Welcome to WWISH

“Hi! My name is Antoinette. I’m forty. I’m independent, single and happy.”

“Hi Antoinette! Welcome.” A chorus of women’s voices responds.

“Em…hello? My name is Kuukua…this is my first meeting. Oh…and I’m thirty-four.”

“Hi Kuukua! Welcome.” A chorus of women’s voices responds yet again.

“Welcome to WWISH, Kuukua, a place for women who are independent, single, and happy,” the facilitator of the group adds.

I am thirty-four. I am independent. I am single. Given the right combination of factors, I am happy most of the time. When I’m unhappy it’s usually because I have not paid attention to my gut. Some days I wish there was an AA-type group for women like me. Sometimes it is the sheer lack of our visibility that throws me into depression. I know we are out there, but because we don’t see each other, perhaps we cave and join the married forces only to launch ourselves into a life of permanent depression.  It was difficult to see everyone pairing off in their twenties and wonder if all was well with me. It became more concerning to outsiders when I hit thirty and kept going and still showed no signs of pairing off. Now, a few months from thirty-five, and with every other word out of my aunt’s mouth having to do with marriage, I can’t help thinking about it all over again. It’s not the quintessential 34-year crisis, although I won’t deny that this is probably riding on its heels, but it’s the crisis that’s not often talked about. Even when it is talked about, it’s often done in an attempt to fix it—getting the culprit a therapist, setting her up with numerous blind-dates, quizzing her so often that she begins to make-up ‘boyfriends’—trying to know the root cause of her spinsterhood so they can fix it. Speaking of the latter, at what age does one cross over from being just single into being a spinster? Does anyone know?

When I was growing up my grandmother did her best to ensure that my sister and I steered clear of boys, or rather that boys steered clear of us. She was so concerned with boys and grades that everything else played second fiddle. If actions really do speak louder than words, then she needn’t have tried so hard. All around us, every woman in our family, including her, had been married, once, some even twice, and yet were all raising children single-handedly with little or no male support. So is it a wonder that at thirty-four and thirty-one, my sister and I are still unmarried and have no plans to do so anytime soon? So why do I get flack from all these single mothers, about getting married? Why do I have to spend time creating and keeping track of Jamaican boyfriends that no one will be able to trace? (I discovered a few years back that my extended family had a knack for tracing last names from some of the neighboring West African countries.) Jamaica is safe. They are Africa uprooted. Some of “them” are Rasta people but so long as their skin is like mine and they believe in God, we have a match! Plus to them, Jamaica covers all of the Caribbean so that gives me quite a range.

There are lots of theories why women like me exist. Smart, highly-educated, beautiful, sexy, great cook. Also, Type A, neat-freak, no-nonsense, impatient, brutally honest. Unmarried and childless. By choice! They say we had strong female figures in our lives who over shadowed the male figures (if they were around). They say we are jaded because some guy in our past duped us. They say we are ‘apuskeleke.’ They say we hate men. They say we are lesbians. The list goes on. It never occurs to anyone that perhaps marriage is not meant for everyone, nor does it have to have a timeline, nor does the same timeline have to apply to everyone.

Last Saturday, riding with two of my aunts around town, we passed three dressed-up wedding vehicles. They both chorused each time they saw each one that this was a sign I was getting married soon. Why not spend the time asking after my health and wellbeing? Why not find out how my new job is going? Am I happy? What do I want to do with my life? I’ve been gone from their lives for sixteen years, and when I return all they want to talk about is that boyfriend I’m hiding abroad.  At least my one aunt is open-minded enough to use the term, ‘partner.’ Talk of marriage and children seem to consume people’s interactions with me. Given the fact that I have neither, one has to wonder what about it could possibly hold their interest for so long.

I have been on the continent for a total of four months, the longest I have been here since I was whisked away at eighteen to go and benefit from the Western world’s mastery of education and order. The past four months have been anything but a shock to my system; I feel I have stepped backwards at least five decades. It doesn’t matter that I have two masters and I’m working on a third.  “Are you married?” is the first question everyone asks after being introduced. Of course the ring on my ring finger causes some confusion, but that’s another story. It seems over here in my old home, women are still just accompaniments to men. They do not acquire status unless it is spelled with the initials M.R.S. Even my classmates who are now doctors and lawyers and have come into some considerable contact with the Western world, have married and settled down, and are rushing home to fix their husbands’ dinners, or for those well-to-do ones, scurrying home to properly supervise the house-helps. These are the women who surprise me. I expect a barrage of marriage-related commentary from the older generation, not these friends. But it seems as if they, having accepted their lot in life, would now like me to also do the same. They don’t see marriage as a choice. It is something every woman must do; how dare I defy the conventions?

How dare I? This is another of the reasons why being in Ghana has been challenging. I don’t fit the conventions. Here, not fitting the conventions is a lot lonelier than in the U.S. where thinking outside the box is encouraged. Not fitting the box here means there are a lot of awkward silences when people ask certain questions. It means you rehearse a patent answer and deliver it to everyone who is nosey enough to ask (and that’s really everyone). It means rehearsing more answers for the obstinate guy who has come-backs for all my other answers. It is challenging because not only do I get to process the issue of Africa’s brain drain and my participation in it, or missing my family back in my other home, or teaching, or fill in the blank, I also have to think quickly on my feet about what to say to the question: “Are you married?” and its follow-up: “Why not?” or “What are you waiting for?” Of course there are other sneakier versions of the question:

“But Mel, aren’t you lonely?” (My old home friends call me by my Anglo name, Melody-Ann.)

