Category Archives: Marriage

Do Ghanaian Men Have a ‘Renters Mentality When It Comes to Marriage?

“Now you are married to somebody… and you’ve put your name on her, she’s called ‘Mrs your name’. That’s a serious responsibility when somebody is called ‘your name’. You’ve overthrown her father, and you’ve taken her father’s place, so, you got to behave seriously. I mean somebody’s life investment has been put in your hands. Don’t take it easily. Don’t just say: ‘You are my wife’. Do you know what it means? It means you are going to share your money”. – Dr. Mensa Otabil

 

Dr. Mensa Otabil is a theologian, philanthropist and founder of International Central Gospel Church (ICGC). I have never attended his church, but snippets from his leaked sermons online are generally well received by the general public, including me. He is a fair-minded man and politically non-partisan, if the re-shares on Facebook are to be believed. His expressed opinions on gender roles in the African and/or Judeo-Christian context constitute a revival of outlooks that were far more egalitarian two centuries ago than they are today. (I’ve written previously about the myriad and diverse freedoms and opportunities that our female ancestors enjoyed prior to contact with and domination by the Europeans. If you can’t find the post here, look for that evidence in a book or two.) So when I saw this quote attributed to him, I was understandably unsettled, as were many women who believe in the cause of social equality between the sexes.

I have struggled in vain to gain access to the entirety of this speech so that it can be put into context. I do not believe Dr. Otabil to same sort of backward woman-bashing, slam-you-over-the-head-with-a-Bible misogynist as Dag Heward-Mills or his spiritual father, Duncan Williams are. I expect this sort of talk from that pair and all whole harken to their insidious views. Dr. Otabil, however, has earned the benefit of further scrutiny, and I am eager to find out exactly WHAT he means by “you have overthrown her father and have taken her father’s place…”

To the casual male observer, there’s nothing wrong with this Otabil quote, even without context. According to the comments I’ve been privy to, this is just about a woman taking a man’s name after marriage and therefore no fuss is required. Feminists are just angry feminizing once again!

But as a WOMAN, a CHRISTIAN and a HUMAN BEING, I find this postulation quite disturbing. Dr. Otabil – who is clearly addressing men either in mixed company or exclusively, we don’t know – talks about the union between man and wife as an “investment”.

  • A woman is another man’s life investment and has been “put into your hands.”: This strips women – adults who have chosen their life partners – of their agency. They are objects to be handed over from man to the next.
  • You’ve overthrown her father and taken her father’s place: Again presenting the idea that a woman’s body is something captured and possessed, like some ancient city in the Middle East.
  • Don’t just say: ‘You are my wife’. Do you know what it means? It means you are going to share your money.: I want to believe that Dr. Otabil did not just equate the spiritual union between man and woman witnessed before God and man as a pyramid scheme!

“You are my wife” means you are going to share your money? Like a director in an Amway tier? Yesu the Messiah just come now on a cloud and take us all out of here!

It’s obvious why any (perceptive) woman would take umbrage with these utterances. Once again, we’ve been reduced to chattel, or jewels, or whatever inanimate object men must equate us to in order to assess value. You know, because our humanity is never enough. But for the sake of the metaphor and nothing else, therein lies my question to men:

Do you take a renter’s mentality when approaching the foundation of your marriage?

Mensa Otabil exhorts men to act more responsibly towards their wives because they have taken their surnames. She is no longer identified as herself – as an individual -or her father’s child, now that she has YOUR name. If she were a city, she’d be Kofi Town (or whatever).

There are several studies that show a stark difference in human behavior when people are given charge over something rented or worked to gain ownership of. The behavior is entirely different.

When you rent a tux for an event, you’re not concerned about if you spill tartar sauce on the lapels because you can get it dry cleaned, send it back to the rental company, and let the next guy deal with the stains you unsuccessfully tried to have washed out. But when that’s your ONLY tux that you bought and paid for, that you’ve worn on one happy occasion after another, you’re more observant about how you handle food around it. Because at the end of the day, it’s coming back home with you to hang in your closet. Same thing goes with car and home rentals. Many people are less concerned about the damage caused to the property because it’s someone else’s possession and in the long run, the damage done is not really their problem.

This is the renter’s mentality that allows certain Ghanaian men to banish their wives back to their father’s house when he’s done using her up because of *insert nonsensical culturally irrelevant reason here*

But, let’s be honest. Didn’t merely reading those scenarios make you feel slimy? Would you want anyone to describe you as a car, or a two-bedroom house, or a Jeep or any of the tired metaphors employed to determine what a woman reminds you of? Why does it take any of that to see Akosua/Patricia/Your Wife’s Name for who she is?

Do you have to own your wife to honor her and take responsibility in and for your marriage?

