“There goes my parents having sex AGAIN,” was my first thought when my eyes popped open.
It was closely followed by "Why did I move back in with them? Geez! I should be the one having sex."
...the sound was muffled, but it drifted into my room at peculiar intervals. I rolled over and slammed my pillow over my head but still, it prevailed. Kicking off my blanket, I staggered out of bed towards my alarm-clock radio with hopes of dispelling the odd gurgling and heaving sounds, but something stopped me in my track.
I heard my name, “AdeOla.”
And then again, “AdeOla." The second was louder, but still indistinct. However, I recognized my mother's voice. Unless my parents were into some new age sex shit, this was definitely not a lovemaking session. I would have, very much, preferred that, because as my ears and eyes got accustomed to the night, I recognized the sound as my mother crying and praying fervently that her daughter, yours truly, would bring home a husband.
I was in my mid 20’s, and this issue was topical. I sighed, turned on the radio , and got back into bed.
All was definitely still well with the world.
But was it?
That night, her desperate cry struck me and stayed with me. I was familiar with her commentaries about my marital status, and her prayers on my behalf, but I had never once heard her sob so desperately about it. For the first time, I got scared and wondered if my relaxed countenance towards marriage and children was abnormal. It crossed my mind fleetingly that maybe being single was a thorn, and one I had to uproot. But as the night rolled into day, and weeks turned to years, my mother’s prayer-wail remained unanswered, and I remained slightly unbothered. I can’t marry myself now, can I?
However, her cry made me hyperaware of the attentions others paid to my singleness. Family, friends and strangers were bothered and relentless in their quest to make being single an issue. Comments like, “A husband is your bottom line,” "You need a husband. A woman cannot be all she needs to be without a man covering her,” and "You don't present like you are ready to settle down; you are always traveling,” are a constant.
A friend once told me, “Taiye* will never date you. You are not a typical Yoruba girl. Take my words for it," and he didn't. She followed that up a few years later with, "I didn’t think I’d get married before you. I never would have thought.”
Why are other people tripping over themselves trying to place on me a burden I didn’t want to carry?
I was truly not interested in lamenting under the “weight of being single.” Don’t get me wrong; I desire a partner, and I wonder, on and off, when my love story would happen. I didn't declare 2018 as The Year of Bae for nothing. However, I am thankful that it is not an issue that assaults my heart. But... at odd moments, these comments run rampage over my heart, unannounced and unexpected. These comments sometimes violate my peace. Of course, I brush them off as best as I can, but they tend to leave crumbs on the same spot my mother sobbed. For many women, being single coupled with feelings of invisibility and unworthiness of romantic love causes deep pain. Comments like the ones above are unfair and they win, sometimes.
In my life, these “wins” show up in the occasional wondering, in my conversations with myself in my head.
"Am I doing this wrong?"
"Should I fiercely desire marriage and children above all things?"
"I think I need to appear more feminine."
"If I’m less assertive on this date, maybe he’ll think I’m less intimidating."
The wins appear in the times I folded into myself so as to come across as mild and meek, in the moments I have felt the need to declare that I can cook, and in the painful seasons I have questioned my character as it relates to being wife-able. These comments rise to the surface sometimes attempting to diminish me just as I am.
Then one regular morning a few years ago, I was in my bathroom getting ready to step into the shower when the thought “I don’t deserve a good love story” dropped on my heart. Ouch. It stopped me mid-motion. It caught me by surprise. It made me angry. It made be uncomfortable. It made me pay attention. I may not be preoccupied with marriage and relationships, but I had sure picked up some items that had fallen from its packaging. That day and many more after, I decided these comments may rise to surface when they choose, but they don't have to win. I sat with myself and asked myself, "what do you want and what do you think?"
I came up with answers.
I have purpose with or without a man and marriage, and anything else is a lie. I am complete and fruitful, and my worthiness is not lurking in a marital status. Singleness is not an ailment with a husband prescription, and worthiness is not a virtue a woman gets when she gets married. A relationship or marriage is not an accomplishment, and a lack thereof is not necessarily a reflection of my character or my success. That goes for a thriving career too. I am worthy regardless. I will get married, but pending a walk down the aisle, you are looking at a full woman, not one who needs to fix something.
Let me be clear, we can all be better, ALL OF US, but not just for marriage, but to live a full life. There are some habits and mindsets that may need to go if you want to tie your life to someone intimately and forever, but those things don’t necessarily qualify or disqualify you. Some of these habits need to go just by the virtue of working, living and doing life with people, male and female. And with time, we all, hopefully, get wiser.
Finally, I told myself that I am created with my own agency and purpose. Whether I get married or not, it is my responsibility to honor God by pursuing what he has called me to. I refuse to look for worthiness in the eyes of a man or in the fruits that will burst forth out of my womb or heart. Let’s scratch both the white gaze and the male gaze; they both need to go. They perpetuate white supremacy and misogyny. Let’s break that toxicity. I stand with every woman and man who desires romantic and sexual love, but, in my life, I refuse to condone the obsessive value placed on it.
So my mom’s prayer is yet to be answered, and she hasn’t given up, BUT all is still well in the world.
Let’s take this conversation offline! I am leading an intimate portrait conversation on LOVE, WORTHINESS AND RELATIONSHIPS next Tuesday, February 20 hosted by Behold.Her at the Lululemon in Georgetown, and I’m super pumped. The discussion will encircle the issue of that sometimes stand in the way on our journey to loving ourselves and being loved by another. I love to see familiar faces coming through, and I’d love to see yours.
*not real name