“If you fast and pray, then God will reveal your husband to you.” “If you are using spiritual eyes to look at your partner, then you will be able to tell if he is the right one for you.” These are the types of sayings Toyosi internalized all of her life when it came to finding the right partner. Being the only girl out of four children, it was as if she was groomed to just be a wife, all of her life. All she heard growing up was that she was going to be a great wife, wonderful mother, and good keeper of the home. Every birthday prayer, every morning devotion, and every aunty greeting her seemed to always somehow reiterate these values as the most important values a woman should imbibe.

Toyosi truly believed that if she spent the early mornings fervently shouting at God, then he would surely bring the man who would “make her complete”. Those powerful prayer sessions had become her daily ritual. Toyosi was not even sure if the words were really coming from her heart, but she was convinced that if she engaged in them then her lack of a partner would disappear. After her boyfriend of four years terminated their relationship on her 26th birthday, she was convinced that her Aunts were right in that her lack of prayers had caused him to leave. The forces from her village had finally reached her, they claimed. Her education and years in the US had initially caused her to view their claims as wild and primitive, but the break-up forced her into somewhat believing. She didn’t even truly believe that their separation was due to spiritual reasons, but she decided that she felt better just attributing it to that. She would rather have that be the reason, than admitting to herself that he was always non-committal. After all, she had hit the age of official adult hood, post-twenty-five. She was of marriable age, and she was single. By Nigerian standards, her life was not looking too bright.

So, here she was. Twenty-nine years old. Single. Successful by modern standards, but failing by Nigerian Aunty standards. Her only saving grace was that she found another boyfriend. At least, friends and family members would not look down on her with complete pity. Her relationship status would somehow save her from “shame”.

It was her 29th birthday today and she was truly hoping that they she would finally get to call her boyfriend “fiancee”. Years of stalking social media and watching her other friends get engaged and get married had turned her into a secretly desperate woman. She had never desired to appear desperate, but each family visit became more painful over the years as a single woman. She grew tired of the heavy prayers of relatives asking God to remove whatever curse their village members had placed on her, the sighs when uncles realized that she had not been given a diamond, or the married girlfriends who always shaded her with the “God will provide the bone of your bone” phrase. She wasn’t even sure that she would be happier as a married woman, but the loud judgement of her community clouded her definition of happiness. They made having a husband sound so immensely important that she refused to logically question this notion.

It was her birthday and Tunde had promised her a “one-of-a-kind” dinner. She felt tonight would be the night. He would finally “pop the question”. She knew this because Tunde was a typical stand up, correct Nigerian, church-going man. He was one of those men who believed that God would reveal their future wives through a vision and he had told her that he saw them together in a vision. Being the bland man that he was, she knew that he would take her birthday as an easy way to romantically propose. She knew what suit he would wear and what bible verse he would incorporate into his proposal speech.

As she laid in her bed thinking about how she was probably going to be engaged that night, Toyosi suddenly realized that she wasn’t even excited about this upcoming proposal. The more she thought about it, the more she become agitated at the glaring thought that she might be settling. Rather than joy, she knew that all she would feel was relief. In the beginning of their relationship, Toyosi was not necessarily excited about Tunde himself. She was actually more excited that he did not come with the regular drama that past beaus had brought into her life. Their story seemed very simple. They met at bible study. He said he enjoyed their banter. They went to dinner on three occasions. He asked her out as his girlfriend. He became a constant member of her life. One year passed. And now he would propose. It seemed so perfect. It was happening just as she prayed it would happen.

Deep down in her heart, Toyosi felt like a fraud. She felt like she was desperately deceiving herself throughout their relationship.

On their first date, their waiter offered them wine and she declined and spontaneously lied that she was not a drinker. She went as far as to say that she found drinking abhorrent. With the words of her aunties ringing in her head, she decided that Tunde, virtuous as he was, would not possibly want to date a woman that indulged in alcohol. In that moment, she decided that she needed to get rid of her mini-bar before Tunde paid her a visit. She had grown that mini-bar for years, but she rationalized that a “woman of God” needed to portray herself in a different manner.

It started with one lie. Before she could stop herself, Toyosi had invented a whole new woman with whom Tunde seemed to be taken with. One year and two holidays together, here they were… about to take a more permanent step in their relationship.

Tunde thought that being a journalist would make writing an affectionate message to Toyosi very easy. It was her 29th birthday and she was supposed to be the woman he loved. Yet, he laid in bed struggling to find the sweetest words to reach her heart on her special day. He knew this was a terrible sign. They had been dating for one year and their church family had been dropping glaring hints that it was time that their “power couple” got married. His pastor counseled him. His sisters advised him. All their married friends highly recommended that it was time for him to pop the question.

He thought of himself as a spiritual guy, so it baffled him that he could not definitely confess that the desire to marry Toyosi was his own conviction.

It’s not like he thought ill of Toyosi. He liked her…. After all they were together, but something was not right. He felt like he suddenly needed time to figure out what was missing.

It was her birthday and everyone and their mother had imbibed the notion that he had to propose tonight. No one had explicitly said it out loud, but the looks and smiles amongst their associates demanded it of him. He wasn’t even sure if Toyosi wanted it, but it felt like the “stand-up” thing to do.

In an alternate world, Tunde would have asked them to slow things down. From their first date, as lovely as she seemed, Tunde suspected that he wasn’t getting the full picture of who she was. She declined to drink wine and to impress her, he declined as well. He emulated her opinion of wine by lying that he didn’t indulge as well, despite the fact that he had a monthly subscription to a service that provided four highly recommended wine bottles to his doorstep. He felt uneasy when she even used the ill-informed common Nigerian reasoning that Christians could not drink wine. When they first met, he did not get the vibe that she thought that way. However, the entire church community knew they were on a date, so it seemed impossible to get out despite it only being a first date.

So now here he was… wondering why he hadn’t had a glass of wine in a whole year.. wondering if he really knew the woman he was with while he was dating her….

He knew he would waste the day pondering all these glaring and ominous signs, but his need to always “do the right thing” would eventually lead to him to drafting a sweet birthday message and a proposal speech. His tendency for forgoing his instinct and yielding to his logic would lead him to propose to Toyosi.

Being the good, virtuous woman she was, he knew she would accept his proposal.