Alexa, when will I marraay?
When you were 16 where did you think you would be 5 years down the line? How about 10? I imagined I’d be established in my career, married, with my own home and a baby on the way. Let’s all laugh together.
I turned 28 last month and I’m writing this on my dining table, in my family home, where I still live with my parents, a younger sibling and all of my worldly possessions, absolutely everything I own, fitting into one room. Am I saddened by these facts? Not particularly. Do I wonder where I’ll be 5 years from now? Absolutely. How about 10? I can’t bear to imagine myself a decade on, that’s just too much.
Do I believe I’m a good person? Yes, I do (I tend to realise the magnitude of my greatness when I’m singing in the car). Do I believe I deserve good things? Yeah, sure. Do I believe good things will come to me, that good things will happen to me? Well, that one is a little bit more precarious. You see, my rational brain and emotional brain really be getting into it sometimes. My rational brain knows that, in due time, God’s will will be done and I’ll have all that is meant for me, but my emotional brain… my emotional brain is a miscreant. Most of the time I’m able to keep her in check, but those self-deprecating thoughts really run riot! Couple that with time and biology, yup, that’s enough to exacerbate my anxiety.
Historically, women were expected to marry, look after the home, cater to the man and raise the children. Before we even learned how to wipe our own asses, that was the expectation placed upon us. That was the default aspiration. That was the goal, the dream. But there’s been a shift. Women are more assertive now, more confident, more determined to express ourselves as individuals, all while giving less of a fuck. We do as we please and we’re unapologetic about it. We don’t need men anymore, we decide if we want them and most of us are over their shit. But, I believe, with all this liberation and emancipation has come a new modern pressure, and I can’t say unequivocally where this pressure comes from, but it certainly does exist, the pressure of being the ‘secured’ and ‘independent’ black woman. The woman that has everything before she finds a man. The woman who’s completion precedes meeting her ‘other half’. The woman whose identity revolves, solely, around herself. The woman I wish I could be. The woman I pretend to be, for fear of seeming weak, or desperate. But as I put on a brave face, the spirit of When-Will-You-Marraay continues to permeate my life.
I’m a confident person, but only when it’s inconsequential; drunk at a bar flirting with men I have zero interest in, in a job interview for a position I don’t really want anyway, cracking jokes in the middle of a social gathering, with people I have absolutely no intention of ever seeing again, online in a thread, debating why it’s worth compounding your lactose intolerance to enjoy cheese. That confidence doesn’t translate into an advantage when it really matters though, and this lack of confidence is most apparent when it comes to my personal endeavours and intimate relationships. There is a general lack of self-assuredness and I believe it’s what leads myself, and conceivably other women, to live with this veiled, unremitting worry that they may never be successful in life or love.
Our brains make associations, these associations aren’t always conscious, for example, if we grew up around a vicious dog and were never exposed to any dogs with a gentler temperament we may very well always associate dogs with aggression and evoking a sense of fear. This was not a deliberate or calculated decision, it’s just the long term association our brains have made. It’s these same mental associations that make some of us long for the marriage, the children, the dog, the house with the white picket fence (as they say). We associate different periods of our life, with a certain level of freedom, a certain level of professional achievement, a certain level of romantic triumph and this is inclusive of, but not limited to, marriage. The perceived certainty that someone you adore adores you back. The security of knowing that, if all else fails, you have that one person who has vowed to love and support you irrespective of your transgressions, idiocy, and even on some occasions, lunacy. To successfully obtain and maintain a commitment of that level feels like an accomplishment. It’s an ‘accomplishment’ that society, at best, assumes all women should strive for before we even have the opportunity or capacity to set goals for ourselves and, at worst, a guise that they wield to supress women, imposing it on them through humiliation, intimidation and violence.
Then there’s the whole issue of settling. I think people settle for a plethora of reasons: a conscious choice, an inability to see their true worth, rushing, pressure to make it work, not wanting to start over, not wanting to hurt their partner, the list goes on. For me it’s an amalgamation of three things, one, underestimating my worth which consequently means I two, fear that I may never be able to get a man of a certain calibre, which results in me three, overestimating the worth of my love interest. Now I’m having to ask myself ‘Azryah, do you really think he’s amazing, or are you scared to wait for what you think you deserve out of fear it may never come?’ The idea of being alone forever is not one I like, but I can say that it definitely scares me far less than being with the wrong person.
I’m currently in a place trying to maintain a balance between embracing my desire to be a wife and a mother and believing that I’m enough in the absence of those things, because constantly feeling like you’re inadequate isn’t conducive to living a gratifying life. I’m trying to acknowledge all my talents and abilities that are unattached to marriage or children, I’m trying to accept that there is so much I need to do, and work on, before I have the emotional capital to enter into such a momentous commitment.
I have been operating from a place of fear and insecurity, which has lead me to evade acknowledging the severity of the consequences that settling could have. The gravitas of choosing your partner is so great that I wasn’t prepared to exercise the patience and self-discipline required to wait for the right person. I’m still not, but I’m working on it everyday.
It's okay to have a yearning for a companion and a family, it’s okay to feel incomplete when you believe such a huge an integral part of your journey has not yet manifested, it’s okay to worry when it will and it’s okay that the fear of possibly never obtaining these things saddens you. What isn’t okay is to let it consume you, to let these negative feelings persist and be of detriment to your progression and development as an individual. It’s destructive to live life according to the timer that you have set with your biological clock, and becoming the best version of yourself should not be a prerequisite to finding a partner, it should be the whole point of your existence.