“Of course I’m lonely sometimes, but not lonely enough to rush and fill it with a permanent fixture!”

Ehhh! Wrong answer! This one could lead to hours of defending such ‘flawed’ thinking.

It is exhausting to speak my mind, to say how I really feel about the whole matter, so I shut up and let them lecture me on the benefits of marriage and producing, again.

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14 comments

  1. Very moving reflections, Kuukua. I really appreciate these insights into your life and thoughts & feelings (not that those last two can be separated).
    Anne Serafin

  2. Darling, this is so beautifully written, honest, and painful. I hear ya, girl. I only wish there were some easy way out of this dilemma. You’d think we would beyond this by now. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with it!

      • Hi K.K.

        I smiled when reading this blog because I totally understand what you are going through.

        ‘What is wrong with you that you are not married?’ ‘Aren’t you being too picky?’ ‘So how big is an issue if you and the guy don’t have things in common? Love surpasses all things! You will grow to love him eventually!’
        Really? I have heard it all! It’s worse when your younger siblings get married and you are still dancing to Beyonce’s song ‘single ladies’.

        As for people hooking you up? Been there, done that! As I write, my mum and her friend ‘suggested’ that her son and I would be well suited as we are professionals. How cool is that?! Being professionals is a sure recipe for a successful marriage:-)

        Yes, I would like to meet the right guy. Yes, I would like to eventually marry and have children.
        BUT…. No, I won’t settle for a man who I am not happy to be with. No, I won’t succumb to the constant pressure from others. If the well-decorated wedding vehicle that is honking behind me, signalling for me to drive faster on the one-way lane, has an impatient driver, I will politely gesticulate for him to ‘fly’ above me to whichever destination it is heading. Meanwhile, I will continue cruising at 100km/h and sing along to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls just want to have fun’!

        Thanks K.K. for sharing this…………

  3. First, let me say that you are not alone. Hi, my name is Kinna, I’m forty, I live in Ghana, I’m single, a mother and most days I am content with all of that. Except the negotiating life in Ghana part. Which remains a struggle. For those of us who have spent most of our formative and early adult life outside Ghana, it can seem that the country is five decades back. Even for some of my friends who never left. My regular answer to the not being married question is “I’m just too lazy to bother with it all!” Which in my case is the truth 🙂 Most times, I just stare blankly at the person. Yes, it’s exhausting in Ghana to explain certain positions.

  4. Na wa ohh! Kuukua, thank you for writing this post. I know it may sound ridiculous, but sometimes as an African woman I feel completely alone in this plight i.e. constantly having to defend your principles, beliefs, right to a trajectory that doesn’t align with everyone else’s. It is tiring. There is no other way to say it. Just exhausting. My sister moved home for a year before moving to France, and she complained about the exact same thing. As an women’s rights and LGBT activist, my option to move back home isn’t really there anymore (and now, they can use the excuse that I prefer women as the ‘aha’ when one asks why I’m not married… ugh). It’s frustrating because I’ve never had any desire to marry, since I was a kid. But now everyone has convenient memory loss about that and regularly pray that I’ll “come to my senses”, not “waste my looks” and marry a nice man (even if he’s white — yes, they say this now lol). You’re a great writer, by the way. I was cracking up the entire time. Such vivid imagery and conversations I can actually ‘hear’. Nice to know me and my sister are not alone in the craziness! It’s been great to find your blog. I’ll be back often 🙂

  5. I am forty, single and child-free. You might as well be describing my experiences K.K, although I live in a different African country. Thank you for speaking out about this. I think if enough of us are saying – this is our choice, respect it as we respect yours…things will change. At least that is my hope. As I have gotten older, I find myself more patient with the questions and depending on the context will even try to explain to the person asking. I do this in the hope that I may be saving like-minded sisters out there from this matrimania barrage.

    Let me share you something refreshing that happened to me last week. I met an 87 year old traditional Chief who asked me if I was married (as usual). As I responded, “no, I am not,” I was gearing up for the usual questions. His next question took me off guard. He asked me – “is it because you can’t find a man or because you choose to be single.” It caught me off guard because rarely do people leave the possibility of choice when it comes to marriage. I told him it was by choice and he said, much to my surprise, you have to choose what is right for you.

    So there…an elderly African man who is progressive enough to accept and respect that it is our choice! There is hope…

  6. I LIKE! I am with you, the more I learn about this ‘wonderful’ institution that seems to bring so much misery and lonliness to the majority I speak too or observe, the more I am contemplating alternatives!!! I would like to get married BUT he has to be the right person not just any person. I like my life and peace of mind too much to be inviting in constant irritation! As a cousin (now trying to be divorced) said, ‘everybody should get married once’! I love it, like everyone should try bungee jumping lol. For now bring on the questions staple answer with a smile ‘I am looking, when the time is right he will come’. Generally gets you a sympathetic smile, a compliment about how pretty you are and a blessing from God. Finished! They have placed you and they too can move on.

    Right now, I have too much to do and accomplish for me to be expending vast amounts of energy on the ‘men dem’, if it’s supposed to happen, when it’s supposed to happen it shall until then…want to go for a drink and I promise not to ask you about why you are not married 😉 us singletons need to stick together!

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