Category Archives: Marriage

Is Marriage The Silver Bullet to Ending Poverty?

There has been an interesting discussion brewing in social media about the benefits of marriage as they relate to “ending poverty”. It’s no mistake that this discussion is taking place now. We’re in an election year and politicians are pandering to their respective bases. Everyone, Democrat or Republican, wants to be seen as serious on the issue of poverty reduction, but as is to be expected, they cannot seem to agree on how to handle it. What’s even more frightening is that they cannot be seen as agreeing on how to tackle the issue. There’s a dirty word in Washington called “bipartisan”, and few politicians want to be called the “b” word.

The Heritage Foundation has termed marriage as “America’s #1 Weapon Against Childhood Poverty”, and for good reason. The statistics speak for themselves. Children who live in two parent households are less like to have behavioral problems and perform better in school. One in eight children with two married parents lives below the poverty line compared to the poverty of 65% of children residing in female-headed households. When you have a better foundation to launch from, it gives one the opportunity to build generational wealth. It takes three generations to build wealth: one to generate an idea, the second to perfect its method, and the third to propagate it.

The converse is true as well. A poverty mentality is generational.

Photo courtesy of Black Girls Code

Photo courtesy of Black Girls Code

As it relates to proliferation of childhood poverty, many have argued that this has more to do with the feminization of poverty than it has to do with the benefits of marriage. Women today make 72 cents for every dollar a man earns doing the same job. It is by no mistake that web designers and mechanics out earn daycare workers and teachers, despite the fact that neither job is more taxing than the other. Even in a society as egalitarian as ours (relatively speaking), there has long been a push to bar or discourage women from certain kinds of work or study – including math, science and mechanics – because it’s not considered suitable to their gender. It is only in recent years that there has been a push for STEM programs targeting young girls, especially African American girls, which I find particularly pleasing. No one has been more vilified and demonized for her poverty than the young, single Black mother.

It is well documented that poverty in the Black community was engineered by the American government. At its advent, it was stipulated that in order to get welfare benefits and social assistance, a poor mother had to be single with no male above the age of 18 (i.e. of working age) living in the home. Between 1960 and 1985 when the welfare culture exploded, under/unemployed Black males were driven from their homes to ensure the survival of their children. As a result, Black mothers took on the reluctant role of both mother and father and an entire welfare culture was created. It’s a daunting and humiliating experience. When I found myself pregnant and unwed with my first child, my first foray into the sordid world of welfare was to the WIC office on Roswell Rd in Sandy Springs. It’s as though every person hired in that office was screened for the ability to make a woman feel less than a failure, like she was born to be an intentional drain on society. I’ll never forget a blue and white sign that hung by the exit door that read “Get a job, so that your child will not be the next person on welfare”. I looked around at the young women: college students, retail and fast food workers, and para-professionals like myself, and wondered what they thought of it. For my part, I felt violently ill.

Isn’t it ironic that when a rural farmer applies for a government subsidy, he is not asked to put his wife out of the home to obtain it? Or when the CEOs of the banking and automobile industry went with cap in hand to the government for a bail out, they were not required to break up their families? But the government has no problem separating the families of the poor and colored. Interesting.

And no, we can’t blame this on one party or another. Both Republicans AND Democrats are guilty of the demise of the Black family. They created our nation’s dreaded Welfare Queens and crowned them with food stamps and SNAP cards. I wonder if they are proud.

It’s not often that I get to agree with my hardcore feminist sisters, but in the instance of marriage failing to be the silver bullet to ending poverty, I do. Marriage alone doesn’t end poverty: equality, education and opportunity do. There are many cultures in developing nations where marriage is a priority – the priority in some cases – and their poverty levels are far more abysmal than those of the United States’. If marriage alone could cure poverty, then all my sisters in the Serengeti would be flushed with wealth. After all, they marry them off young and circumcised, don’t they?

The best thing a woman can do for her family is to educate herself, travel, learn new languages and earn an independent income for herself. That is how we will reduce poverty in this nation and the world over. That is how we will build generational wealth…or self-sufficiency at the least.

The truth is we can do our best to manage poverty, but it will never truly be eliminated. Jesus said so Himself.

 

Mark 14:7 “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.”

Don’t believe the hype. Get married if you want to, but unless you’re marrying Ben Bernanke or Oprah, don’t assume for one moment that it’s going to zap all your money woes.

The Charmed Life of the Female Bowerbird

Men. They are SO convinced that they are at the apex of the animal kingdom; that by virtue of the fact that they are men, they are inherently superior to all other life on earth.

When a man encounters an animal that runs faster, swims quicker or is more ferocious in the face of conflict, what does he do? He builds a bullet or a harpoon to destroy the “lesser” being. This is the only way to secure his self-anointed status as the premier being of the animal kingdom! Every day, men set out to prove this idea to themselves, to their male counterparts, and to the women they are compelled to woo and despise for their need to woo. But for all their brawn and bravado, there is one being in the animal kingdom that the human male will never be more accomplished than – and that’s the Vogelkop Bowerbird.

Look at this. Look, I say!

That’s right. No matter how many nouveau mansions Kimora Lee Simmons allows Russell to buy her, none will EVER be as fabulous as the female Vogelkop Bowerbird. In fact, I don’t think there is a woman alive or yet to be born who could hope to have as attentive or dedicated a mate in the wooing process as the bowerbird. We may as well give up hope as a race!

Sometimes I look around on social media and listen to the complaints of men in awe.

Are you really griping because you spent fifty bucks on pizza and two movie tickets to see Captain America?

Bowerbird, niggro.

Dude, you want this chick to get naked and give you sex in exchange for what? Or yeah – that’s right – having sex in exchange for something makes her a “whore”, so you’d rather her be a fool and get nothing in return when a FREAKING BIRD spends two years gathering beetles of the same hue and building the equivalent of Jefferson’s Monticello by beak to woo a potential mate.

Bowerbird, NIGGRO!

Huh? You said what? Money can buy love because women fear poverty? How much money do you actually have? It’s not like you’re Bill Gates on your under $35K a year job. What can you really afford that’s of value? Oh wait, you don’t have to BUY anything to get love…you might try some freaking innovation, creativity and dedication to your cause as you immolate what? Say it with me:

A BOWERBIRD, NIGGRO!

About a year ago, I got caught watching videos of the male bowerbird and found myself quite perplexed. I mean, how was this possible? Female bowerbirds are single mothers and do not ‘need’ the companionship of the male. They only use them for mating and then live solitary lives. I’m sure this suits the male bowerbird just fine, but how is it that a bird can put so much more effort into getting laid than a human man who gets a college degree (at best) or sells crack on the corner (at worst) does? The bowerbird doesn’t turn around and complain about how much he spent on a date. You know what he does? He develops a number of songs in different timbres to attract the right female!

bowerbirdIt’s absolutely incredible. I think about how far the concept of romance has fallen with the advent of technology. I mourn for the hapless girls in my neighborhood walking to the corner store or the bus stop as scrub males lean out of the side of their cars, cat-calling and making obscene remarks at their retreating backsides. It breaks my heart. I know that in this 21st Century environment, they will NEVER be spoken to as the queens that they were born to be. We are not raising gentlemen in our society anymore: just ill-mannered dudes who broadcast their seed like rogue Monsanto germs on a windy day. I desperately want to run up to these girls and cry out “Take heart! Though you will never have the fortune of being wed to a bowerbird, you can at least hope for something better!”

