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Treat Her Like A Lady: Chivalry isn’t dead, but am I killing it slowly?

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As I mature, I am finding that there are some things that I need to be deliberate about doing and being, and sometimes this means proactively (re)teaching myself to…well… do and be. One of these such things is ‘Being a Lady’.

Yes, you read right.

For the most part, I think I can safely assume that it is pressed upon most women, myself included, that a man will only treat you how you carry yourself. And it’s not that I’ve ever carried myself UN-lady like, but I have never proactively embraced the title. I don’t think I’m alone in this quasi-struggle either. I am a woman. Yes. I am a female. Yes. I am a lady. Hmm…sure?

Last week, Amma’s boyfriend took me to dinner (Amma, you like that ;) ). When the check came, he confidently reached for the bill while I turned around to grab my purse – this was my first time meeting him and I didn’t want to assume anything. As I reached for my credit card, I made a light joke about whether we were going to do this ‘the African way’ or ‘the American way.‘ Given that he had already put his card in the sleeve and on the edge of the table by the time I turned around, I already knew what way we were doing this; however, for kicks I wanted to continue the conversation (for all I knew it could have been an opportunity to write a blog  a learning moment for me). Interestingly, Amma’s boyfriend was visibly confused at my query when I posed it, so I elaborated… ‘You know the African way means a man pays and the American way connotes ‘splitting the check’. My assumption here was that his confusion lay with which definition was being assigned to which label. However, the look of confusion still lingered on his face following my explanation, so this is where I became confused… that is until he calmly explained to me,

‘Afua, there’s only one way, and that is the gentleman way. The gentleman way, my friend, transcends culture and continents.’

Boom.

Well looky there, my new friend taking me to school.

So of course I had to relay this information back to Amma. ‘Your dude’s correct, abi.’ As we spoke about the incident, I openly told her that even though tumblr_lxha9imnHz1r91fqbo1_500we attribute paying as a cultural norm for African men, in Ghana I don’t assume a man will pay (outside of a first date situation), to which she responded… ‘Really? Ghana has spoiled me, I always assume a man will pay. I don’t even pretend to reach for my wallet anymore. If I even think that there may be a slight hint of ‘American-style’ behavior, I will literally shame you into paying [because you will actually have to open your mouth and say something to get me to contribute].

Saa**, is that how women are rolling these days? Shaming men into chivalry? Hmm… But then what’s wrong with me… Why am I not demanding/expecting such behavior AND why isn’t chivalry the default behavior for guys towards me?

The more I thought through this, the more I saw things as a self fulfilling prophesy. Cyclical behavior which begins and ends with me expecting men not to pay (somewhere in between is me giving off an aura of ‘I’ll pay for {take care of} myself, because God forbid you thought I was ‘one of those girls’).

Sadly, this isn’t a new thing for me. I have a distinct memory of getting on a campus bus during my second year of college, and it was packed. When I got on the bus, a guy friend of mine was seated and asked if I wanted his seat. I said no [in some witty feminist leaning- 21st century I don't need a man kinda way]. The experience is quite etched in my memory, not because of the utterly horrified ‘I feel so sorry for you (and your way of thinking)’ look my friend gave me, but because to this very day I don’t fully understand why I said no. I really don’t. < So then this is the part I play in the cyclical behavior. But there’s more…

Within the last year, I went to dinner with a guy friend and I remember when I inquired why we were splitting the check when he invited me to dinner, he said: ‘Afua, you make more than me and you’re not one of those girls that cares about these things’ < Here we see another component of the circle… really one that isn’t even initiated by me.

Another male friend this year had the courtesy to ask me, ‘Afua, would you be offended if I paid?’ Noting that he didn’t want to assume I was a certain type of girl [one who likes to pay] and unintentionally offend me by paying. But if this guy had to ask, then there must be a look, an attitude, an aura that I am putting out which makes a man’s default with me be: ‘she likes to fly solo’. <This is probably the last in the construction of the never ending circle.

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Amma and I at AIM last year

So around and around the merry-go-round we go. My behavior> ‘His’ behavior> My attitude/aura (and what I believe should be). And there are many more stories to fill in this cycle.

But let’s forget about how much I make and my educational attainment for a second, because these things have no bearing on the definition of a lady. Ie. I know women who I went to grad school with who earn circles around me that I can emphatically say [a majority of] men would never allow them to pay for themselves. So clearly this is a much larger issue being represented through a small gesture of settling a check. Even for women who seemingly have ‘it’ all (whatever all means), there are men that view them in a different light than they view me. It’s a mindset difference of ‘I deserve to be treated like a lady’…. and  just because I can take care of myself doesn’t mean you should allow me to.

Case in pt: I ran my first half marathon at the end of September (whoop whoop) and something new to the Accra International Marathon (AIM) this year was bicycle escorts from the accra cyclist club. There weren’t enough cyclists to escort every half and full marathon runner, however somehow I received a personal escort for essentially the entire route. When the escort first came alongside me, instead of initially seeing it as a blessing, I went into my feelings: “Why are you cycling next to me? Aren’t there other runners you can escort- What you think I need an escort? I don’t look like a runner or that I can finish the race? Urgh.” Ya, I never said I was rational. In any case, I didn’t say anything and kept running. A quarter of the race in, he became my silent safety blanket- shielding me from (ignorant) drivers who didn’t want to stick to the inner lane, riding ahead of me on curves that had dangerous blind spots and telling me to run closer to the edge when appropriate. There was a time when he had to briefly leave my side and attend to an injured runner, and the whole time he was gone all I kept thinking was, ‘Blankie come back!’ lol ;) I do not know how I would have fared without him on the course, but what I do know is that it would not have been as smooth of a ride. Thus, being capable of taking care of myself on the course or paying the bill isn’t the point. For me, the real lesson here is letting go of control and allowing someone to take care of you. And this is mutual in a relationship, I’m just talking from the woman’s side (which happens to manifest itself in being treated like a lady).

