The aunts dispensing terrible marital advice

The aunts dispensing terrible marital advice

There are few affairs more joyful than weddings. The witnessing of two people coming together to declare and profess their love in front of God and all their friends and family truly makes for a much joyous event. The food is often plentiful, the beverages being distributed with abandon and the ululations of women pierce the air.

Everyone will be in their Sunday best, including those slithering silky dresses that do nothing to hide gravity’s cruel hand. All in all, there is fun and merriment to be had all around at weddings that is of course before the wedding speeches. The speeches will commence and someone’s crusty aunt will ascend to the stage to dispense marital “advice”.
Sadly, what she considers as the dispensation of wisdom is so often nothing more than the spewing of garbage. Her “advice” will be directed to the bride and it will consist entirely of rants of what I can only assume is a demented mind. The bride will be told that from that day all fun is over, she is now a married woman and the pride and dignity of her new family now rests on her shoulders.

She must now know her place and this place is described as a place of servitude. Most important of all she must let go of childish pursuits such as having unmarried friends as they will surely threaten the happiness of her new home. Never mind that some of these friends have been around since childhood.

Basically, she now ceases to exist as a person and must now take on the role she has apparently been preparing for her whole life, which is that of a dutiful wife. From his seat you can see the groom visibly sweating as he worries that the fun girl he married just might listen to this madness and change on him.

The bride will be frantically looking around the room for an escape, looking for the nearest exit is as this was not at all what she signed up for. The aunties who no doubt are planning how to steal the cookies after the ceremony will from their table be clapping with glee as their counterpart goes on and on about what makes a good wife.

All of a sudden, the mood changes from joyful to tense and the guests at the tables start glancing at each other uncomfortably and everyone wants to leave. By the time the “wise one” returns to her seat there is a dark cloud hanging over the ceremony that not even a rendition of tsoang tsoang can lift. What was meant to be a joyful union now sounds like a patriarchal nightmare straight from the writers of the Handmaid’s Tale.

Why these particular set of older women do this is anyone’s guess. Perhaps covertly eating the cookies that were meant for the guests have made them delirious with a sugar high, perhaps they are not used to the bubbles in the JC le Roux or quite plainly it is because misery loves company.
The servitude and suffering they have just described is what they have known marriage to be and they simply cannot fathom that the institution can be any different.

This is also quite strange considering they are its biggest advocate, always asking all and sundry as to when they plan to get married. As to why they would repeatedly implore other women to join the ranks of what they describe as a painful experience is really anyone’s guess.
Perhaps like their mothers before them they were sold a dream. Be a good and dutiful wife and you will be rewarded with a thriving family and the adoration of your husband and his family, except they refuse to see that what they were sold are lies. That kind of duty and self-sacrificing attitude did not earn them any love from their new family, all it really brought was contempt as they became workhorses at family gatherings.

The love it was supposed to earn from their husbands also did not materialise as the poor man was left wondering what happened to the love of his life as there was now a duty-bound slave in the body of the girl he used to know.

Of course, doing everything “right” and not getting the reward you were promised only leads to bitterness, and with each passing year, the poor woman turned into more and more of a shrew, leading to the husband becoming more and more distant until she could only conclude that indeed marriage is a loveless place and she must warn new recruits to expect the same.

It would of course be a lie to say that the unhappiness and coldness of marriages of old was caused merely by the aunts dispensing bad advice or even to say that for the past generation, marriage was an entirely unhappy affair. But it is worth noting that during most of our childhood, it was a scarce sight to see husbands and wives spend any actual time that did not involve duty together or share any public affection.

Even on weekends when all were free from work, the men would congregate at the local bar and the women would busy themselves with societies. If anything, a man who spent his free time with his wife was often considered to have been fed some sort of love potion.

Now I personally have no experience on marriage but my advice would be this, if there is anyone who should stand up and tell the happy couple on how to navigate their union it should be the 35 to 50-year-old couples.
Those are the people who seem to have figured out that you can be both happy and married. Next time there is a wedding please kindly tell your aunties to sit down and concentrate on the pilfering of desserts.

Thakane Rethabile Shale

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