After all, crows are very fond of stealing shiny things – such as tin foil and dimes – and bringing them back to the nest to boast to the murder.(That’s what a family of crows is called by the way. A “murder”. Why do black things have to be identified by so sinister a name?) If a man can’t be a bowerbird, he can at least aspire to be a crow.

I read somewhere that a bowerbird bower was once adorned with a chandelier that the male had built out of string, bottle caps, flower petals and twigs. And you’re really going to sit up here and complain because the chick you asked out refused to “give it up” right after you purchased the 2 for $20 fried chicken dinner? When was the first or last time you crafted something with your mouth? Man…You know what? Duck you.

Well Malaka, what does the male bowerbird get in return for all his efforts, you ask. Why should he toil and strain and slog just to win the affections of a female? For the same reason the human male does (or should), I suppose: To satisfy his ego…and because he is convinced of his excellence and is dead set on proving it to the world.

There’s a scripture in the Dating Torah that every woman should read and recite:

Seek ye the bowerbird

Consider his ways and choose your mate wisely.

 

Okay; fine. There is no Dating Torah. I made it up. But if there was, this scripture would be in there, right under Rules for Leaving Your Pubic Hair on the Toilet Seat!

 

Are you dating/married to a bowerbird? Would you want to be? Is it too much for a woman to ask for color coordinated beetle wings and vibrant fungus??? Discuss! ↓

Could You Marry a Man who Has Had HUNDREDS of Sexual Partners?

Whew! MOM Squad. This is the question that has been burning on my mind all weekend. I must unburden myself. In the process, I’m going to do my best not to disclose anything that might give this couple away in case they are watching this space, but let’s get into it!

I got a call a little over a month ago from a man who used to be a friend of mine. He was weeping. Sniveling like a child who’d had his favorite toffee stolen from him by the schoolyard bully. I rolled my eyes and asked him why he was calling.

“I know you’re going to think I’m an a**hole for asking you this, but I really need a friend right now,” he sobbed. “Can you tell me what you like about me, and what you don’t like about me?”

Que? Where was all this coming from, I wondered? And better still, why was he calling to ask ME? As he said, we were not friends, and he knew he had some gall asking me to be one to him in that moment. At his request, I rattled down a short list of his vices. He was a liar, a thief, he broke and made promises he didn’t intend to keep.

“But you’re a liar, above all,” I reiterated. “However I think you try to be a good person and you have a good sense of humor.”

What else was there to say? Nothing, for my part. He began to rattle off a list of what he thought his best attributes were. I sat and listened silently. Then he started to weep some more. He was afraid that he didn’t deserve anything good in life, that he had done so much dirt in his life that it would haunt him, and that he didn’t deserve to get married.

“Ah. This sounds like something you need to talk to your fiancé about, not me,” I retorted.

He was silent for a moment, until he concluded that he would talk to her.

“I think it’s important that you start your marriage off with honesty,” I advised. “If there are things in your past that are haunting you, and furthermore have you calling me for solace, then you need to talk to her about them so that they don’t crop up later in your marriage. You’ve hurt a lot of people.”

“Oh, she knows everything,” he said brightly. “I’ve told her everything, and she says she doesn’t care about the past. That’s why I love her so much.”

“Then you have nothing to worry about,” I replied sardonically.

I recently had the opportunity to meet my former friend’s fiancé by chance. The meeting was unremarkable. We shook hands, obligatorily stated that it was ‘nice to meet’ each other, and went our separate ways. Knowing him as well as I do, I had to wonder about her. She is slight in build, light skinned, shoulder length hair. There is nothing about her that is noteworthy. She literally could potentially commit the perfect crime and get away with it, because she so effectively fades into the scenery.

In regards to my former acquaintance and his lurid, rampant sexual past and his newest conquest, I know that there are a few possible scenarios:

i)                    He did not tell her everything about what he’s done in the past, and if he did, he glossed over the details without entertaining questions

ii)                   He DID tell her everything and she is desperate or unquestionably stupid

iii)                 He told her nothing at all and spun me a tale to save face. Telling her nothing ensures that he gets to keep his meal ticket, as I have come to understand she is quite well-to-do and he has a track record of depending on women to finance his lifestyle.

Could she really know that his man has had hundreds (and this is not exaggeration) of sexual partners, that he has a heap of abortions to his credit and kids littered about the country – nay, the globe – that he either doesn’t provide for financially or barely does at all AND STILL NOT CARE??? Why…because she “loves “ him? Well, this is America, and Black women actually are that desperate. So much of the Black female population suffers from emotional destitution that they become willing martyrs for the cause of gaining that elusive fairytale we’ve all been sold. I suppose this is why you can end up marrying a drug head, a wife beater, or a man-whore who has slept with HUNDREDS of women and still not care!

Good, heavenly Gawd.

I once had an airline stewardess give me a sage bit of advice. She said: “No matter who you are, you are somebody’s cup of tea.” I suppose she was right. You can’t be a king if you don’t have a court jester, can you?

What say you, MOM Squad? Is this too judgmental on my part? Ladies (and gentlemen too) would/could you be able to commit to someone who has willingly had so much sex – protected and otherwise – with multiple partners? Furthermore, what are you risking when you decide not to care about anything in your partners past? Discuss! ↓

Black Men Want to Be Treated Like Pets

A more fair title would have been ‘SOME Black Men Want to be Treated Like Pets’, but the little quantifier – some – wouldn’t’ve made you click as quickly on this link as you did, would it? Welcome to my little web. Muahahahahaaaa….!!!!

I shan’t keep you long at all. This is a hard core, two minute rant. It’s all the time I need.

Can I tell you something, MOM Squad, Random Readers and Trolls? I’m sick. And I’m tired. I’m sick of certain Black men relying on this pervasive, trusted Gold Digger Meme when they can conjure no other intelligent alternative, and I’m tired of Black men lumping all Black women in the same decrepit, disgusting kettle as the low-life women they choose to associate with.

There; I said it. And if you ask your momma she’ll agree with me.

Have you seen this video?

It came out in 2012 to mixed reaction. Some people thought it was the most ‘hilarious thing they’d ever seen’, and others took great offense to it. Generally, the people who found deep humor in this plot are the same broad intellectuals who found the infamous Harriet Tubman skit funny. I saw it, and was content to disregard it until I read a post on Facebook that showed me we still have SO FAR TO GO. The person is no longer my friend (in neither the virtual nor real sense), so I will have to paraphrase the status that has sent me into such a tailspin of disgust, despair and anger.