 

Patriarchal African Men: Learn to Cook Your Own Food and Fulfill God’s Will for Your Life

source: somalispot.com

source: somalispot.com

When my family moved to our long-term rental in Labone, the area provided all of the creature comforts that a girl of nine would need. There was a shady tree under which to shoot the breeze, a kiosk across the street that sold toffee and Malta when you could afford it and there were nice, and wide tarred roads on which to ride your bike if a girl was fortunate to own one. My sister and I were such fortunate girls.

Funny thing about bicycles: their tires always seem to go flat at the most inconvenient moments. Fortunately for us, there was a pair of enterprising young men who operated a tire repair “shop” of the corner down the street from our house. Peter and his brother What’s His Name would happily patch the punctures in our tubes for a few cedis very two weeks. In time, I began to see a pattern: Our tires would be stout and good as new for about 5 days, after which they would develop a slow leak which would then require the two brothers’ attention in addition to what was racking up to be a fair amount of our money in exchange. Finally, somebody in our house had had enough of those particular shenanigans.

  • A tire repair kit was brought from America.
  • My father showed us how to remove the bolts and separate the wheels from the frame.
  • Superior patches were applied.
  • The three of us learned to inflate tires with our new pump, and in teaching us these skills in basic mechanics, our parents saved themselves dozens of cedis in the long term and planted a seed about the perception of our abilities as girls and the realities concerning gender roles, by extension.

If you haven’t gathered by now, the rudimentary lesson is that ability and skill have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with training.

You can’t train a man to grow and uterus and give birth, but you CAN train him wash his own clothes. Likewise, you can’t train a woman to impregnate another living being, but she can certainly learn to engineer some new software or solve complex equations. (Not too long ago, it was a firmly held belief that math and science were “boy subjects”, because girls did not posses the intelligence to allow them to excel or operate in these areas.) Really, the only thing that differentiates a man from a woman is the tools required for human reproduction. Neither sex is holier, smarter or more/less compassionate than the other. Feminism tells us this. Common sense tells us this. Even the bible that patriarchal African men delight to thump the population with tells us this. And yet; I don’t know what it is about the typical African male that makes him so obdurate when confronted with this basic premise.

source: whisper.com

source: whisper.com

There’s just this ONE idea that this breed of men remain completely moored to, and it’s that cooking is the exclusive domain of women. Married women in particular. In fact, it is vehemently asserted by pastors and playboys alike (who can forget Dag Heward-Mill’s lament and brain-itching church camp chant about Ghana Girls’ inability to fry an egg) that if a woman doesn’t/won’t/can’t cook for a man, she is no “real woman” at all. And she must be a feminist. And feminism is of the devil.

Yesu Cristo. You don’t spend your days planning meals, boiling rice or pounding yam and suddenly you are a Satan worshiper… Because toiling in the kitchen is the only way to exhibit “submission” and harmony in the (faux) Judeo-Christian African home. If you are such a man using the bible to shame, antagonize and needle women into adhering to something that is contrary to her nature or core beliefs, I am here to help us all. I believe you will be blessed when you, Patriarchal African Man, not only can but SHOULD be cooking for yourself and your family. The one thing standing between you and your destiny may be a coal pot, a spatula and a word from God. That said, I bring you:

 

GREAT CHEFS OF THE BIBLE

 

There were once two brothers: Jacob and Esau. They were twins. Jacob was favored by his mother and kept close by her. Esau was a hunter and a gruff man, beloved by his father. As you might recall from your children’s bible studies, Esau was the older twin and was therefore the rightful heir to his father’s legacy (and fortune). Well, things didn’t work out for ol’ Esau because his hunger got the best of him and he didn’t have the patience to cook his own food. You pastor is always telling you not to sell your birthright for a pot of soup but what he neglects to tell you is that your manifest destiny is in learning to cook your own beans in the first place.

Genesis 25:29-33

29 One day Jacob was boiling a pot of vegetable soup. Esau came in from hunting in the fields, weak from hunger. 30 So Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red soup, because I am weak with hunger.” (That is why people call him Edom.)

31 But Jacob said, “You must sell me your rights as the firstborn son.”

32 Esau said, “I am almost dead from hunger. If I die, all of my father’s wealth will not help me.”

33 But Jacob said, “First, promise me that you will give it to me.” So Esau made a promise to Jacob and sold his part of their father’s wealth to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and vegetable soup, and he ate and drank, and then left. So Esau showed how little he cared about his rights as the firstborn son.

The story ends with a prophesy that Esau will become Jacob’s, Jacob becomes Israel and his people prosper in the land for a time.

