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I Wanted the “Ghanaian Dream”

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I’m a Ghanaian woman, hybrid as I may be, but Ghanaian none-the-less. I have done everything a Ghanaian child of my gender was meant to do:

I got good (or decent) grades in school.

I never came home pregnant as a teenager.

I went to college and graduated with honors.

I got married.

I had kids (though not in the preferred order).

That was my path in life, and I walked it – although there were a few bumps in the road. Pre-marital sex and teen-aged drinking are just hiccups, as far as I’m concerned. I had the capacity to do much, much worse as a young woman. Anyway.

What was never expressly said to me was what type of man I should marry… only that one day I was expected to have kids and get married. I knew very early on that I wanted to marry a man like my dad. He was independent and jocular. He washed his own clothes and cooked his own food. He had a great sense of humor. He never let the house-help do anything for him that he couldn’t do himself… and there was NOTHING he couldn’t do. My father was (and is) a bit of an African male anomaly. And because of that, I knew I would never be able to marry a Ghanaian man.

But, God, did I want to.

I wanted it all: the house in Labone, romantic dinners at La Palm, Twi speaking urchins running arounf my terrazzo floored house, and the title of Mrs. Acheampong/Cofie/Mensa/Appropriate Traditional Ghanaian Surname. But in order to get that, I knew that I would have to kill the most interesting and droll parts of myself; and I would rather die ten thousand deaths than to NOT be Malaka Gyekye. I enjoy being me.

I can’t think of one Ghanaian man, not ONE, who is suitable to marry me. Not because Ghanaian men are not good guys – there are a handful of good guys out there. But truth be told, the three progressive, forward thinking men of Ghanaian descent are not interested in marriage, and not by a long shot. They want to play the field for as long as possible. I don’t know their reasons because I’ve never asked. Also, since everything in Ghana is intrinsically class based, I’d have no chance of ‘marrying up’ (we weren’t rich enough), and I certainly wasn’t going to ‘marry down’ (I’ve struggled enough, thank you!) All I know is that I knew if I wanted a chance at independence within this “institution” known as marriage, I’d have to look outside of my native shores. I knew very early I’d have to marry an African-American.

My first indication came when I was about 16. I was dating this guy and was asked to join a rap group to kick a verse for a competition at Labadi Beach. There I was, all decked in white with my combat boots and box-braids, ready to perform. At the last minute, my boyfriend strolled up with his pimp limp and told the guys in the group that I COULD NOT rap. As in he would not allow it.

“I don’t want my girlfriend on stage rapping,” he said.

Now, instead of these other guys fighting for me to get on stage (because we had rehearsed for weeks, after all) they simply said. “Okay, Joe.”

Huh? What did they mean “okay.” Who was going to fill in those 50 seconds during the song?

It was okay. One of the other guys could do it. Everyone knew all the lyrics after all. And that was when it struck me: if I was to continue in a relationship with such a guy, nice as he was, his first inclination would be to shut down my creativity if it made him uncomfortable AND there would be a whole cultural system to support his efforts to shut me down.

It was not a stretch to imagine. I looked at all my ‘aunties’ and older friends who had gotten married and was amazed at how miserable their lives were. Their spouses were ‘traditional’ Ghanaian men… very much unlike my father. They came home, food was ready, the wife sat by him and poured his beer and if he was so inclined, she cut his toe nails FOR HIM after he was done eating. I’m assuming they had impassionate sex afterwards. These women never smiled when their husbands were home.

I had long buried my longing for a good Ghanaian marriage (if such a thing exists) but had my feelings of the fairy tale I’d always dreamed up dug up again after a lengthy twitter conversation with @BronzeLily. She shared an article written by Stella Damasus,  Nigerian actress, advising married women how to keep their men and keep them happy. It was an avalanche of bull shit; but a LOT of women think this way. You have to read the drivel to believe it. All this nonsense about keep a smile on your face when he comes home and don’t complain about YOUR day at work or with the kids. It’s something right out of 1930’s good housewives book. This kind of thinking transforms a woman into a phantom of her former self, and what’s worse, puts the onus of whether the relationship succeeds or fails squarely on the shoulders of the woman! Oh you have to read it. If you’re an intelligent woman you will NEVER want a (African) man. It reduces them to feeble minded sex fiends who want nothing but unquestioned female/spousal fealty. And even if that’s true – and in most Ghanaian marriages it is – these ridiculous “biblical truths” still painful to read, let alone accept, in the new millennium. In the age of the iPhone, damn it!