“Relationships in Ghana are transactional. Whereas women in the West are interested and appreciate a man for his personal attributes like kindness or intelligence, Ghanaian women are only interested in how much money you have to buy a house, shoes, cars…”

He used a plethora of emojis to illustrate his status, which was sad, considering that this man is nearly 40 years old and should know how to use appropriate verbs and nouns… or at least access the Miriam-Webster app to help him out.

I didn’t confront him on his wall, instead choosing to make my feelings known on my own e-real estate, which I will share with you now:

All these Black men yammering about Black women – whether they be on the Continent or in the Diaspora  – only wanting to be in relationship for transactional gain, and worse, comparing these women to the extolled perceived virtue of Western (read White) women are hypocrites of the highest order. As thought a Black woman didn’t give you life. As though it wasn’t Black female hands who nursed you when you were sick. As though the woman whose internet/cellular plan you’re using right now to expound this primordial thoughts herself is not Black! Shame on you all!

Every relationship is transactional in some form. If you’re so pious, why don’t you get up and go to work for your employer (if you have one) for free? Are you also not involved in a “transactional relationship” with the corporation who signs your check? Even the air you are breathing right now is based on some form of transaction. You breathe out carbon dioxide and the trees, in all their benevolence provide you with clean oxygen to breathe back. Idiots.

Let me tell you something about women in general. It doesn’t matter where you live or where you’re from, there are women who will only want you for what you can provide materially. That goes for Canadian women, Peruvian women, French women and yes, even Ghanaian women. The converse is equally true, where some women would never give you the privilege of providing for them because of insipid reactions like this. And yes, providing for a woman IS a privilege.

You Black men of this particular order, so quick in your judgments to tell Black women to close their legs, to knight us as Gold Diggers, to christen us ratchet…I can’t begin to express how violently ill you all make me. I’m sick of fighting for a group of people who cannot stand up for me. You will NEVER find a woman more dedicated to the cause of the Black male than the Black woman, yet you continue to spit on us. What’s worse? After you’ve found your precious prize – a woman with skin like milk – you come crawling back to our beds so that we can birth your bastard Black children. How many of you have admitted to me in private that though you love your wives/girlfriends, you still want a “Black boy that looks like you”? Am I supposed to feel pity for your choices?

Tsewwww….

You lapdog of a Black man! You really think these women are interested in you merely because you are “kind”? Don’t fool yourself. She wants her nice house just as much as we do.  In most cases, when dealing with African men in particular, it’s because they are intrigued by the mystique of the Black man; by what they cannot understand and have never known. There is no mysterious aura for Black men as for Black women to be in awe of. We can read you. We KNOW you. This is why when I told said man in reference when he half-threatened to come at me swinging that NO ONE was scared of him swingin’, he backed off, tucked tail and was compelled to hit the unfriend button. How can I be scared of someone I gave birth to? I’m his momma and his momma is me!

I have never wanted to be at war with Black men. I grew up with a loving, wonderful Black father and a fantastic little brother who has morphed into an even better Black man. I support Black men because for the longest time, all we had was EACH OTHER.  I don’t understand this train of thought that some of you single cell-brained organisms employ. It’s like you barely have cognitive capacity. Have you ever heard a Chinese or Caucasian male disparage their women in the manner and frequency that you do? And yet the Chinese and Caucasian woman has the same expectations (if not more) that the Black woman does: that you get up, go to work, dream of a vision for your family and yes – provide. These are just the basic requirements of being a man…but some of you – and enough to form an entire special group – want to be treated like pet projects. You want a woman to Molly coddle you, tell you how wonderful you are when you just for getting out of bed, and bankroll your lifestyle. I believe you call it “pimping”. Whatever. You’re a project, not a catch, and you are the type of men we all need to be content to let women of other races have.

But do me this ONE favor, will you? Instead of casting a shadow of blame and ridicule over ALL Black women, consider the dating pool from which you’re fishing and examine yourself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make myself a sandwich.

It Took a Man To Help Me Understand Why Oprah Never Married

The Championships - Wimbledon 2013: Day OneCondi Rice is back in the news. It appears she has been tapped to join a 12-18 person selection committee for the BCS. Pat Dye, 70-something year old former Auburn University coach, couldn’t be more explicit his displeasure. Of Ms. Rice’s experience he says “All she knows about football is what somebody told her. Or what she read in a book, or what she saw on television. To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.”

Indeed.

Considering that virtually every political pundit on television in this country has never run for (let alone held) office, or that male gynecologists have never given birth to babies, I’d say that Ms. Rice is in right good company. Most everyone we consider to be an “expert” in a given field learned what they know through a book and/or someone telling them about it. Quelle horreur!

I have to wonder about Mr. Dye’s utterances. Are they racist? Sexist? Just plain crazy or a mixture of all three? I surreptitiously posed the question on Facebook to see what the feedback would be, and the response I got from one gentleman in particular was so breathtakingly regressive that it made my heart skip a beat. What did he have to say, you ask?

condi single

Is she still single? What on God’s Good Green Earth does that have to do with the topic of her expertise? This is Condoleezza Rice we’re talking about here! Concert pianist, pro-grade golf playing, former Secretary of State to the last bloody Super Power on the bloody globe and you want to know if she is still single??

And then it hit me and my bewilderment was replaced with a flood of enlightenment: Oprah was right.

Just come with me. I’ll show you what I mean.

In a recent interview, Oprah Winfrey (who is one of the wealthiest people on the planet, and certainly one of the richest Black women) was asked if she would ever marry Stedman, her beau of nearly 30 years. She answered emphatically (and with finality) that she would “probably leave this Earth an unmarried woman.” I’m sure quite a few clergy men and women’s souls along with their garb were rent asunder all over the Black community with that utterance. How could Oprah champion such a notion? That a woman should not be married? Isn’t that the prize we as a gender all strive for – to be some man’s personal trinket… err wife? According to the likes of Mr. McKinney, it is. Because after all, what is a woman if she is unmarried?

Many years ago when Oprah’s show was still on the air, she walked into the audience holding a personal camera so that people could get a view from her perspective of what it’s like to walk into a live studio audience on the Oprah Show. As women (and men) squealed, applauded and threw their hands up adoringly as she approached, Oprah said from behind the camera:

“This… THIS is why I never got married.”

You could hear the smile in her voice. I remember sitting on the couch with a baby in my lap feeling highly offended. What did she mean “this is why she never got married”? So some people clap for you and you get to talk on a stage, and…and so what? Fast forward a decade later and I finally get what she meant. It wasn’t the applause itself she was referring to; it was her accomplishments; her struggle, sweat and effort thus far that had brought her to that pivotal moment in time. She was Oprah- no last name needed -Winfrey.  Could she really have gotten that far, as a Black woman, with a ring on her finger? History and sociology says not.

Like all women, Black women live under a certain set of expectations. Oprah herself said one of such expectations of a wife is for her to “come home sometime”. And it’s true. A man generally wants his wife at home, unless he’s cheating on her. Oprah, like Condi Rice, does a great deal of traveling to support her work. Unlike men, women are expected to hold down the home front and keep it comfortable for their partner’s return. But when you’re trying to change or save the world, you can’t be worried about whether or not your husband ate that morning or if he remembered to take out the trash or even if he’s feeling lonely for any length of time. They say behind every great/successful man, there is a (strong) woman, but who is championing the cause of women in their quest for equal measures of greatness or success?

