This all started when my mom called to tell me that my cousin is getting married. I’m the oldest of six and both my youngest cousins are engaged. It only went downhill from there when my gran phoned me and the dreaded question came up:
“So when is it your turn? You are, after all, the oldest of all my grandchildren?”
I said nothing. But it got me thinking about the question that is the centre of most conversations for singletons my age, and I decided to delve a bit deeper.
One Friday night I had a similar conversation with colleague Elené and she mentioned that it is different in the “Noorde” (“Noorde” is our way of referring to anyone that is living in the Free State to Gauteng and beyond). We both agreed that it is different for people living in small towns such as Bloemfontein and Heidelberg (note: Heidelberg, Gauteng and not Heidelberg, Western Cape). Afrikaner traditions and cultures still form a big part of the identities of people that went to high school with me. After school they went to study in Potchefstroom, came back to the small town they call home, worked at the same high school that they went to, or at their dad’s company and married their high school love. As Elené explained the same trajectory can be seen in Bloemfontein as well. Looking at my high school friends, I’m the only one that is not married or soon-to-be married. But more than that, looking at the strong women that I work with, most of us are still single. So maybe it’s a Western Cape thing?
At the same time that my gran’s voice lingered in my head, Showmax released all 6 seasons of Sex and the City during a strict 5-week lockdown.
Carrie met Mr. Big in her forties. Miranda had a baby in her late thirties and Samantha was strutting her single status long after her dirty thirties ended. As I binge-watched the entire series, I wished that I could ask these women who have always individually inspired me in their own way:
“So when do you think you will be next?”
I imagine their answers sounding somewhat like this.
Carrie: When I meet Mr. Right.
Miranda: After I make partner at my firm.
Samantha: I don’t need a man. I love my life as it is.
So while I’m writing you this (as if I’m Carrie Bradshaw writing for The New York Times), I want to ask:
Why do I need to answer that question if I can just rephrase it to ‘Are you fulfilled by the life you have?’. Is marriage and the perfect guy the only right answer to the question, or am I failing for as long as I’m keeping my mouth shut?
If you didn’t see Carrie sitting in front of her computer, smoking a cigarette, then I’m sorry for not doing her justice.
Society tells us that once you get married and start a family, you have truly lived. But I strongly disagree with that – there are different ways that you can truly live and there is more to live for than just that.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a colleague and friend, Nina, about the crazy stories that her dad shared with us about his life and she asked me: “Do you think you have lived?” And that stuck with me for a while. After hearing her dad’s stories and thinking about my own, I looked at the people around me and wondered if they have lived and with what means do they measure this?
When you meet Mr. Right?
Then you have lived.
When you have built a career?
Then you have lived.
When you love yourself and enjoy your own company?
Then you have lived!
The last conversation that I had about this topic was with my mom. My mom and dad set the bar pretty high when it comes to love. At the age of 18 she met the man of her dreams, he was the first man she kissed and will most probably be the last. During that conversation, I spiralled thinking of my family members getting married, all the wedding invites in my inbox from high school friends, and how I can’t understand their way of living. In her calm way of living, she started with why she married my dad and built a life with him. It was her dream to meet a good man that is nothing like her own dad. A life partner who is her best friend.. A good man who will break the cycle of unsupportive men from her childhood. She discovered a talent and passion that she didn’t know she had until she met the flower farmer. That was her dream and she got it.
And then it hit me. Maybe it’s my cousin’s dream to be a bride and become a wife. Just as I’m living my dream of being independent, focusing on a career that I adore, and living on my own for more than 6 years now.
As human beings we are inclined to disregard the dreams of someone else when it’s not the same as ours, because of our inability to understand or unwillingness to comprehend. But in the end it all comes back to the questions we should’ve started asking a long time ago;
“Are you fulfilled by the life you have?”
Yes, I’m the oldest of six and still far away from being a bride. I will be seated at Table 19 for a while, but instead of feeling ashamed of it, I’m just celebrating it. I attended a wedding some time last year and one of my friends, happily married, told me to never stop posting my life on Instagram because she loves seeing and experiencing the life I have. That showed me that other people will celebrate when you are living your dream and you should too.
So to all the grandmothers out there asking their granddaughters; “When are you getting married?” rather ask; “When will you feel fulfilled with life?”
I can promise you that the answer will give you the same warmth in your heart that you wanted all along.