When I was in secondary school, majority of my classmates were born in either 1993, 1994, or 1995.
When I thought about that a few days ago, I thought, “Would you look at that? The new class, if you may, of the third decade of life.”
Now, I started thinking about all of these because of the video of a Chinese woman I watched on X on the precipice of saying goodbye to another year. In China, she said, if you’re a woman, single, and over 30, you are called a “left-over woman” in Mandarin. In Cantonese, they have a few choice phrases including, “orange at the bottom of the basket,” “the sugarcane that didn’t get sold,” and “the thing used for filling the gap of the stove.”
Although this was about Chinese women, Nigerian women are quite vast in this subject of comparison too, and while I personally love fruits, I feel a certain way about my women being compared with them.
Naturally, if you’re a man who is single and over 30, you’re referred to as “a diamond bachelor” in Mandarin and “quality real estate” in Mandarin.
I wish I could just laugh about this because it is CLEARLY ridiculous, right? I can’t, because for a lot of women, this is absorbed as truth and thus, defining. Years of dedicated programming and relentless conditioning has led far too many women to believe and internalize said belief that somehow, being 30 and single makes them ‘the sugarcane that didn’t get sold’.
This internalized belief coupled with the realities of a society that does not let up with the unsolicited advice to “lower your standards”, family that take good intentions a little too far and ask that you seek ‘alternative’ solutions because obviously, something MUST be wrong, strangers who predicate their entire respect of you as a human being on the premise that someone calls you wifey and/or another calls you mummy, it is no wonder that many women begin to feel an immense pressure to be coupled up at 30.
And here, I haven’t even mentioned the self-taught doctors with years of non-existent experience who only want to talk about how many eggs you ‘have left’ and platform your age as the sole determinant of your fertility.
Bottom line: there is a lot of manufactured anxiety for women once they welcome the third decade of life.
Some women are able to navigate this phase of their lives and emerge almost or completely unscathed by it, but not everyone is that lucky.
There are women who will succumb to that pressure and marry partners who they would never otherwise have chosen.
There are women who will ignore beeping, conspicuous red flags in service of what society has deemed their duty.
There are women who will stunt themselves in other high-flying, highly rewarding aspects of their lives because they have been told even that, making their dreams come true, is somehow an hindrance in this race to find a mate.
There are women who will shrink themselves to a point where even they are unrecognizable to self.
Never mind that there is no end to the cacophony from the crowd. Now that you’re married, they want to know why there is no child after 9 months. Oh, you have a daughter? When are you going to give your husband an heir? What do you mean you don’t have another child even when your first is already 2 years old? What do you mean you want to have just 2 children? But that’s not the African way.
And on and on it goes, with you being a spectator in what should be your life but alas, a group of people are directing.
When does it end? Where does it end?
From birth to death, society demands that women continue to audition for its approval. Good woman! A label that is often given as a measurement of how well a woman toes the line, doing exactly as she is told and generating as little ripples as possible as it relates to the things that are supposedly set in stone. It is why a grown woman daring to question is seen as disobedience, apparently one of the gravest sins one can commit.
This label, ‘good woman’ might exist, but it only has as much power as we ascribe to it.
As a collective, in our diversities, I hope for a present and future where more women refuse to allow society to pass off its own inadequacies as theirs, one where we question the ridiculous double standards and status-quo.
And they ARE ridiculous; you just have to LOOK.