As I sit here sipping my usual morning brew of hot lemon water with ginger, praying it’s miraculously imbibed with the same effects as coffee, it dawns on me that I’ll be 25 in just over 3 months.

25. That dreaded point of no return. When you’re young enough to still be single and figuring life out, but old enough to care that you ARE single and haven’t gotten it all figured out yet. And soon others around you start to care too.

And 25 is that number for ME. Maybe it was 18 for you, I dunno. I guess it really all depends on where and how you’re raised. There’s something about heading into your late 20s as a Ghanaian woman that causes people to start to expect things from and of you- but not career-wise- they don’t really seem to have a past-due date for that as a woman in our society.

For marriage and starting a family? That’s a different story.

It sucks that there’s this double standard- all over the world- where women have some supposed expiry date, but men are cool just chilling until they can actually get their lives together and mature enough to have a family. Can I have some time to mature too before I have to start raising the next generation? Or am I supposed to just suck it up and perform my God-given duties before my neck and womb shrivel up and no man wants me?

I’m lucky enough not to have parents who put pressure on me regarding finding a suitable husband and popping out babies. My parents have a grandchild from my sister, and another from my brother, so I think I can hold out a while more till my mom hits me with the “Where are my grandchildren?” speech. But that doesn’t mean society in general doesn’t throw those pressures at me.

Literally every weekend for the past 2/3 months, someone I know got married. And what I feel in response isn’t jealousy, or the thought of ‘when will I?’- it’s more like, “wait, am I supposed to be on this train? This track to Marriageville? Because I don’t want to be, at least not yet”. And yet all the signs are yelling GO-GO-GO, and I can’t help but panic sometimes. I’m not even in the space where I want to be in a relationship and yet I’m constantly bombarded with these messages of what I’m missing out on and how I need to find a suitable partner before all the good ones are snatched up.

(Let’s not even talk about Bellanaija. I’m going to have to unfollow them soon lol.)

And that’s how you end up crashing. Because you allow your life to be dictated by the lives of people around you. All the beautiful couples and white wedding gowns. The picture-perfect… pictures lol. It’s almost surreal, that level of happiness you see on people’s faces. And I’m not a robot. I want flowers and romantic trips to exotic destinations, and a surprise proposal (though if my future husband is reading this, my ideal proposal would be just putting the ring on my finger while I sleep and have me waking up to it. But feel free to splurge on a destination proposal if you absolutely HAVE to lol). In spite of these fantasies, I am one of the few people I know who’s always been aware that that’s not what a marriage is solely made of.

Marriage is about self-sacrifice. It’s literally dying to self- and all the wonderful dreams and plans you had when you were single- and adopting a “we”-centered lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you don’t still get to live out your dreams- but they’re no longer JUST yours. They have to be your husband’s dreams for you, as a couple, as well. Suddenly you have to factor in a husband and how ever many kids. They will always have to come before you. Like, thinking about it, when my alarm went off with it’s usual ‘Run to the gym, fatty!“ jingle this morning, I turned it off and rolled over like ‘no thanks, I’ll do that later’. I have the privilege of doing that now. If that alarm was a crying baby or a hungry toddler? No leeway. I’d have to get up and deny myself that extra hour of sleep to cater to someone else’s needs. Then there’s the whole bit about having to satisfy your husband’s desires. Let’s face facts- men and women were created differently. We don’t have the same libidos. Sometimes, women don’t want to be touched. We feel yucky or worn out. Sometimes we’re just flat out exhausted from taking care of the rest of the world all day. And then he wants to come home and TOUCH you? There is the temptation to avoid all such encounters unless you feel up to it, and I used to be of that mindset. Now I know that marriage=self-sacrifice=getting out of your selfish and insecure mindset and doing things that make your significant other happy.

And that goes for men too.

You never want to go into it unaware and unprepared for the reality of marriage. And yet I know so many girls my age who are actively chasing it down because they think it’s some endgame or finish line for life. Once you’re married and have a couple kids, you’ve made it!

Even worse, people rush into it as a way to legitimize sex!

And I blame Ghanaian society- and society at large- for not being honest about the realities of marriage. There are some near-perfect couples, yes, and we applaud them. But the reality is, most marriages are hard as hell- and we’ve all seen it, with all the cheating fathers and lonely mothers and parents who only ever discuss what’s for dinner. We’ve come to accept that at some point, you just fall out of love and that’s that. And I used to think that way too. But the truth is that it all boils down to hard work- either you’re willing to put it in, or you’re not.

You never want to spend the rest of your life with someone who isn’t going to work doubly hard at making your marriage and family work. We all WANT to have happy marriages- but translating that into reality is not as simple. It is a constant struggle. So while I may swoon at these bellanaija proposals, and have my folder of possible wedding dresses handy at all times, I recognize that what I’m yearning for is a dream wedding, and NOT a marriage.

But these are just my musings and marriage might just be as much of a fairytale as Instagram and Facebook portray it to be. I’ll take my chances and hold out for a while longer.