Let’s just be very clear here: women do not NEED men. Little girls do. This is why they start selling the idea of marriage to little girls as early was “they” can, before she has a chance to discover her power and potential.

A woman’s relationship with a man is all about her level of maturity. A woman wants a man, but in that same vein a mature woman knows that the absence or presence of a man in her life is not going to end, or more importantly, define her existence. The Bible says so.

Genesis 2:18 says:

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

It is not good. For MAN to be alone. I will make a HELPER suitable for him.

Men need women because MEN need help, not the other way round. You ask any woman over a certain age and she’ll tell you that all she needs in this world is a great work of fiction, some good food and a gaggle of friends and she’ll live a long, happy and healthy life. The most valuable gift a man can offer a woman is the gift of companionship, and good companions don’t hold each other back. I can’t think of a single man who has the courage to be defined as “Mrs. Winfrey” or “Mrs. Rice”, which is why these women and those like them will remain unmarried. Men are just too weak.

The next time some barrel chested bloke or some gossipy woman with no ambitions other than to dress herself up to attract said barrel chested bloke poke fun at you or any other woman in her pursuit of excellence, keep that in mind.

Is Condoleezza Rice still single indeed? Yes! Probably… and good for her!

My First Ghetto Wedding

I sat up last night and counted. Nine seems about right. In thirty-five years of life, I have been to nine weddings, including my own. They all followed the same format: A selection of Ave Maria sung by the bride’s best friend; a few words about love in general, God’s love in particular, and a plea for each of the congregants to help the couple preserve their marriage; a first dance and the cutting of the cake. Sprinkle on some liquor, a few cigars, some kente cloth or a bagpipe for the sake of diversity (depending on which part of the globe you find yourself) and poof! You’re married!

None of that happened at the wedding I attended this weekend – at least not in the order one who has attending her share of weddings has attended. For you see, just like Indian weddings, Ghetto weddings are in a cultural class of their own. Had someone warned me, I would have spent more time enjoying the event and less spectating like some avid bird watcher on safari.

June – my 27 year old neighbor and mother of three – has been trying to get her baby daddy to marry her for years. She’s not religious and comes from a broken home herself, but has recently come to acquire strong convictions about the way she wants her children to be raised and what kind of example she wants to set for them as a parent. Although I have only met him twice, I am sure that these new convictions came as an inconvenient surprise to Craig, who was very much content to screw his girlfriend during the week and skip off to the club on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. And yes, I said “screw”. One look at Craig and those gold fronts and there is little room for doubt that he’s ever even considered making “passionate love” to his paramour.

Early last year, Craig gave June an “engagement ring”. He slipped it on her finger while she was asleep on Mother’s Day and presented her with a small bouquet of balloons. When she didn’t wake up, he shook her and told her to look at her finger. She saw the ring.

“Oh,” she said, feigning delight.

When she showed me the ring I shared the same response. The ring, like the proposal was lacking in all luster and uninspiring. June told me they would probably go to the justice to get married, hopefully before the baby was born. At the time, she was due in September. She wanted me to come. I said of course.

September 2012 came and went. The baby was born and her oldest son was now in kindergarten. Had I missed the wedding? I asked her in the early part of the summer.

“No, you didn’t,” she replied flatly. “I’m leaving Craig, I can’t do this anymore, Malaka! I just can’t!”

She laid out a list of grievances. Craid didn’t help out around the house. All he ever did was spend his money on clothes. He never helped pay for groceries. He couldn’t fathom the idea of watching his own  kids for an hour while she went to get her nails done. He spent more time at the club than with his sons. In fact, he had never even bothered to teach his sons to pee like men.

“How am I supposed to teach Jabari to pee standin’ up? Huh? His Daddy could at least teach him THAT!!”

I told her I understood. If I had to live like that, I’d do much better on my own! I told her I’d miss her, and by the end of the night, she was indeed gone…

Only to return two weeks later.

There was rap at my door.

“June? You’re back?”

“Yes girl. Craig’s auntie found us and fussed him out in front of the whole family,” her eyes bugging with excitement as she retold the tale. “He gave me THIS, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him properly.”

“THIS” was a 2 carat emerald cut diamond set in a white gold band.

“Wow…”

“Right,” she said, pursing her lips.

Three weeks later Marshall and I got a pretty purple and white invitation in the mail box, requesting our presence in order to “celebrate the marriage reception of June & Craig.” I should have known by the use of those semantics that we were in for trouble.

June had asked Marshall to shoot the wedding, which he offered to do gratis. When he arrived at the Othello, a reception hall neighboring a set of train tracks and a strip club/grocery store/sound studio, he sent me a text.

Oh God. This place is in the HOOD. And it smells like grain alcohol.

I arrived at six o’clock. We were not seated until 6:35, which is an eternity  by any standards. June’s family, who were all decked in their Sunday best were grumbling about CPT in the corridor. Clearly uncomfortable in their attire, they made more than one disparaging remark about the bride, who had requested ‘formal attire’ be worn to the event.

“You don’t understand. My family is really ghetto,” she informed us solemnly.

Coming from someone who Marshall and I consider residing on the cusp of ghettoness herself, we wondered what level of rathcetness we were yet to encounter. We soon found out.

photo(11)The nuptials had been performed offsite, so we were only there to eat and dance. June walked into the reception hall, treading demurely on a white runner on the arm of her ‘grandfather’. Knowing that all her family has either lived or died in New Orleans, I wondered who this adopted elderly man was. Craig neither smiled nor frowned at his glowing new wife. Nothing at all seemed to please him. His exhausted 6 year old son, who was now weeping for want of a nap, certainly exasperated him though. He callously ignored the boys need for a tender hug or encouragement “just to hold on until the event was over.”

I’ll skip the rest and just get to the best parts, which I will present to you in pictorial form:

The first dance was an abysmal affair – a mockery of every first dance ever performed. It was joyless and cumbersome. Craig refused to hold June close, and went so far as to jutting his arse backwards and away from her as they swayed awkwardly to some smooth jazz selection.

photo(15)“Get closer, mane!” his father heckled from our table. “What? You afraid you gonna get her pregnant?!?”

Snickers and cackles erupted across the room. June was aghast and ducked her head in embarrassment. Thank goodness for the deep brown of her skin. She might have turned bright crimson otherwise.

There was no real order to the reception. Marshall jockeyed with another photographer for shots. The man in turn growled and cut his eyes my husband whom he saw as his foe. There really was no competition – after all, this was my husband’s gift to our neighbor. Marshall ignored the man’s orders to “watch out” for the remainder of the night, sitting down to eat eventually, because he was a guest.

Dinner was pineapple juice, roles, saffron rice, steamed chicken, salad and steamed whiting. I didn’t care if it was gourmet or not. It was not 7:15 and I was starving. I wolfed my plate as delicately as possible.  The groom’s step-mother, a woman adorned from hair follicle to toe-nails in Barney-esque purple fanned herself furiously with one of the plastic dinner plates.

