‘By the time you’re 16 you will have already met the person you’re meant to marry,’ my mum told me when I was still in my early teens.
I remember scoffing then and at 24, I’m far from meeting the love of my life. I’m more likely to meet a talking eyelash than Mr. Right.
However, African culture dictates that marriage and kids is one’s most important life goal.
In my mum’s day, getting married young was the norm and essentially, that’s when life began.
My mum was 16 when she met my dad at boarding school in Congo, and by 23 she was engaged; she had my older brother aged 25. After marriage comes kids, according to Congolese culture.
The notion of family is really important to Africans, so much so that you’re meant to call your mum’s friend’s hairdresser’s nail lady your aunt. Marriage ensures stability and guarantees that you continue the family name through procreation.
So, you can see why I often feel like I’m lagging behind (actually, scratch that – I don’t feel like I’m lagging behind, my mum does on my behalf and tells me so constantly).
‘Where is your boyfriend’ and ‘who will you marry’ are my family’s favourite phrases – they probably say it more than ‘good morning’ and ‘Ketchup please’.
Due to Mum’s success in the marriage department (she is still with my dad 20 plus years later and has been blessed with three kids, one of which is me and I’m quite amazing, so good job there, Mum) she pushes me to follow in her footsteps.
Like most parents, she wants me to find happiness and more importantly, she wants grandkids. ‘If I can do it, why can’t you?’ she asks me, making it sound so easy – but it’s not. I end up feeling pressured and ashamed to be single.
So mummy dearest, here’s why I can’t.
Firstly, the dating scene has changed massively. I doubt back in Congo in the 80s, daddy was ‘liking’ insanely beautiful girls on Instagram. There’s much more competition and choice now thanks to online dating, which makes it even harder to narrow down your selection, and in my experience men (of all ages) are never looking for anything serious. It baffles me when they’re over 30 – grow up.
My expectations and aspirations are also higher. I’ve always wanted to settle in my career and then work on finding love. Success to me is not finding a man, but being a fully-fledged PR creative. It’s something my mum simply doesn’t understand.
The situation isn’t helped by the fact that I make very poor choices when it comes to men. I don’t do it intentionally – I don’t think – but I seem to attract wrong‘uns.
One of my horror stories involves me sitting in the passenger seat of my date’s car – who happened to be a drug dealer, delivering goods to his customers. I realised about an hour into our date what was going on when I saw a wad of cash.
Then there was the date I spent in a motel room (where I’m sure Covid-19 started) and dinner was a Snickers bar and wine, both of which he stole from his mum.
Or the date who was so small we could have probably swapped wardrobes.
For a long time, I stopped dating because of all these terrible experiences. I had lost faith in the male community and felt demotivated until recently, when my family’s question of ‘when will you marry’ started to echo in my dreams.
I am a modern gal but I’m not that different from my mum really. We’re both hardworking, kind women who want the best of life and I ultimately want all the same things as her – love, children, a home.
I believe in a few of her traditions, too – for instance, a man should be a gentleman, and have a career and ambition.
I feel like a disappointment knowing that I have yet to achieve the one thing my mum wants for me – and I’m all for finding the love of my life when we both reach for the last almond croissant at Waitrose, and our eyes lock…
But life isn’t a movie. I remind myself that I’m just doing life in a slightly different order than Mum did. Now, when she asks for an update on my love life, I push back: I will marry when I’m ready and he’s going to be amazing.
It’s easy to forget about the good dates I’ve had in my time, the ones that have restored my belief in love.
The guy who took me around Thailand on the back of his motorcycle, for instance; the guy who showered me with compliments so by the end of the date I felt like bloody Beyoncé; the guy who took me to a classy wine bar, showed me that there are good men about and to not lose faith. Sadly, none of them happened to be for me.
And perhaps this is where me and my mum differ most: at 24, I now know what I deserve, something I couldn’t have known at 16.
As I’ve matured and become more comfortable in who I am, I have started to discover what I like and don’t like in a partner, which should make it slightly easier to trap…. I mean find a man. It’s something my mum’s generation just wouldn’t have allowed for.
Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: At 23, I’m still a virgin – and no one cares
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Love, Or Something Like It is a regular series for Metro.co.uk, covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what love is and how to find it in the present day. If you have a love story to share, email [email protected]
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