like to have someone to do things with so you don't get lonely?"
"You are so pretty, why aren't you married?"
"Don't worry, girl, we'll find you a man."
"I hope that you will still hang out with us when we all have babies."
While the insensitive remarks can sting, what's harder for me to take are the people who think that they somehow have the right to tell me that it is my fault that I am not yet partnered.
If you're in the same situation, a single woman, ready for marriage, longing for it but just not finding the "one" and naughty comments are regularly thrown your way as a result, don't let it affect you too much; because though you may think people will stop harassing you with naughty comments when you get married, but it's not likely. And the simple reason is because in this life people who want to put you down will always find a way to do it. Even after you get married and have kids.
Some married women confirmed in their comment to the article I quoted from above "Why is it okay to Ask Me Why I'm Single" that the questions never end even after marriage and sometimes even after giving birth.
Here are how the life questions go:
"When are you getting married?"
Five seconds after you get engaged, "When is the wedding?"
Starting at your wedding reception: "When are you starting a family?" (said 4,000 times at my URBAN wedding reception attended by progressive, urban people. There is no escape.)
When you get pregnant: "When are you due?" and "you're breastfeeding, right?"
Asked when my daughter was a day old: "When are you having another one?"
Asked as soon as I revealed I was pregnant again: "How many damn kids are you going to have?"
This was actually asked of me in labor & delivery WHILE I WAS PUSHING OUT MY SECOND CHILD by the nurse: "So, are you going for a third?"
And now that I have two girls, EVERY single person I see from grocery store clerks to family members want to know, "you're going for a boy next, right?"
My point is people getting in your business and shaming you on your time frame and decisions doesn't end when you get married, it is only the beginning.
Above comment by HighGlossSauce
It doesn't end with marriage. Try being 41 and not having nor wanting children. According to many family members, I'm a cruel, heartless child-hater.
Above comment by SillySally
I have a cousin who has had several miscarriages and a failed adoption attempt. She wants a child and STILL get comments like "I guess you enjoy your life too much to have a child. You can go to the hair salon and get manicures and put on makeup every day. It must be nice.
As though women with children can't do those things. And as though getting a manicure means you care only about yourself.
No one can win. Ever. People are just too shitheaded to realise that they don't know everything about a person.
Above comment by WanderLuster
I don't know about anyone else, but I come from a religious background that values marriage as a woman's profession. For many of my old friends, their wedding is the single biggest achievement of their lives. I, however, have not gotten married (by choice), and my life is filled by long term relationships, an education, a rewarding professional life, and independent financial security.
While I often hear little jabs from friends like "aren't you worried that when you do get married, you'll look old in your photos?" or silly questions like "what happens when you want to have a baby, but you are still single?" I don't get upset; my dear old friends are likely experiencing a bit of jealousy. I experience the same from time to time when one of them has the nerve to post fat baby pictures on facebook.
We made different decisions and went different ways. Each path has amazing benefits, and heart-wrenching pitfalls. I choose not to get upset when people make these comments- I am happy with my life, who I am, and where I am going- they can't shame me for my life if I experience no embarrassment.
Above comment by Iconocast
Isn't it just ridiculous how in your business people can get? Like they say, people will only stop talking about you when you're dead. Even then they may not stop; or haven't you attended a funeral where you heard people gossiping about the person being buried?.
I couldn't have said it better than the last part of the comment above. We mature never married single women are jealous each time we hear of or visit someone especially our friends who put to bed. We wish it could have been us and we're reminded that there's a void in us that needs to be filled. But married women sometimes get jealous of the freedom we have.
Like she's said, we made different decisions that lead to different paths. For example I could have said yes when I was first proposed to at the age of 18 but I didn't. And later went off to college. While in college I had admirers, two especially wanted to go the long way with me and I could have said yes, but I didn't. And instead after college I left for Lagos Nigeria (where I still live) and there I struggled, couldn't get a job and wasn't really interested in furthering my education more than some college qualification I already had; which later led me to working for two different companies on two different occasions. And because the pay was bad and the job was boring, I got interested in creating a second income. In trying to do that, I learnt how to create residual and passive incomes working from home. I became interested, discovered my real passion and here I am today; spending most of my time writing from home, making money while doing it and enjoying every bit of it! Still after college, I've met a few persons I could have said yes to, but I didn't for one reason or the other. If I had said yes to any man before now, my life would have headed a different path. But the fact that I didn't led me to being in different places to experience different things that all combined in helping me discover myself and become the woman I am today. A woman much more mature and equipped to deal with the responsibilities that comes with marriage.