 

See? If you learn how to cook your own beans, you can get a new identity and become the father of a whole nation of filmmakers, jewelers, bankers and high end fashion designers to boot.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider the Levitical priests of the Old Testament, or as I like to call them, the OGMs: Original Grill Masters.

The Old Testament is full of burnt offerings: rams, bulls, turtledoves, goats, and sheep without speckle. They would make a great sacrifice of flesh, sprinkle some blood on the altar and the presence of the Lord would fill the temple. Don’t you, Patriarchal African Man also want to be a bringer of the presence of the Lord? Don’t you want to bring comfort to those you presume to lead and call yourself head of? Learn to dress and grill meat!

Finally, you know who else was a great chef? Jesus. You heard me right: Jesus H. Christ used to cook for those he loved. And I’m not talking about that one time when he blessed a small boy’s lunch box and feed 5,000 people with a few morsels of bread and koobi. I’m talking about how he prepared food for his loved ones.

John 21: 7-14

The follower whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Peter heard him say this, he wrapped his coat around himself. (Peter had taken his clothes off.) Then he jumped into the water. The other followers went to shore in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. They were not very far from shore, only about a hundred yards. When the followers stepped out of the boat and onto the shore, they saw a fire of hot coals. There were fish on the fire, and there was bread.

10 Then Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went into the boat and pulled the net to the shore. It was full of big fish, one hundred fifty-three in all, but even though there were so many, the net did not tear. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” None of the followers dared ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, along with the fish.

14 This was now the third time Jesus showed himself to his followers after he was raised from the dead.

Christian African Patriarchal Man: Are you better than Jesus? If Christ could grill fish and serve bread, what law prevents you from doing the same? Or you are not a disciple? See your life.

The bible says in Ephesians 5 that:

28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. The man who loves his wife loves himself. 29 No one ever hates his own body, but feeds and takes care of it. And that is what Christ does for the church, 30 because we are parts of his body. 31 The Scripture says, “So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two will become one body.”

Why are you so averse to taking care of your own body? You want the body to take care of itself while you do what…watch Man Utd all evening? My dear fellow, take up your cross AND your spatula and stop this behavior. Your unwillingness to learn to cook and leaving the task exclusively to women to cook is ungodly, plain and simple. If you don’t care enough to explore her feelings on the matter, at least be selfish enough to consider how your brutish laziness looks like sloth and rebellion in the eyes of God. And then repent.

Selah.

 

 

 

What I Learned About Marriage on the Morning of 11th Wedding Anniversary

Before I went to bed last night I drank 32oz of blueberry cider, a treat I had scored while on sojourn to Southern Belle Farms in McDonough, GA. Liya and her kindergarten class were on a field study during which it was incumbent on all in attendance to pick strawberries and warble a country-fried rendition of Old McDonald at the behest of a sun-burnt man with a white beard and bowed legs. Naturally, Liya had to use the bathroom in the middle of this fest and naturally the toilet was on the other side of the field…about a 15-minute walk.

Okay. Okay! FINE. It was more like 5.5 minutes away, but considering my weight and the intensity of the sun’s beams, it increased the time and distance to the location by a factor of 3.

So as I was saying, I’m drinking this massive cup blueberry cider because I’m in no mood to share. No else one in my house deserves it. I sipped the child juice and recalled what I was made to endure that Thursday afternoon. Have you any idea how humiliating it is to watch a wagon full of five and six year olds scream, “Come on, Liya’s Mom! Don’t give up! We won’t leave you!” as you gingerly lumber through rows and rows of ripened strawberries? Doubtful. So I drank MY well-earned juice and I went to sleep.

Blueberry cider must be a natural laxative.

I just Googled it. It IS a natural laxative. This is important. Just wait!

Today marks Marshall and my 11th wedding anniversary. 2016 also marks 20 years spent adoring and annoying one another. After 11 years of marriage and 20 years of fairly intimate acquaintance with someone, there are certain pretenses that you abandon…like farting in front of your spouse.

The sky was still dark and the birds had not yet begun to chant their morning song. My husband filled up the emptiness when whispered sweetly in my ear, “Happy anniversary, babe….”

I responded with a long, silent, violent fart.

“Happy anniversary!” I giggled.

He flailed about helplessly, gasping for fresh air before informing me that I stank. I guffawed at his nerve.

“Well, your breath smells like my butt.”

That was unfair. Morning breath IS unpleasant, but blueberry fart is far more noxious. But I wasn’t going to admit that to him.How dare his mock his wife’s inner essence.

Instead, over the course of the next 20 minutes I continued to simultaneously blow gas from my ass and giggle about how much I loved being married to him until the entire circus became too much for my husband to handle. He leapt from the bed, wheezing and calling on the name of the Lord, scrambling to the bathroom in search of something. Eventually, he came back (just as all men do) and declared that he was unable to find his desired item: some air freshener. I shrugged and told him he didn’t need it anyway. (Essence, remember?)