“Too hot up in this b*tch,” she complained. “And this chicken ain’t done,” she continued, pointing to a small pink spot on her chicken breast. “I didn’t come here to get sick!”

Well, Southern Black Americans are very much like their West African counterparts: Meat must be cooked until all evidence that the animal was ever a living, breathing entity is eradicated. Traces of pink will not be tolerated under any circumstances, what-so-ever.

photo(14)I looked around the room and considered the motley crew assembled therein. The most interesting had to be the enormous man dressed in red linen, shod with black and red shoes. He looked like a used Tampon, or Negroid Carrie, after the prom. After being summoned Yolanda, by the groom’s sister, to give an invocation, he jocularly declared that “dis righ’ heah ‘I buuful, know what I’m sayin’? You done did it cu’, dat what it is. I luh ya shaw…”

He gave the mic back to Yolanda and strode back to his seat amidst appreciative applause.

Second most interest was the grandmother, who leapt to the floor in an all red ensemble, sashaying and switching, twisting and twerking, bending and bobbing to the Cupid Shuffle. I don’t know much, but I do know that THAT was not the Cupid Shuffle. This would not have been so devastating to watch had her breasts been secured appropriately within her dress. Instead, her mammaries dangled lifeless just above her navel, drawing in the gaze of all in attendance.

I eyed the cake longingly. I needed something sweet to choke down the bland taste of the carb-fest I had just endured. But what was that structure to the left of the 3-tiered wedding cake? It looked like three crudely assembled rectangles. I leaned in and whispered in Marshall’s ear.

“Babe, go take a look at that cake and tell me what it is.”

He dutifully got up and when he returned he leaned back in his chair and let out of wail/chortle.

“Oh my God. It’s two stacks of money. Hundred dollar bills.”

“Money? You mean like ‘Benjamins’?”

He nodded and buried his face in shame.

cake

In the absence of an agenda, June’s family had declared that it was time to start drinking. The event planner grabbed the microphone and implored them to refrain from doing so just yet.

“If we could all wait until the champagne toast, the bride would greatly appreciate it,” she announced.

photo(12)Grumbling erupted all over the room.  Don’t e’rebody drank CHAMPAGNE, y’know! The groom’s father, Craig senior, said he was not about to be bossed around. He went outside and filled a white Styrofoam cup up with liquor that he had stashed in a cooler in his trunk.

“Here you go, Daddy,” he said, passing the cup to the grandfather. “Anybody else want some?”

 

photo(13)We declined. His wife fanned herself furiously. Although she only drank wine, she could not afford to drink it now. It would only make her hotter. It was hard to tell if the heat or the fact that should couldn’t drink because of it was vexing her more.

At long last, it was time to dance, and dance this bunch did! Shoes came off, and a variation of moves so sexual in nature that I fully expected someone to give birth soon emerged on the dance floor. I have never seen the Wobble performed in a manner that made me that uncomfortable.

Alas, it was soon time for me to leave. I had to pick up the kids. Marshall stayed behind to finish capturing the special moments. Apparently, the wedding was closed out to a special selection.

“Some song called ‘Versace’,” he informed me, holding his head in denial.

“Huh?”

“You heard me. ‘Versace’. And  that’s all they said for the entire song:

Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace

Versace, Versace…

Now, as bad as this was – the boy with the yellow sagging pants, the girl with the ripped jeans and gold front, the woman who said her career path at Walgreen(s) was coming to an end because they keep scheduling her for weekends and she just don’t come in to work –  I have come to understand that this is not as ghetto as it gets. Some people have actually served Kool Aid at their receptions.

Lawd.

Have you ever been to a memorable wedding? What made it stand out in your mind? I certainly will always be struck by Yolanda’s insistence that her 16 year old son do a slow drag with his girlfriend to a nasty Drake song. “You ain’t gon’ come here and act like you ain’t gon’ dance!”

Your comments. Right here↓

 

 

 

You’re Never Just Marrying a ‘Person’.

I used to be really naïve about love and relationships. Now that I’m firmly in my 30’s, I find myself in that space between naivety and cynicism where matters of the heart are concerned; and I’m fervently trying to becoming a full-blown pessimist.

As you well know by now, I share my affections with several people other than my husband. These people are other Africans I’ve come to admire for unique reasons. I have a mind crush on Kola Boof because she’s fearlessness personified, sprinkled with a good dose of crazy. I have a creative crush on Gyedu Blay Ambolley, because he embodies the essence of timeless afrofunk and a Ghana-man suaveness developed during an age gone by. And as of this Monday, I have a talent crush on Shirley Frimpong Manso. (If anyone reading this knows her personally, now would be a good time to warn her of my tendencies in regard to the relentless pursuit of the object of my desire. It’s like being chased by a mastiff.) These people inspire me in different ways. Through continued struggle and eventually achieving their dreams – and at times overcoming nightmares in full public glare – they encourage me to try to do the same in my own capacity, as I’m sure they do for thousands of other people on the continent.

Oh. You thought I was saying I share “those” affections with other people? You see your mind is bad? We’ll discuss that later. Today we’re talking about marriage; my marriage specifically, and my culture.

The idea that two people from different cultures could never live together harmoniously is an old one. When Moses married an Ethiopian (read Black) woman, Miriam and Aaron were so furious that they berated the great Israelite liberator unabashedly. God in turn struck Miriam with leprosy, and she was only healed after she repented. Throughout time, people outside of any given couple’s relationship have given reasons for why the two cannot be together based on their perceived differences. These include socio-economic status, education, tribe, race… you name it. Sometimes couples will resist outside forces and their tyranny and strive to make their relationship work. Others kowtow to the charges and assertions and form relationships with more a more “acceptable” candidate. I have always been a fan of the former, which is why I had very few hesitations when I married a Black American. (Never mind that my own Ghanaian father had married a Black American woman with abysmal results.) I was confident that “love would conquer all”. I didn’t really understand what the breadth and scope of ‘all’ would cover.

Our first test of different cultures and its place in a happy marriage came within the first three months of our union. I was preparing to send a few hundred dollars to Ghana, just as I had done since I started working in 2000.

“What are you doing?” he asked me one night.

I didn’t care for the quality of the tone of his voice. Something in it seemed paternalistic. I immediately got defensive.

“I’m sending money to my family.”

“I thought you would stop doing that when we got married. We have our own family now.”

Eh? Why would I stop doing that? Did my family’s needs suddenly cease because I walked down an aisle in a cream colored dress? I was beyond annoyed. However, eventually, I did stop sending money home after the birth of our second child. It was getting too hard on us financially.

