The great lobola expectation

“'I look forward to adding to the herd.' That is to be interpreted as him telling me he wants my lobola to be paid in the form of cows and not money as is the accepted norm nowadays in many black families.

“'I look forward to adding to the herd.' That is to be interpreted as him telling me he wants my lobola to be paid in the form of cows and not money as is the accepted norm nowadays in many black families." (Madelene Cronje, MG)

For a 32-year-old Zulu woman, returning home to an expectant family unmarried and childless can be quite the daunting experience.

I, for one, am glad that the festive season is over. While some of my friends and colleagues were enthusiastically sharing stories of how excited they were to be spending the Christmas break with immediate family and extended relatives in their respective hometowns as 2015 wound down I, on the other hand, was a lot more apprehensive.

But why, is the question that follows. Try being a 32-year old Zulu woman from KwaZulu-Natal who is both single and childless and then maybe you’ll understand. Let me put things into perspective.

For as long as I can remember my dad has being trying to marry me off; albeit unsuccessfully. He wasted no time dropping his first hint exactly one day after attending my university graduation ceremony a decade ago. Plopping himself into one of the lounging-room sofas he turned to me with a slight smirk and said: “Don’t you love these new couches? They’re perfect for when I welcome the lobola negotiators.” Mind you, at that point the lounging unit was six months old but that was irrelevant.

A week later after overseeing the early morning birthing of a calf at the cattle kraal he had constructed right next to our family smallholding he strolled into the kitchen with a spring in his step and looked at me saying: “I look forward to adding to the herd.” That is to be interpreted as him telling me he wants my lobola to be paid in the form of cows and not money as is the accepted norm nowadays in many black families.

You see in our culture dating is not something you “flaunt” in front of your parents. I still recall my dad chasing a guy I was seeing when I was 16-years old away when he came to deliver a bunch of roses to me at home in person. “You don’t bring a boy here unless you’re going to marry him,” my mother later scolded me. And exactly 16-years later they’re still waiting. Unhappily.

Other relatives and long-time family friends are no different. Suffice it to say most waste no time telling me there’s no excuse for me to be unattached and childless at my age. “So I see you’re not wearing a ring,” one of my grandmother’s friends said to me when I spent a few days in Soweto last week. “That’s great. I’ve found my grandson a makoti.” My face smiled politely while my insides cringed.

A few months ago my mother asked me when I was having kids. I told her I wasn’t ready. “Okay even if you don’t get married at least have one child. I’ll raise it [in KZN] and you can stay in Jo’burg and live your life.” I was too stunned to respond. And I doubt my dad shares those sentiments. I know for a fact that he’s still waiting for his lobola cows even though his once frequent hints have become somewhat fewer over the years. Whether he gets them or not remains to be seen. I’m still enjoying the single life too much.

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