Like I said earlier, men treat you like you carry yourself and how you demand to be treated. So this is more than the (fake) grab of the check or credit card, or the shaming of a man into paying, this is really what me, Afua is demanding/expecting and what I’m (re)teaching myself to receive graciously when it is given. We all know it’s a continual work in progress for me. But small small, I’ll get there. When he offers me that seat on the bus, I’ll take it now; when he wants to open the door or walk on the outside of me, I’ll allow it abi; when the cyclist wants to escort me, and me alone, I sure as hell won’t fight it … … externally. :)

** Ghanaian slang for ‘is that so?’

Hedging: Play Now, Pay Later

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“To protect (one’s investment or an investor) against loss by making balancing or compensating contracts or transactions.”

According to my Mac Spotlight dictionary.

A coward who’s scared to make a permanent decision on a woman.

According to Afua’s dictionary.

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Let’s get into this a little, because it’s one of the most annoying things known to a Woman. So… you meet a guy, he’s chill… hence why y’all start Chilling. And then in some distant, not-so distant future you find out: he’s definitely wifed up. And NOT in the sense that he’s actually said the I-do’s, but that he is near-married, near-engaged, near-co-habitating… near-COMMITTED (however you want to package it). So then the questions start flying, “Why in God’s name was he hanging out with me, with no mention of his “wifey”? ” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Hedging. 

The art of protecting your prized asset (your arse heart) from an investment you’re not 100% sure will produce the future returns you once calculated thought. The art of diversifying your portfolio to see whether higher returns can be made elsewhere… because any half brain could tell you that going all in on something you’re not 100% sure of is just plain stupid, right?. . . Have you heard of counting your chickens before they hatch? (Usually in reference to a woman eagerly awaiting a proposal, which may or may not ever come). Well hedging is in essence not counting anything… at all.

I’ve heard enough stories of hedging now to know it like better than the back of my hand:

  • boy meets girl (or girls), who he is attracted to. Girl(s) could be new, girl(s) could be old, it’s equal opportunity.
  • boy begins to implicitly or explicitly, or both-ly (?), make moves. ie. inappropriate behavior for someone in a “committed” relationship. This can vary in degree, from acting oblivious or nonchalant about his current relationship’s future… to making propositions such as, “hey, how come you’ve never thought about us being together; we’d make a good pair.” … to outright physical cheating. Note: in all this, boy can disclose or conceal his current relationship, this is also equal opportunity.
  • boy then comes to his senses. And… full stop.

A rather predictable fable, no?

So what makes hedging different from cheating? I’m glad you asked. The important distinction between hedging and mere cheating is that we’re not talking about people who have been dating some few months to maybe a year or two. We’re talking about people who are going on damn near 10yrs (lol naw, but more like anything over 2-3yrs). When generally it’s time to start making moves towards a forever-type situation. For hedging to take place, it must be preceded by movement towards a deeper level of commitment.

girls abr3

GIrls are tired of relationship wahala

Interestingly, (as noted in my neatly bulleted synopsis) what I’ve seen from men who engage in hedging is that they end up marrying wifey anyways. Therefore, it all becomes just a lot of wahala to make them feel more confident in the decision their actions have basically already made- – please ask yourself, what have the last 5years been about then? If that 20% of her that you’re not sure of really makes you want to step out, but that 80% kept you in for 6yrs… chale chale girls abr3 paa**. This thing is just a waste of everyone involved’s time.

I’m guessing another question on your mind is: what happens on wifey’s end? …Welt, let’s first make the assumption that wifey actually knows hedging is upon her (sadly, for some women this is a big assumption… And understandably – I’ve been with you for five years, why wouldn’t I be secure in what we have?). So assuming she actually knows, then perhaps she weathers the storm and banks on the fact that her asset can keep the investor committed, or at the very least fend off other attractive investments long enough for the investor to surrender to come to his senses. Or perhaps she does some hedging herself, to hedge against the hedging… <?> dear God, my head actually hurts thinking about this. Really, I just don’t get it. After a said amount of time, haven’t y’all made a decision? You’re telling me in year 3, year 4… year 8 maybe, y’all didn’t stop to think ‘wait, why are we doing this again?’ Whatever happened to road maps before a journey begins? Or a compass even? *sigh*

I think my frustration lies in the fact that I’ve seen a few too many hedging situations of late. Maybe it’s always been there, and now I’m just at the age where those around me are the one’s actually involved in it. I know life blogger-image--1298430667is complicated- obviously it’s not a small task to have to pick someone to spend the rest of your life with, however to me… I think we get too hung up on the picking part sometimes. When the foundational things are solidified and you’ve picked (judging by your actions of being with this person for 10yrs already), then it shouldn’t be much to take that leap to the next level, no? Perhaps if we were less worried about the picking part, about getting someone who ticks more boxes than the last, about hedging against the hedging, then we could work on the stuff that actually matters… you know, the real hard work that comes afterwards (which will happen regardless of who the woman is). That daily grind of sacrificing oneself for another individual, which will still take place whether it’s Jackie from school or Abena from the next cubicle. I mean at some point you just pick. No hedging, no temporary backing out, and for God’s sake no hedging against the hedging. You just make a decision, and stick with it. *shrug*

**Girls are tired (of relationship wahala)

Engaged.

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aaa ya, not me. I know that’s what you were thinking, given my silence for the last few months. But no, the title refers to my friend’s ex.

You know that‘ ex, the one you always thought may would come back. That one that you can’t really put your finger on why ya’ll didn’t get your act together (simultaneously). The one that captured your heart and then went on to capture and permanently lock down another’s. Ya that one. He got engaged not too long ago and I had the privilege of producing the evidence.

