“True power rests not on being judge and jury but on pronouncing loud and clear, ‘I am also prone to falling and find myself in the same place as you.”
I was not sure whether to consider those sentiments as displaying one’s ignorance, one’s stereotype or a prejudice. For the ensuing seconds, I didn’t know what to think. I was astounded and saddened by the words. What made it worse is that they were uttered at a place of ‘’refuge and safety’’, a place where one expects sensitiveness, sisterhood, love and acceptance. I then immediately concluded, even at our best, we are still flawed individuals.
Maureen, an intelligent, well put together woman came and sat next to me. I was happy for the company, and a familiar friendly face – who wouldn’t want that for company. As the morning programmes got underway, out of the blues she asks a question, only I’m not sure if it is a genuine one, or if she seeks confirmation of a fact that she already knows. The question is not directed to me, it is an open question to the few around and within reach of her much-controlled voice, seeing we are in a place requiring much reverence. ‘Is she married? comes the question. No one answers the question, and yet others sneer, as though implying the question is either a good joke or maybe they also, are not sure what to make of it. I didn’t answer the question simply because, instantly I somewhat knew it was leading or implying something insensitive or judgemental. To be totally honest I was interested in finding out the sole purpose of it all. Maureen throws out a few names of eligible bachelors that might be suitable for Hazel. To this point, I still haven’t said a word. I simply sit and listen.
“… so, she can be stable”.
These words follow a statement she has made to seemingly justify why she believes Hazel ought to be married. ‘WOW’’. That’s just about the only response I could manage. WOW, not because I am chuffed, but in this instance, it’s a WOW of disbelief. I am gob smacked at what has just been said in my hearing. My response is to myself, even those around me, don’t’ even see my mouth move nor hear it. By this point thoughts are all over my brain and I am trying so hard to dismiss them so I can concentrate. She had definitely touched a raw nerve, it hurt and I felt it.
Maureen, is sitting next to me, hello, a single woman and yet she has the audacity to utter such words and sentiments. Now I wonder if she also views and sees me as an unstable individual. To think that her statement only referred to Hazel would be naïve of me. I concluded in my own mind, that is her view of single women, and indeed a view that many, sad to say, hold dear.
Hazel is in a leadership role within this community and has been actively involved for about close to 4 months. Her position has the ability to impact lives in ways none can never imagine, and so far, she seems to be doing so well. She comes across as a humble, sensible, intelligent woman, who by virtue of the position she holds, a woman with high commendable standards, which all should strive for. She is always smiling and has a friendly face too. Her agenda, to serve her community the best way she knows how. Only it would appear, in Maureen’s eyes and most probably many others, she falls far short because she is not married- Ouch!!!
I wonder and struggle what type of stability Maureen could be referring to here. Is she actually implying, had Hazel been married she would then earn her respect, or that she will accord more value to Hazel’s words? I just do not get this line of thinking. My question then is, what happens in the interim? Is she going to engage with Hazel and see her as another woman deserving acceptance, love and respect of those around her. Food for thought!!!!
A couple of weeks prior to this experience, Hazel had stood on the podium and shared poignant words that reminded people of what true humanity is all about. She elaborated on the true meaning of a well-known community belief. She opened hearts and minds and enlightened the community on reaching out to those less fortunate. I know as a matter of fact many were ‘reminded’ of true neighbourly hood. Now I have a dilemma, what did Maureen actually ‘’see and hear’’ while Hazel stood and delivered this message. Did she ‘tune in’ or ‘switch off’ or did she give her the benefit of the doubt?
Sad to say, Maureen isn’t the only one with that kind of mindset towards singleness, especially single women. We rule each other out based on so many fleeting attributes such as marital status, education, bank balances, parenthood or the lack of it. But for the grace of God, where would we all be. The stability we think we possess, what have we done to acquire it? How does one define stability? Is it based on what one has acquired or by narratives defined by society?
Inner peace and contentment = stability
Stability folks, as far as I see it is, having inner peace and contentment, finding your purpose and striving to fulfil it as is humanly possible. Stability is realising you are fallible as the next person, being able to reach out. Stability is being thankful for all that you have and knowing that in an instant it can all change.
Married or not, always remember that life happens and it deals us blows we would rather not receive. Unfortunately, we do not get to choose which blows to receive or avoid. God forbid, should life happen and Maureen finds herself single, should she then automatically lose her stability and social standing and respect of those around her? The answer is NO. She would still be a wholesome individual.
I have shared this experience not for a reason, but for a purpose. In the immediacy of this experience, yes, I was angry and could have said a few choice words to Maureen. The human side of me wanted to point out a few of her ‘short comings’ Yes, I felt all those emotions, and felt the need for redress. One poignant point, the experience brought self-awareness and called for self-reflection. Honesty needed to come to play. How many times have I been in Maureen’s place and pronounced judgements on other people- countless times. How many people have I discarded simply because of my unfounded stereotypes, my insecurities, countless. We all find ourselves on either side of the coin at different points in our lives.
Look within yourself
Look within yourself and challenge your own prejudices and stereotypes and see people for who they are and not what they have or not have. In a time of crisis, it wouldn’t matter who offers a hand of fellowship, a shoulder to cry on or who wipes a tear. When the rubber meets the road, would you not welcome help from the married, unmarried or from different walks of life. In the grand scheme of things, whatever our status, we all should strive to contribute and enrich one other