“If I could tell my 20 year old self anything about dating, I would tell them not to be monogamous,” says Joanne Khamisi, 38 years old, now married for four years, “I am not telling her to sleep around. I’m just saying go on more dates and don’t fall in love so easily. I used to be so in love with the idea of being in love that I would convince myself I was in love. Also, I spent four years thinking that getting married to my campus boyfriend was – had to be – the way the perfect fairy tale turns out.” Joanne says that it was not until she was in her late 20s that she discovered it was okay and possible to seek out men who fitted her ideals, “I stopped fitting myself into whichever man I happened to be dating at the time.”
Maureen is a 30 year old single mother to a 6 year old. She concurs on the idea of taking things slower. “I got pregnant and moved in with my then boyfriend at 24 – he was 26,” she says. “I don’t regret getting pregnant, but I regret moving in with him. Someone should have told me that settling down was not going to make me grow up or mature beyond my years. Both of us were not only not equipped for marriage, we were not equipped for each other.”
Maureen, who separated from her baby-daddy at 28, says the lesson learnt was that there is a lot more to a successful marriage than good sex and having a child together. “I still don’t know what it takes to make a marriage work, but I have an idea what doesn’t. Circumstances don’t make it work. Actually our chaotic relationship did us more harm than good. I am beginning to be comfortable with the idea of co-parenting – which at 24, I thought would be shameful. If I tell you I love my baby daddy, it does not mean I want to be with him. This concept has been revolutionary in terms of how I deal with men in general. I can have a healthy, functional relationship with a man without it being romantic. It’s amazing.”
1. If I don’t find myself, the man in my life will define me.
2. Not every man is a potential love interest.
“I have a boyfriend,” 36 year old Anne Kaigai says. “We’ve been dating for about five years and intend to get married. I love him but I am not sure I can compromise on the fact that he is not ambitious.” On the one hand, Anne says she is feeling the pressure and desire to get married and have children, but on the other, settling down with someone who matches her upward career mobility is important to her.
“He is a good man but I am worried I will be the primary bread winner and finances will become a sticky point. Am I being vain? Should I marry for love and commit to the financial implications? I also worry that I have invested too much (time) in this relationship to let it go. Maybe I have stayed with him because no-one else has come along. I don’t know. But then again, maybe I am stalling because as I approach 40, I am beginning to think that I might be okay with not getting married or having children. Being single is becoming a less scary thought.”
1. Yes I am single – maybe it’s not such bad thing since my career is off the charts!
2. I am zeroing in on a man with my ideals – I am less interested in values that don’t match. Maybe there no perfect man? Maybe there is no fairy tale? It sure is beginning to seem that way.
3. Things don’t always go as planned. I was terrified about not meeting the timelines.
4. I am learning the things about love, sex and relationships I didn’t learn in my 20s. I am clearing the wreckage of my past. And that’s okay.
5. I am enjoying sex more.
“After I separated from my husband at 42, I walked away having no idea what I wanted with and from men, I’m still rather clueless,” 43-year-old Wacuka laughs. “Even if my marriage had not ended, I feel like this age would still be an odd period of reflection and probably some discontent. Maybe it’s a pre-menopause thing?”
Five months ago, at the nudging of one of her friends, Wacuka joined a singles’ Whatsapp group. “A few weeks ago I went on a date with a 50 year old who’s been widower for four years. We talked more about our children and politics than we did about ourselves. I could be friends with this man; I really like him. I am just not attracted to him physically. So I am thinking maybe he is the logical choice because he is comfortable and safe. But I find myself thoroughly attracted to younger men – you know the ones who just look like trouble?! (Laughs hysterically). Maybe I should just take time and have fun with that. Nothing serious. Get 14 years of a bad marriage out of my system, you know?”
American actress Jenny McCarthy wrote a book titled Stirring the Pot. In it she states: “I don’t know what’s going on with my hormones, but at 41 I want and enjoy sex more than ever. In my 20s sex felt like a chore. That’s when you fake orgasms to get guys to think you’re awesome. Now that I’m in my 40s, sex with the lights on is my favourite pastime! Lesson learnt: Sex is much more fun when you’re trying to please yourself, not just him.”
1. I am giving up on the idea that I have to have it all figured out by now. Because I don’t.
2. I am not afraid to ask the men I date for what I want. Perhaps this has made my circle of prospects smaller – at my best I choose to look at this as weeding out the unnecessary. At my worst I think it makes me intimidating – that maybe is should lower my standards?
3. I have other priorities – like taking care of my children and my ageing parents. There’s no compromising on that.
4. I worry that there no single men my age. But I am frankly surprised about how many younger men (in mid-20s to 30s) are hitting on me. I don’t know if that’s genuine or they have the idea that I can take care of them financially
57-year-old Tazim Elkington got married at 18, had her first child at 19 and the second at 21. “By age 30, I was ready for a divorce,” she says, “But I hung in there and got divorced at 36. I allowed it to go on for too long. But I was young.” Tazim started meditating and asking questions about life. “Am I supposed to buy that you are born (to) go to school, get married, have children, make money, retire, have grandchildren and then die? I knew life had to be about more than just that.”
While she continues to have a healthy single life, Tazim is very particular about the men she dates. “At 57 you are sensible about who you will let into your space because of past experiences. The older you get, the more conscious you are of what you like and don’t like.”
She adds that she does not enter a relationship with expectations. “I don’t start dating someone and say ‘this is the love of my life’. That’s where we go wrong; we walk into relationships and make demands for commitment without finding out if your core values are in tune. We panic because we feel alone and out of time. That’s why marriages do not work. And it doesn’t matter whether you do this at 28, 45 or 70 – the result is still the same: heartbreak and delusion.”
Contrary to popular belief, she says her sex life at 57 is not different than it was in her 30s. “I have gone through my second puberty and they say it affects sexuality but it really hasn’t affected mine although, having been single for a few years, I am not sure. I have become comfortable with the idea that I am a sensual being. Years of personal growth have taught me that I am not sexual because of ‘sex’ but because of how that connects to love. Sex/making love is an intimate act and one of the most important part of our lives. Why do we pretend that it does not exist?”
1. I speak my mind. I put my cards on the table and we either click or we don’t. Dating propositions might not be plenty but when they arise, they are authentic
2. There one or more exes from long term relationship or marriage hovering about the relationship. My children have also started acting like they are my parents. My dating life is everyone else’s business. But my first order of business has been to learn how to set clear boundaries – otherwise everyone else (exes, relatives, children) will dictate my life.
3. All this love and romance stuff is not as central to my life as it once was. Not because it’s not desirable, available or pleasurable, but because my life is about so much more. I desire personal growth more. I am more focused on nurturing my existing relationships than seeking out new ones. I do not need a man to complete me. I am whole just as I am.