A person’s “twenties” are considered to be one of the most exciting times of their life. You turn 21 and have a big party; if you pursued tertiary education, it is around age 22 that you get your qualification – with honours if you are lucky; and then you turn 23…. and what you get is a resounding “so… when are you getting married” – CRINGE!
For some reason, with a lot of black women of different cultures, once you turn 23 your mother, aunts and older cousins start to hear wedding bells on your behalf and if you don’t hear them yourself, you are looked at as if there is something terribly wrong with you.
In the Tswana language there is a word “lefetwa” that refers to someone that has essentially missed the ideal age of marriage and it is believed that once you have missed this age then marriage has passed you by. You are then given the ‘wonderful’ title of Lefetwa. This is possibly the worst title that you can be given because it essentially means that your family has almost lost all hope that prince charming (for lack of a better title) will find you and take you off the shelf. This issue is among the top 3 biggest fears of mothers with daughters, along with having a baby out of wedlock and being unemployed. Yes, it is THAT serious.
This fear is driven into irrational insanity when we tell them that we are going to break the age-old tradition and get married just before we turn thirty due to the pursuit of our careers. This new age thinking is something that our mothers struggle to wrap their heads around, because, well, having a husband and family is ranked pretty high on the success scale.
I, for one, am not in a particular hurry to get married and according to research, I am not the only one. According to a research article by scholars Budlender, Chobokoane & Simelane (Date Unknown), women in South Africa are increasingly getting married at a later age. In 1990, women were getting married between age 22 and 23 whereas now, women are waiting until age 27 or 28 to get married.
Interestingly enough, it is not only us South African women that have developed this aversion to marriage at a young age. According to Barkhorn (2013) women in the United States are also waiting until around age 27 to get married. Gone are the days when women waited with baited breath to be swept off of their feet and live happily ever after in a constant state of Utopia it seems.
I think that women and especially young women have developed this crazy ambition and are so empowered that they are looking to better themselves first before taking on the responsibility of being a wife and mother. This is definitely the case for me. I believe that in order to have a prosperous marriage and life in general, one needs to be happy within him/herself first. This will go a long way in preventing a wife who resents her family for having made her miss opportunities to get her dreams.
In as much as our mothers fear that we will “miss the boat” of marriage, I think that missing the boat of life in general would be much worse and have longer lasting effects on everyone.
So, while the fabulous dress and probably ridiculously opulent wedding ceremony is something that will bring temporary joy and help in avoiding being dubbed “lefetwa”, I would much rather catch the boat of my life and be happy within myself in order to make sure that I am happy in all areas, as a woman, journalist, future wife and mother.
Journalist Sandra Koopman says that “We are not incomplete without partners, so our partners should not seek or be expected to ‘complete’ us”… nor should we be made to feel as though there is something wrong with us if we choose to hold back on the idea of marriage. Now, if only our mothers can get on this new boat…