28 April 2019

Zimbabwe: Being Single Is Heavily Stigmatised

opinion

You can feel whole, clothed and satisfied among strangers until your own, make you feel naked, inadequate and derisory with a single question: "When will you marry?"

It's such a simple, straightforward question, but unfortunately, it's not that simple for the one who is supposed to answer it. Often, the question opens up a can of worms that one would prefer to remain "hidden" and "forgotten in the past" -- heartbreaks, disappointments, broken promises and not to speak of shattered dreams of a future once so possible and within their reach.

Sadly, at times it feels like this is the most decent of the array of questions that start to hit a single person when they reach a certain age. As modern as we are, for the ladies, eyebrows begin to be raised as early as 23 years old and the gentlemen have a little leeway with questions only being directed towards them in their mid to late 20s.

"The worst question ever thrown at me is: 'Are you failing to find a partner, so we can assist you?'" said Leema Moyo, who is 38 and single.

"I remember when my sister got married at 18, my father was disappointed because he wanted us to get an education first. I did that, but now it seems I am the greatest disappointment as it seems I have failed one of life's most basic tests -- to get a husband.

"It's so frustrating when all your life's achievements are summarised and belittled by your lack of one particular title, which at times you have chosen not to have."

Moyo is hardly alone in this dilemma, and it's not a female issue alone.

"Recently, my father asked me why I would buy a house without a wife to take care of it," said Taku Mutandwa, a 40-year-old bachelor.

"It really hurts quite a bit. I thought he would be happy for this milestone in my life, but all he wants is a daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

"Traditional family gatherings get more awkward as you grow older and remain single. Your juniors will be told to stay at the family kraal while you the older ones are told to leave as you are not yet married and therefore are not qualified to sit and hear the secrets that only 'men' should hear about.

"I find it ridiculous that my little brother whom I taught a lot about manhood is called a 'man' more than me, simply because I'm single."

Taku described his family as very traditional and there was no wavering from tradition.

The singles' stigma is not just a family issue although the family is the biggest source of misery. Places of religious gatherings have recently created new terms that make single people feel discreditable before society.

"I have since stopped going to church because the moment they know you are single, you become the sermon. Words like spirit partner, water spirits and witchcraft start to be thrown around," said 26-year-old Nyasha Gumbo.

"I'm just tired of it all and often feel the pressure just to marry so people will just stop labelling me."

When all external forces are gone and you are alone, then comes the internal war. That sincere need for human companionship that is fleeting when you are a single person.

Often when the day is done, friends, family and colleagues get on with their lives and one is left with the dead quietness of brick and cement. Then the questions start to play around one's head: "Could it be they are right? If so, why then does this single issue overshadow every other achievement and human relationship I have?

"After all, I am a son, a sister-in-law, a grandson, an aunt, a friend and colleague. Is that one human relationship more important than all these other relationships that I have fulfilled with much success?"

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