By Rohey Samba
My story isn’t much different from the stories we hear every day when a man meets a woman at the fringes of her life’s experiences with loneliness. I endure as the drudgery of work and the increased girth created by my resulting affluence seeps through the gauze of my own self-imposed vulnerability. I am among the most eligible spinsters, if not the most eligible spinster there is, and the woman every man wants to marry.
I own a big firm under a sole proprietorship registry. As a lady, many men were wary of working for me in the beginning, due to the horror stories of the Lady Boss circulated in many circles of modern life. From day one, I set out to be the exemplary lady boss. I was going to be a sister, a confidante, a mother and a friend to my staff, if need be – never the boss lady. Leadership by yielding both the carrot and the stick is the catchall of my organisation. I am not averse to sacking any round peg in a square hole, but I would not test anyone’s temperament by pushing them too far. By these precepts I have learnt to regulate my own feelings.
Since I prefer my staff to like me than to love me, to fear for their jobs than to fear my wrath, I have unlearned my feminist prejudices and for the sake of effectiveness, mastered the art of teasing out the best in my male employees by treating them as men. From the specialist to the messenger, all men are men. Acknowledging their manliness, while sucking in my own feelings in order to get the work done, has stood me in good stead. I ask my female workers to do the same too, or simply bugger off!
You see, to work with men in our society, one needs to be firmly rooted in the ways of our society. Being antagonistic, belittling or asserting outright superiority over them would not work. You may make them deliver set objectives but you would never obtain their goodwill. Cajoling, stumping for their output or overtly praising their work can be a disincentive for effectiveness and may result in bigotry, an enigma that is a mere mask of weakness in my opinion.
The formula for my success being audacious enticement has provided fertile territory for innovation and ownership by my numerous employees. My overriding policy is excellent service delivery before profiteering. The onus is left on my well-paid employees to translate the policy into effective management as proof of their commitment. Commitment, of course, is something no independent audit can verify. However, with motivation and an enterprise culture, a laudable work culture is borne, and I couldn’t have been happier at the resulting outcome for my business. Smugly, I would assert here that I am one of the most successful business leaders of my generation.
The banter circulating around town is rife with my presumed frigidity and the fact that I continue to reject ‘suitable’ suitors. Now let me get my laugh out of the way before I say this. You see, bachelors, married men, the famous, the popular, the infamous, the rich, the seemingly rich, all hasten to court me and relieve me of the despicable title of spinster. Ah, you want me to tell you about the seemingly rich…
Well, these are dudes who go around town pretending to be rich, and making everybody including their own selves believe in their own lies. They win an interesting project, take a hefty loan from the bank by depositing the necessary collateral, and instead of focusing on the project targets, their project timeline is stunted by their excessive indulgence. They buy a flashy car, D1,000,000.00 thereabouts, rent or buy a cozy apartment, and boom… “waagi tekki nah!”
I am not interested, not least in what men can do for me than what I have to lose by being with them. I remain neutral to their woos. I accept the gifts I never ask for, I smile back, even laugh at some of their incredible jokes but I never fall in love. I cannot bring myself to love any of the men that come to ask for my hand in marriage. I just never get synced with anyone of them. I know for some, this is very untoward. But that’s just the way it is with me.
The knee-jerk reaction to my disinterest is always a bombardment of endless inquisitorials. Over time, I have learnt to keep my mouth shut. There is never an appropriate response to the question, ‘Why don’t you love me back?’ My reply, ‘At another time or place, I might have?’ prompts more questions I can’t give an answer to. Thus, I learn to keep my mouth shut and smile long enough to dissuade from further questioning. After all, I do not owe anyone the consideration of a response.
Far from the murmurings that I am privy to. I have not set any high standards for my future husband. I care naught if he is tall or short, fat or slim, handsome or ugly, I just need to be emotionally invested. For the moment, I am not. And I refuse to be a conformist. What society expects of me, is not my prerogative. I have got just one shot at life, and I am not going to miss it by conforming to society’s standards of good or bad.
I guess I am just not slag on my emotional well-being. I am not the woman who had luck as grease to smoothen my life’s pursuits. No one thought me worthy of their benevolence to aid me through my life’s journey. I had struggled for everything, against all odds, to reach where I am at this moment in time. My strength is my belief in self and a large dose of my self-reliance comes from the knowledge that only hard-work can yield success in the long run. Sometimes attributed to conceit or haughtiness, my self-reliance has augmented my own self-consciousness.
Why not get married? I am asked by all and sundry. I just brush the question aside and mumble a few incoherent words to persuade my questioners to change the subject. After all, there is no solace from the truth. However, I will tell you why, today, in order to put to rest the query of my lifetime…
The folly of truth is that I have not seen in all of my thirty five years of existence, one happily married couple ever. Marriage in my eyes, is a compromise between two ‘in love’ people, borne out of naïve aspirations about long term goals of living happily ever after, that results mainly in pain, disappointment and faded dreams, winched on making concessions to satisfy a pact that never was. Marriage especially stunts women’s emotions, makes mockery out of their resultant dependency and wreaks havoc in their career aspirations and consequently their economic wellbeing. Marriage compels women to feel obligated to a process society imposes on them and one that they follow hook, line and sinker, thus becoming casualties of their own blind fate.
Yet the greatest costs of marriage are the offspring. Pregnancy is the opportunity cost that women have to pay with their bodies, their sanity and the last vestiges of their spiritual muscle. And once their breasts sag and their bellies lose that crucial belly-bottom and their bodies become distended from childbirth, their supposed partner in life, untroubled by his benightedness, deems it his right to philander, and/or court the affection of another woman, mostly younger and definitely more noteworthy.
I bet you that this isn’t an issue of communication, this is an issue of society – the way society sets one standard for men and an entirely different one for women. Society is what casts the characters, dehumanising one gender while favouring the other. All the people around me who choose to convince me otherwise can bid their time in the process. Talk is cheap. I cannot be persuaded to dance into the trap of their sweet talk. I am unaffected by their judgment and undeterred by the gossip and/or slander they choose to spread. Fact is, I have not seen any worthy examples of the perfect marriage. It is a utopian nirvana married couples want us to believe in. For me, I continue to be marked by my failure of courage in pursuing that utopia.
At the end of the day, I find myself cycling in this realm called love and I find no merits in its effects on women. The stress and time commitment of marriage, not to mention the emotional labour invested is just not for me. I see little returns on investment. Plainly, I have no motivation to pursue a relationship. I am married to my work and the measure of my commitment is my success.
Rohey Samba is an award winning Gambia writer and author of 3 books, with experience working as a media analyst, press and public outreach assistant for the EU Election Observation Mission in The Gambia National Assembly Elections, 2017. She owns a publishing company and works as a maritime specialist, specialising in maritime safety and environmental administration at Gambia Maritime Administration.