. . .

“Afua, you up?”

{…I was, because somehow the wee hours of the morning are my friends}

“Si.”

“I just found out that XXXX is engaged. Can you stalk his Facebook page for me? I unfriended him.”

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{…hmmm… It’s in moments like these that one must assess your level of love for your friend. On one hand, you’re her ride or die… doing anything she would have need of you to do; on the other hand, you’re. her. ride. or. die., which calls for making tough decisions about things that could possibly bring her more harm than good}.

“Hun, you sure about this? I mean there is a reason you unfriended him, right?”

“I know, I just want to see what folks are saying and what the ring looks like.”

{Now that just sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me, but let’s be honest… i get it. I’ll most likely be in the exact same position within a year or so, and I know the fight of wanting to not want to know is a losing battle. Given the question of how I would want a friend to handle the situation for me, the answer was very simple…}

“Fine, here you go.”

What followed next was a flurry of screenshots of congratulatory messages; twin statuses professing love for ‘the only being in the world to fully understand me and love me like I deserve’, and him liking it so much that he “put a ring on it”…paired with a gazillion nods of approval. You know the drill.

“I hope it rains on their wedding day.”

My reaction on the other end, a childish smile marred by a cloud of silence… Some things just don’t need a response.

.

 

.

 

.

“You okay?”

“…ya, I think.”

“I mean I knew it was coming, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t just a slight bit hurt. I just thought…  “

. . .

She didn’t need to finish the thought, because I knew.

I think what’s worse than not being with an ex anymore, is seeing them (seemingly) happily moved on while you haven’t quite yet. When no amounts of “You’re amazingIt’s his lossYou’ll find anotherThere’s a reason for everythingHe wasn’t the one for you” can mask the pain of flat out rejection. He didn’t pick you. Even if it was a blessing in disguise (even if you don’t want him anymore). It. still. sucks. that. he. didn’t. pick. you.

If you can remember this post some time back, specifically the article All the Single Ladies. There’s a story the author retells about her ex, which used to send shock waves to my system:

“After the worst of our breakup, we eventually found our way to a friendship so deep and sustaining that several years ago, when he got engaged, his fiancée suggested that I help him buy his wedding suit. As he and I toured through Manhattan’s men’s-wear ateliers, we enjoyed explaining to the confused tailors and salesclerks that no, no, we weren’t getting married. Isn’t life funny that way?

Wedding shopping? Really? Hmm… so how can one get from praying for rain to that Things_Finger_Pointing_UP?

Perhaps I’ll discuss that in another blog at a later date… But for now, I’ll say this- I know my friend well, and I know she’ll be fine. There will be a time when the hurt is gone hurts less and the ‘what ifs’ subside. The key is getting to a place where you recognize that even being single trumps being with someone that you’re not supposed to be with. And if there are regrets, it’s about accepting things (because sometimes you’ll never really know if you chose the right path), and learning from the situation and moving forward… in any way you can (even if that means deleting him from social media).

- – -

Just in case you were wondering- Regarding my last post: I never called. He did, eventually. Just not in time for my interest to still be intact.

I’m not the most traditional girl, but… (First date protocol)

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I went on a date recently. It was one of those good ones, you know where you have good superficial (enough) banter that is still character revealing. A drink or two in a relaxed atmosphere… chill times all around.

However, when I didn’t hear from the guy within a few days I casually logged it under the ‘that’s life’ pile. It was cool, there was no harm done; I had a good time and if he didn’t want anything else, it is what it is.

But what is it exactly? Because I thought things went a certain way…

I shared the experience with a close friend in passing:

Me (AE): “I mean I’m not the most experienced dater, but I think I know when I’m on a date and the both of us are having a mutually good time.”

Friend (FD): “Did you call him?”

AE: ” I’m not your most traditional girl in any sense of the word, but there are some things related to the first date that must be on the man, I think. Following up initially after the date is one of them, no?”

Couple enjoying dinnerF1: “Honestly, I don’t see what’s wrong with calling him. It doesn’t even have to be a call, could be a text message to him to remind him that he has something there… and that you’re interested.”

AE: “I did the follow up thanks text saying that I had a nice time. Isn’t that enough?”

F1: “No. I’m referring to a day or two after. There’s no rule anywhere that says he has to call first. And Afua, strong woman like you, you’re not empowered enough to call him, that’s odd. “

AE: “No, there isn’t a rule. But I think at the beginning of something, a man should set the tone. If I can’t even get a call after the first date, then that initial drive to be with me isn’t there. A guy doesn’t need reminding that I’m ‘there’ within a few days of a date.”

F1: “Well maybe he read your interest in him wrong. If you’re wondering why he hasn’t called, it means you wanted him to call, which means you’re interested. So call him and keep it light. You have nothing to lose.”

Hmmm… food. for. thought.

So RR should I have called? Are my arbitrary rules stopping me from being great?

- – -

Find out what happened at the end of this post

Guest Post from a Male Reader: My Introduction to the Returnee Woman (and some words of advice) – Pt. 1

FaviconBig-300x300Let me start by expressing my previous profound ignorance about the whole returnee demographic. Maybe I need to get out more, but to be honest, I hadn’t really given much thought to the ‘plight’ of the Ghanaian who was in cultural limbo. I only vaguely thought about returnees once, when I read an interview featuring  Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond.  She is the author of the Simon and Schuster published “The Powder Necklace”, a novel loosely based on the time her parents uprooted her from her New York existence straight into the unforgiving boarding school system of Ghana. Even with that, she left Ghana soon after that. Little did I know there was an entire thriving community of returnees in Ghana (vibrant and distinctive enough to be considered as their own ethnic group, if YesiYesi is to be taken seriously).

