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Over 45, never been married and still a virgin

Lady Speak

Some people would swear that it’s a scene from a movie or an excerpt from a book — the single woman of a certain advanced age sitting alone on her veranda, miserable and surrounded by cats. It’s not the case with Clara and Adhiambo, two women in their mid-40s who have never been married but say they are happy and fulfilled in their lives. Mona Ombogo put their views together “I suppose every girl dreams of meeting Prince Charming and building a wonderful home together, it’s what we are taught. I wanted those things too once upon a time. I haven’t written off the possibility of finding a companion and getting married but it isn’t something that stresses me anymore.” These are confessions of Adhiambo, a 46-year-old woman who says she has never been married and is still a virgin. In a society that dictates the steps men and women should ideally follow to fulfill our roles in propagating the human race, Adhiambo says revealing her choice of lifestyle would make her stick out like a sore thumb. Being unmarried at her age is not such a big deal any more. It’s the confession that she has never been sexually active that would make her look alien. It’s no wonder she prefers not to reveal her identity. But how did she remain single and celibate all these years? From Adhiambo’s narration, the reason is simple and straightforward; the right man just never came along. While most of her friends were dating and planning for marriage in their twenties, being with a man was the last thing on Adhiambo’s mind. “My dad had just gotten a second wife and his focus on our family changed completely. My sisters were still in high school and college. As the first born, it fell to me to take care of them. All my time and energy went into trying to figure out how to make ends meet,” she says. Adhiambo only started paying attention to men when she was in her thirties. “In my generation, most men got married in their twenties. So by the time I was coming up for air, the eligible ones were gone. Perhaps I’m not being fair saying this because I did meet a former college mate and we instantly clicked. But it was one of those, on again-off again relationships. We did this for six years!” Adhiambo says it took her a while to figure out why that particular relationship refused to stick, though they both tried. “We loved each other but we valued different things. I used to tell him he wanted me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. After years of taking care of my siblings and working for myself, I just didn’t fit that bill. I wanted marriage, yes, but I also wanted to keep my career. My identity. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to take his name. I think this was always our stumbling block. It’s just a shame it took me six years to figure it out.” In these six years Adhiambo and her boyfriend remained celibate, following their Christian beliefs. “It was only after I broke up with him that I realised how difficult it was to find a man in my age group who was single, never married and willing to wait until our wedding night for us to be intimate.” Adhiambo admits that perhaps she held onto this six year relationship for as long as she did because subconsciously she feared that she would not meet anyone else. “After breaking up with ‘Henry’, sometimes I felt cheated because it seemed like I had missed the boat. Sometimes I felt angry at God. And sometimes I felt stupid, it was like I was searching for a unicorn, not a human being.” Clara, a 46-year-old Project Manager has a similar story. She frequently travels around Kenya on contracted projects. “I work in a predominantly male industry. I meet men all the time and I get plenty of attention. I’m not a virgin for lack of options, because I get many offers. The thing is, most of these men just want sex. I want more than that, I want marriage. And he has to be ready to wait. I know it’s a tall order but that’s my conviction,” Clara tells Eve. “I will be honest that I am not a saint. I have needs and desires like every other woman. Is it sometimes difficult to say no, especially to a man I have clicked with and find attractive? Of course it is. But then I ask myself, this guy is married, or he is ten years younger. So we will do this thing, and then what?” Clara, like many older women, came to a point where she accepted that perhaps marriage was not in her cards. “There was a time the thought of being single for the rest of my life literally made me sick. It didn’t help that my family and friends kept pressuring me. Some people told me to pray and fast, I did. Some told me to take up different activities like joining book clubs or hiking clubs, I did. I was in church worship team, prayer team, you name it. The funniest was when I was advised to go and pick any man from the village and clean him up. A man is a man after all, they said.” Clara shares. “I drew the line when a relative said I must be cursed and needed to go upcountry and ask the elders for cleansing.” After years of intervention from all corners of her life, Clara had enough and decided she would stop going out of her way to find a man. “The worst possible thing a woman can be is desperate,” she says. “It’s difficult to resist especially if you want children and the clock is ticking. I have friends who have opted for artificial insemination, some have adopted and others have asked a friend to ‘father’ a child with them, no strings attached. None of these options have been appealing to me.” Adhiambo agrees. “Many of my friends, who hit 40 while single, decided one of two things; either settle for the first man who showed them interest or have an affair. I don’t judge them but none of those friends are happy. I’d rather be happy and alone, than miserable in a relationship.” Adhiambo knows she has set high standards and the pool she is fishing from gets smaller as years go by. “It also gets lonelier as more of your family and friends get engrossed in their own lives and new families. The trick is to keep busy and fill your life with things you enjoy; I run, swim, work out, watch movies and I’m always in for a good luncheon.” Adhiambo has not lost the faith, “My guy will come. Until then, I’ll just keep being the best, happiest version of me that I can be.” For Clara, meeting a man is quite low on her list of priorities. “I wish I could say I am putting myself out there, but I am not. The irony is often I’ll find myself on a road trip or a party with my male friends. Of course, these are not eligible men but in an odd way they make up for the otherwise lack of ‘maleness’ in my life. I can’t complain. I am happy.”

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