By Nkem Ndem
On the first day of November every year, my mother calls to remind me that my birthday is just 9 days away. I don’t know why she does it, but it has since become the tradition. Just as it is a tradition that she reminds me every 10th of November, when it actually is my birthday, that I am destined to birth her granddaughter – seeing as she only has “grandsons everywhere”.
At first, it was cute and I actually would secretly pray that my siblings keep producing sons and leave the mother-given-destiny for me, but as I have gotten older and my mother has become more desperate and tired of waiting for me to fulfill this destiny she bestowed on me, it has become slightly annoying.
As expected, she called on the 1st of this month. Surprisingly, the call sort of took a different and interesting turn. As usual, she asked what the plans were for my birthday and I mentioned a possible Dubai trip with two of my best female friends Uloma (who is also celebrating this November) and Ijeoma.
Then, we somehow drifted into a long gist of the male attention I have had in the last 10 months. I mentioned to her that I recently met a guy who is 50 years old and we are gradually becoming friends. Surprisingly, she went deathly quiet. It was new for me as she almost always praised any male being I mentioned to her and encouraged me to “show him, love”. To liven the air, I went on to say to her that he did not look his age and he did not act too old either. She asked: “Is he married?” I said: “No” then out of the blues, she said: “Don’t marry him.” It was shocking. First of all, I had not mentioned anything suggesting that I was in a relationship with the man, so how did the idea of marrying him come to play? Again, isn’t this the same woman that wants a granddaughter as soon as possible? Oddly, I was in the mood for her drama and was interested in understanding her train of thought, so I asked: “Why?”
Her reasons included the following: at his age, was too old and marriage with a much younger woman will not work; he must be a terrible person to still be single at 50; and most hilarious, he could be my daddy. It was funny because, when I was dating a person I was very slighter older than, she had also complained that the relationship was not fair to me, as he would cheat on me with younger girls if we got married.
Our society, I guess, holds a negative stigma regarding age differences, which causes people to obsess over it. It stipulates that people of a certain age range can only be with people of a certain age range based on their sex as well. We now feel guilt, shame, and disappointment in our selves when we consider the possibility of dating or developing feelings for people outside the indicated age brackets. You are called a ‘Cougar’ if you are 40-year-old woman dating a 25-year-old male; a ‘Sugar daddy’ when you are a 70-year-old man dating a 22-year-old girl; a ‘Runs girl’ or ‘Gold-digger’ if you are 17 and dating a 60-year-old man; and a ‘Sugar boy’ if you are 27 dating a 50-year-old woman. The backlash is so strong, it feels out of this world to suggest that such a pair could be bound by genuine love. Somehow we have given ‘age’ more meaning than we should, and we let the number control our existence.
Age, simply, is a number record we keep to remind us of the length of time we have existed. It does not define the reality of who we are or our destiny in life. It should not be this prison it has become, created by our society to deprive us the freedom to do whatever we want or be with whoever we want whenever we want to. If you see yourself happy with someone, do you really think age should be enough justification to re-evaluate what you have or even take a different path? People can wake up any morning and say they are a different age if they want to, and they won’t necessarily suffer any consequences. That is how powerless the number can be. Actually, people have been doing it and getting away with it for ages.
Perhaps she is with an older man because she finds him simple, patient, and easy going, or maybe he is with an older woman because he finds her super brilliant and very caring. Sure, age may affect how physically active we may be with time, but essentially mindset, faith, commitment, and perseverance are the things that actually determine the success of our relationships and life in general. Age is an illusion that does not have any impact until we give it power. We only start limiting ourselves and our happiness when we let age interfere with our mind.