“I did find this, though.”

“What is it?”

I groped in the darkness, unable to ascertain what nature of item he had placed in my hand.

“It’s a crudely wrapped anniversary gift,” he replied.

“I thought we weren’t giving anniversary gifts this year!”

“Who said?”

I sucked my teeth and turned on my phone to see what this man had surprised me with this year. Marshall gives me the most wonderful gifts. I’ve gotten diamonds and pearls, a Kate Spade bag (when it really mattered), trips to the spa….

I fumbled with the bag awkwardly. Its contents revealed this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 8.25.14 AM

“Is this a pimple lancer?”

“Happy anniversary!”

“And..are these…tweezers?”

“Not just ANY tweezers. Professional tweezers. Top of the line tweezers!”

He couldn’t see me glaring at him in the darkness, so I suppose he mistook my silence for pleased shock and awe, when really I was in a state of incredulity. Just unbelievable! I just…He would choose our anniversary as the moment to highlight my facial hair and blemishes? I subconsciously began to rub my face.

“It’s our steel anniversary, and I figured I’d get you something that you’d actually use and that you could easily take on the plane.”

“Ah. I see. Thank you.”

I mean, it’s a gift, right? And he was right – it IS a very useful gift. Not romantic, but useful. And that’s where we are as a couple, I suppose. Man, I can’t wait to run to CVS and pick out HIS anniversary gift.

So often we are advised to keep spice in our marriages in order to preserve their longevity. For some folks that means jet setting off to Bucharest at a moment’s notice. For others, it means sacrificing a few packs of Coors and actually paying the electricity bill on time so that you can have lights for dinner this month. And for the Grants…well, you’ve seen for yourself.

I haven’t necessarily “learned” anything new about marriage this morning. I suppose the events that transpired at 5:30 am were more of a reminder that marriage is unpredictable; people even more so. You think you know everything there is to know about your spouse and after this many years of co-habiting and co-sleeping, this person still has the ability to surprise you. It’s an amazing thing.

4-512

 

That last line was meant to be my conclusion, but I’ve just been wished a “Happy Stink-A-Versary” by my husband.

Let me get on over to this drug store so that I can retaliate.

Happy anniversary to everyone celebrating a May wedding! How long have you been married? Have things changed drastically since you said “I do?” What’s the strangest gift your spouse has ever given you? Discuss!:)

…And Tiwa Savage Chose Life, and Chose it More Abundantly

As we come to the conclusion of this series, it’s my fervent hope that the narratives that these women have shared will motivate each of us to do some serious introspection and become more contemplative about our personal choices. Not just in the realm of romance and marriage, but in other areas of our lives as well. I hope it will cause us to think about what we ought to tolerate.

During our dinner conversation, the Night Nurse expressed the notion her ‘cup was full’. Exasperated, she would repeat the phrase again and again as she recounted how she was made to sit on her own front porch like vermin, or how her son becomes sullen every time he is left in the care of his emotionally attached father. She interprets a full cup as the inability (and unwillingness) to take any more of what she has been dished out in here marriage. Yet curiously, her religious convictions preclude her from leaving this fruitless endeavor. Some people would say this is foolish, but as the Night Nurse said, this is her choice.

We began this saga because Tiwa Savage made a series of choices and was savaged (insert quip about puns) for them. Like the Night Nurse and the other women profiled, she examined her cup and ascertained what volume it could accommodate. Her course was to end her tender marriage and to admit that it was a mistake to marry TeeBillz in the first place. Either instance provides an important lesson about choices: It’s okay to admit your mistake in choosing an incompatible life partner. And since it takes two to marry, it will take a commitment from both parties (not just a ‘praying wife’, who so many Africans tend to fault for the collapse of a marriage) to ensure its success. It is obvious in Tiwa’s case that her husband is not interested in preserving their union or its sanctity, or else he never would have placed his wife and their child in harm’s way by borrowing 45 million naira from a ruthless mafia and/or potentially expose Tiwa to a buffet of venereal diseases, courtesy of Edible Catering.

That Tiwa was able to speak so dispassionately about her situation in a society that is not only male dominated, but absolves men from even the most basic of responsibilities is to be applauded and congratulated. The tragedy of the existence of the African male is that he has been made to believe that the sum of his worth is tied to how much money he earns. His manhood is inextricably linked to a paycheck. It has become the ONLY marker he can use as the measure of his success. And when he finds himself wed or dating a woman whose career allows her to eclipse his earning potential, he is unable to cope. Instead of collaborating with his wife, the African male finds himself in competition with her. And in order to keep the peace, women find themselves compelled to dim their light in order for their spouses to shine – or worse – not shine at all. Encouraging silence about this convoluted arrangement plays a big factor in obscuring the accomplishments of women all over the continent.