We continued to have other cultural clashes as a nucleic family. For instance, when Aya’s hair was becoming difficult to tame and she would not submit to getting it combed, I merely shaved it off – Ghana primary school girl style. I had no emotional reaction to cutting off her hair at all. Millions of African girls walk around in a state of near baldness and no one gives them a second glance. Her grandmother on the other hand was not to be so comforted. She issued me a strong warning never to cut her granddaughter’s hair beyond a trim ever again in the future. I was equally annoyed. Was she up brushing this girl’s hair every morning or was she even sending money to pay for its upkeep? (No.) Nevertheless, I relented to her wishes.

image courtesy of instagram

image courtesy of Instagram

For a while, I learned to live within the confines of my American culture, which were fast dwarfing the Ghanaian mores I had been raised under. I came to accept that grandchildren were not to be a burden to their grandparents for any length of time beyond 2 weeks in the summer. We eat American food almost exclusively. I haven’t attempted to pass on what limited knowledge of Twi I have to my kids. Why would I? They’re “American”.

But I am not. I’m a hybrid.

So when I got it into my mind that I might one day (soon) give a try at going back to Ghana for a few months and do some writing, I knew that I would be met with resistance from my husband. I knew this because we had just had a series of ‘unfortunate’ conversations surrounding sending our youngest to Ghana for 6 months so that she could get to know her grandfather and her cousins. Marshall was hardly what you might call open to the idea. So I pouted and refused to look at him for two days, and when I did, it was between slit lids that eventually gave way to prolonged eye-roll. And because I was in such a foul mood, he in turn decided to relent and let her go if I ‘thought it was best’. But really, it was a move motivated by an attempt to take some of the acrimony out of our recent existence.

What I wanted something more, though? I joked with my sister that I would join Liya for the six months if I needed to. Marshall balked at the idea. I bucked at the notion of his balking… and then I decided it was time for us to have a chat. We talked this morning.

“Let’s say – hypothetically – that Shirley Frimpong Manso was an avid reader of my blog and other stuff I’d written and that she contacted me and said ‘Hey, Malaka! I love your stuff. I want you to join my team and write for a TV drama we have coming up. I need you in Ghana for 8 months.’ What would you say?”

Marshall paused, but only for a moment, and said:

“I’d say ‘Great! How do we make this work?’”

Liar! That’s not what he’d say!

“No it isn’t! That’s not what you’d say at all! You’d say ‘I don’t want you to leave me for that long, Malaka,’ and then I’d be stuck here like I’ve been these last few years.”

He told me that wasn’t true at all. What he’d want to know is how I could go to Ghana and pursue an opportunity, and still be with me.

“I’d assume I could just come with you for the 8 months,” he said simply.

“You’d leave your fulltime job in the States to come and live in Ghana? What kind of sense does that make?”

He quickly saw that it didn’t. We worked through several scenarios where he could come to Ghana for an extended period of time during my hypothetical hiatus. This is what my sister calls trying to look left and right at the same time. Nothing worked out, of course. We have too many kids and not enough money to make his fantasy come to life.

“I just think you make things balance out,” he said earnestly. “There is always the possibility of compromise.”

“No, Marshall. There isn’t. Sometimes there are no compromises to be had! Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.”

I had a sudden epiphany.

“Maybe this just another dimension of our divergent cultures. Ghanaian men hardly have a problem with their wives travelling out of the country. Sometimes it’s a badge of honor to be able to say you have a wife who has ‘travelled out of the country’.”

Marshall scoffed.

“You know why Ghanaian men don’t mind their wives travelling? Because they have some little side thing they can mess with while she’s gone!”

I thought about it. That was a valid point. But so what?

“Ok. So he has a side piece. So what? Maybe that’s what it takes for a woman to realize her ambition. Maybe a dude needs some chick with him at all times… but at least his wife gets the chance to discover who she might become and what she can do.”

“Are you saying adultery is a good thing?”

My husband was shocked at the notion.

“No. But I think it might be a ‘useful’ thing, particularly in the case we’re talking about.”

This made him pause. He made it very clear that he didn’t want me to think he needed a side chick in order for me to feel like I could succeed. I told him I appreciated that.

“But I have to confess: sometimes I’m afraid to even dare to hope to even dream about something lofty because I know it will be met with opposition from your end. I mean, what if I was a world reporter who had to travel to Pakistan or Turkey every 3 months for work? What then?”

“Yeah but, Malaka. I do try to support you. That’s why I built MaizeBreak for you and try to give you space to go write. Besides, it’s not like that’s what you were doing when we met or when I married you.”

“Because I never got a chance to become that. I’ve had to live this life. I’ve had to make my successes fit within the confines of what makes you comfortable.”

I spread my hand around our tiny shared bedroom, stuffed with clothes and knick knacks and a sleeping child snuggled and snoring in our bed. My husband looked around and then stared off into the near distance. We talked for a bit more and all was reconciled by the time I left the house to write today.

 

If you’ve ever married outside of your culture and traditions, you might be thinking your own hurdles. What have they been? And what about Marshall’s point about side chicks and female success? Do you think it’s a worthy trade off or sacrifice for either partner to prevent them being stifled? Women have to make these choices every day.

Discuss! Discuss!!

The World Natural Hair Show: 2013

*Sigh!!!* I should have taken more pictures…

There are two things I look forward to every year: Our annual vacation overseas, and the Natural hair show in Atlanta. (There was a time I looked forward to three things every year, but now that my uterus is no longer serving as a baby vending machine, I have pared those anticipations down to two.)

This Saturday I went to the Hair Expo with my longtime friend G. Berry, who was attending for the first time. Our combined excitement made it almost unbearable for me. I couldn’t wait to get inside and share with her the wonders of the show!

The we took a look at the line, which literally went down the length of the International Convention…no shorter than the 90 yards long. Our hearts sank. A burly female security guard vigilantly watching the main entrance confirmed that we would have to get in line and buy our tickets from one of the 3 open windows. This was insane! There were Black people – beautiful, Black people – everywhere, but we needed fewer of them around in that space and time to get our tickets faster. Eventually we spotted a tiny man with locks and Malcolm X glasses holding wrist bands and a hand full of money somewhere on the perimeter of the line. We descended on him like a flock of hungry gulls on a soggy loaf of bread. Golden wristbands in hand, we skipped into the show.

It was bigger and better than I remembered.

The lights were brighter, the stalls more elaborate and the attendees…have mercy! There was every style of dress you could imagine; Boho chic, Mother Earth, leather and lace, Africana, hip hop street wear and some other mess that I couldn’t quite categorize. Incidentally, I fell into this last group myself. I had attended a STEM Expo with the Girl Scouts earlier and was wearing a black peasant blouse, green khaki shorts, and Sperry’s.

Work usually interferes with the Natural Hair Show for me, but this year I had the day off. This was the first time I had been able to see any of the demonstrations that various vendors offered. There were two companies that nearly had me sold, and as an impulsive buyer I would have been trapped had G. Berry not warned me about their products.

“Girrrl, they sell that stuff at Sally’s,” she said with a laugh. “The sales lady told me it gets returned all the time.”

“What? Man, sometimes I think they pull people from the crowd who they know the product will work on.”

She looked at me quizzically.

“Well…yeah. It’s a classic snake oil salesman tactic.”

