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Some people are so at ease with who they are that no one questions their choices

By Nina Steele 

Happily married childless black couplesA man I knew growing up, recently got married. He and his now wife have been together for many years. He is in his 50s and from what I understand, the woman is his age. What makes their union special is that they have no children. I am not at all surprised that in a culture that worships children, he stayed with the same woman, even though they have no children. He always stood out for being headstrong, a quality that is needed if you want to live your life in peace, particularly in a child obsessed environment.

After all those years, I still remember him well because of how serious he always came across. He did his own things and from what I can remember, did not have many friends. As his younger sister was my friend, I used to go over to their house quite often, and even then, he and I didn’t say much to each other. I respected him, not because I feared him, but because, even at that young age, I could see that he was a person of good character.

Even though he has remained in the same neighbourhood, not much is known about his private life. By that I mean that no one knows whether their lack of children is by choice or that they are unable to conceive. Quite an achievement in a culture where gossip runs rampant.

As I have written many times before, the Ivory Coast and, by extension, Africa, is not a welcoming place for childless people. But it’s also true that people will only mess with you if they believe they can get away with it. Nobody dares say anything nasty to this man, nor his wife, about their status as non-parents, because of boundaries they set a long time ago.

Character is what determines what happens to us. I have been around long enough to see what happens when you lose control of your own life. People will always say what they want to say, even when your life is a mirror image of theirs. So imagine if you are different. To survive, you have to build a shell tough enough to withstand whatever life throws at you. It may feel like a real struggle at first, particularly when you are pushing against a whole culture, but in the end, as you grow stronger and at ease with who you are, things inevitably get better.

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