Christian Blog and Online Women's Ministry in South Africa - Cup of Faith

40 and Expired

When I occasionally re-think life’s choices, I am often led to a place of frenzy then followed by a trio of sarcasm, irony, and some doses of melancholy. It usually concludes mentally in a series of unfortunate events. I must concede, the latter baffles me, and yet to date I often dabble with periods of re-thinking. Overthinking is what my sub-conscience will attest to, never allowing my innermost sacred thoughts to be exposed, thus a victory of sorts, if ever there was a battle. I must say that this thought process did not come easy and perhaps the sheer madness of it all started out as a blueprint for an idealist’s version of life’s course. For the most part, my inner battles and confusion thoroughly lie in those misconceptions embedded in the very fibres of my being since adolescence.

In August this year I had a birthday and with that came a big celebration. Now, with all birthday’s I have had such celebrations. Family, love, good food, the cake, presents, pics and all gratefulness to God. It was indeed a wonderful time and the family went all out to ensure great splendour. A few hours before my birthday, I had the occasional re-thinking session, the one where the infamous trios appear and calmly reassure. However, this time there was a change in pattern. I thought back to my recent visit to the mall where I bumped into an old school mate. Naturally, she was married with three and a half kids, a husband, a house, an SUV, a garden with an electric fence, in-laws, vacations, and Peppa Pig. Yep, all that in one go! And with her pitiful eyes I was reassured that one day, I too shall live the dream.

How did this go so wrong? Has society no thought or consideration? Almost every time I encounter some aunty, relative or person of interest, I am reminded of the ‘unbearable thought,’ of never been married or having children at 40. Poor me, how do I live with myself having not been given the opportunity to be a bride? It’s almost a scene straight out of a Nora Ephron flick, queue the violins and enters the great big tragedy, their voices echo, “Do not worry, all in good timing,” but their eyes concur, “There must be something wrong with you, shame.” Now, this is not a bitter 40-year old’s plight to demand justice nor do I sit in a corner listening to, “Iris” waiting to end it all. It is all but humorous how those passing the judgment and, in some cases, the sentencing stand so firm in their convictions.

Yes, I dream the dream, I would be happy to be a wife and a mother and attain a lifetime membership to the prestigious womanhood club. It does not mean there are no suitors or admirers waiting in the’ lobby,’ with potential for great wooing. However, some dreams are delayed or derailed and for most, we rather are cautious when choosing our lifetime partner, or we haven’t met him yet or perhaps for many, it may never happen and maybe, just maybe it is not on the to-do list. We, single women, are single for a reason, the majority of us have our standards or expectations or just downright fussy, none the less we have something or the other that has put a” stopper” on the quest for a permanent co-inhibitor. Whilst I can give you a host of reasons why women in their 40’s are single, my aim is merely to convey a brief guide on what not to say to a single, 40-year-old woman with no kids with the hope that the stigma attached to us will end. After all, she is still a woman and is yet to walk the green mile. (I hear the metal cups on the iron bars clapping whilst,(”Dead woman walking ringers in tune”).

Who made these rules and why haven’t I complied yet? Is it too late for saving private single? Have I reached my expiry date? Where is the sticker that says best before? Are there factory resetting options? Or can I choose the default settings and is there an off button. Finally, can we return to sender with a reject tag attached? Ah, this imagery coupled with my un-imaginary thoughts. Life as they know it ends at 40. Searching for a manual on how to be conversationally considerate and not stupid when engaging a single 40-year-old, the results are, sadly none and for everything else there’s Instagram.

Dear Aunty and persons of Notable Interest,

Please kindly assist me in my quest for the truth. What entitlement does the married have above the unmarried, what have we endured to suffer their shame of spinsterhood ? (not the name I would like to be called) It is as though we have broken some sort of human moral code or ethic and that we should be shunned from society, banished to the mountains to hide in contempt, almost a minute away from walking the plank.

No, dear Aunty, I am okay, there is nothing wrong with me. In between obtaining my degree and pursuing my career I did indeed meet Prince Charming; it didn’t work out and marriage was not goal of the day.

Dear Aunty, note that it is not about holding onto a man, whilst travelling the world over (okay only North America) and discovering new found treasurers, I met Mr International, it was love but alas I decided to relocate and marriage seized to exist.

Dear Aunty, no I am not the problem, I did meet a man for about two years, he was off course,’ damaged’ in his head, happily so, I dodged a bullet.

Yes, dear society, I am single at 40 and that is okay. My mere aim in life is not seeking the ultimate goal of marriage, but to live a happy, healthy and fulfilled one. In addition, I do not seek validation from humans but hope to be assured that although this world is plagued with many issues that serve not in favour of my kind, I hope that one day women who remain unmarried and childless can live a life without brutal judgment. And whilst I hold a gripe with those people who look down at us singles in their 40’s, I do hold accountable society’s influence in shaping that kind of mindsets.