We pressed on through the throng of women milling through the wide aisles before stopping at an elevated stage where a young R&B songstress had just finished belting out some top 40 hit. A woman dressed in a black skin-tight unitard with 2 foot high shoulder straps embellished with silver studs and spikes encouraged the crowd to give it up for Somebody Michelle. (I didn’t catch the first part of her name.)

tita “Come on y’all! You can do better than that! Somebody Michelle!!”

Again, the crowd applauded weakly. I waited for her to yell “Randy Watson!!!” to make the moment complete. Alas, she did not.

The thing I like best about the Natural Hair Expo is that it is the culmination of every Tyler Perry imagination mad manifest at last. However, there are some things even the talented Mr. Perry cannot dream up. For example:

  • The 7 foot tall vegan man adorned in red, gold and green spontaneously dancing a wild samba/salsa/hip hop jig when some guy began to beat on his bongos on the same stage that Somebody Michelle had just occupied moments before.
  • The tiny Senegalese woman who was selling the most beautiful jewelry I’d seen in a while who refused to sell me her jewelry because I didn’t have enough money in the moment. “Do you have a shop in Atlanta that I can come visit later?” I asked. “No, I’m in Chicago,” she replied. “Oh good! I have a friend in Chicago. What’s the name of your shop?” “No, I am all over America,” she muttered. (It just dawned on me that she is probably an illegal gypsy alien.)
  • The woman dressed up as an ancient Egyptian despot, swanning  around the venue encouraging patrons to visit Luxor Couture. (Which I did. It was disappointing.) photo(9)

But none of that compared to one moment which will forever remained seared in my memory. Among the sea of buxom, Black beauties, there stood a frail ebony skinned woman clad in a flowing yellow skirt, cropped denim jacket and twists spiraling out of her pea sized head. She was standing behind a chorded veil that served as a partition between her and a low stage. From my vantage point, I saw her trip over a thick extension cord and stumble onto the stage ahead of cue as a woman with a crown of sister locks piled high on her head introduced her to a crowd of six people. Her voice was low and husky as she spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters – allow me to introduce you to a sister who is going to bless us with powerful spoken word this evening. Put your hands together for Power spelled backwards: Reeeeeewop!!!!”

Rewop? Isn’t that the opposite of power? True to her stage name, she presented as something rather powerless. Her limbs were far too thin for the large wedge heels that engulfed her feet and she whispered her spoken word into a mic that appeared to shield her.

“I hear the ancestors calling me…I hear the ancestors calling me,” she said in a hushed voice.

Ah. But if you hear a group of dead people calling you, shouldn’t there be more urgency in your voice Ms. Wop? G. Berry and I shuttled past her, hardly able to contain our laughter. When the guy dressed up in Teddy Riley’s orange underpants and combat boots stomped in our direction, our stifled giggles gave way to full blown guffaws.

photo(8)Apart from all the spectacle and pageantry, the other magnificent thing about the Natural Hair Expo is the incredible kindness exhibited by many of the vendors there. Every year I meet a woman or group of women who take the time to time to share information about their products in earnest; not to merely try to sell you something. Last year it was Isis. This year, Shea Radiance (www.shearadiance.com) virtually blew me away with their customer service.

“No, we don’t have cocoa butter here, but we DO sell it. We can ship it to you as soon as we get back to Maryland,” said Karen.

photo(6) Karen and I got on well immediately. She’s from Ghana. I think she’s my cousin. Our noses are similar.

In my never ending quest to find the right product for my hair, I think I finally may have done so with DNA’s product line.

These are the results.

photo(7)

Have you ever been to a Hair Expo? What’s been your favorite memory? Obviously, I don’t expect many men to answer…unless they are commenting on the avalanche of product being hoarded by wives/girlfriends underneath the bathroom sink.

 

 

From the Mouth of Marshall: A Few Ramblings on Marriage, Money and Malaka

A few people called me “mad” for having a problem taking money from my husband, and I understand way. But even more interestingly, one commenter said that he and his wife have a similar dynamic in their home, and that he wondered what my husband’s perspective might be on the matter. After all, even when I quote my husband, it’s still from “the lens of my view” as the reader put it. I thought that was a brilliant! Marshall should do a post then! So after much arm and face twisting, I got him to do one…

——-

I love my wife.  Unfortunately, because the word “love” is often used in other phrases such as I love my car or I love my Mac, often times when expressed it rarely has much meaning other than one actually managed to get it out of his mouth.

So, as a result, I have spent the last 17 years trying to demonstrate “Love” to Malaka.  And don’t get me wrong.   I haven’t been the best at it.  I’ve said things that I should not have said.  I’ve done things I should not have done.   But in the end, my hope is that she knows to her core that her husband loves her.

——-

My marriage philosophy is quite simple:  If the husband is the head of the house, it also means he is the greatest servant in the house.  Why?  Because it’s far more honorable to do good than to simply look great and the surest way to become great is to do good.  This principle first starts with demonstrating it to my wife, then to my family, and ultimately to the world.

If I simply do good to look great to the world and NOT to my wife then I am a fraud; because the expression of who I am is demonstrated first to my wife.  If at heart I am a servant, then my wife gets the initial benefit of that servant-hood.  If at heart I am a Jerk, a-la Douche Bag, then my wife gets the initial benefit of me being a Jerk.

You’re not a man because of your age or your gender; you’re a man when demonstrate you can consistently think about someone other than yourself.  For example:

Can you give a woman what she needs emotionally from you rather than your need to have sex?

Can you keep yourself from consuming porn for the benefit of giving your wife your complete and unadulterated sexual desire?

Can you inconvenience yourself by often washing the clothes, bathing the kids, cleaning the kitchen, picking up after the kids, making the bed, and/or moping the floor to demonstrate to your wife that you value her and her time?

Can you give your wife money with no strings attached?

If you can answer no to these and many other questions I have, then you have some growing up to do Bro.

——-

My thoughts on money: Money makes the world go around, but in the end it really doesn’t.

Money is tool.  A tool doesn’t posses you, you posses the tool.  Sounds so simple but it’s true.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “…money answers all things”?  Have you ever wondered what that means?   I like this answer, “Money answers to every demand, hears every wish, grants whatever one logs for, and helps to all.”

Sometimes I feel like the biggest reason why money (in Western society) is the #1 reason why people get divorced is because, money is not a tool for success, but a tool for power.  After all why do you think men are typically the one’s who want control all the money in the house?

I have asked my wife to take control of our bills and bank account and she has often refused.  And to her credit she has refused because she is admittedly not very good with numbers, hence why I have to help her with her non profit’s taxes year after year.  And that is fair.  But my heart is let her know that I do not want to lord it over her just because I “win the bread” all day (and night).

In the final analysis, is money really THAT important?  Yes, money keeps a roof over our heads, feeds and clothes our children, but is it so important to cause us to fight?  To disrespect another human being because of how they spent it?  Or is it a two-person tool that requires everybody to lend a hand to make it work?

——-

If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

If you haven’t already figured out, this post is in response to a comment on her recent post, “I have trouble taking money from my husband” where MartinT wanted to hear from my perspective.

Malaka accurately stated in her post that she has always had a problem taking money from anyone, let alone me.  And I understand why.  Most of it came from how she has been raised and in general the fact that she has a healthy fear of using “our” money.

