The curse and agony of being of age and unmarried

Why they take their sweet time

Talking to some men and women of age who are yet to settle down, we discovered that there are many factors that lead to this sad state of affairs. Common among them is lack of financial stability, desire to get an extra degree or doctorates, better and well-paying job.

Whereas these can be reasons genuine enough, some family members and friends can’t take it lightly, and they opt to keep reminding and pushing one to marry by all means.

Take the case of Vera Muthoni, in her mid-30s. When she opted to pursue her career and studies at the expense of marriage, friends and family weren’t amused. They keep reminding her that she is not getting any younger, and that her biological clock isn’t waiting for her either.

“After graduating about 10 years ago, most of my family members expected me to introduce my fiancée and get married. However, they must have disappointed when I opted to enrol for my master’s course and concentrate on bettering my career and life first,” she says, admitting that they unknowingly annoy her but somehow she has since grown some thick skin.

Pesky aunts who deny bachelors peace

Aunties are the most bothersome of the lot. While most parents avoid being in that awkward position of reminding their children to marry, it appears aunties have taken up the responsibility of being naggers-in-chief.

Laura Sanaipei, 29, admits her aunties have taken it upon themselves to make her uncomfortable. “I avoid family gatherings such as December get-togethers for obvious reasons. My aunties can’t stop inquiring why I have kept them waiting for long, and when I will let them meet the lucky man,” she says.

She adds that had it not been for her good upbringing and tolerance, she would have talked back at them to mind their businesses.

In their understanding, such aunties don’t think they are getting intrusive. To them nagging one to marry is a sign of their good will and strong desire to see their kin settle down and propagate the familiar lineage.

Stanley Mbeteri, in his late-30s, has opted to take the pressure positively. “I was lucky to get a well-paying job after campus. This meant I had no excuse to delay marrying,” he says. Seeing that he wasn’t showing any sign of bringing home a woman, his aunties kept recommending this or that lady.

He was amazed that some of his know-it-all aunties have always taken it upon themselves to try and hook him up with their friends whom they think can make great wives.

Parents’ biggest worries

Also many mothers get jittery when their daughters take their sweet time to get a husband. In most communities, mothers derive some pride when their daughters get married. Apparently, this is believed to send across the message that they raised them well.

Matters get worse when one attends a wedding of a relative who happens to be much younger. Some relatives and friends push the joke further by asking questions such as: “When will we be attending your wedding?”

Reuben Bii, a youth leader, attributes such coercion and pressure to marry to a social setting that still perceives marriage as a social responsibility rather than a personal decision.

“As long as this notion exists, it would be difficult to ward off pesky relatives who won’t rest till you agree to their demands, which I find disrespectful to say the least,” he argues.

Notably, social stereotypes do work in men’s favour and against the women. For example, when a woman is in her 30s, and without a husband or child, this forms the basis for imaginations and falsehoods. You wouldn’t be surprised to hear rumours that they could be barren or just terrible at homemaking, so much so that no man is willing to put up with them.

Traditionally, communities hold in high esteem marriage and married people. In public barazas, a man of substance is measured by his marital status and whether he has a family he is providing for. A bachelor is frowned upon in such barazas and as such, elders won’t give them an ear.

Stigma, society’s perceptions

In some communities, when you are way past a ripe age of marriage, the clan starts considering you to be jinxed. That can even necessitate a cleansing ceremony in extreme cases, when all preliminary attempts fail.

Zachary Chelule, a church elder, says that marriage is sacred and is biblically ordained.

“Marrying is part of fulfilling God’s will. However, in these modern times, nobody should be pushed to marry. People should be let to settle down when they are ready. The most important thing is happiness and love between the couple,” he says.

Liz Maria, a sociology scholar, argues that more emphasis should be put on the quality of marriage rather than its literal necessity. This, she says, should guide one to commit to a marriage of mutual fulfilment.

“Of importance is to have a common direction, raise kids in the best way possible and proof that true love and mutual trust strengthens the bond of marriage,” she says. She notes that marriage is not a matter of complying with the family or social expectation, but rather charting a destiny for a good cause.