I was having lunch with my sister some weeks ago when a mutual friend we both had not seen in a while walked up to our table to say hello. We exchanged the usual pleasantries then asked how her children, all adults, were doing. At that moment, the tone of our conversation changed.
The lady said her family was fine, except that she could not understand why one of her sons was still not married. “I don’t know what he’s waiting for,” she exclaimed, shaking her head in obvious bewilderment.
Without missing a beat, my sister and I asked our friend if she would like some “help”. She knew instantly what kind of help we meant and responded quick: “Yes!” We agreed that the three of us needed to have lunch to discuss the matter further and reassured her that it was as good as sorted.
I should point out that my sister and I had not discussed anything remotely related to this woman’s dilemma, seeing as we had not seen her in a long time; nor are we in the business of looking for suitable spouses for young people who seem ‘stuck’. So why had we jumped in with such enthusiasm? Then it hit me – could we possibly, without realising what was happening, have turned into one of THOSE aunties? Oh, please no!
I’m sure you know which aunties I mean because every family, especially African, has them. These are the aunties who for some reason believe there is a specific day and time by when young people should have ‘settled down’. The ones young people avoid during family gatherings because they can cause serious embarrassment with their loud probing questions.
“Nancy, when are you bringing us a nice young man? You’re not getting any younger you know! Tell us we help you, that’s why we’re here!”
After months or even years of non-compliance on Nancy’s part, the aunties decide she’s stuck because they set the bar too high, so they drop the “nice” and the “young”: “Nancy! All your cousins are now married! When are you bringing us someone? Anyone?” By this time, all the other aunties have been marshalled to scout around for eligible (although by this stage even this is optional) men who can be matched with Nancy, who seems hopelessly stuck. Even the most diehard tribalist aunty has relaxed her stance considerably because Nancy simply must get married!
When they’re not looking for a husband for Nancy, they are meeting for prayers to petition heaven to help the would-be groom find his way to her doorstep (because surely he must have lost his way). And by the way, all this also applies to Nancy’s brother, Ben, should he also appear to be taking his time getting married.
Where is the baby?
Finally, glory hallelujah, Nancy brings someone home to meet the folks, and soon wedding plans (with all the attendant drama) are in full swing. After the wedding, before the dust has settled, while the photos and video are still being admired, the same aunty brigade appears on the scene wearing high prescription spectacles that will enable them to spot even the slightest of baby bumps on the still blushing bride.
Month one, two, three, four, five… they are all literally biting their tongues every time they meet the happy couple because they don’t want to seem too eager, but finally one explodes because she just cannot take it anymore: “Aaaaiiii, kwani what are you people waiting for? You’re not getting any younger you know!”
And the whole cycle of pressure starts all over again because each aunty is hoping she will be the favourite grandmother of the new baby. And besides, what a great story she will have to tell the child (and anyone else who will listen to her tell it over and over again) about how instrumental she was in making sure he or she came to be – through her diligence and persistence in playing the matchmaker role.
No, I don’t think this is the kind of aunty I want to be to my lovely nieces and nephews, so let me retire before I even start to get involved. I’m sure my friend’s son is quite capable of doing the necessary when he’s good and ready.
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