That all changed when I stumbled across Love African, scratch that, Rambling Roommates. Stumbled is not the accurate term here, because the blog was introduced to me by Amma via email. She found me through my blog Life in Kumasi.  Yeah, so I guess it’s beginning to make sense to you how I was so clueless about returnees, being a Siano** and all. Here’s the thing – I do know a few people who lived a while in the US or UK or U-name-it. Case in point, my three best friends all spent the better parts of their childhood in England, Canada and Germany respectively. But I don’t think they quite earn the returnee tag because they came back before they, you know, went over to the dark side (just kidding, indulge me). Then there’s my cousin, who was in Accra for like a week. I guess she would qualify as a returnee, if she had stayed. Then there’s my other cousin who came back from the US after about 10 years. Still, not quite a returnee in my estimation because he was already a teenager when he and the family moved over to the Land of the Brave. Or maybe he is, I don’t know. I’m no expert on this returnee thing. I hadn’t even heard the term before I read Rambling Roommates. And yes, even though I’m a verified Siano, that is surprising, because I happen to know many, many words.

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In a strange concatenation of events, I found out about An African City, courtesy Leila Djansi, soon after finding out about returnees. Does that ever happen to you? You spend your entire life not knowing about something, then in a space of like a week, you discover it from 3 or 4 different places independently? This swell storm of events led me to ask: Is there really a dating problem for returnee women? From watching the show and reading Rambling Roommates, it seems to me that at least some of these perceived problems are easily solved. In An African City, the women give the impression they’re looking for love, but we see them to be mostly more interested in sex. Everyone knows when you’re pursuing sex, you tend more toward variety but when you’re pursuing love, you move closer to exclusivity. So if you’re changing guys every so often, but in the meantime you say you’re waiting for the one, then I don’t really get that.

And then there’s Ngozi. In the show, she abstains from sex, and she seems to be really trying to find someone to settle down with. But if anything, she’s more unsuccessful than the others. In the first episode, she said she dated a man for a month, and the whole time the man never mentioned he was married. I think one solution for Ngozi-related dating problems is getting help from the local talent. Obviously I’ve heard of non-returnee Ghanaian women who have dated married men, but it’s not so often I hear about them dating a married man without knowing his marital status (though, of course, it does happen). There are signs that would be obvious to the indigenous Ghanaian woman that a returnee woman might be oblivious to. Having female friends who know the Ghanaian system is an indispensable resource for a returnee lady. But women, who are infamous for being catty with each other (no chauvinism intended), sometimes find it hard to get along. And it appears to me the returnee woman is no different. However, if there really is such a dating problem, I don’t see a better solution than having a close friend who has been on the ground here all the time you have been away. Ngozi could sure use one.

1461855_263166813837840_380498752_nTo conclude, I hope to meet and interact more with returnees from here on out. I’ll probably have to make sure I get a Harvard degree in the meantime, though, so I’ll fit in better. All I’ve got is a KNUST*** education. Was that a low blow? Nah, I don’t think so.

**Siano means Kumasi (or someone who comes from Kumasi)

***KNUST: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (located in Kumasi)

Repost: Family demands 100 gallons of petrol as bride price for daughter

If you are not already following YesiYesi Ghana, you are truly missing out on some great comedic gems. Given the general gray state of the nation, it’s always great to have a laugh once in a while. This is not the first time that YesiYesi has been featured on our blog. They wrote a really fun parody called “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Ghanaman” which followed Afua’s post about some of her God Awful weirdo strange run-ins with Ghanaian guys. Here is another parody post inspired by a recent post about the impact of Ghana’s economy on our love lives. As the post and this parody rightly portray, girls AND boys abr3 and no one can afford love anymore.

Enjoy!


“In the Ghanaian tradition as with many other African, Asian and some eastern European traditions, a groom is required to pay a bride price to the family of his bride as a show of his commitment and ability to financially support his prospective wife. Centuries ago, the bride price was quoted in gold, land, cows, tubers of yam and pots of palm wine. In recent times the price has been demanded in money, cloths and bottles of gin and schnapps. Evidently, bride prices are demanded in items that are of high value in the prevailing economic circumstance.

One family is reportedly asking a 27 year old Ghanaian man to cough up 100 gallons of petrol if he is to be given the green light to marry their daughter. Kofi Ghanaba, a university graduate working for a bank in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, has confirmed the family of his girlfriend is demanding 100 gallons of petrol as bride price. “I have been with her for a while now, we are very much in love so we wanted to do the right thing and get married. Tradition requires that I pay a dowry to her family. When I received the list from her father, I was expecting the usual items; ring, cloths, money and bottles of gin and schnapps. To my surprise, there was only one item on the list. Just one! I smiled to myself. But before long, my smile had turned into wailing. 100 gallons of petrol is what they wanted and it wasn’t just any type of petrol, they demanded Shell V-Power,” revealed the dejected man.

A spokesman for the girlfriend’s family explained that the demand for 100 gallons of fuel is not just a sign of the ever increasing value of fuel due to the recurring shortages, but also a test to determine if Kofi can adequately take care of their daughter. “If he loves our daughter he wouldn’t mind queuing for days to buy the gallons of fuel we require.” The spokesman argued that their request is no different from what happened centuries ago when young men had to spend years growing crops and raising animals to be able to pay the bride price for the girl of their dreams.

With fuel prices up by 53% since the beginning of the year, Kofi’s shrewdness will be put to test, according to the family spokesman. “With the frequent increases in fuel prices, will he decide to buy now or wait and see if prices drop? His decision will give us an insight into how well he will manage his home in the future.” The demand for 100 gallons will also test Kofi’s physical strength. “It will require great physical strength to carry 100 gallons, and we will be looking to see how Kofi fares on that.”