 

Culture of silence

In a spirited Facebook exchange earlier in the week, a now former friend of mine spitefully castigated Tiwa for speaking out about the litany of insane things TeeBillz has done during their marriage, determining in her sage opinion that Tiwa should have spoken up and left long before. Oh really? When would have been the ideal time?

“When she had the miscarriage and he didn’t pick up her calls,” she said smugly. “That should have been the last straw.”

But why? Why not when Tiwa found him doing cocaine in the kitchen in the early months of their marriage? Why not when she discovered that he had a third baby outside of the two he had already declared? Why did the miscarriage HAVE to be the point when she decided her cup was full? What gives anyone the right to determine when a man/woman choses the day of their liberation?

The fact is, we never would have known any of these salacious details because Tiwa – like so many other celebrities in her league – fight very hard to keep incidences like these out of the press. It’s damaging to their brand. This is not just a celebrity quirk. Most, if not all Africans are concerned about their brand…except we call it the “family name”.

The visceral need to protect the family name has done irrevocable harm to communities all over Ghana, for instance. I’m fairly certain this phenomenon is not peculiar to our West African nation. If a girl is raped by her father, what do we do? Shuttle her away (but not before she’s received a good beating and shaming for allowing herself to be raped) in order to protect the family name. Visit the comments section on GhanaWeb if you doubt it. If a member of one’s family is mentally ill or physically deformed, what do we do? We lock them away or chain them in a hidden room in order to protect the family name. Even something as mundane as a career choice has consequences for one’s family name/brand. I know of a man who became a white man’s whore and lives with his mother in a beautiful house the white man built for him. She knows that her son is essentially a prostitute, but it’s never spoken of. After all, she has a place to lay her head at night. The stories that she tells people about her son are outrageous because they are so opposite from the truth, all in an effort to protect her brand.

This culture of silence through concealment and lying seeps into every aspect of our society. It is why UN Peacekeepers in CAR felt/feel comfortable raping women and girls, because it’s easier for the latter to keep quiet and try to forget. It’s why no one really talks about corruption except in broad, vague terms. And it’s why Tiwa and the Sunday School Teacher and the Analyst have been silent about their duress until now. It’s not good for the brand, so to speak. No one wants to look like they are weak in the wake of a foe the seems unconquerable.

 

Patriarchal Princesses

We talk a lot about male dominated society, patriarchy and how men protect this system to protect their privileges, but certain women have a huge part to play in the stagnation and regression of women’s rights too. These are the patriarchal princesses: women who have positioned themselves to directly benefit from the norms of a male dominated society at the expense of other women. They are essentially “Stephen the House Negroes”, but working on the side of chauvinism as opposed to suppressing Black people. Patriarchal princesses hate women. They hate the idea of gender quality and they are the most victim-blaming trolls you will ever encounter. It is the fear and dread of running into a patriarchal princess that keeps other women silent about their plight(s). These women are our mothers, aunties and hairdressers. They are everywhere.

A patriarchal princess preaches that husbands are our “sons and fathers” and therefore must simultaneously treated as both baby and lord.

A patriarchal princess assumes that if a man is cheating (even when she may the other half of the cheating equation), it must be because his wife is failing to keep up her “responsibilities” at home. She believes that it is a woman’s duty to give a man sex on demand; whether a woman is inspired to or whether he deserves the privilege of making love to her or not.

A patriarchal princess believes that a woman is a lesser being, and even though deep down this belief causes severe cognitive dissonance, she will go out of her way to shame and upbraid any woman who dares to live on her own terms. As was mentioned before, she hates the idea of women being free. She will tell you to watch War Room and insist that you submit to your husband’s insufferableness and then eventually blame you for not getting out sooner “if it was so bad in the beginning.”

Like Stephen the House Negro, these women are worse than white supremacists. They are the ultimate traitors. And like the indoctrination of white supremacy that is rooted in every Black person, all women have to fight the patriarchal princess buried within them if they want to live free.

 

The “African Context”

But why do the Patriarchal Princess and the culture of silence prevail in our societies? I believe it all boils down to a misinterpretation of what it means to be African: servile, superstitious and simple minded.

This is what we’ve been taught.

At his core, the African male does not believe he is equal (and certainly never superior) to white men, where ‘white’ is a euphemism for ‘not of Africa’. It’s the reason that we give all of our contracts to the Chinese and the Brazilians, though the buildings they erect and roads they design continue to crumble around us. For centuries, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that foreign is better that it is encoded in our DNA. Foreign gods, foreign wine, foreign furniture. We can’t shake loose.

