The Saturday morning three years ago arrived with a lot of expectation.
It was *Charity’s wedding day. She was marrying *Ben, the dream man, one most of her friends and family approved of. So, we thought they would make a dream family. Friends and family had gone out on a limb to make their wedding as classy as possible.
We were off early to the hairdressers to make sure Ben and Charity were dressed to the nines, and on time. To most, Charity was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, something that drew to her friends from everywhere. She was born in a middle-income good Catholic family, and went to the best schools in the country, at least at the time.
She had her education at Nakasero Primary School, Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga and Makerere University and secured a coveted NGO job that saw her sailing from one capital to another for endless conferences, along with the perks that came with such a situation.
If there had been anything anyone lacked – she never seemed to have any such problem. And she was generous to a fault. But then all that changed on her wedding day. Unknown to the rest of us, Charity had never really been in love with Ben and was about to show it to us in the cruelest form.
She went about the wedding with a bride’s aplomb, exchanging vows at Christ the King church in Kampala, hugging Ben after that and posing for pictures, at which point someone noted she seemed unusually more at ease, occasionally cracking a joke or two with the entourage. Even when during the reception, she seemed to grab Ben’s hand to cut the cake before the MC had dictated the pace, it was laughed off as an eagerness to get done with the reception and on with the honeymoon.
Once the cameras had gone away and the couple had retreated to their bridal room, her fangs came out. According to Ben, she coldly told him she had stuck by him to the wedding wedding, mostly to save him and her family the embarrassment – but her heart was not in it.
Charity pulled off both her engagement and wedding rings placed them on the dressing table and walked out of the room, leaving a stunned Ben behind. On that fateful night he called a few friends and family to relay the news. Most had no answers, and soon watched as a man, who rarely tasted a glass of alcohol and had never smoked before, descend into a life of booze, drugs, cigarettes and womanizing.
He frequently left the bar in the morning, escorted by anyone who took pity on him. He lost his job and the agile 6ft 1 is now a pale shadow of the sports loving, successful guy he once was. It has taken Ben three years to recover from the fiasco he seems unwilling to ever commit to a stable relationship again.
He is currently in rehab, recovering from excessive drinking and telling friends, he is done with that phase of his life.
He was not my type
But Ben is not alone in losing it. Many of Charity’s friends are still in shock, and frequently ask what happened to the sweetheart they once knew. Meeting her three years later, it is obvious the wedding had its effect on her as well.
She is reluctant to talk about her past – arguing that she did what was right for her and that is all that matters now. She does not talk to any of her parents, who blame her for the embarrassment she caused them. Apart from her older sister, two brothers and another sister also don’t talk to her.
“They never really got me – so I let them be,” she says with finality. “I also don’t know what happened to Ben, but I don’t care and don’t want to know I have my life to live.”
Although she does not say it, it appears that her upbringing was to blame. Brought up never to question her parents’ decisions, it was hard for her to tell anyone that she was unhappy.
“It was my mother who introduced Ben to me. He was a son to one of our family friends, and I guess my mother reasoned that we would be a good match,” she says. “But I had no say in the matter whatsoever, and Ben did not make things easy either – he was too good, I felt I didn’t deserve him.”
Charity explains that once the two were introduced, Ben went out of his way to befriend her family and friends, closing any space she may have had to voice any disquiet.
“Everyone was blowing for him, no one would have believed me if I expressed any reservations,” she says.
However, there was one aunt who complained that Charity was unusually unexcited about this relationship, it being her first. But most relatives explained that she would get over it with time. Time did not heal her worries and she decided that she could not condemn herself to a lifetime of commitment to a man she did not love.
“To be honest I did not love him it would have been easier to find something he was bad at, and use it as an excuse, but there was none, so I was kind of fixed.”
After the wedding, Charity retreated into a shell for some time. Although she returned to her job after a month, she quickly realised she could no longer bear the unending whispers behind her back, and subsequently quit, to start her own cake making business.
