Letters from TZ

Where is the love?

There is a quote about marriage that comes to mind when I meet women of a certain age who are still single. It’s something about people who are not married wanting to be married, and those who are married, not wanting to be married. In clearer terms, if marriage were a nightclub, there would be a long line of women on both sides of the door. The one’s going in would be excited at the prospect of fun times and the one’s desperate to get out would be disillusioned by the sad reality, vis-à-vis the fun fantasy.

Last week, I met an old friend quite unexpectedly. She and I are about the same age. Many of our other friends are coupled up with babies on board. But more and more of them are becoming single mothers. “It’s time to strategise,” she said to me. “I need to make a plan. My boyfriend is not serious. As you can see there is no ring on my finger, so officially, I’m still a single woman. And I’ve told him as much.”

The strategy she spoke of was an elaborate plan to either marry or have a baby. And like any good strategy, there was a vision, a mission and objectives. The vision was to grow the business from a sole proprietorship to a limited company with shareholders, which could include a husband, children or both. The mission was to adopt a pro-active and aggressive approach that would involve a robust sourcing and vetting methodology.

The objectives were to narrow down the search to include either handsome, young men for baby making purposes, or old, rich men for financial stability purposes. These two objectives seemed to be mutually exclusive. It appeared that the chances of meeting an age-appropriate, financially stable, average looking fellow with whom to both procreate and to co-habit were slim, given her advanced years. Pretty soon, she was going to be aged out of the market – and hey, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Or whatever. Her tongue was firmly in her cheek for the duration of the conversation. Society has moved on from the days when a woman was married with children at 21 or 22. There is a whole generation of women who spent their 20s focusing on their education and careers to the exclusion of settling down and having babies. But ironically, the same society now puts pressure on them to find a man before it’s too late, as if there is a sell-by date on their worth as women. Even more ironic is the fact that after years of academic and professional experience, their worth would certainly have gone through the roof.

So we end up in a situation where women of a certain age must choose ‘settling’ in lieu of ‘settling down’. Many of the things marriage is touted for – love, companionship, development and moral support – are shunted to the side in favour of the basic instinct to procreate and the fundamental need for financial security, which is unfortunate.

Meanwhile, we have to contend with extravaganzas like the overly commercialised Valentines Day, which will be observed on Thursday, this week. The Feast of Saint Valentine is supposed to be a celebration of true love, but what we have instead is an annual ode to capitalism, that has the added advantage of making anyone who is not part of a romantic duo, feel like a loser.

If it must mean anything at all, the 14th of February should be a day of service, dedicated to random acts of love for anyone in need of it. The ‘roses-are-red-and-if-you-don’t-send-me-some-you’re-dead’ philosophy is so shallow, I’m amazed that so many continue to buy into it. The 14th of February should be a day when love is fêted, not traded for flowers, cards and candy. It should be a day when the people who treat their relationships as a labour of love, put their feet up and enjoy what they have built.

In the meantime, it is what it is. One of the few days in the year when we can remove love from the throne, replace it with money, and then worship it, all in the name of romance. And while we get caught up in the drama of it all, merchants around the world hop, skip and laugh all the way to the bank. They are the ones who get the true value for your money, especially if you have replaced true love with hard cash. If you’re one of those, the time is rife to Occupy Valentines and put genuine love and affection back where it belongs – centre stage.