And yet it is the nature of men to want to dominate something…anything! And rather than dominate industry or enterprise, they have chosen to target women. The problem is, it is not in a woman’s nature to desire domination. We are conquerors by nature. Once upon a time, women were allowed to experience a much fuller human existence in Africa. We managed kingdoms and empires, we led armies, we built homes, we have always existed simultaneously with softness and strength. We did all of this while pregnant, on our periods, or in the throes of menopause. The sad reality is that a woman in 15th century Africa probably had a wider array of choices made available to her than her 21st century counterpart. (She certainly had better reproductive healthcare facilities.)

We have no sense of what it means to be truly African or have pride in our culture. We are living a phantom existence of archaic, frequently harmful, imported Western cultural norms that we’ve sprinkled shitor on and re-branded as “African”. For instance, rape was once a crime punishable by death. Now we anoint rapists as pastors in houses of worship in Accra.

Wrapped up in this sordid mix is the idea that to be corrupt and stupid is what it means to be “African”. This is the perfect environment for subjugation to thrive, naturally. That’s why Tiwa’s choice to speak up in this type of environment is an act of bravery. I hope it will be replicated.

 

In closing, congratulations to Tiwa. Congratulations to all the women who have decided to take their lives back and have re-charted the course of their destiny. Whether that means dispensing with a career or partner that was a hindrance – or whatever that personal thing was precluding you from living life more abundantly – hats off to you for choosing your day to live. And if you ain’t free yet, we’ll be here waiting to cheer you. It’s never too late.

 

Moil and Matrimony: The Accountant and The Analyst

The Accountant’s Tale

I’ve always said that women who do not watch men before marriage are very stupid. Yes! I was very vocal about it. If you let a man get into your pants before marriage, you are a stupid woman. How can you let a man trick you into having sex? What if you fall pregnant and he leaves you? After all, don’t men tell us all the time that they have urges that they cannot control? I used to think that this was the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It’s the ultimate dishonor!

Any smart woman will watch a man very carefully before saying “I do”.

So before my husband became my husband, I watched him for three years. He declared his interest in me and I waited before giving him my heart. He was a very private man. He never spoke much about his family or himself, but he was a worshiper. That was good enough for me. This man could speak in tongues and you could feel the presence of God in the room. Wow! And he would open doors for me and speak with such respect. It wasn’t hard to fall in love with him…but like I said, you have to watch men very carefully before you walk down the aisle. We had a two year courtship before marriage which he said he didn’t mind. He wanted to work on his finances. He said he wanted to get them in order and was humble enough to ask me. How could I refuse? Why would I refuse?

I have my degree in finance and have always been fiscally responsible. I don’t spend above my means. So for two years, we took financial courses together – as a team – and worked on getting his debts paid off. He became a better steward with money. When he was “debt free”, we had a celebration with cake and sparkling cider. We were wed soon after that. He was my perfect man: cordial, handsome and now that he had learned to better manage money, we could begin to build our own little empire. He’s a co-signee on everything. I have always believed that couples should share everything from the bed to the bank account.

Did I mention this man spoke in tongues?

After we got married, we decided to buy a house. Our dream house. I already knew my FICO was well over 770, so I wasn’t bothered. Do you know what I discovered at the closing table? That my husband, the man I had watched carefully for two years and heard pray in tongues and laughed with over simple dinners was in debt. $300,000 in debt, to be exact. He had managed to hide it from me.

"Did your man happen to mention he was $300K in debt?"

“Did your man happen to mention he was $300K in debt?”

He doesn’t pray in tongues anymore. He’s all but wiped out our savings. He doesn’t open doors and he doesn’t speak with respect any more. I don’t what I’m going to do. How could someone keep up a lie like this for two years? He deserves an academy award, I tell you.

As I already said, women who do not watch men carefully are stupid. Please tell my story, but please don’t reveal my name. This is so embarrassing.

 

The Analyst’s Tale

I was folding his socks when he walked into the bedroom and dropped it on me.

“I don’t want to marry you, and I don’t want to have kids with YOU. So if that’s your plan you can just forget about it.”

We hadn’t had a fight. We hadn’t had a quarrel. In fact, we never quarrel. I was just folding HIS socks when he launched this grenade at me.

Mark* and I have been together for 5 years now. When we first got together, he said it was just for fun. I like fun! I didn’t mind. And the sex was exciting. He likes to do it in public places and I’m not that kind of girl, so for me it was a thrill.

Then we moved in together after a year. He told me it was just so he could save money on rent and not to read too much into it. But I had invested a year into this “fun relationship”, so I moved in anyway.

