My name is Oumou Khairy but you can just call me Oumou. I’m 37 years old and living in London. I moved here at the age of 19 to continue my studies after receiving my baccalaureate. My parents wanted me to have more opportunities for my studies, career, and life in general but they didn’t have the financial means. Growing up, I knew I had to work hard in school to make them proud. But also, to make myself proud. I always pictured myself a successful woman in a Corporation somewhere. I didn’t know exactly what field I would be in or what position I fancied, but I knew it had to be big. My motto in life: “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.”
Upon moving to London on an academic scholarship, I quickly tackled my studies in Finance and finished Uni in three years instead of the usual four. I got out and started interning at the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and rose through the ranks to Senior Executive – Credit Control (fancy eh 😉). I loved my career and I loved my life. I was successful by many measures.
Every time I call back home, my mother reminds me of the one thing I haven’t yet been successful in: marriage. I am twice divorced with a 10-year-old son. Marriage isn’t a motivating factor for me. Let me tell you why.
At the age of 22, I married a cousin of mine. Amid all I was doing to make my parents proud, this was one of them. My mother talked him up and I thought, “why not?” We grew up together and he was always respectful towards my parents. I decided to give it a try and see where things would lead. The marriage lasted one year. Upon finishing school and practically dedicating my life to the LSE to prove myself, I wasn’t a “good enough” wife to my cousin and we quarreled every day. I cooked when I could (which was honestly three times per week) and requested we buy food the nights we were too busy to bother ourselves with cooking and dishes. He didn’t like that. And he made sure to tell my mother. “Oumou Khairy, jigéén dafay ñeme waañ! Deel toggal sa jëkkër ji lu mu lekk. (Oumou Khairy, you need to cook for your husband – feed him!) My mother would always lecture me about cooking for him and making sure he’s well taken care of. “ Lekk moo gëna yomb si dëkk bi. Lutax mu bëgg ko def probleme?” (Food is literally one of the easiest things to sort out in this country. Why is he making such a big deal out of it?) I’d bite back. Soon, we divorced and I always laugh at the fact that not cooking dinner each night was what ruined my marriage. Maybe I didn’t take it seriously enough. Maybe there were other things I wasn’t doing right as well. But to be quite honest with you, I’m glad that marriage ended. He annoyed me more than anything – I mean how could one person obsess over cooking dinner as if that’s all I am good for as a wife. I was an individual before I married him and I intended to maintain my independence. I supported him in his career moves…why couldn’t he support me when I had to work late? Pshhh enough about that one.
My second marriage was…interesting. I met him at this coffee shop. I was working on a presentation for some key clients when he walks over and sat at my table. I looked up and noticed this perfectly chiseled face staring back at me, filled with confidence. He had short black hair and enticing, light brown eyes. He was English. He charmed his way with me and I fell for it (the accent didn’t help). That basically sums up our entire marriage. Fun, electrifying, and mysterious. But in all seriousness, it was a good marriage. We got along great when we were together. It was the amount of time we spent apart that killed the romance. I was busy with work and he traveled too much. Over time, we just found it harder and harder to make it work. I had our beautiful son with him and after years of each of us chasing the next success venture, we parted ways. It was amicable – he still tries to woo me back every now and then. And I may or may not entertain it. 😉
So, you’ve learned a little bit about my past – education, love life, and a little taste of my personality in between. Now, let me tell about who I really am. I’m Oumou Khairy Niang and I’m not your typical <<obedient, Senegalese girl>>. I made that sacrifice once for my parents in my first marriage but that didn’t work. A for effort. Second marriage also failed. B for better luck next time. Through it all, I’ve maintained my rigid backbone. I refuse to be broken by societal norms and expectations of what I can and cannot do with my life. Even when I make my own choices as I did in my second marriage and it didn’t work out, I confront every situation head on and gracefully handle the consequences of my actions and choices. I refuse to be molded.
I achieved my dreams of being successful at some Corporation out there and gained a beautiful son along the way. For many people back home, they would still pity me because I “can’t keep a marriage.” The funny thing is I pity those who are small-minded enough to think that’s the ultimate and only indicator of success. It’s 2019, honey; let those thoughts go! Sometimes, I wish I had a daughter so I could just fill her up with all these ideas of the liberated woman but then I think that might be too much – two of me! Haha.