“I started my own business so I would live by my own rules, and finally met a man who understood my energy. Of course he is not anyone my family would have been happy with, but I love him and that is all that matters,” she says.
The boyfriend in question is separated from his ex-girlfriend and mother of their two children, and is a violent man.
“Beneath his anger, he is a very passionate man, which Ben was not. I love his energy and how he handles himself.”
Asked if she is not just looking for trouble, dating a man who many of her friends would call trouble, Charity is more optimistic.
“I love his aenture. He makes me look forward to the next challenge,” she says.
Following the breakup, Allen moved out of her parents’ home and got her own place, where she has stayed for the last three years. She has also never gone back home, insisting that she is determined to live her own life.
“Even at my age [in her early 30s], I can say it is still very liberating to finally make my own decisions. I also have no regrets.”
She also changed her life substantially taking on a few tattoos and locking her hair, she also admits she now drinks a bit too much.
“Yes, a few times I’m suffering from a hangover, but that is not a sign that I’m addicted. I’m still in control [of my drink].”
Although she once dreamed of having a dream wedding and children, she has changed her view of that.
“Marriage is overrated. There is nothing wrong with going through life with no children of my own. I don’t think I can handle the commitment, so I have chosen to find a man who can give me a good time, and that is all I want from him.”
Staying single has its appeals
Like Charity asserts, is marriage really overrated? Is that the reason behind rampant divorces today, as many rush in to comply with society’s expectations of age and standing? Maybe, maybe not. What pushes a woman like Charity, given the choice between being married-happily-ever-after and remaining a free agent, to choose the latter?
Well, as modernity and everything western become the yardstick of what’s in, many singles devastated by failed relationships and consoled by successful careers are opting to stay single. Mable (not real name), 42, like Charity, went through with her wedding and realised two days into the marriage that it was not for her.
“He had too many expectations of me, yet too little to offer me in every sense of the word. I suddenly missed my single-girl days,” she says.
She is now concentrating on her import business and seeing a no-strings-attached man on the side. Previously, a husband was viewed as the major breadwinner and as such quite a catch if a woman got herself one. But lately, to many workingwomen, the point is lost on them if wives are also the sole breadwinners in many homes, why not stay single and free to mind one’s own business and time?
The idea of no one to hog the duvet, no one to clean up after but oneself, no one to mess up the room or misuse the toilet, become more appealing the longer one stays comfortably independent.
“Being single can be a life-saving, rejuvenating experience. In fact, one can’t truly be successful in a relationship without being [alone] for a time,” says Trinah, 28.
Trinah says her status has allowed her to sit in quiet solitude in the comfort of her apartment, has afforded her the right to run naked around the living room and secretly watch shows that no one else would actually ever admit to watching in public.
“We have more time on our hands and are not avoiding looking at ourselves by focusing our energies on someone else,” she says.
Hilda, a 31-year-old marketing executive, admitted: “I don’t plan to have any children. They are too expensive.”
Being in a loving marriage has its benefits, no doubt, like going home to someone, getting that Valentine’s Day card, sharing your successes with that special someone and marking down the anniversaries. However, choosing to remain single can be just as satisfying. With the increased number of divorces, failed marriages, aversion to children, and growing female independence, more people will find themselves single.
In Japan, it is already a worrying trend, with reports saying young people not only are uninterested in marriage and family, they are also increasingly asexual as careers and technology take priority. Still, success is very lonely when there is no special person to share it with. An empty house is only welcoming on those few occasions when you need quality time alone.
And in Uganda, we are not yet past the days when being a single mother made one a pariah in society. People still assume you have questionable morals, especially when you also choose to have sex as and when you want to, as you scale that corporate ladder.
Yet public opinion still matters a lot in these parts, so singletons not ready for marriage – such as Charity and Mable – are taking the leap into the institution, often with devastating results.
Source : The Observer