Think way back to your childhood, every storybook had a fairytale encounter with a Prince, riding in on his white horse to save the distressed Princess. Think long and hard about how we as little girls started to buy into the whole Disney romance with a prince charming scenario. For most, it was then that we were forced to discover this fairytale kind of love or else we would never have the happily ever after ending. That very template of what life was to offer, subconsciously sent some of us on an unnamed mission to ensure happiness. This, for some, only created the illusion that true happiness resulted in finding a suitor and living happily ever after and if you did not find your Prince then you would end up old and alone, almost as if that was the ultimate punishment. God forbid a happy life lived after 40 with no hubby and a kid in tow or marrying at 50. I do not regret the childhood bestowed upon me but I do wish that society was kinder and much more encouraging to little girls who preferred spy novels as opposed to Cinderella.

Oh, but do not be fooled, Disney is not the only culprit in the plot, every movie from the old Hollywood era brought us a damsel in distress in need of love personified. I mean how could you not choke up when the movie Gone with the Wind’s character and starring Vivian Leigh, who lived her entire life secretly yearning for Ashley, or else life was not meaningful and thus the phrase by Clark Gable was born,” Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Yes, indeed my sentiments exactly. Fast forward and almost decades later movies and novels sublimely still carry the same messages, perhaps those storylines sell, and profit is the main goal. Thank God for G I Jane and Mulan. Whilst my all-time favourite rom-com movie is of course, “Love Actually,” my ideas on love and life does not prompt me to only live to walk down the aisle.

No, I am not a rebel, neither am I, a revolutionist. You might be interested to note that there is a whole community of 40 somethings that share the exact sentiments as me. Yes, we are out there. Although I do not think that an entire decade of Hollywood or Bollywood movies could easily change some mindsets in favour of us 40 something single girls, there are those still roaming around contently with the notion that I have not passed my expiry date.

In addition, traditions and culture only add to the already preconceived ideas about my worth. In fact, the Bible is more forgiving when it comes to being single than even my own relatives. Paul speaks of being single as a “gift” (1 Cor. 7:7), and Jesus says it is good, “for those to whom it has been given” (Matt. 19:11). In India, women in their thirties are looked down upon and often verbally insulted for remaining unmarried, let alone the forties club. Most women have to endure not only been frowned upon but openly being denounced and shamed. From been considered a “cheap woman” to a “loose woman” the name-calling is endless.

So, dear society when engaging with the single 40-year-old, please proceed with caution. Do not assume that I am living an unfulfilled life with borderline depression, in constant haste to settle down. On contrary, I welcome conversation and banter, a joke here and there and even some gossip. But behold, I draw a visible line when you allude to my singleness with hopes to find me a man because you know of someone who has a nephew and his wife had just died. Spare me the kindness please, and move on briskly, we don’t, ‘take’ nicely to your kind. And yes, I am fully aware of tinder and dating apps. Thank you for the neighbour’s details so I can stalk him on Facebook and no, please do not pass my number to your WhatsApp contacts. I appreciate your ability to outline my unspeakable flaws and do hope that we meet again soon so that I can endure your passive verbal bashing.

Suffice to say, I entered 40 with great expectations. I am just a year older on the calendar but feel exactly as I did at 39. So, if I received a penny for every time I was asked if I am single or married, oh yes, I would be listed on the Forbes 100 rich list. In a more realistic world, it would be one of life’s greatest joy to not be placed in a box where I am forced to define myself according to the standards of the world. Life as I know it is still continuing and I thank God for that. My reward has always been knowing Jesus and only He shall direct my journey.

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  • Jacqueline Naicker
    Posted at 21:49h, 13 January Reply

    Brilliant 👏 Hazel I 💘 love this article. Such perception, wit, wisdom, inspiration and above all truth in these words.
    This is a message that needs to be heard loud and clear by our society. Single women don’t have an expiry date, aren’t damaged goods and are certainly not living a half life in desperate need for a soul mate to complete them. Our purpose on this earth is to be vessels for Christ and He has made us fearfully, wonderfully no manufacturing faults or rejects and perfectly complete in Him 🙌🙏 keep inspiring Beautiful. Can’t wait to read more of your amazing wisdom 🙌🙏❤❤❤ and hear you speaking your truth.

  • Charmaine Marais
    Posted at 22:05h, 13 January Reply

    Excellent post Haz!!! We love you just as you are!! Marriage should never define anyone. It is not the ultimate goal in life

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