Dove Magazine

When does a woman come of Age?

Two ladies take a selfie. You cannot compete

Two ladies take a selfie. You cannot compete for a man’s attention with your 20-year-old neighbour’s daughter when the neighbour is your age. FILE PHOTO |   NMG

In Summary

  • Different communities have different ways of coming of age.  For some, it is circumcision, but I think too much weight has been put on the physical process – circumcision should be more about the mind.
  • But I rest my case on circumcision because this article is really not about circumcision per se; it is about coming of age.
  • The other day, I shared an incident with friends on Facebook about how a young Mpesa agent compared my photo on my identity card to the real me. After about 10 seconds of comparing me to my photo she declared, “You used to be very beautiful.”

A story is told of how  Jews come of age. The father would get his early teenage son to climb some first-floor balcony and ask him to jump, promising to be there to break his fall.

Because he trusted his father, the boy will do as asked, but the father would step aside and watch his precious son hit the ground with a mighty  thud.

Father would apologise to the son, lie that he had miscalculated his step, so could he please go back and jump again? Second time would be like first time; how mean.

Somehow (I don’t know how), father  would convince the son to do take three, even crossing his heart and hoping to die if he failed  to catch the boy. But, you guessed right, he would let the boy hit the ground again.

“Son,” the father would say to the son, looking him straight in the eye. “That, right there, is a very important lesson. You must not, cannot, trust anyone, whoever they are, whatever promises they make.”

And that is how Jews would come of age – by learning not to trust anyone. I don’t know how true this story is; it could be a Jewish folktale, but it is a nice story to share about coming of age.

Different communities have different ways of coming of age.  For some, it is circumcision, but I think too much weight has been put on the physical process – circumcision should be more about the mind.

But I rest my case on circumcision because this article is really not about circumcision per se; it is about coming of age.

The other day, I shared an incident with friends on Facebook about how a young Mpesa agent compared my photo on my identity card to the real me. After about 10 seconds of comparing me to my photo she declared, “You used to be very beautiful.”

What a spot to find myself in? If I had asked her whether I was not pretty anymore, it would have left me feeling quite vain. In the end, I mumbled my thank you, gave her a glassy smile and silently wished she had been more tactful.  She could hurt a lesser person’s feelings with such utterances!

AGEING IS UNAVOIDABLE

But it got me thinking about the unavoidable ageing process, which I shall refer to as coming of age.

Wikipedia defines it as a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. But that is too general in a world of relativity.

Let me zero in on women, and when they individually decide they have come of age (hereafter referred to as mamahood).I s mamahood determined by age?

What is the right age; 18,  25 or 30 years? Or, is it marked by having children? So, if an 18-year-old gives birth, does that mean she has come of age? Is a 30-year-old, childless woman a mama or not?

Or even, are you a bona fide mama when your hips start protruding from your formerly straight self? Does losing your virginity set you off on a long journey to mamahood? It could even be in the way we dress, no? Or, mamahood could be marked by the day women stop lying about their age!

When someone calls me mama, I still look around for the mama because part of my brain refuses to accept that I am already at that respectable age; for goodness’ sake, I am the last born and besides, there is too much responsibility in mamahood.

People might expect me to go the Mother’s Union way in more ways than on; I am not ready for that.

In the end, I think seeing ourselves through other people’s eyes determines mamahood.

You cannot still be checking out the newest joint in town if your nieces are nephews are doing the same, unless of course, your age difference is five years. You cannot compete for a man’s attention with your 20-year-old neighbour’s daughter when the neighbour is your age.

Happy ageing, people!

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