A while back, I was seated in a saloon listening to women talk about their marriages after they’d finished gossiping about who and who’s husband and so and so’s behaviour. If you’ve been to a black saloon, you know its setting allows women to be vulnerable with each other about all their issues. There is judgement for sure but this judgement is usually reserved for when the woman leaves the place.
One particular woman spoke of how she was tired of her husband. She told us that he came home late at night, every night, smelling of cheap perfume and beer. She spoke of the arguments they had every night and how he threatened to beat her up. Because of all the horror stories, one of the young saloon assistants said, “if that is marriage, then I don’t want it.”
The outcry from the married women in the saloon was swift. The young girl was informed that she should get married because a man was the glory of a woman and marriage was her cross to bear. But after all the horror stories can you blame her for her hesitancy? Can you blame me?
When I think about romance as it has been sold to me, I think about the Netflix show, Bridgerton. That show has clouded my perception of real romance. And now, almost every day, especially in this love month, I think about dukes and viscounts running around shirtless proclaiming love in a very dramatic way.
But one thing that I do not want to think about but was very real was how young women were paraded to potential suitors in a battle royale type of situation called the Marriage Mart. The marriage mart was a very real thing in those times and, in order to have social standing and protection, a woman had to be married.
The same was true in African societies. Marriage was a necessity. A woman who was married was a woman who was protected. She was the woman who had the highest social standing. She was the woman whose opinion would be regarded.
I have nothing against marriage. I love love. In fact, if anything, I think it’s a beautiful thing to be married. For two people to decide to come together and do this thing called life and to bring little versions of themselves into the world is magical. It’s scary but beautiful. In fact, on this very site, I still write to my future husband, The lucky bastard.
My problem comes in when it’s dictated by the unwritten rules of society that a person should be married in order to matter to other people. It’s also in these unwritten rules that in the hierarchy of social standing, a single person is just above a child. No matter their accomplishments, it will always boil down to; was he/she married? Did he/she have a child? It’s almost like a person’s innate value is placed in his/her ability to tie down a person.
It’s worse for women than it is for men. While an unmarried man in his 50s is given side glances, unmarried women in their 50s are written off as failures. A woman’s value reduces the older she gets. A man can easily get married and sire children in his 80s. The same cannot be said of women. Even in a society as modern as we live in, a woman in her 30s is placed lower in value than a woman in her 20s.
From the time women are young, we are groomed to be good wives to our husbands. We are taught how to walk right, talk right, and how to cook and clean the house. These are good skills to have for any person but they are given solely to the woman in order for her to secure a husband and manage her home. This woman might be a CEO, a world changer, a person most important in the marketplace but if she doesn’t have a husband, she is of zero value.
There are all these rules that are given for women to be able to win men over. So many dos and don’ts. I’m sure almost every woman has heard this be said of her search for a husband. Don’t be too loud. Be demure. Let him chase you, let him come to you. Don’t make more money than him, that will be the worst thing ever. Don’t be more educated than he is, that will intimidate him. And if you are more educated than he is, don’t show off, he will leave you for another person that makes him feel like a king and a baby. Even during bridal showers, so many tips and tricks are given to the woman on how to please her husband. And yet, this ritual is not extended to men. Side note: I really don’t like bridal showers.
This article is my long-winded way of saying, marriage should not be the ultimate goal for anyone. Marriage should not be THE accomplishment that everyone boasts of. A ring is not an accomplishment. While it’s a good thing to have, it’s not the thing that you should identify with. It’s not the thing that should define your entire existence. You are more than the person you choose to spend your life with.
While I have seen so many people rebelling against societal standards of marriage, we still have a long way to go.