I hear Proverbs 31 is big in Ghana. It’s big in Black churches in the States too. I’m sure you’ve read it. It’s all about the industrious woman who manages to hold her house and business enterprises together. Her husband sits at the gate with the elders and calls her blessed. Now, from I understand, my Ghanaian female Christian counterparts have taken that to mean the woman should be responsible for running the house and finances so her do-nothing-husband can sit on his fat butt and praise her at the gates. On the other hand, we in the West view the Proverbs 31 husband as a man who is secure enough in himself to see his wife use her wits to increase not only her family, but herself. One scripture, two different interpretations, a whole heap of mess. The Proverbs 31 woman sounds happy. How many of my married Christian sisters in Ghana are happy? How many wake up feeling joy? And if she’s not finding joy in her marriage, it ain’t HER fault: it’s the fault of that man she chose to submit to.

Man. I am so grieved that my bloodline will eventually fade into American nothingness. Every time my children say “huh?” when their grandfather asks how their day went, it’s like a light being snuffed within me. But how could I sacrifice my soul for a Ghanaian marriage and all the crap that comes with it?

Huh???

 

 

 

17 COMMENTS

    • You see that eh? Yes! Huh??

      Chale. Imagine. If I had gotten one of those archaic models that didn’t go down? Oh I would be so miserable! There’s nothing worse than a lazy lover. It takes TWENTY minutes of oral to get me off. I’ve timed it! And then you have pastors telling men it’s a “sin” to give your wife oral sex. But me, Malaka, I can’t have orgasms any other way… so me I should suffer? Nonzenz!

  1. LOVE the article Malaka. Saw the stella damasus article on peacefmonline today but couldnt finish reading cos i got incensed. the article had a “wives, you need to stay married more than your hubby does so do everthing you can to ‘keep’ him” vibe. Who the hell keeps a man anyway? are they pets to be kept? mcheew. Moving on, i wonder if this attitude towards marriage is traditional or we imbibed it from the colonialists. We’ve imbibed a lot from them which we think is traditional just like how we think ‘African print cloth’ is a traditional African cloth. Example: African Christians tolerate all religions but African Traditional Religion. We go to chinese clinics that use acupuncture, accept Islam as one of the ways to heaven but call traditional priests ‘fetish’ and condemn them & traditional religion as demonic (eg: our late Prez Mills, may his soul rest in peace, would routinely ask muslims & christians to pray for him & entertain their leaders but banned traditionalists from offering libation at state functions). I’m asking this question cos when I was growing up in kumasi in the late 80s to early 90s, married women would mock their friends who fawned over their husbands that ‘nea waduru yi, wo guso noa aduane ma barima?’ ie: at your age you still cook for a man? these women were very independent women (like my granny whose series will be launched here before this week expires hahaha). Whatever it is, I believe that there are exceptions in every society. One of the stories, I’ll narrate in full in the series about my granny is one about a man in our village who had no problem doing EVERY domestic chore in the house when he married. Yes back in the early 1900s, there existed Ghanaian men that married women & were willing to cook, wash clothes, carry the baby on the back & bath him- so today, I genuinely believe that there are very progressive Ghanaian men. My sister is married to one, lucky woman!

    • Ekuba I agree with you one hundred percent. Many, many things African women do right now come from the whole Victorian way of how a woman was meant to act. I am writing a paper about it now.

    • Attitude must be colonial. Certainly it’s middle class respectability issues. because the women in my part of rural Central Region do not suffer men at all. There’s a proverb that even encourages divorce if one is unhappy.

  2. Ekuba this is definitely some latent colonial BS. Why should you ban libations if you are going to allow two VERY different religions pray in the same building?

    I can’t wait to read your grandmother’s series. At the end of the day, every Ghanaian woman wants what ANY other married in the world wants: a capable partner. If I want to “keep” something, I’ll buy a puppy!

  3. YAZZ! LOOOOOVED this.

    I have this friend, who wants more from the friendship-but his backward cow mentality, will not let him be great at being a boyfriend or husband-as far as I am concerned. This dude, is in his mid 20s and is of the opinion that a man is the head, and the woman the tail (WTF?!?!? Where they do that at?) To make matters worse, I’m the perfect woman for him, so much so, he wants us to get married soon.

    Unfortunately, my ‘untraditional’ opinions and detest of patriachal views, will have me singing Mrs.Carter’s all the single ladies for life-as he cannot afford to be challenged by a woman. To add insult to injury, he will have the naming rights of our kid(s)-see this is THAT kind of fuckery I can’t deal with.

