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Friday, March 2, 2012

Love Outside the Box

A short article I wrote for The New Ghanaian, February Issue. I promise to repost the article on the blog and leave it open to comments. Enjoy!
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Love Outside of the Box

February, the month of loveJ Staying in Ghana for the “love holiday” has opened my eyes to what is best described as a love fest phenomenom. Valentine’s Day is as big as Christmas with all the d├ęcor (somewhat on the gaudy side). And it was quite cute to see almost all the ladies adhere to the dress code of red, white, or pink. Though Valentine’s Day is a day dedicated to the celebration of love, most (ahem, women) seek out the day to bank in on gifts and extra compliments and fancy food. Watching Ghanaians join in the fun has been pleasant and humorous. I used to wonder, do Africans even believe in love? I remember my dad used to bother us with his annoying comment, “what is love?” (Say that with an deep African accent…) It just bring back the days of my parents gave me “the talk”. Did you ever get “the talk”? You know, the one where your mother sits you down and tells you about dating and relationships and love and you sit quietly and cringe every time she says “boys!” or “sex!” and you wish you didn’t have to stay around for this discomforting conversation, especially when it sounds harsher with a loud, African, accent.
Then mom begins to rant as if she’s talking to herself when she recounts the few stories when some Ghanaian child shamed their parents and the community by getting caught in their “hanky-panky”. The strangest and most frantic part of the rant however is when she goes on with all seriousness as to why it is always best to marry a Ghanaian. The reasons are not many but are somewhere along the lines that”it’s easier and you know”, alluding that Ghanaians are possibly the “better Africans” (Though all Africans think they are the “better Africans”). The most interesting part of the rant is when it turns into why dating a white person, akata, or Nigerian person is a huge NO-NO. Sidenote: I’m not bashing these other nationalities, I have no issue with them at all. And I am speaking in a very general sense in regard to these rants, so please don’t go looking for my mother. However, for a teen who was too shy to even look a boy in the eye, I always wondered where my mother got her information from. Even though she had a few stories to back her reasoning, they always seemed slightly unfounded. I mean really, what makes you think all white people are dirty? And why do we insist on calling African-Americans “akata”? And I know that it is wrong to pin them as murderous and troublesome people….. But the good old love/hate relationship with Nigerians is always staked high when it comes to intermarriage. Which, by the by, happens much more than we’d like to admit or realize.  I never took to much of this part of mom’s ranting at the time, I didn’t know any Nigerian personally. That kind of changed when I went to college. That really changed when I met, and began to like one.

Oh boy.
I’m not going to go in all the nitty gritty of my relationship life but let’s just say, it’s straight from a Nigerian film. No pun intended. But as I near the next phase of my relationship, marriage, I marvel at how I made it this far with my parents still by my side. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t threaten, shout, or worry. I got all of that. My parents are hardcore Akans, they love their tribe. To see their firstborn prize of a daughter leave their trenches and be lost to a Nigerian was probably heartbreaking and somewhat embarrassing for them to admit. But given the fear they tried to instill in me and my deviance from their personal choice yet breaking through to them, I wonder why in the heck do our parents do this to us?

Growing up in the States, we are widely exposed to so many things. The freedom this country wills to its citizens is liberating and at times, appalling. I assume our parents thought they could shield us from such exposure by cracking the whip at home. So in seeing how interracial and “international” relationships exist in many people’s lives, why are Akans so keen on keeping their children in the Akan sandbox? How much does nationality and background play in sustaining a lasting, loving relationship? I have met Ghanaian women and men who have married “outside the box” and are absolutely satisfied. I know Ghanaian couples who share the same satisfaction. Then I have met Ghanaian couples, usually older ones, who have been on the last limb of their marriage for since it began. So parents, who do you expect us to listen to? What do you expect us to do? Are we meant to avoid any other male who shows interest, care, admiration, and respect for us just because he doesn’t hail from Kumasi? Do we rely so heavily on family support that we don’t take a risk and pursue a relationship from across the border? And really, what is the big deal with Nigerians? I can only wonder how many true personal relations our elders have had with Nigerians to make their stories of wickedness based on fact, and not fictional film plots.

If you truly knew me, you will know I am not partial to any nationality. I love being Ghanaian and all that comes with it. I never sought out a relationship that didn’t involve a Ghanaian, amazingly enough, for a while it seemed that Ghanaian guys weren’t in the least interested in me. I was fortunate to meet a man that was all and perfect for me, he just so happened to be Nigerian. I never for once got backlash, distaste, or resentment from his household. I never experienced the wrath that I was warned about. I hope women would look at qualities such as God-fearing and honesty as priorities in matchmaking, not necessarily nationality.  I only think about my peers and friends who aren’t giving love a chance with other cultures because they fear the unknown; they believe their assumptions; they dread the turmoil that may follow at home.

I surely don’t have all the answers and I know only as much as my 25 years have to offer me,  so don’t brand me as a know-it-all ooooo! Sensitive as this “issue” may be, what do you say? What do you think about loving “outside the box?”

1 comments:

Yedei said...

I think your wisdom is profound.

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