We’d been talking religiously every night for two weeks. Conversations organically developed from simple greetings to soul-baring confessions. I clearly remember one night we spoke from 9pm until 2am. We would have continued until the break of dawn if we could; we hadn’t had enough of listening to each other, but his Blackberry battery had, cutting us off prematurely.
Our new relationship was blossoming. It was clear he was interested in dating me. He wanted to be more than just my midnight caller. And that would have been nice too, only there was a problem. He was white.
Now, I was previously married to a white man, my children are of mixed heritage, so you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d have no issue moving onto another white guy. But I do. I had many issues with it. During one telephone call in week 3 of getting to know L, I, as clear as I could make it, told him in no uncertain terms that I would not date a white guy, especially in Ghana. No Siree!
Why? When my then husband and I were dating in the UK, we’d get the looks and maybe a few comments on occasion too, but most people assumed that if a white man went against the grain and dated a black woman, it was for true love. My ex-hubby’s family was slow to come around to the idea of us dating. His father in particular, referring to me as the Big Mama (and there’s nothing ‘Big’ about me). He was particularly surprised to learn that my parents weren’t school drop outs who liked to smoke dope and involve themselves in petty crime, like ‘all other Black people’, but were rather middle class medical professionals whose four kids attended private school in the UK. His ignorance continued throughout my 13 year relationship with ex-hubby until I made the decision to sever all ties with Dad-in-law. The reason? In 2007, he feigned surprise to learn that Africans do not live in trees and do wear clothes and don’t eat each other. Enough was enough.
But it wasn’t just the in-laws’ attitudes to our mixed-race set-up that put pressure on my relationship. Some young Ghanaian girls thinking any white man, married or not is up for grabs, put the final nail in the coffin. You can spot them a mile away around Accra. The Gold-digger crew, whose uniform consists of a bad weave, false nails, hooker heels and a barely there dress. To them, a white man equals money, an easy ride for life. Any man will do, but the older, the whiter, the better. I abhor them, I’m sorry to say. They represent everything I’m not, and thus I knew I’d find it difficult to be mistaken for one, if I dared agree to date L.
But love and reasoning barely go hand in hand. By week 4, L and I ended up taking a little road-trip to the Central Region. We’d booked hotel rooms, and desperate to declare to all who cared to hear it, I was paying for the trip, not the White man. I wanted it to be clear to everyone that I was not a possession that could be acquired, I couldn’t be bought like the latest trendy gadget. As I stood at the reception desk, emphasizing the words, “I will be paying; bill me”, I caught L glancing sideways at me, with a smile spreading across his face. Fine, maybe I was being too paranoid, but this was important to me, I reasoned.
Unfortunately for me, we had the best two days on the road. That was it for L, he was hooked and he didn’t want anymore excuses as to why we could not be together. So, there was only one thing for it, I escaped to Nigeria for three days to get away from it all. By the time I returned, he was waiting for an answer. We met up at Rhapsody’s. We sat on stools next to the bar. I couldn’t focus; all I could think about was what everyone was likely to be thinking – young Ghanaian girl with older white man, equals seedy.
He told me he was falling for me and wanted us to have a relationship. I continued to hold back, even openly complaining to him that people were looking at us, thinking negative thoughts. But for a man who’s confident in himself and what he wants, he was undeterred. Now, we’ve been together for about 18 months, so it’s clear that I caved. However, I still become self conscious of us as a couple. Only last Saturday, I met him at the arrivals lounge in the airport. He came forward, his lips ready to lock onto mine; I offered my cheek instead, still too self-aware. As we walked out to meet the heat and bustle of Accra, I secretly found myself wishing I had a ring on my finger, so that others wouldn’t assume I was the young gold digger type he was just about to spend one night with.
Strangely though, after Nana asked me to write this contribution, only one conclusion came to mind concerning my predicament – I was the biggest perpetrator of the negative stereotypes. I have a problem with young Ghanaian girls dating white guys. When I see mixed-race couples around town, I generally tend to think the worst – but that could be because I’ve seen too many false set-ups in Ghana to believe that many are genuine. It doesn’t help that most white guys, while in Ghana, do choose to date Ghanaian girls, treating them as some toy they’ve procured for themselves as a reward for finally making it ‘big’ in life. They were the late-starters in life, the ones who no girl would date when they were young geeks with little money. Now, they are old geeks with wads of cash and what better way to enjoy it than with a tiny, docile Black living doll (who’s willing to do anything their hearts desire for a dollar bill). So does L fit into this stereotype, you may ask? Quite frankly, no! L has dated women from across the globe, for many decades. He says he prefers Black girls though, dating them exclusively for more than ten years now. He loves our smooth skin – the darker the better, our toned physiques, and wrinkle-free features. He also loves the diversity of our hair, like a chameleon, we can change our image in a matter of hours. He tells me regularly that he chose to speak to me the fateful night we met, because to him, I was the most beautiful girl there. And since then, he’s grown to love me for who I am.
This leads me to the reason for this post. Earlier today, Nana forwarded a request from an avid Adventures reader, wanting to read the experiences of someone who’s been in mixed-race relationships. To that reader, I’d like to share this simple truth – if you love him, and he loves you, colour really doesn’t matter. People are people. A few months ago L told me that he’s surprised when people highlight the fact that I’m black to him. All he sees is Me, Ms W, the ‘love of his life’. What do I see? The man I love, the man I’m so compatible with despite his age, colour or nationality.
But, if you want more practical advice, this is my simple guide to making a mixed-race relationship work in Ghana:
- DON’T fix a cheap looking weave (or a weave at all) if you want the outside world to see you as a genuine couple. Shallow I know, but bad weaves and falsies are the standard ‘look’ for gold diggers.
- In addition, flash a little flesh but not everything. Steer clear of hooker heels, especially when visiting the bars.
- Be prepared for his colleagues and friends to assume at first that you are an airhead. Be ready with witty one-liners that would leave them in no doubt that you have a working brain.
- Share your feelings and concerns about your relationship with your partner; he can help to make you feel more comfortable. For example, a good Nigerian friend of mine is married to a Dutch oil guy. She’s a housewife, but she handles their money, even in public eating places. He never puts his hands in his pocket. She always carries the cash and deals with the bills / workmen/ staff etc… This makes them feel like equals and reinforces the team that they are. When L and I go out, I contribute to evenings out too, unless L wants to treat me.
- Know that your man respects you and will defend you if anyone says anything negative about you and your relationship. For example, a good friend of L’s visited Ghana recently. He’s currently having an illicit affair with a twenty-something unemployed, uneducated south African, whose bank account he replenishes every month. He made the cardinal sin of comparing her to me, and L gave it to him, making it clear to him that I was nothing like his mistress. Not all African girls are the same, and not all white men are interested in just your body. I was pleased that he did defend me, and that when you insult me, you insult him. He’s on my side all the way.
- And last but not least, know your man and love yourself. Dating outside of your race in Ghana is not particularly easy. There are stigmas and insinuations attached to it, which we are all guilty of making, but if you really get on well with each other, and both of you have a healthy view of each other, then love can conquer all. Even narrow-mindedness.