The older I get the more I learn the need to unlearn things that do not serve me. Until I got married and had babies, I couldn’t face the reality of what it means to be female. I spent the greater part of my young adult life hearing about marriage and babies. At 7, I remember my mum telling me that I ought to learn to keep the house clean because one day I would have to keep my husband’s house clean. Confused about why my brother didn’t need to learn the same lessons, I heard they were boys. They will get married and their wives will keep the house clean. My little mind tried to imagine a girl in her own house getting the same lesson from her mother about how she would keep my brother’s house clean. It wasn’t until I started dating that I realized how this thought held me back from a lot of things.
I got married the day I turned 30. For a Nigerian girl, you can only imagine a number of times I heard the question, “when are you bringing him ooo?”. Forget ambition and plans for my passion, my brain was filled with questions about when it was going to happen. With every single relationship, I asked myself if he was the one. I didn’t even know how to enjoy dating because at the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I hope he likes me?” “I hope the food I cooked was good enough?” “I hope this and that and the other.”
Then there was the shame. The shame that comes with being unmarried, thinking everyone was judging me. Looking at another birthday cake wondering when I was going to start having babies so my biological clock doesn’t run out. Worrying, worrying and more worrying. It seemed that being female came with this shame I couldn’t shake. I was ashamed I wasn’t married, in the marriage, if kids didn’t come on time, I was ashamed I didn’t have kids, as though it was me who gave kids, if the kids came and weren’t behaving like kids should, I was ashamed that I had somehow failed. And when my daughter grows up, if she doesn’t get married “on time” there is more shame around why she wasn’t meeting someone. If somehow my husband was “cheating” on me, there is shame around why I am not enough, is she better than me? Prettier than me? What can I do better?
It seemed the female’s life was a constant struggle to overcome the shame of being female. When I wake up at 75 with regret. I start thinking about all the opportunities I missed. Why did I get married, to begin with? Why did I have kids when I didn’t want any? Why did I spend all that time putting up with things I didn’t have to put up with? Death is coming soon and all the shame I carried all my life seems not to count. I want to go back and do it all again. But I can’t. It’s over now.
So how do you unlearn shame today? You are still alive, you are 18, 28, 38, 48, 58, 68 years old and you are still alive carrying the shame. How do you unlearn it? You make a decision to see yourself. You decide to see yourself fully, flaws an all. You decide you cannot please anyone else but you. You decide family is cool but they may not understand you. You may not understand you, it’s time to rearrange your priorities and put you first. Take care of you. Give yourself the love you want to receive and in giving yourself the love you want, you complete yourself. You learn, read books, watch documentaries, ask the ultimate question of WHO AM I? and why am I here? Find your passion and pursue it. Start enjoying your own company. Accept that if you never get married, that’ll have to be ok because guess what? Marriage ain’t for everybody and that’s ok. Let people talk and use their talks to understand that it doesn’t matter what they say, all that matters is that your heart sings and it can. It’s supposed to.
When you unlearn shame, one day at a time, you become a beacon of light for other women (and men) to see that life isn’t this thing we have made it to be. It can be fun and deeply satisfying, even if to only you.
Good luck on your journey, woman.