Skip to main content

African moms: Be patient with your unmarried daughters

By China Okasi, Special to CNN
updated 11:52 AM EST, Sat February 16, 2013
Moms everywhere like to ask their unmarried daughters dreaded questions like: Why are you still single? Are you married yet?
Moms everywhere like to ask their unmarried daughters dreaded questions like: Why are you still single? Are you married yet?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China Okasi: Moms everywhere like to ask their daughters why they're not married
  • Okasi: Being an unmarried African woman is tricky and odd
  • She says when women are more educated and global, they don't just settle and marry
  • Okasi: Modern African women want love and marriage, and not "intimidated" men

Editor's note: China Okasi, an entrepreneur and frequent commentator on various TV networks, is the founder of the Daily Mocha and executive director of Women of Media.

(CNN) -- Moms everywhere like to ask their unmarried daughters dreaded questions like: Why are you still single? Are you married yet? Anyone catch your eye? Especially around Valentine's Day.

Sure, we've seen Carrie Bradshaw agonize over the issue, watched Bridget Jones' awkwardness around it, heard Amelie's lamentations au Francais, and we've even heard from the lovable Mindy Kaling vis-a-vis her Indian-American perspective. But, we haven't heard the modern African woman's story.

Being an unmarried African woman in her childbearing years is like being a manicurist with a hand tremor: very odd and rather tricky. She is expected to marry early and marry well.

China Okasi
China Okasi

African mothers, then, are in a deep crisis. They immigrated to the United States with the hopes that their daughters would get a good education and fulfill the American Dream. But they never considered that, along with having all that modernity, their daughters would, like the rest of America's young, empowered women, be so "late" in marriage.

Granted, African moms are not alone in their hopes. But still, some of them seem particularly affected. What shall they do?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Well, first, they might accept that their daughters have not just a "double consciousness," as W. E. B. Dubois termed it, but rather infinite consciousnesses, complicating their very blackness. If an upper middle-class girl has one or more African parents, for example, she has likely schooled in the United States or Europe -- maybe even a generation after her own parents have.

And she has likely spent a fair amount of time in London via Lagos, a common lifestyle practice for those of formerly colonized African countries. If she has lived down South, say in Texas, for some time, she has likely acquired a George Bush twang for survival sake. If she has taken up a neuroscience residency in Boston (which, of course, she must, if she is African), she might now sound like Matt Damon's sister. And the minute she wins an accolade in some not-so-diverse department (which, of course, she must, being African), she'll be labeled the "first African-American" to have done so.

In short, she is global. If she is living in a melting pot like New York, she is global on steroids. Naturally, global girls outgrow such local traditions as arranged marriages, dowry and bride price, which have not been exclusive to African tradition (see the English period drama, "Downton Abbey") but have certainly lingered longer in homes of African descent.

African moms need to accept that globalism has allowed their daughters to know the world better, and as a result, seek partnerships more wisely. This process of self-determination takes a tad longer to form than setting up an arranged marriage.

Thankfully, my mom, educated in America, a New Yorker and rather global, has not been as insistent on marriage with me. But it seems like only yesterday her older sister, my aunt, warned about the dangers of waiting too long, or being too educated, to be married.

Really, if you've watched Maggie Smith's blunt character, Lady Violet Crawley, in "Downton Abbey," you have watched my aunt. Despite being an accomplished woman who acquired a Ph.D. later in life, she praised my graceful exit from my doctoral program. I'd just turned 21 when I'd chosen a rather eccentric doctoral study. In her words: "What man would marry a 20-something-year-old Ph.D.-holder?" It would be too intimidating to men.

"I'd do better to tone it down a bit," she suggested. Which brings me to my second plea to African moms. If you want your daughter to be as happy or happier than you have been in marriage, it makes no sense that she should dumb down the colorfulness of her character, the boldness of her spirit and the fire that made her the "first African-American" this or that in order to appease those who are potentially intimidated by her.

If you'd never match a conservative Christian with a flagrant porn star, it's not clear why today's educated woman should edit herself in hopes of attracting a feeble idiot. Yes, she'd be married, but then she'd live only to repress herself for someone else's ego -- and what kind of message would that be for the children?

You see, dear African moms, global girls need global boys. Not intimidated ones.

We can sit and try to make sense of why one kind of match would work or not work for a global girl, but we must concede that love is messy and unpredictable. Love is not like your daughter's medical career with a blueprint to follow, or like a GPS map that can calculate the distance between Addis and Accra.

Yesterday's woman wanted marriage. Today's woman wants love -- and marriage, if it turns out that way. Olivia Pope's character in the TV series "Scandal" spoke quite unapologetically for today's woman when she said: "I could probably give all this up, and live in a country house and have babies and be normal. I could. But I don't want to. I'm not built for it. I don't want normal and easy...and simple. I want...painful, difficult...devastating...life-changing...extraordinary love."

Extraordinary love? Sometimes, dear African moms, that process is just a little more complicated than marrying your cousin like in the 18th century. So, you'll just have to be patient.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of China Okasi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT