Culture, Tradition and In-laws
So I’ve just gone through an experience that had me questioning everything.. so much so I had to put pen to paper..
The question of ideals.. let’s talk about my ideals..
For the longest time, I never wanted marriage, it was just something I never aspired to nor dreamt of.. even when lobola was paid, I didn’t get new dreams of a white wedding.. I’ve just never been there.. I always thought I would travel.. for years.. not necessarily high class travel just chasing my heart I guess.. experiencing awe in every way unimaginable. I would then settle down a few decades later and adopt 4 beautiful kids.. we were then gonna be that awkward family that never quite fit into spaces for various reasons but could create the love we’ve always wanted and needed from and with each other.
Fast forward to present day reality, I’m traditionally married and at each visit to the in-laws, find myself particularly taken aback.. and more of the inability to fit, the panic, the anger… the moments of not quite regret but the inability to place these people around me. In no mean way of course, perhaps my blindness also comes from the fact that I think parents are often over invested, I think God intended for humanity to reproduce but after the offspring is well on its way - fit, equipped with all the tools to navigate life and make reasonably good decisions, everyone should head their separate ways, and yes, the off spring may pitch up every so often but essentially, they are no longer yours, they belong to themselves and whomever they decide to do this life thing with.
So you’re probably asking the question, what are you getting at Zandi,
Well, I feel (most) of the in-law world hasn’t caught up with the new world where the rest of us exist, in a world where women don’t need to marry for security, we’ve become our own security, nor do we marry for offspring, you can get that at the hospital even designed to your liking, we don’t marry from need anymore and the idea of ‘the other’ can be met in so many ways more than one, so how is it that some mothers have likened the bride price to some ball and chain that’s linked to them and not your husband? And the expectation that your life’s dreams have all been waiting at the door of domestication from marriage?
Can we question culture and tradition.
Culture is a big question, I didn’t grow up in a heavily traditional home, my family was weird and we all decided on what culture we were gonna be a part of and pursued it if that makes sense. Culture is the space where we are raised and pretty much shape into the space. Tradition is what we are born into, and depending on the intensity levels of your parents you might just come out with a ‘I’m Zulu’ sticker, while some come out with ‘I’m Zulu, I’ve practiced all traditional dos, I’ve been taught this marriage thing since birth and all the jazz’.
For clarity, I’m just Zulu. I respect my gran and parents, I respect my elders, I know my limits but at the same time, I communicate my thoughts unafraid, tradition doesn’t stop me from this. We have frank discussions with my gran where she laughs and says, you haven’t changed a bit from when you were 5, problem is, in the in-law space, I hold onto so much I could combust, I can literally feel all the switches turn on to the most massive volcano, and then, I stop, and re-channel the anger to the innocent one, my husband. Maybe his innocence need be questioned if his mother thinks I’m the help when I’m not.
In a world where women work equally as men do if not harder, how is it still reasonable to expect the bride to be the house help? Like how? I’ve had a stressful work week, I’m trying to hold a household together while taking care of me, keeping the world afloat and there’s expectation of bride price cash-in at visits? In the same way that the men can sit under the tree and have drinks, the same should be afforded to women. We need it just as much.
Can we start questioning the expectation that the bride is the cleaner, the cook, the ‘yes mam’ chick and everything else expected of the ‘ideal’ wife.. I battle to conform to this space, my gran once said ‘I think you married to young’, only because I still do cartwheels with my nieces and run around in the yard, it seemed immature, and for the first time I’m considering this, wondering if I was too young, and if I’m still too young, and if I’ll ever be old enough..
We live in a world where girls still get their clitoris cut because sexual pleasure is not for them, we live in a world where girls at 13 years old have a man brought to them to ‘open up the way’, the man on the documentary went on to tell that he has proudly slept with 104 girls and counting, but he is also HIV positive and no one is the least bit perturbed.
I’m furious. I’m so mad, how have we moved so far forward yet continue with archaic traditions that don’t solve our current problems including the question of equality but we answer all questions with the stunted ‘its tradition’ statement? I’m sick of tradition. I’m sick of being expected to be what I am not. I’m sick of needing to be apologetic because I don’t fit a particular mould, I’m sick of it all!!
Perhaps the idea of being life partners is the best decisions because there won’t be anyone calling you ngwetsi behind stupid domesticated expectations when your contribution to your marriage is your smarts and overall self not your domestic ability.
I realize I still don’t understand the concept of marriage, either than one more piece of paper that measures the ability of a society to conform because in this conforming are you able to access more funds or assumed to be grown, a man, a professional domestic - failing which, Lord knows no one wants to be labeled a rascal or one of the many societal terms for those who choose to not partake in the big machine.
And if your parents in law are up to date with the times and know to reprimand the old minds, good for you. Celebrate the liberated.