With the worsening economic situation, Kofi Ghanaba is not just feeling the pinch in his pocket but also in his heart as he battles to marry the girl of his dreams.”

She No Want Ferrari: Impact of Forex on Love and Dating

occupyBefore I begin this post, and especially because it deals with the economy, I want to give a major shout out to the #OccupyFlagstaffHouse team that worked in collaboration with Concerned Ghanaians for Responsible Governance and other citizen groups. Whether you were there in presence or in spirit, the fact that so many people were talking about it shows that there is definitely appetite for this sort of activism. The entire protest was organized in under 5 days, and there was a lot of (healthy) back and forth about demands, expectations and next steps. If you visit the facebook page, you will find a full copy of the petition but I also pretty much summed up the demands in 5 simple points on my own development and policy blog (ahem.shameless.plug.ahem). In any case, we are awaiting a response but in the interim, do make sure to sign the petition, agitate MP’s however you can (I’d say use twitter and direct it to Hanna Tetteh), and keep abreast of what’s happening (Constitution is under review, and there is plenty wahala around it, did you know? chale… ) so that the next march (should it come to that) will be even greater. The onus is not on those ‘protester types’, the onus is on us ALL! (you see what I did there… I should be a rapper, ha!)

At any rate, on to the post…


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Cause e want e my love o She no want designer She no want ferrari She say na my love o You belong to me And i belong to her o

Prolific words sung by Davido… Unfortunately… these words have not been said in Ghana since… well… the cedi rate was 1 to 1! I was having a very interesting conversation with my taxi driver the other day. He was telling me how difficult the economic situation was for him. I really felt bad. The truth is, when trotro’s raise fares, they do so in unison and there is standardization more or less so everyone must oblige. But with (car) dropping, people will sort of haggle at the same old price, as if the cedi isn’t deep diving into oblivion… and if the taxi driver won’t take them, they just wait for someone who will.

Sucks.

But then he went on this diatribe about how he has had to adjust his lifestyle… most specifically, his ability to date. I found this fascinating. According to him, because he is not able to give a girl chop money, and pay for her to get her hair done, or to buy transport or even credit, he feels unfit to enter a monogamous relationship. He was explaining to me how painful it is to ‘invest’ so much in a woman, only for her to tell you she doesn’t want to marry you but would rather be with someone else. I said, ‘oh ho… but what about the investment of love… I mean it was at least worth it then, no?” He looked at me… laughed… and then said, “Well.. I would have been better off buying land”

Ouch.

Land over love, eh? But I get his point. One point the driver kept making that really resonated with me was about how dating/courtship looks so much like marriage these days… that there is almost no point in getting married at all. He was saying, ‘If my money is your money and our bodies are at each others disposal.. then what are we really rushing to the altar for?’ He even talked about how he recently took a vow of celibacy and was mocked by his ex-girlfriend for being less than a man for wanting to wait…

wonders.

never.

cease.

So how is the forex rate impacting dating and love? For one, its quantifying it. Instead of looking at a mutually beneficial relationship that is about building a life and leaving a legacy… it sounds, more or less, like a contractual relationship based on barter and quid pro quo. Tres unfortunate for a romanticist like myself. I want rainbow and unicorns and flowers and all the warm fuzzies that love is supposed to bring. But the economy is intimidating folks out of pursuing relationships, and it’s jading men who automatically assume that I am impressed by a Porsche Cayenne.

Ladies be like "umm... can you pay my bills, can you pay my automobiles"

Ladies be like “umm… can you pay my bills, can you pay my automobiles”

Look. I no want Ferrari (yet.) I no want designer (right now.)… whatever happened to building something together? And the thing is… if you read many of our posts, you will see that there is a lot of joking and banter about this ‘ideal, made man’. But last weeks post talks about how that can sometimes actually be the compromise for us. And in all honesty, Afua and I aren’t that deluded. All of the wives that we admire, including our mothers, made grave sacrifices for their relationships. In seeing those examples, we definitely know that there is no progress without struggle. We are so here for that… We are down like the economy. Yet, even in this knowledge, we can’t entirely be annoyed at the women jading these men and making them feel like if they are not willing to pay for all your bills, he’s not worthwhile. No really. It’s not their fault.

readytogooutIn a conversation I had recently with a close friend, she was telling me about the difficulty she was having in just saving money. That lately she wasn’t able to go out much, hang out with friends… you know… enjoy her days as a single, beautiful, independent (but not in that annoying, too known, in your face way) woman. It’s unfortunate too… because Ghanaian men are missing out on this great opportunity to interact with her because she has to think twice about using the fuel in her car and about whether she wants to get her hair done, eyebrows done, buy makeup and pay for that mani- pedi to be in top stellar position for such an outing. If a woman has to decide between being social and being broke, well that’s really problematic, don’t you think? And yes, for all you party poopers, we recognize there are deeper issues than being able to afford Marc Jacobs perfume so you can be wined and dined, but focus… this is a representational issue… the point is… we can’t actually afford love anymore. And that’s sad.

All in all, the declining cedi isn’t just a matter of the economy, in this super macro, higher level sense… it’s also a matter of the heart. It has implications on the way we interact and socialize. We are already restructuring our relationships, quantifying their value, weighing them against… say… investing in land. That’s a problem. If the economic sitch doesn’t switch up… no one will get married. ever. Ok… maybe that’s a bit dramatic but you get the point… So here’s some advice for the next protest… if, perhaps, rising fuel costs, erratic electricity, inconsistent supply of water and devaluing currency aren’t enough for you to take the streets. If disappearing money, lying politicians and financial scandal don’t compel you to stand up for your rights… Well be like R. Kelly and… do it for love!

 

banksylove

 

Everything I Asked For, Nothing I Wanted

photo (1)So…

I have been out on a couple of dates of late.

