“I am not one of you” Joy Isi Bewaji tells Nigerian women
Society expects a woman to disappear when she clocks 45. Tuck your affection and passion and desires away and let’s concentrate on the 23 year olds.
In societies influenced by religion, like Nigeria, the prejudicial treatment of women on the grounds of age starts as early as 35.
We don’t want to accept that a woman over 40 is entitled to eros love and happiness. We want her to resign to the memories of her youth and focus on her work or church activities. As if it is impossible to have her focus on work and passionate love at the same time.
It gets worse as older women are judged harshly when they date younger men.
It is beyond me to comprehend how a 40 year old woman cannot date a 30 year old man in peace in this Nigeria where people are always minding your business.
My boyfriend and I happen to be agemates. However, my relationship wouldn’t be less beautiful if he was younger.
I have seen many posts where women were mocked for being older and for daring to fall in love. And I wonder the kind of disease that infects the brain of these people who think like this.
It is why we dump our mothers in our homes to take care of our toddlers while we go on to live grand lives… forgetting that these women deserve happiness too. And that happiness may have nothing to do with taking care of your children.
God knows I spent my entire 20s telling my mother to go and find love. God knows.
I had an aunt who was in her 40s when I was a teenager, and all she did was work and go for mass yet even as a 14 year old, I knew there was something wrong with that kind of life – that kind of resignation to society and what it expects of you.
The older woman is so terribly frowned at that even the exes of those women mock them when it is over.
This is one reason why self-loathing is a thing for women. Women hate themselves.
But since they cannot eat their own flesh, they project this abhorrence of self on other women.
It is why women strive to survive amidst other women.
It is why cliques exist… and it is why frenemies is a culture.
It is also why women perform female break-ups as much as they perform their friendships.
It is not enough to end a relationship with a friend, your entire clique has to come together, rent an e-hall, start a thread, buy aso ebi, and hire Simi to come and watch as you strip the friend to bare bones just because you want to pack your wretched friendship out of another woman’s life.
If you think that doesn’t demonstrate self-hatred enough, you need to watch how the friend who is being dragged from the group acts.
She acts as if her life is over – running into people’s DMs and inboxes trying to gather empathy and understanding the way toddlers gather any trash they find on the floor and into their mouths.
We vilify older women who know how to find love and happiness without the aid of this nonsense called “female friendships”, and those ones who gather like a lump so their organs can function are perpetually upset that another woman can live without the crutches of friendship they have not been able to let go of.
We project our insecurities, our ugliness, our lack of grit for life unto others – not men, but women.
Because it is always such a thrill to ridicule women. If she is older then let’s drag her through mud. You look at your unhappy mother and project all her broken dreams and lost affection on someone who is not your mother or anywhere near as old as your mother. But you do it so she can crawl into a hole and die.
It is one reason women LIE about their age – to be accepted.
If you are an older woman and you find yourself disappearing into thin air because society expects you to, well let me tell you a little story about myself:
I am Joy. I am 41. I am beautiful. I am smart. I am in a good relationship. He loves me desperately. He adores me. He takes care of me. He takes care of all my needs and my children’s.
We travel. He sends me breathtaking text messages every morning. He cushions my bank account with chunks of money… amongst other wonderful things.
That’s my life. I wanted this life. I got it.
Now here’s the thing:
When I talk about these things, people say I’m lucky to find this kind of love at my age.
Without being aware of their own prejudices, they say this because they believe only younger women should be loved desperately.
So as a “lucky woman in her 40s”, I should hold on to this love and be grateful for it in a way that ensures I lose myself in it and constantly be defined by it.
Well, I disagree.
My man and I…our lives are not intertwined. I made sure of that.
He wasn’t even aware of my stageplay until a day before I put the flier up on my wall.
He is a guest to my apartment. His things do not loiter around my space.
We argue. We argue like two confident people. My voice doesn’t break out in fear of losing him if I don’t keep quiet and nod at everything he says.
And also, I have not promised him fidelity. The relationship/family formation made from an era that didn’t ask for my opinion or permission is not something I wish to live by.
He knows my hangups. I never pretended to be anything else except who I am.
He understands the madness of my art and the strength of my voice.
And as much as he tells me everyday that he is in this for life, I am not afraid of losing him.
If it doesn’t work out, I will return to my life – at the corner of my bed, write scripts, create art… and thrive regardless.
Sometimes I want to pursue raw passion, sometimes I want to pursue mental depth. I do not shrivel in his presence and I do not lie about what draws me.
Bottom line folks, I am not one of you.
And even in your crisp submission and compromises, you may never find a man like this – even in your 20s. You may never be fully allowed to express yourself or your art as genuinely as I do.
I am not “in my 40s”, I am immortal.
Deal with it.
Gabrielle Union is with a man 10 years younger. America did not roll up like a carpet when that happened.
Emmanuel Macron is married to a grandmother.
Jason Momoa is married to a woman way older than him. His career didn’t take a dip. He wasn’t emasculated whilst confessing his love for her.
But third-world agents of satan will not let us drink water in peace.
There’s also the part of patronising comments that come with something as natural as affection that Nigerians, starved of intelligent dialogue when they were children, bring to this discourse. Almost as if they expect the older woman to be grateful they think this way about her.
The way they say, “I like my women with big boobs”, is the same way they belch, “I like an older woman because older women yada-yugu…”
Keep kwayet, ma’frend!
In all of this – this shameless perception…
I am here to tell you I am not one of you. And this is not about religion and how it separates itself from calamity. Nah.
I am a story woven with fine yarn. Stitched with exquisite thread. Embroidered with intricate designs.
I am not one of you.
In my 60s, I will still be desirable. And I will live it out on kitchen slabs, bar couches, and Egyptian rugs.
Written by Joy Isi Bewaji