I can respect that.

However, what I do not like is that she has to spend the majority of her day taking care of our demanding toddlers, not taking any time during the day for herself and then spending another 4 hours waiting on ungrateful customers in a service job that pays her a few pence per hour.  (Yes, that was a run-on sentence.)

What I do not like is that she then lumbers home at 10 – 10:30 PM after many hours on her feet at work often times sore, tired, and mentally exhausted.  I know my wife.  I know that if she doesn’t have a proper sleep, the Grant family’s whole day is screwed.  If my wife wakes up tired in the morning, she won’t have a good day, the kids will run her in circles and she will have a crap day.

So yes, giving her money when she needs it is an investment that will benefit all of us. Oddly, my ROI in giving her money is not only self-serving, but also considerate.  I mean, who benefits from her getting more sleep, her having a better day, hearing her laugh more often, or us having great sex because of all of the above?

The short answer is, everyone.

I Have Trouble Taking Money From My Husband

My husband is a wonderful man and an excellent spouse. I’ve extolled his virtues on M.O.M. on so many occasions that I’ve had to stop for fear of being accused of idol worship or braggadocio. After all, with 50-60% of all Christian marriages ending in divorce, wouldn’t it appear conceited for me to talk about how wonderful my husband is? What cockiness!

I’ve openly discussed the issues that Marshall and I have had over the years, but I can honestly (and gratefully) say that those issues have never included the following:

  1. His not having a job
  2. His not helping with the children
  3. His failure to communicate

Like any relationship, Marshall’s and mine has had its own unique set of challenges over time. At the moment, our challenge is that I have a hard time accepting money from my husband. This is more my dysfunction than his, but it still affects him indirectly.

Last night I got off of work at BS&W and midnight. Did I want to be at a shoe store that late into the night? Absolutely not. But I needed the money to pay for a project I’m working on, so I had to put in the hours. When I got home at 12:30 am, Marshall was still up waiting for me so he could at least see me. I said some brief words in greeting, got into the shower, crawled into bed, and fell into a coma. The next morning, Marshall asked me why I was working so hard. I explained my reasons.

“Well do you want me to just give you the money so you don’t have to work so hard?” he offered.

I balked at the very notion of him giving me money for a personal project. Like many marriages like ours, I stay home to look after the kids and he goes to work. His income pays for EVERYTHING. It wasn’t always like this, of course. I had a job once, and a good paying one too. I’ve lived my life paying my own way for everything. I couldn’t accept money from my husband.

“No, no,” I said quickly. “This is something I have to do on my own.”

“But it’s not a lot of money,” he countered. “And I just got a check from a project I’ve been working on…”

I repeated that I wanted to do this on my own and went back to doing dishes or eating chocolate – I can’t remember which.

I don’t know if this is a problem that other married women struggle with, but my single friends have assured me that I’m stark, raving MAD.

“Ah. Isn’t this what husbands are for?” said one (a Ghanaian).

“Girl, us single gals are TRYING to find a guy to pay for stuff,” said another (a White girl from the South).

Recognizing that my perceived insanity was not cultural (after all, an African AND an American had just told me I was being foolish) I decided to talk to my husband about it. Maybe there was something wrong with me?

moneyHe knows that I have an abnormal relationship with money, because I didn’t grow up with much. I was more often than not on the receiving end of a gift, and it’s made it hard for me to accept generosity from others. I hate feeling like a charity case…and when I spend my husband’s money, I feel like it’s just that: charity.

“Babe,” I began, “I want to talk about why I can’t take money from you…or why I have a hard time at least.”

“Okay; but I already know why that is,” he said sagely.

“Eh? Why is it then?”

I barely knew myself. How could he possibly know?

“Because you’re a first born and self-sustainer,” he said simply. “I’m the same way. I couldn’t live on anyone’s handouts.”

Self-sustainer. I wrote that down on our whiteboard. That was a new term to me.

“Okay, cool. Then you understand,” I said. “Well, I feel bad that I can’t take your money. I think it would make me less of a woman.”

“How is that? Every time you use your debit card you ‘take my money’.”

He laughed in that way that makes me feel like an idiot. I immediately bristled.

“Ah! When I use the debit card, I’m using it to feed the kids or buy something for the house. I’m talking about going shopping for myself, or in this case, needing $x00 to fund my project.”

“That’s because you’re selfish,” he replied.

“What?”

How could I be selfish? Wasn’t I being the very opposite of ‘selfish’?

“Yes, selfish,” he continued. “You need to write down ‘value’ on the board too. You don’t think that I value you you enough to try to make your life better, or work for the children and all the stuff we do have.”

I found it hard to argue with that, so I used the best defense I could conjure: The one time that he said something that made me feel less than valued. It had to do with the car he’d just bought in October.

“Remember when you told me YOU had worked very hard to afford that car? I felt like you were saying that because I didn’t have a job that generates as much money as yours does that I was not as valuable.”

“Well, Malaka, I did work hard to pay for the car…but that’s not what I said to you. Don’t misquote me.”

“I’m just saying that’s how I felt.”

I quickly realized that I was failing to make my point. He was showing me the absurdity of my sentiments. All the same, I still harbored them. I told him as much.

“Look, here’s the thing. What I really feel bad about is that I should be able to spend your money because I’m valuable to you, but I just can’t.”

He paused and nodded. He understood. He said that made him feel good.

“Why?”

“Because I know that you won’t try to jack me and have checks bouncing all over the place.”

I snickered. I hate bank overdrafts.

“Malaka, it’s not like you haven’t taken money from me in the past, when we were dating.”

“But I always paid you back,” I countered.

He said he didn’t remember being repaid. I assured him I did. I’ve never been one of those girls who could take money from her boyfriend because my parents taught us not to be that chick. You never want to be in debt to some guy, especially for something you could afford yourself. I have never been able to abide the idea of a man taking credit for my accomplishments!

By the end of the conversation, Marshall encouraged me to look at the money I was offering as an investment, and not a gift. He said if I REALLY had to, I could look at it as a loan.

“If you really feel like you need to repay a loan to your husband,” he smirked.

“Shut up.”

I thought about it. I could take the money as an investment…but then something occurred to me.

“If it’s an investment, you’ll be looking for a return on that investment, won’t you?” I asked.

“Babe,” he said, cutting me off, “a return on investment doesn’t have to be monetary. My ROI could be you getting more sleep, not having to work more hours, you having a better day, us having better sex (because you’re not so tired), or you just having a smile on your face more often than you do.”

I had one friend tell me that I need to get off my “feminist soap box” and take my husband’s money. I’ve earned every cent in stretch marks and a scarred uterus.

“Calculate the cost of that,” she said.

I hear what everyone is saying. I really do. The world is crooning “You should let me love you/let me be the one to give everything you want and need” – but all I can hear is Kanye hollering “She ain’t nothing but a gold digger/She’s a trifling friend indeed!”

Surely other women struggle with this, right?

Right?? Talk about it here…or tell me I’m mad. ↓