And I mean actual dates, as in food and conversation… Not whatever contrived version of dating people have in their minds.

And you know what?

 

Dating is very much like online shopping.

In fact, it is exactly like online shopping.

Imagine this:

You have been in desperate need of the perfect-est LBD (Little Black Dress for the less privy). You have been scouring the internets trying to find something that can be upgraded with a great statement piece but is generally versatile and fits your body like a glove. You are going to show off, obviously, and this dress needs to make every man, woman and boy jealous of your everything. I mean, there is a general return policy if it doesn’t work out, but you want something that will be more or less a life time commitment. Something classic, and you are really willing to splurge to make sure you get exactly what you want.

How I feel when I find the perfect dress!

How I feel when I find the perfect dress!

Then—- BOOM!

You find the most adorable knee length, backless number that looks like it will be the best purchase of your life. You read all the reviews (because you are a pro at online shopping and you know never to just judge a dress by its picture). For the most part, everyone agrees the dress is cut small so you have to buy one size above what you would normally buy. Otherwise, most past users love the dress and have even recommended great ways to jazz it up with jewelry and shoes.

You. Are. Elated.

After searching for what feels like centuries, you have finally found the perfect dress.

And then it arrives, and you realize…

This is everything I asked for and NOTHING I wanted.

online-shopping_o_769815

Now back to reality. I am sure you are already seeing all of the ways in which this analogy fits perfectly well into the discussion on dating. You spend what feels like forever, looking everywhere (or rather placing yourself in the right settings to be… looked for, lol!)… you have followed all the advice that has been given. And when you finally meet the guy who loves Jesus, is about 6 foot 4 in., has at least 2 degrees, makes at least double what you have earned in your lifetime, is kind and funny— even gets a hip hop reference from time to time … and happens to be a mean chef, you realize, this actually doesn’t fit. This is everything I put on my well-crafted list and yet… I am so bored. I mean… is it me?

So here are the three ways in which dating can be a bit like online shopping— gone wrong.

1. Fit

The number one reason for returning clothing purchased online is fit (I think… I made up this statistic, but I said it with authority,

True. Say. Had to learn the hard way.

True. Say. Had to learn the hard way.

so you probably believed it. bruhahahaa). Same with dating. I met this guy, he was all the things that I thought were important in building a strong relationship. Educated. Financially Stable-ish (I mean we are twenty somethings… how stable is stable reallly at this age, unless I am going for children of oil money— which I am wildly unopposed to… but I digress). Interested in Jesus (I mean, not exactly on the deacon board but willing to come to all four of my weekly church services— that’s basically love, right?). Worldly (in the… I have travelled and read books and listen to the news sort of way— not, like… secular, hedonist psycho sort of way, lol!). Understood my hashtagging and hip hop references.  Down to earth.

I was attracted to him and we could laugh, though not the kind of best friend- belly laughter… but fun nonetheless. And yet.

He didn’t fit.

All the ways in which I thought this could probably be a great relationship were suddenly turned upside down. I mean, he was really nice and polite. And yet I fear… I was bored. Hmpf.

So here I was, having spent my time and now I was going to have to return the dress— I mean, dead the situation. I think it was mutually agreeable (shut up Afua.) No feelings were hurt (shuttup Afua.) But like… how sad is that? Plus now I am thinking, maybe I don’t actually know what I want at all… which is horrifying really, don’t you think?

2. Misrepresentation

The thing is, when the dresses are on the websites and on these mannequins and the form and body is just right… and everything falls so perfectly, it makes you feel like you will look exactly the same way. And I mean, you think, ‘I am going to lose like 5 pounds next week anyway, so then all of my back fat will vanish and this backless number will look like something out of a Vogue magazine.’ I’ll baaasically look like Lupita, but lighter… and longer hair… and wider… but yeah, basically exactly the same.

Then you try it on and whatIthoughtyou are like, how could they have misrepresented the dress that way?! Why don’t they ever have ‘real’ models who are ‘real’ sizes like the rest of us on planet Earth?!

Maybe I am a little bitter. whatever.

But yeah, with dating… time reveals all manner of things. And you realize that what was glittering about a person is actually just the glass on his watch and not his actual personality. Social media does that though… people seem so much smarter and wiser and knowledgeable on their facebook profiles. It’s crazy how reality can sort of shatter everything about a person. Nothing like spending 45 minutes over a meal with someone and realizing you have spent the entire time thinking about what you will wear to work the next day (you know you gotta turn up for traditional friday’s!…)

Plus… maybe what looked right on another girl’s arm or in a Hollywood romance, isn’t actually what’s right for you. I guess you don’t know until you know… but Sanaa Lathan seemed to have it all in Love and Basketball… that’s all anyone really wants ever right? Hmpf…

3. Lowered Expectations

So now… all you want to do is run to your closet… with your old dresses and just find something you know is tried and true and

Start to hate all the advice about going back.. suddenly the ex seems like McDreamy!

Start to hate all the advice about going back.. suddenly the ex seems like McDreamy!

may have a few kinks but is generally gonna work out for the purpose for which you intended. And here… we are talking about exes.

Nothing like meeting someone new and playing the compare and contrast game. “Okay, he does this better than Elikem… but omg, Elikem definitely got this right”. But there’s an Akan proverb that says (essentially), “There’s no need to go deeper into water once you realize it’s coming up to eye level. You should just go back and stand where you are comfortable and where you have been already.”— ok, that was a lot of imagery, but … it’s true though… the devil you know is better than the angel that doesn’t fit.