We’ve taken vacations together; we go to house parties together; I’m always his date at his company functions. We’re a real couple. At least, I think we are. It’s been 5 years of me folding his socks and packing his lunches. So yes, I do look forward to marrying Mark in the future.

Even though he hardly talks to me when we’re out.

Even though he only screws me in the parking lot at his job and never at home in our bed.

Even though he just told me to my face that he doesn’t want to have kids with ME, I still want to marry him.

I have to. People will think I’ve wasted all this time for nothing if this fun relationship doesn’t end in marriage. My mother is in Cameroon. She has spoken to Mark many times over the phone. She always asks of him. I’ve told her how he takes me to fancy corporate functions and send her pictures of my gowns at the events. I don’t tell her how I have to take a cab home so that Mark and his co-workers can take the car go partying afterwards. But after 5 years invested in this man, she’ll be expecting a wedding. Everyone will!

So I’ll wait. I’ll wait another 5 years…15 years…. until he changes his mind.

Moil and Matrimony: The Sunday School Teacher’s Tale

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I heard you took the Night Nurse out for dinner. That was very nice of you. She deserves it. She helps me out a lot, you know? Whenever I need to take time for myself, she takes my three kids without a question. We’ve only just recently become fairly good friends, even though we’ve been aware of each other for years. We’re both in the Kenyan Association here in Atlanta. I like her because she’s a simple, God-fearing woman.

Her husband and mine couldn’t be more different…but so alike in so many ways. Unfortunately, their similarities are not positive ones. My husband is a “gentleman”. He comes from a good background, he doesn’t drink or do drugs, and he has a good office job. The Night Nurse’s husband…well, I’m sure she told you he changes positions every few months? That’s why they are struggling financially. But me and my family? We’re doing very well. Or at least I believe we are. My husband doesn’t let me handle the finances.

In fact, my husband doesn’t let me touch any money at all.

When we need sugar and milk in the house, he goes to buy it. If the kids need school supplies, he goes to buy it. What kind of a wife doesn’t even shop for her own groceries? The kids go to a great private school, but they are the ‘poorest little rich kids’ you’ve ever seen. They don’t get to do half the things their friends do.

I don’t have a debit card or access to our bank account. Or his bank account, I should say. You see, I come from a somewhat well-to-do family myself, but I married my husband right after university. I thought that being married would give me some freedom…but honestly, my marriage is a prison.

You asked me in what ways are my husband and the Night Nurse’s husband similar? Maybe this is a Kenyan man thing, but my husband doesn’t believe in celebrating me…or celebrating us. Our anniversary is not even a discussion. We’ve been married 9 years and never celebrated our anniversary once. He says it’s a waste of money. Since I’ve gotten married, I’ve never gone shopping for myself. I have never had a job. I finished university and got pregnant soon after we got married. I’ve been a mother almost since the beginning of our marriage. And my birthday? Forget about it. This is how I celebrate my birthday every year. This is why the Night Nurse is such a dear friend to me:

There are certain stores all around Atlanta that give you free things on your birthday. So every year, the Night Nurse watches my kids (because my husband can’t be bothered to) and I take myself out. I treat myself. How does a woman with no money treat herself? Well, I make sure I carry my ID wherever I go and look for deals. So I’ll get a free drink here, a free item off of a menu there…just to feel like I too have been out for my birthday.

I know my husband hates me. He’s all but told me. But he won’t grant me a divorce. And my parents won’t let me come back home. They keep telling me to stay and pray and try to work things out. But how do you work things out with someone who despises you? I don’t even know what I’ve done to this man – and I’ve asked! I cook, I clean, I’ve birthed three kids for him. And still he treats me like…like I am nothing.

Do you know how I get by for the miscellaneous things for the kids? And you know kids always need something. Every week, they need money for an activity, or Spirit Week, or what have you. You know what I mean, of course.

I teach Sunday School at a very prominent Atlanta church and they pay me per hour. So every week, I get a check for the three to four hours I teach Sunday School. I make about $70 a month. My husband doesn’t know, otherwise he’d make me stop. He doesn’t want me to earn. He doesn’t want me to have a life outside of his.

Do you know why he won’t grant me a divorce, even though he’s just as miserable in our marriage? It’s obvious: He doesn’t want to pay child support and alimony. He would rather the five of us be miserable in this house than to part with a dime. And me; I’m trapped. I can’t go back to my parents because they won’t have me, and I have to keep a roof over my kids’ heads. The easiest thing for me to do would be to take the kinds and to leave him, but that’s not so ‘easy’, is it?

Besides, I don’t know if I will get the support I need. I mean, if my own family will not support me, how can I expect strangers to? And people can be so judgmental when it comes to marriage and divorce…especially we Africans. So I don’t talk about it. I just shout and praise and pretend everything is all right. But really, I’m just waiting for the moment that he signs those papers.

