Maybe we should start from the meaning of Achievement. What does it mean?
Different dictionaries give different definitions but I took two, while the reader can add more.
a. A thing done successfully with effort, skill, or courage.
b. The act of achieving; attainment or accomplishment, like the achievement of one’s object.
In the first definition. There are three functional words. Effort, Skill and Courage.
A1. Effort: Whoever is married knows that marriage takes a lot of effort both before and after to make it work. Relationships have to be built in courtship, tolerance cultivated and a whole lot of other sacrifices come into the plate before the D-Day wahala and after. That is some massive effort.
A2. Skill: Is the ability to do something well. Before marriage nowadays, intending couples go for weeks and even months of counselling either in their religious groups or from professional counselors, to learn and imbibe “marriage skills.” Some traditions isolate the intending couple for weeks, to teach them same and prepare them for the metamorphosis. When the new generation talk about “husband or wife material”, they are referring to someone that appears to have the requisite skills for marriage.
A3. Courage: This is the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery. Who doesn’t know that you must call on all your courage to be able to trust a total stranger and believe you two can give your lives to each other in marriage?
Definition B, talks about attainment or accomplishment, like the achievement of one’s object or goal. Just like graduation from college with a degree is the dream of most adolescents and teenagers, marriage is also a long term goal for most youngsters growing up. Most young people, like those who dream of wearing the NYSC khaki, dream of seeing themselves in their special wedding attires on that their special day when everyone will treat them like king and queen and if that goal is achieved eventually for anyone of them, it fits exactly into what achievement means and we must tell them so.
Depending on whose perspective you are pandering to, different things are conferred on you when you become married. It is a right of passage into adulthood in many African societies where we come from.
In many communities, that is what qualifies you into the age grade system and membership of many other groups. It is the most stable and proven coven for the cultivation of emotional bond and love, that is why even same sex want to marry. These are not shallow spaces. They are indeed what gives us the feeling of progression in our social system and no one should tell us that it is not an achievement, because it is and that is how we moralize our life choices in diverse ways.
Whereas the generations before now perceived an ideal society through the lens of marriage and responsibility, it is also true that the contemporary generation are now beginning to explore same through the lens of love and sexuality, however, the responsibility on us as we shape this public discourse, is to give thought to ensuring our references and lingo reinforce the kinship of the marriage institution. This will reflect our theoretical allegiances as well as indicate how our own hypotheses on this topic are formed.
Marriage is an institution rife with multiplicity, both in its structure and interpretation, yet many societies still consider marriage a positive cultural norm and an achievement. In interpreting the differing understandings and expectations of marriage across religious, ethnic, gender, race and class boundaries, this intersectionality and ambiguity should not lead to an entrenchment of vocabulary marginalization or open up spaces for the subversion of an institution that has remained humans’ most reliable fortress.
Agba Jalingo, a journalist and rights activist is a Cross Riverian and writes in from Lagos.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Agba Jalingo and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.