    We have very divergent views on marriage and equality, and have VERY heated debate sessions that leave me mentally and physically exasperated. What irks me the most, is that this guy is ONLY in his 20s, ANDDDDDD he thinks like his great ancestor, Father Abraham, the father of Isaac, husband of Sarai. You would expect that our generation would be much better and open to viewing things from a more liberal perspective, but noooo, this youngins are out here thinking they are Mufasa the Lion, and we should bow down. Not I, NEVER. I grew up in a household in which, I was raised to have a voice, not always yes this and yes that. So, if you think that’s changing because we are married, mister-I suggest you start filing them divorce papers.

    There are still African men, like our dads, Malaka. Thing is, finding them is like trying to locate a needle in a haystack.

    -About cutting toe nails, what happened to the manicurist? Those are billable hours! I clip, you PAY! LOOL.

  4. Ghanaian sins…..hmmm where do I start? O Azonto, some pastors say it’s from the sea(how? Nigerians can’t even do it well n a fish can? Really?)
    Being single…”why are you single, of all these men?..as a woman you need a man in your life” (…no comments)

    • No, Seeta. NO! As a recently converted Azonto enthusiast, I will NOT agree with this verdict. And enhhh koraa, even if Azonto is from the sea, didn’t Christ Himself calm the waters? What does that even mean… Azonto is from the sea.

      NO!

  5. Ha! I’ve been single for over a year now (depending on how I count it) and my boss actually says to me, “I’m not asking you how work is going in the office. I just want you to concentrate on finding a husband” and I’m thinking will you get the fuck off my case already!
    I sincerely believe at this point that I will remain single or some SERIOUS MIRACLE will occur for me to meet a guy I will be happy to come home to. That said I did meet a few CORRECT Ghanaian men when I was younger, but of course marriage was the last thing on my mind at the time.
    Oh and could my ideal man please not cheat?!!!

  6. @Malaka lmao, they can tk our money but they can’t take Azonto from us, NEVER!
    @Miss K no matter your achievements as a woman in Ghana, as long as u remain unmarried, the uneducated housewife will have more respect than you. Hmmmm….

  7. Oh my, I was about to report the sin that is azonto, but I see Seeta beat me to it. I am STILL trying to figure out how people come up with such crap.
    Malaka, like you, I am beginning to think that no Ghanaian man can marry me. A Ghanaian man once told me, he was very impressed that I purchased a home but I should allow my husband to pay the mortgage when I get married. My jaw is STILL on the ground – 3 years later!

  8. “You are required to look beautiful all the time, no days off. I hate wigs and weaves I prefer women who wear their own hair except natural, non-processed hair that’s unsophisticated and 19th century village like. However in order for you to look presentable and beautiful (as always) and be my trophy wife or eye candy on my arm, you’d better don that wig or lace front – wait can you wear both at the same time to enhance your aesthetic appeal?

    Your goal is to look and sound intelligent without actually being intelligent – y’know, no need to put your Bachelor’s degree to work. As for that post-grad degree, honey its main function is to look good on paper specifically your CV. Don’t offer an opinion unless you’re giving mine. If anyone asks your thoughts on the conflicts in CAR, DRC or Syria – for example – refer them to me. If anyone asks for your point of view , defer to mine.

    Your single role is to make and keep me happy. You have no emotions worth sharing. You are required to trust me without a doubt, bear my children, keep me sexually satisfied (and do not be disgruntled when I stray from our marital bed – I am entitled to sow my oats regardless of marital status), keep my house clean and feed me. I am the ‘catch’, the ‘prize’, this – me being with you – I am granting you a favour. This is not a partnership and definitely not a companionship. There is no democracy here, your main and only purpose is to serve me and make me look good whether I am capable or not – this is after all a dictatorship dammit! And I am the captain.

    I have had quite a number of conversations of this nature although the ‘conversationalists’ cunningly used ‘politically correct’ language.

  9. I like the idea of being with an African American man; it is different with the potential to be beautiful. The freedom to be myself is what most attracts me to them. But, I find that my inate fear of loosing any and all things Ghana keeps me from succumbing to agreeing to date one. At the end of the day I feel I don’t have to sacrifice any part of me. :/ I will gladly adopt someday n raise a Ghanaian man who wants a “free to be me” type of Ghana woman.
    Malaka I like what u said about lack of guidance to the right man, its funny cuz its only now that my parent is seriously breeching the issue prekua 32 :× lol.

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