Each path we currently find ourselves has its advantages and disadvantages. I've shared my advantages. The disadvantages for me are:
Fertility also falls sharply after the age of 35 and IVF far from guarantees a couple a child.
Those who do fall pregnant, face greater health risks than younger women – as do their unborn babies.
Professor Mary Herbert, one of Britain's leading reproductive biologists, said: 'The most important message is for women to have their babies before the clock strikes 12.
'I would be getting worried about my daughter if she hadn't had a child by 35.'
The above comments is from the article Women should start a family before turning 35
I'll add that it may not even be about the path we choose, but that we all have challenges to deal with. For example I didn't deliberately turn any admirer down because I wanted to attain a certain status first; not even because I wanted to discover myself. So that's not why I'm single. Things just worked out like that and I guess it's one of my shares of life's challenges. I've seen women who married late and immediately got pregnant and started having kids whereas some who married many years before have been trying hard to have kids but still not succeeding. One of your challenges and struggles in life as it is for me may be finding the right mate on time. Another person's own is getting pregnant, surviving a life threatening illness and a few don't even have the chance to make the decision of getting married and or having kids due to situations they find themselves that they no control over.
No one has the right to judge and/or mock anyone for the decisions they made or for the struggles they face.
I remember when I was young and I made mockery of a shabbily dressed girl that hawked everyday to earn their living. When I did she made a parable in her mouth's tongue I'll never forget. When translated in English she said to me:
A person that has not finished passing through life that is laughing at a blind person.
That hit home with me and it's something I'll never forget. I've long realized how true that parable is. No one knows what life will bring tomorrow and the situation we'll find ourselves.
Lisa Steadman posted some excerpts from her book "If He's Not The One, Who Is?: What Went Wrong - and What It Takes to Find Mr. Right." in the article If He's Not The One, Who Is?: A Single Girl's Journey. It seems in the book she shared some tales from her journey as a single woman. I really liked the lines below and thought I'll share it with you.
Maybe you'll decide to be single and fabulous forever. Maybe you, too, will date wildly exciting and different men until you find your perfect partner (a.k.a. Mr. Right). Maybe one day you'll strut your sassy stuff down the aisle, say "I do," and enjoy the pitter patter of little feet. Regardless of where you end up, now's the time to pay attention to the journey, learn your lessons, and celebrate the life that's unfolding before your very eyes.
My life keeps unfolding right before my eyes. I find myself doing many things I never in my wildest dream thought of doing.
I can relate completely to these lines now's the time to pay attention to the journey, learn your lessons, and celebrate the life that's unfolding before your very eyes. That's because it's how I feel, it's what I do and it's what I encourage all single never married women to do too. Pay attention to the journey and learn your lessons. I have learnt so much that better prepares me for when I do get married to be a better wife and mother. I discussed my journey with you and the 23 lessons I have learned so far in the book I titled "The Journey to Finding Mr. Right". I hope you get a copy and read it. And focus more on finding the lessons in your journey to better yourself, than what people are saying to you and about you for being a never married single woman. If you don't let them get to you they can't hurt you.
I don't let them get to me. I usually give one of three reactions. For friends I close the topic by simply saying "when I am ready to get married you'll hear about it". For neighbors I turn it into a joke and laugh it off and not think about it at all, or when someone insults me with it or swears on it like a neighbor said one time "you'll be here and nobody will come and marry you" I immediately lash back and make them understand I'll choose my current life a million times over than the excuse they have of a marriage; which is actually true. Men who claim to be husbands but too selfish to meet the basic needs of their families. Women who claim to be wives but are being abused by their husbands on a regular basis and they can not contradict their husbands for fear they'd be beaten. Most of these women are not even legally married. They get pregnant for their boyfriends move in with them and start having babies and they deceive themselves that they're married. Such people dare laugh at me for still being single? That's ridiculous. And it's even more ridiculous if I let it get to me.
The truth is if you know who you really are, what you want and why you're still single (because you refuse to settle in the areas that really matters to your happiness in a marriage), the society can not intimidate and pressure you about being single.
Like a woman said in one of the quoted comments above (Iconocast):
I am happy with my life, who I am, and where I am going- they can't shame me for my life if I experience no embarrassment.
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