I know I am not alone in this realization. There is nothing worse than wanting something really badly, and then getting it and being disappointed. I used to joke that, if I knew I liked strawberry ice cream and it tasted like heaven, there was really no point in sampling all the other flavors like strawberry choco champagne with macademia nuts and sprinkles— who needs all that in their icecream anyway? Monsters! I have always been of the mind that ‘dating’ isn’t about meeting people so you can figure out what you want, but rather making really good friends and deciding whether any one of them are particularly useful for the type of long term affair that marriage requires. But then… this experience, and the comparison to online shopping, makes it quite apparent that if you are not out there experimenting… you may actually jump into something that makes you look fat and lopsided with a second belly button…

Tell me, have any of you found in your experiences that you’ve finally met someone who seems to check all the proverbial boxes, but somehow doesn’t excite you in anyway? Did you have a quarter life, medium term crisis and wonder whether you had spent your whole life chasing the wrong things  moment of reflection? Do tell! (and by do tell, don’t like whatsapp us or send us messages but share in the comments so everyone can see ya’ll.. #sharingiscaring)

Love, Returnee Style: An African City Season 2

photo (1)By now, most of us have seen and heard about the latest series, “An African City” (shouts to Nicole Amartefio for bringing us this one!)… If you have not watched it then shame on you SPOILER ALERT, because in this post we wanted to give our take on the show. Why? Well… because they are telling our whole lives on TV this is essentially the story of five women newly repatriated to Ghana from various parts of the western world, and we thought it was somehow relevant to our own lives. In their journey toward love the show is filled with characters of varying sensibilities that navigate through everything from getting sex toys cleared from customs to explaining to MP’s that anyone (including “clean looking girls”) can contract HIV/AIDS. There are funny moments, such as Makena always getting her period when she meets this fine, chocolatey man (see God speaking to her and she won’t listen? Nawa ooooo) … and there are the more emotional, girl-I-can-relate moments like when you bump into your ex with his new girlfriend and you are trying to decide which of you is cuter  funnier better. Plus the outfits… GOOD GAWWWWD! hahaha… I mean, I just want everything I see all at once… they should totally do some kind of raffle to get all of the outfits from season 1, I’d enter… as long as it was rigged. #ghanaelectionsstyle #pinkslipsandall #Ghanataughtme LOL!

 

Moving on though…

 

631159bc-f32a-4994-ac8e-3ef10d988d75I can totally relate to hanging with the girls at the gym or at some restaurant laughing and being generally frivolous. Apart from the daddys-got-connections-and-we-are-super-rich, I think most people can at least relate to having girls with whom you enjoy their company and have generally inappropriate conversation. I have heard a lot of critique about the relat-ability of the show to which I say pish posh. Can you relate to Kerry Washington in Scandal? Or Sansa in Game of Thrones? Or Joan in Girlfriends? The shows we love touch us, not necessarily because the characters or stories are themselves ‘relatable’, but because we identify with certain emotions and we are compelled by the story lines…

and that’s the greater point.

That maybe folks aren’t moved by the storyline or the emotion of the characters. I think when people say they can’t relate, they are either offended at the way returnee women are being displayed (see this Yesi Yesi Parody piece for more funny commentary) or, as stated before, are longing for more depth in the story.

I fall in the second boat.

I (mostly) love the show, but I am more excited to see what Season 2 has in store. I think most people are waiting in anticipation for something a little more meaty. Given the end of the first season, here are a few things I am looking forward to seeing in the next season.

  1. Depth of Characteranafricancity-thereturn

    The thing about the characters is… at this point they are caricatures. Each of them fit neatly into a box. There’s the super christian one, the hyper sexual one, the ‘down-for-the-people” one… and I would just love a greater exploration of who they are as women. Their complexities. I think that would help us better understand their love lives, and it gives us another dimension. For example, Ngozi is a vegan in Ghana. Please… tell me… what. does.she.eat!? It would be fun to see her struggle bus through Max Mart or Makola trying to buy vegan foods or the scene where she invites folks over to dinner and everyone is like “Ermm… we don’t want to eat like rabbits” or “If I wanted to eat beans and leaves, I’d join the Rastas at Tawala” or some rendition of this since we know how vegan-phobe us Ghanaian folk can be (special shout to my vegan friend who is forever “enlightening” us.) Or even the main character and Segun… that is obviously a Nigerian name and she is obviously Ghanaian. The discussion on inter-tribal or intra- African relationships would be something fun to layer on there. I mean I know these are like 15 minute episodes but… can a sista dream? All in all…I think they have set the stage for us… I think we all love Sade and I want to better understand how she became so logical and rational and black and white about all her opinions (there has to be a story there… there’s always a story). I would also like to know more about the sugar daddy she has that she secretly wishes would take her seriously (from Episode 2). There are a number of black web series’ like That Guy and Awkward Black Girl that manage to use 8- 10 minutes really well to offer you depth of character without making it super complicated or deep. I think An African City could also join those ranks.

  2. More Nuance on Returnee Living

    The pains of trying to do things, without paying bribe.

    The pains of trying to do things, without paying bribe.

    I liked that they tried to hit on issues of the returnee experience such as buying an apartment, clearing things at the port and how horrible the customer service is (seems like Zainab can never get her water done right). I think there is a lot of room to grow from there. For example, Zainab works for herself. That is probably RIFE with interesting stories like trying to register a business or engage government institutions in any meaningful way. Or trying to hire employees who do shady things or just are not up to the task you have set out for them. Or… following Ngozi to church, there are so many interesting things to be said and documented about sexuality and the hyper christian experience. There are so many ways to explore love and returnee living and I would like to see some of these there too.

  3. Diversity

TROTRO-PALAVA-boys-kasa-610x400

The ONLY boss with one s!

