When my husband and I set our wedding date all I could think about was being married; I saw us sailing off into the sunset and being all lovey-dovey for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, our marriage counselling was an awakening that dandy and rosy doesn’t automatically happen in a union, but has to be consciously worked out. The one thing I was not prepared for however, were societal expectations of a married woman. I was shocked by certain ways people began to treat me.
Let me share 10 of them. I’m sure the typical newly married woman in Nigeria can relate to some of these:
- Advisory Board
Right from the wedding, everyone wants to give their dose of advice. Go left, no right, I mean stand here, no sit down. While I am not against advice, some advice just sound like a prophecy of doom. E.g. “If you don’t do this he will leave you”, “if you don’t do that they will take him”, “if you don’t cook this, your marriage is over”, “remember o, it is a woman that holds the marriage” . Na wa o, am I the only one in the marriage? I ask. I don’t believe in marriage templates because they can’t work for everyone considering that different people have different makeups. You can give them the basic guide, but allow them to work out the nitty-gritty that suits their relationship.
- Aunty Madam
Your name is no longer your name. I’m not just talking about your surname, for those who wish to change theirs that is, I’m talking about that word that now comes before your first name: Aunty. The most unsettling are people who used to call you by your first name who now christen you ‘Aunty’ or ‘Madam’ from nowhere. Or someone who is clearly older than you but calls you ‘Aunty’ because they spotted your ring. I wonder, is this really respect or just societal norm?
- Your Oga
Dear newly married woman in Nigeria, you now have an Oga, the Oga is your husband. So get used to being asked for your Oga before you are even greeted at a family gathering, or at the market, or in a business meeting, or for no reason altogether. Even the people who have never met your husband will send one or two words towards Oga. You can no longer show up anywhere in peace. Sorry.
- Has it entered?
This is the most irritating for me. Sickness now has another meaning. You cough, they ask or wink at you as though you’re both in on a secret. Unfortunately I realised that there’s nothing like family planning at the beginning of a marriage in Nigeria. If you dare mention it, you’ll be back at your father’s house before you can say ‘na joke’. Everyone expects you to get pregnant from your wedding night as though that alone was the mission and vision of the marriage. Except you’re willing to place newly marrieds on a welfare allowance please allow them to relax and plan their lives before expanding the family.
Getting married means you’re going to get a new set of family; new Dad, Mum and siblings This is always weird. As a woman you don’t know what to say or do, in fact you have to stick a plastic smile to your face just to survive a family gathering. Even worse is that everyone expects you to be as chummy as you would be with your biological family. Why not allow the relationship take a natural progression, because even though they become your ‘family’, they’re not really ‘family’ yet. You had many years to know the family you were born into, who told you that all you needed with your in-laws to become closely knitted is just a few weeks? Except for cases where the family already knew each other, please don’t ‘force’ the familial relationship, let it blossom naturally.
- What are you wearing?
Yes, you are now expected to wear bubu, buba, kaftan, tie wrapper etc. If you wear shorts and stand in front of your house, your own is finished. Or don’t you know you’re now married? Someone actually scolded me for wearing a skirt that was above my knee saying, ‘don’t you know your level has changed? You’re now married’ This was my response, ‘is it your married?’
- Is this a ‘Married’ behavior?
Society expects you to adorn a certain ‘married behavior’ once you wear a wedding band. If you laugh too loud at a public gathering, you’re probably going to get a stern look from a ‘mommy’. And if you dare to hang out with single ladies you would get a long lecture from a ‘concerned citizen’ about how you should be friends with only your ‘kind’ from now on. Methinks society puts too much pressure on the married woman. Why does she have to change her personality because she decided to spend the rest of her life with a man she fell in love with? Or is there a different definition of marriage I should be aware of?
- Who ‘toasting’ epp?
Get used to it, the days of men asking you out are kinda over. When you enter a crowded room, you might cause a stir alright, but once they spot the ring on your finger you’re dismissed like a food gone bad. Oh well!
- What is your name?
One of the things I realized was that my maiden name was now considered ‘inappropriate’. In less than 24 hours I was expected to have forgotten a name I had borne for many years. If someone called me by my husband’s name and I didn’t respond, a commentary was made. If I introduced myself by my maiden name, I was judged. Even though I had decided to take on my husband’s name, I found this unsettling. Shouldn’t a woman be given the time to make this transition? And for the women who do not wish to take on their husband’s names, why is it so repulsive? Is it a crime?
10. With Utmost Respect
For some of us who aren’t used to being respected because we don’t look our age, now being respected in some spheres come as a shock. I was taken aback by the change in the way men in the market treated me, the way service people greeted me and carried out my requests as swiftly as possible, the way cashiers behind the counters lost their attitude at the sight of my wedding ring. While I appreciate this treatment, it’s an eye opener to how respect for women by society depends on her marital status.
Did you have other experiences than the one listed? Please share in the comment section below.