What’s complicating relationships for young women?

The world’s history is painted in colours of gender inequalities, biases and underrepresentation of genders.

Photo credit: Photo I Pool

What you need to know:

  • The world’s history is painted in colours of gender inequalities, biases and underrepresentation of genders.
  • There is a tendency of women’s need for independence to be misunderstood as ‘hot-headedness’ in some quarters.
  • In a world where there is often tension in gender relations, there is a thin line between the quality of ambition in women being admirable and it being repulsive.

I had a catch-up with Sheila yesterday. Sheila is my bestie from high school. I guess this is the point where I say I am a keeper. Not to brag, but I make quality friendships that last, and significantly survive different phases of life.

Sheila works abroad, which means we do not meet as often as we did during our undergraduate days (we ended up in the same university). But as the saying goes, true friends can grow separately without growing apart. *insert smiley face*

We hugged and argued a bit about who between us had grown thinner, before we settled down to have our cold smoothies and a long conversation at the Art Café on Kimathi Street.

As is wont to happen when two young women meet, our conversation veered to the topic of relationships with the opposite sex – the dramatic, the impossible and the memorable dates.

Relationships come up often when I am chatting with my friends because many of us are in that space. Maybe not exactly dating but meeting interesting people. As we settle in our careers and solidify our professional identities, we seem to have space now to think maturely about love and relationships.

Sheila said the idea of being dependent on a man for her financial needs scares her feet cold. That is why she had to be in a comfortable space financially before getting into that head-space of love. A lesson she has carried from her primary school, when a teacher told them to work hard so that they don’t depend on people to buy them 'salt'.

“I know when love is new and shiny, a man can say I will take care of you, even if you do not work or earn an income. I haven’t been married yet, but I have seen things happen with people around me who opted for this arrangement. The older the relationship becomes; the more things fall apart. Disrespect creeps in and the whole relationship can start to look like a pile of garbage,” she said.

There was a brief silence between us after she said this matter of fact statement. I agreed with her. But I was still getting my thoughts together, to agree with her intelligently. Sheila was a straight A student, she is the kind who scored As in all exams without trying.

And although I was in the top 10 category in my class (Sheila was index 1), my performance in mathematics left a lot to be desired. I became friends with Sheila because she was my mathematics tutor. But that is a story for another day.

Well, like Sheila, I believe a woman needs to be passionate about something (have a career, a life purpose), be educated, have a good job – she doesn’t have a to be a millionaire yet, but she should be able to afford to make her hair, pay her rent … basically, pay her bills. With a solid grounding like that, she is self-aware and can make better choices, and not date someone because they pay rent for them or bankroll their very existence.

As we went deeper into our conversation, we realised another challenge. The tendency of women’s need for independence to be misunderstood as ‘hot-headedness’ in some quarters. In a world where there is often tension in gender relations, there is a thin line between the quality of ambition in women being admirable and it being repulsive.

The world’s history is painted in colours of gender inequalities, biases and underrepresentation of genders. And as the world continues to move towards correcting these through policies such as affirmative action, tension shows up.

Unnecessary fear may also creep up. I know a guy, who, for about five years, has wanted to ask me out. I am a traditional girl; ‘I don’t shoot my shot’. Anyway, this guy spoke to some of my friends but never to me directly.

His excuse was that he was scared of the bride price he’d have to pay. I don’t know about bride price but can assure you I don’t look like a million-dollar box.

My catch-up with Sheila ended with a parting promise for us to continue meeting interesting guys, those who are not too scared to ask us out, and to keep talking with those whose value systems align with ours.

Ladies and gentlemen, what is keeping you from going out on that first date?

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