Agony of being a single woman in Kenya
A hotel in Kericho County recently cancelled the reservation of Laikipia Women Representative, Catherine Waruguru and her husband, William Kiget for failing to produce a marriage certificate.
The story became the talk of town, with many Kenyans, especially on social media, discussing the life of single people. It turned out that, unlike single men, who seemingly have a lot going on for them, their female counterparts have it rough.
Besides enjoying the simple pleasures of life like sleeping diagonally in your bed, having the TV remote all to yourself and making personal grooming optional, it is a dog’s life for women who are not attached, be it by choice or lack of a mate.
Well, when you are a single girl, you do not have to shave your legs or change your underwear frequently. What’s more, you can just slip into your worn-out granny panties for the third day straight because you know what?
You are not trying to impress anybody! After all, nobody is likely to ambush you with romance— only to stumble upon your dirty, threadbare underwear, you know?
There is a lot of consolation about how exciting life as a single girl can be and how you certainly don’t need a man to be fulfilled.
Ticking biological clock
However, nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is, in a predominantly heterosexual society where marriage or even childbirth is both a requirement and validation tool, women who chose to remain single experience a lot of frustrations.
First off, unlike their male counterparts, these women have a socially-sanctioned ‘expiry date’ they have to contend with.
“Unlike single guys, society tends to judge us harshly. Some say we are selfish, especially if you are of childbearing but doesn’t have one,” says a certain Alice, who says is 32 and single by choice.
She goes on to add that society is kind on single men partly because, unlike women who have menopause, they can sire children at any age.
It’s tougher for the girls out here because, most things are designed for couples: Formal invitations, hotel rooms and restaurants among others. Heck, married people tend to dislike singles; they are the last characters couples will invite over for dinner.
In a patriarchal society like ours where it’s largely men who do the chasing, single women have to sit and wait to be approached. When they hit on men, they are judged harshly, with many suspecting them of having ulterior motives, like spreading a deadly disease or being schemers or opportunists, especially when the man is rich!
These women yearn for love. They feel lonely. Desperation to belong, yet they can’t make the move, can at times push them to crazy levels.
Then the triggers start streaming in. Some subtle reminders- like weddings, vacations or even Facebook pictures of happy couples or babies- that you will die single.
They get a nagging feeling that they have been targeted by fate. Or feel like they are ‘left over women’ so to speak, after all the good ones have been picked.
This is a feeling that Natasha, a Nairobi-based receptionist knows too well.
Hear her: “The hankering for long-term intimate connection is a general impulse. Much as you try to convince yourself otherwise, you are actually single because there is no man on the horizon for you, or rather, there is no suitable man on the horizon for you.”
She adds: “It gets even worse if you have hit 30 or your age is hovering around there. Your prospects diminish. Society considers you a ‘leftover’ woman.”
Natasha goes ahead to joke that even your “market value” diminishes, especially when age is not on your side.
“You slowly but surely stop attracting the cool guys. Most of the guys who hit on you tend to be the married ones looking for second wives,” she says.
For these women, getting an unattached man within their age bracket with no issues is a herculean task.
The single men in their 30s or thereabouts believe that such women have baggage!
So unless you are down with getting entangled with Mike and his three baby mamas, you are looking at some long lonely years ahead.
Njeri, 38, who had her first child two years ago says hers was a special case, but no one cared to listen.
She had been raped as a child and developed a negative attitude towards men. Her child was sired by a friend.
Pitied by friends, relatives
“Relatives and friends always talked to me in a pitiful tone- this poor, lonely thing kind of way - as if I had been afflicted by some type of horrible disease. I had to sire a baby with a foreign friend whom I was sure it would be easy to cut links with,” she says.
She says a single woman’s relatives and siblings expect you to chip in for their expenses because you have a good job and no ‘real’ responsibilities, believing you have money to spare.
Njeri says so bad is the situation single women become pariahs in their own families, avoiding visits to their rural homes for fear of questions in regard to when they plan to get married or even have kids.
In some cases single women are profiled, with many believing they are anti-family or are not attached to one man because they secretly see several others.
Some friends, especially the married ones, exclude them from most of their social functions. In extreme cases, aunts and female relatives form ‘committees’ to help them search for men to marry them.
“Everywhere you go, you face the dreaded question on why you are still unmarried. It is as if they are implying that you have deep-rooted, hidden flaw that drives men away,” opines Esther, a single lady and businesswoman in Nairobi.
“It is so annoying! Somebody once told me to just go off and have a baby on my own. She reasoned that since I have a good job, I could take care of a baby alone. I value a family and will not get pregnant until the right man comes along, whenever that will be,” she insists.
Broke bedroom stallions
Dating is not a breeze for the luscious 20-something either.
Apparently, the men that hover around singles in this age bracket have problems of their own.
The reality for such women is that most of the available single men are great in bed but forever broke or stingy.
They have just landed their first real job and the pay is not spectacular.
Kate is no stranger to this painful reality. When she was single, almost all the men she stumbled upon seemed great in bed but were always broke.
“They knew all too well that relationships are run by money. But most of my guys never had money and those who had it were tight-fisted,” she says, adding that such men will buy you drinks only if they are sure you will sleep with them.
The well-to-do ‘gentlemen’ that mostly hit on single women tend to be seasoned players.
It is simple really; if he has money, he has options. With options come temptations. When there are more temptations, the probability of fulfilling those temptations goes a notch higher. If you happen to land a well-mannered and cultured bloke, you are in for a lacklustre life.
They shun anything remotely unconventional. He will fall back in horror if you tell him all the naughty things you want him to do to you in bed.
The handsome ones with strapping bodies display rudimentary bedroom skills.