ACCRA — When gorgeous wedding pictures of Ghana’s newest royal couple, Nana Ansah Kwao IV and Oheneyire Dr. Gifty Anti hit our television screens, my wife joked: “Maybe I should have waited a little longer; I would have married a smart and intelligent King, as your friend Gifty did.” As if on cue to deliver a repartee, I was as quick as Oscar Wilde in my sarcastic response: “Well, some of us feel quite unmarried with the choice we made.” Then I whispered to my son: “In your next life, your mother will be a Finance Minister.”
“His father will be the President and I will be the First Lady,” she jabbed, as she pulled the cup of coffee close to my side of the couch. As a Fante couple, we have a large repertoire of jokes and witty sarcasms that sometimes get us a little too close to reality. Yet we also know that at the time they married, most couples were good to marry the person they married, and that they were the best match at the time–even if it was for all the wrong reasons. That is the mystery of marriage. Well, you can always divorce.
We may not have purposefully embarked on assortative dating but my wife and I appear to have a fair idea of the variables that make the list of those who set out to choose partners based on a rule book. David M. Buss defines Assortative Mating as an act of selecting a partner who is similar to us based on factors such as socio-economic status, ethnic origin, intellectual and cognitive variables. It is critical, calculated and deliberate. Well, it may not mean that a buffoon would always get a buffoon for a wife.
Unless you have something against them, Gifty and Nana Kwao’s marriage was a beautiful one. They are a fine pair who seem good together at most levels: They are both journalists with their own shows on prime-time television. They would have a common frame reference for intellectual discourses, especially regarding broadcasting matters. Nana is polished and opinionated and so is the wife. Gifty and I work in the same sector and have had some personal dealings before. She is a very successful woman–not only in terms of money but in many other ways. On a few occasions, she provided some very useful advice to me when I played the fool with my wife. She recommends a full apology first, a gift later and a good dinner or lunch to seal it.
My wife may have a point there–about taking time to ‘assortatively’ select your life partner. Why make do with a struggling and unambitious fellow when a president may be waiting somewhere? I have recently attended a few weddings of some very young couples who seemed besotted with each other. I have also had the honour of being at the weddings of some of my old friends, most of whom society would say are marrying very late. I married when I was 37, so I would say I also did it quite late, but not too late to know the value of the little things that made my ‘assorted list.’
I noticed that my old friends (most of them in their very early 40s) made very ambitious choices in the partners they settled for. They had built great careers as accomplished lawyers, judges, medical doctors, politicians and high-flying civil servants. The last wedding I attended was between an intelligent partner of a successful law firm and a doctor who also doubles as a great pastor of a big church. Theirs seemed like a perfect example of ‘assortative mating’ judging by their backgrounds and the caliber of guests they attracted. They wouldn’t have been able to splash out this big on their big day if they had married ten years ago. And they wouldn’t have met, anyway.
While waiting to achieve a few things before marriage has some advantages, the high-achieving woman often has a lot to lose when she waits too long or achieves too many successes in academia or climbs the corporate ladder too high. Faith Njeri Kibere, a 4th year PhD candidate at the prestigious Leicester University in the UK, recently lifted the veil off the frustration of the successful and influential female PhDs and corporate executives. Faith holds a Master of Arts in International Design and Communication Management, in addition to a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Cum Laude).
She reveals the uninspiring and miserable lifestyles of successful and intelligent single women who meet at hotel lobbies and spas to discuss their difficulties in dating and why there are no marriageable men around anymore. They see the men who come their way as immature, too young or intellectually weak. A 35 year old professor at a Canadian University dumped my friend after only three weeks of dating. Her excuse was that my friend needed a lot of mothering to be a full man. Well, my friend was 41 years old and worked as a successful engineer in the rich oil fields of Alberta.
At 29 and quite aware of the dangers in her way as she keeps inching the top academic heights, she opens up: “However, in the process of providing those equal opportunities, there is a question that is not often addressed. When a young woman scales the academic and corporate ladder, whom does she couple up with if she had outperformed her male peers? Furthermore, if she has been educated and raised on a feminine diet, which preaches that men are her equals, whom on earth will she marry, if all she attracts someone in the first place?” Faith asks: “Are we really that privileged? When will we have children if our best childbearing years are spent in the halls of the ivory tower of academia? “Is this PhD a curse of a blessing?,” she asks again.
These are hard questions. There are even harder questions for our ultra-intelligent ladies, and Faith does not disappoint in questioning the role of the new breed of accomplished women who are merely direct results of what she calls “The Special Princess Syndrome.” With so much going on about women empowerment and intensive campaigns for more investment into girls education, we have created a special princesses whose only responsibility is to get straight A’s, dress smart, go to a renowned graduate school to do MBA, law, engineering or a PhD and forge a fantastic career where she earns lots of money.
She is usually seen as a foil to men who didn’t make smart grades to qualify for an Ivy League institution, married women with no university education and hit the ceiling of career progression too soon because they do not have any wonderful professional and academic qualifications.
After piling up fantastic achievements in academia and climbing the corporate ladder to the last step, what is next for the beautiful PhD single girl? The Nigerians have a funny way of sticking out the reality: “Body no be firewood.” You cannot delude yourself that it is so fulfilling coming home to a box of files to prepare for the next day’s presentation on ‘corporate strategy’. Instead, Susan Patton, author of Marry Smart, urges our special princesses to focus on marriage first and career success later. It is called society.