I will marry when I want

They have it all; good looks, successful careers, lavish homes, expensive cars, great friends, a vibrant social scene... yet they all lack one important thing, a wife. Senior bachelors in their 30s and 40s spoke to HAROLD AYODO explaining why they are not ready to tie the knot yet

Chris Sankara is among the increasing number of mature eligible bachelors who are not in a hurry to marry. The advocate of the High Court has a promising career with an office in the upmarket Kilimani on Ngong Road.

Chris Sankara: I like my space and cannot imagine settling down with someone who will interfere with my freedom.

He dons Italian designer suits, lives in a spacious apartment and drives a Mercedes Benz, all signs of financial stability. However, Sankara says he is not ready to walk any woman down the aisle.

"I like my space and cannot imagine settling down with someone who will interfere with my freedom … plus I’m still young," Sankara says.

He plans to settle down at the ‘right’ time when fatherly instincts come calling.

"I am still engrossed in my legal career and thinking of moving it to the next level," he says.

For Sankara, walking a woman down the aisle at this stage would not be about signing a marriage certificate but a ‘stress certificate’.

"I prefer spending my weekends with my friends and with no women in sight," he says. "There are times when we want to spend time with each other just having drinks."

In today’s modern society, cleaning house and doing laundry is no longer a headache for men as they can hire women who do it for a paltry Sh200 per day. Most men need to do their laundry and house cleaning only once a week.

Further, supermarkets sell ready-made food, which the bachelors warm in microwaves before serving in disposable plates.

Sankara is not alone. An increasing number of men in their 30s and 40s are reading from the same script.

According to Lionel Njoroge, 45, a doctor, he is yet to meet the woman who meets his expectations.

"I believe I am still young and will take my time until I meet the right person … I am not in a hurry," Njoroge says.

The medic says he is in a relationship that seems to be working out but wants to be sure before he proposes.

"We have been dating for three years now but my conscience tells me to hold on," Njoroge says.

Njoroge, who lives in upmarket Kileleshwa and runs his private clinic, says the days of walking into marriage blindly are over.

"I have friends who married ten years ago, divorced and re-married, but things are still not working out," he says.

It is also emerging that some men are giving marriage a wide berth following the enlightment and emancipation of women.

Furthermore, an increasing number of the senior bachelors have huge investments in property and they fear losing a large part of it to prospective wives should the marriage turn sour.

For Patrick Mutiso, 44, an architect, extra caution is what has made him concentrate in his profession.

"I spent more than 25 years establishing my career and I have to be careful with the partner I may end up with… a divorce may overturn my fortunes," he says.

According to Mutiso, increasing cases of divorce could be a pointer that some women trap men into marriage with ulterior motives.

"I have friends who married ten years ago, divorced and shared property with spouses who never contributed in the investment," Mutiso says.

He says his experience with friends who are divorcees and sworn never to remarry keeps him on toes.

"Most women today are a contrast to the wives our fathers got… they peg competition on everything at the expense of the marital home," Mutiso argues.

Engineer Paul Kiptanui, 38, says he will marry only after ensuring his financial stability, hopefully before he reaches 50.

"You cannot eat love… why settle down when I cannot take good care of my family? For instance, I would love to take them on holiday periodically," Kiptanui says.

The mechanical engineer says the trend today for many men is to ensure their financial stability before settling down with a younger woman.

"Why do you think there are male bosses who marry their young employees, fresh from college? It is about security and stability," he says.

Sankara, however, says the age of a woman will not matter if he ever resolves to settle down.

"You can be 45 years and settle down with a mature 24-year-old. There are also women who are over 30 but immature," Sankara says.

As the senior bachelors continue to postpone their marriage and eventual fatherhood, scientific studies speak otherwise on their reproductivity.

A recent study by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher Dr Andrew Wyrobek has found that the genetic quality of sperm deteriorates as men age. The sperms steadily become more fragmented as men get older.

Genetic risks

Fragmentation DNA is associated with greater infertility and a reduction in the chance of conceiving. The US researcher says each successive fragmentation introduces a slight risk of error in the genetic material of the new sperm, which is passed to the child.

Interestingly, senior bachelorhood is not a bed of roses. There is so much pressure from elderly female relatives.

"Aunties never seem to realise that society has changed and that there are women who also prefer to remain single and chase careers," Sankara says.

Senior bachelors are being accused of causing the increasing number of spinsters by failing to propose and marry, but some argue society has changed.

Beldine Obiero, a lawyer, says the law has no provisions on when men or women should get married.

"Society has changed… people today chase their professional careers before going back to school for Masters degrees unlike a decade back," Obiero says.

She says society has no moral obligation to set the time span for men to walk women down the aisle.

"It is their (men) democratic right to marry when they want. We cannot force them," Obiero says.

Interestingly, recent surveys in the UK showed old fathers are three times more likely to take regular responsibility for a young child. They are more likely to be fathers by choice and they become more positively involved with the child. They will be seen smiling at the babies and gurgling.

Young fathers, though, are probably better at getting down on the floor for physical play.

Dr Solomon Wanguru concurs with Obiero saying he has two adult daughters who do not fancy marriage.

"My daughters are well educated and fend for themselves, but they have divergent views on marriage, which is their right," Wanguru says.

According to him, there may be scientific facts on the negative reproductive effects of fathering children late, but society is dynamic.

"An average man graduates from university at 25 years, lands a good job five years later, works for a similar period then pursues a Masters degree," Wanguru says.

He warns against rushing into marriage as security (a home and stable career) are overriding prerequisites.

"I do not think there is anything wrong with people over 40 marrying late. The trend today is to have two children unlike my time when couples had an average of five," he says.

International celebrities who have either married or borne children late include the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at age 45, Mick Jagger (57), Michael Douglas (58) and the late Luciano Pavarotti who had twins at 67.

According to studies, more than 7,500 babies were born to fathers over the age of 40 in the United Kingdom in 2004 alone. The UK National Statistics also showed that approximately 6,489 babies were born to fathers who were over 50 years old. Men aged over 30 fathered 63 per cent of babies born in the UK two year ago.

Biological clocks

According to US-based National Centre for Health Statistics, about 24 in every 1,000 men aged between 40 and 44 fathered a child in 2004 .

Recent research reveals that, compared to younger dads, fathers in the older age group are more inclined to be less tolerant of their children’s physical activities.

In July 2008, French scientists in a study reported that more than 12,200 couples sought fertility treatment. They found more evidence that showed the biological clocks of most men and women started to tick in their mid-30s.

The evidence suggests that chances of a successful pregnancy fall when a man is aged over 35, and the chances get significantly lower if he is over 40.