It is unusual for the bride to meet the groom for the first at the wedding ceremony, but Beatrice hoped to at least get a glimpse of the man before then. The only piece of information she had about Peter was that he was an older man. No one told her how much older, though, and she was filled with trepidation. What if he turned out to be a monster or had no teeth? She knew that his age and appearance should not be important to her, but what if his manners were atrocious? Or worse, what if he was a cruel man? Could she live with someone who would mistreat her?
Her mother had often told her that she worried too much, but wasn’t the unknown always a worry? To Beatrice it was. She wished her mother was able to offer advice now. She would calm Beatrice’s fear. But her mother had died two years ago and her father had decided she must marry Peter. There were times when she physically ached to talk to her mother. Today was one of those times, for Beatrice was on her way to marry a man she had never met.
Her father and a younger sister accompanied her. Their destination was Lagos where her wedding ceremony would take place in just two weeks. The closer they came to their destination the more withdrawn Beatrice became. Her father tried to think of a way to lighten her concerns about the future. At last he said, “You are not going to a funeral. It’s your wedding, so cheer up.”
“I will try,” she promised.
. “I don’t want you to worry about your future husband. I have been assured that he is a gentleman, and will never raise a hand against you, and as you know, there are husbands who would be cruel to their wives.
Rose had this to say about her own case, “My father forced me to marry two men I never loved. I was nineteen when I married the first. I just turned twenty-one when I married the second. The second marriage lasted only three years. They were both far older. They were my father’s friends. Their ages were closer to my father’s than to mine.
“In the nights he made love to me I lay inert. I feel that this was not happening to me but somebody else. Besides, a woman was not supposed to show pleasure, not supposed to feel it, if she was a decent woman. That was what I was told. So it did not trouble me that I had no pleasure. But to a great extent it was due to my loathing for my husband. I hated every thing about him.
“He was not satisfied with me. And why should he be? I could not love him. He wanted what I could not give. He wanted a wife to please him in return for his name and his support; that was what any man would want. A woman was supposed to please, and to act pleased, whether she was pleased or not. That, too, was part of the unspoken bargain.“But I could not do it. Something in me could not do it. And I felt pity for him because he gave fairly to the bond called marriage, while I could not. We
were strangers to each other, although he would never undermine his dignity by admitting that he knew we were, or that I loath him. Someday I thought, someday it will happen. Something in me that I am holding back will give way. And actually it happened. One day as he wanted to touch me I screamed and pummeled his back with my fist and ran out of the house and that was the end of the marriage.”
The two short stories prove that there are occasional cases in which parents are unwittingly selfish in arranging the marriage of a son or a daughter. When parents place the consideration of their interests above that of their children, it is bad. Young people should have a say in who they should marry, so as to avoid the problems of incompatibility.
In some cases the parents out-rightly oppose the choice of their children for selfish reasons and desire for the continued companionship of a son or a daughter ahead of the considerations which would enable the young person to build his own future happiness, the young person could seek the help of family friends or pastors to talk to their parents.
Of course, a young person tends to feel that his arrival at adulthood entitles him to make his own choices and that it is his own home and not that of his parents that is about to be established. The young person may even feel he is in a position to avoid certain mistakes that his parents made when establishing their home, which sometimes does not work out.
Some of the relations of young people involved in arranged marriage are vain and pretentious. And it is only the shallow-minded who strive to attract attention by pretentious claims. Men have been known to send pictures of themselves to relations or friends to arrange brides for them, dressed in borrowed clothes. The ocean depth is mute; it is only along shallow shores that the roar of the waves is heard. So it is stupid young person that will decide to marry someone he or she had not dated for sometimes by dressing in borrowed robes. Courtship will enable the young people to know something about each other. The mark of a truly successful marriage is absence of pretensions.
Before two people fall in love, they must have met. Love blends young hearts into blissful unity, and so makes them to ignore past ties and affections as to cause a son’s separation from his father’s house, and the daughter from all the sweet endearments of her childhood home, to go out together and build for themselves another home, around which shall cluster all the cares and delights, the anxieties and sympathies of the family relationship.
This love, if pure, unselfish, and discreet constitutes the chief usefulness and happiness of marital life. Without it there would be no organized households, and consequently, none of the earnest endeavor for a competence and respectability, which is the mainspring to human efforts, none of those sweet, softening, restraining, and elevating influences of domestic life, which can alone fill the earth with the happy influences of refinement.