It’s funny that diversity is usually associated with tokenism and usually means adding the occasional person of color for visual effect. In this case, I just think not everyone needs to have gone to an ivy league or be highly connected. It would be great for us to get a better breadth of people, activities, sites and sounds in the country. After all, with all the exposure they have gotten, people are getting a glimpse of a Ghana many people did not even believe existed (yes, I get messages on facebook about how people had no idea <insert something human and ordinary> was in Africa). Trust me… the hood is watchin’— I mean, people are taking note. I am hoping there will be a little more breadth. Though I understand that this was a pilot season, limited funding, limited sponsorships, limited time (heard they filmed the entire season in 6 weeks— amazing!). So now that the ball is rolling (and the money is maybe flowing), lets get a little more! A trip to Takoradi? A visit to a cyto school (doesn’t Zainab work at an NGO… why is she living so high and mighty while I struggle bus.. I am not jealous… I am just saying… but I may be a little jealous though…)? It would be really cool to have an episode with Kalybos (the only boss with one ‘s’— duh!) trying to hit on them and they return his genuine interest with general disgust— as returnee girls tend to do when, say,  the occasional kebab seller asks for your number (because is he going to call you on his Nokia? and meet you at the trotro station? and take you to a ‘spot’ for malt and kebabs?! … chale, boys abr3 ampa— just ask Kalybos!) Pluuuuus.. I am going to need for their lights to go off in one episode… just one. It’s the right thing to do.  I am not saying they should do a poverty tour, or put tro-tro mates in there for good measure… I am just saying, find creative ways to highlight the diverse array of imagery that is here in Ghana.

All in all, An African City is a breath of fresh air, precisely because it’s different from the mainstream everyday of what we see and experience on television here in Ghana— and really in the world. They are appealing to the modern, urban chic young, ambitious afropolitan woman of this century, and so while you’ll have to excuse the general pomposity of it all, you do have to embrace the fun and free spirit of the characters. I love where it’s going and I can’t wait for season 2!

Have you been watching the show? What are your favorite parts and what would you change? Sound Off!

An African City: Episode 1- The Return

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day: Vulnerability is a Learned Behavior.

photo (3)I’ve generally been a late adopter of things… I was probably the last of my friends to switch from a flip phone to a blackberry, likewise one of the last to get an iPhone. I’m only now jumping into the yoga phenomenon, and I just decided to give this natural hair thing a real try (yay for transition period… I think lol :) ). Thus, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s taken me this long to fully embrace vulnerability.

Over the last year or so, I can proudly say that I’ve been working on my ability to be vulnerable with people that I care about. It’s been a rocky road, but I’ve thankfully seen concrete progress. It hasn’t always felt good, but it’s definitely been good for me.

I used to have a real issue with being vulnerable. If you recall I wrote about this briefly HERE as a response to one of my favorite guest pieces on the blog, by Eli Tetteh (HERE). I know that fundamentally the issue stood with me seeing it as a sign of weakness. Let’s pause for a sec, because there might be some questions as to the relevance of this post to our generally fun happy-go-lucky dating stories. Welt, 1. I think the topic is important- because, just like it was for me, a lack of vulnerability can lead to the downfall of some of our most intimate relationships. And 2. It’s my blog and I get to write whatever I want this is somewhat therapeutic for me.

unnamed (1)In any case, over the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to come clean to myself, my God, my close friends and other relationships more than I have ever done so in the past. This has included opening up about my fears, insecurities, and failures to close friends; telling someone that I loved them for a long time although I knew he never shared the same feelings for me (and knowing the admission meant closure of a chapter in my life); and yes, even becoming way more open on this little ol’ platform right chere through pieces like this, thisthis, and who could forget this. The consequences of doing these things, I will tell you have not always been as I would have liked, BUT I’ve learned a lot more about myself in how I love others and how others love me… more than if I had never opened up. I’ve learned that there is no intimacy without risk (intimacy… … into me see… … see into me). There’s no seeing into me, all of me, without risk. I’ve learned that we tend to fear vulnerability, not realizing that without it our hearts aren’t able to fully love… For if we cannot open ourselves up, we can’t appreciate the wonders of what is inside (BOTH good and bad). And this also has ripple effects on our relationships.

Be your authentic self, and trust that those that are supposed to be with you will be drawn to you, and will stay.

I’ve also learned a lot about the power of vulnerability to take relationships to a new level, and to also sift out relationships that are not meant for you. I’ve learned that people need to earn the right for me to be vulnerable with them (spiritually, emotionally, and physically)… because any time you give up power, you have to trust the person you’re giving power to. I’ve also learned that just because someone earns that right for me to be vulnerable with them, doesn’t mean they are necessarily able to handle the weight of my vulnerability.

I know I am saying ‘learned’ for all these things, but the truth is that I am still ‘learning’.

So again, why am I writing this? It’s mostly because I know I’m not alone. And I want to pass on the message… Being scared of rejection and failure because of vulnerability is in essence being scared of love. True love. You cannot separate the two. I’ve included below a Ted talk on the Power of Vulnerability by Brenin Brown (BB). It’s a really powerful video on how to have a correct view on vulnerability and how being vulnerable is the only way to fully love and be loved for your authentic self. If you’re on any kind of journey of self development or exploring why certain relationships aren’t working, I’d encourage you to watch the vid.

I jotted some notes while watching the video (for those that do not have time to watch):

  • It takes courage to show your imperfections.
  • Authenticity produces connection.
  • When BB observed people in her study who were vulnerable, she saw that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful  (which is sometimes contrary to what we tell ourselves: “what makes me vulnerable makes me ‘ugly’ “)
  • Vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness (to be loved), but it’s also the birth place of joy, creativity, belonging and love.
  • You can’t selectively numb the ‘bad emotions’, without numbing the good emotions… Letting yourself experience emotions such as fear, shame, vulnerability allows you to better experience emotions such as joy, peace, love.
  • Lastly, and this isn’t directly from the vid, but my big takeaway this year is:

Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

Amma? Readers? Thoughts? What’d you think of the video and how does it relate to your personal life?

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