I’m still young.

 

 

Y’all….

I don’t even know what to say. Except to say this: Man or woman – ALWAYS earn your own money. Don’t ever let “love” make you into someone’s slave. Don’t let “love” rob you of your freedom.

If the Sunday School Teacher were your child, would you let her come back home? What would be your advice to her? Can you see yourself turning your daughter away and hiding her unhappiness?

Moil and Matrimony: The Night Nurse’s Tale

When I was three months pregnant my husband locked me out of his house in Kennesaw because he was drunk and I was angry that he was drunk. I say “his house”, because his name was on the deed, not mine. I was a new immigrant and I was sure that if I called the police to say that he had thrown me out of our house he would say that it wasn’t for “us”. He bought it, not me. So I sat there on the porch like a dog until he sobered up and calmed down and let me back in. Fortunately, the house went into foreclosure and we moved into an apartment soon after that. I made sure my name was on the lease.

My first Mother’s Day, I cried. I just cried. This was my first child, you know? I thought it was going to be a special day.

My husband made sure he worked on that day. He didn’t have to pick up that Sunday shift, but he made sure he did. Later on that night we went to the drive-through to pick up some food and the cashier at the window was so sweet. He said “Happy Mother’s day, ma’am!” Then he told us that his own mother was dead and that he goes to visit her grave every year on Mother’s Day. It’s a special time for him. Do you know what my husband said in reply?

“It’s good you are wishing her happy mother’s day, because that is the only one she will get!”

He thought he was being funny. He was laughing. The cashier and I were just looking at him, shocked. When we got home I told him he didn’t have to embarrass me like that. He didn’t even answer me.

Do you know my husband has never celebrated my birthday? By that I mean he has never bought me a gift, a card, or even said “happy birthday”. I’m 41 and we have been married for 8 years, been together 12. We dated for 4 years before that in Kenya. You are asking me if I had a party for my 40th birthday? 40 is a big deal, right? I am telling you the man didn’t even buy me a card! That’s not to say he has never given me anything. Once, when we were dating in Kenya he gave me a flower. I thought it was a big deal. I thought this was normal, for him not to show lots of affection. And because I also come from a family where there is a lot of physical violence against women, I was satisfied because at least my husband has never hit me.

But our marriage is so sad. He doesn’t spend money on me or our son because he says it is a “waste”. He only spends money on alcohol when he goes out with his friends. Once, after I had come home early in the morning from working my night shift, I came to meet him, his friend and two ladies drunk in our living room. I was so mad! And to make matters worse, the guy had come with his three kids to our house. I just stormed into my room and shut the door. My husband sent one of those drunk good for nothing women into the room to ask me why I was angry. She lay on the bed next to me and was shaking me because she wanted to talk. I screamed at her to get out of my room. How dare she! While all of this was going one, one of his friend’s kids opened the door and wandered outside. I called the police and we searched for him for almost two hours. My husband’s friend got off with a warning. If it had not been for his green card, I’m sure they would have deported him!

That day, I reported him to my pastor. I mean, I work, I pay bills, I organize everything for our son, and you do this? Now way! My pastor told him that if he wants to drink, he needs to do it at a bar and respect his wife and his home. He shouldn’t be bringing drunk friends to his home. My husband was SO angry that I asked the pastor for counseling. He said we are brining outside forces into our home. He’s even lucky I haven’t informed my father. In our tradition in my part of Kenya, a woman can return to her father’s house if the marriage isn’t happy. That’s what my father told my husband when we got married: That before he does anything to make his daughter unhappy, he should just bring me back to his house!

But so many people have prophesied over me and told me to stick with my marriage, including my own pastor. You are asking which one is more important to me: the words of my father or the words of my pastor? Well, I think they are both important…it’s just that I’m in America now, and it’s my decision to stay in the marriage. I want to leave him. I want to leave him. But I will stay for the sake of our son. I always wanted many children, but he has been so neglectful that I have made sure never to get pregnant again. I have suffered too much with just one child… imagine more? I look at you and your four children and I wonder how you manage it all. But I see it’s because you have a good husband who supports you and loves you and your children.

I asked my husband if he is going to be like this for the rest of his life. He has already alienated his son. The boy is 11 and doesn’t want to spend time with him. He sleeps on the sofa because we don’t even like to be near each other. He never meets me half way for anything. He is stuck on this African culture that says he’s the “man of the house”, and so every responsibility must fall on me. We don’t have the support in America to allow him to live those male dominated values. It’s just me and him and our son. And I feel so alone, because we’re not ‘supposed’ to talk about this to anyone.

Thank you for taking me out this evening, and for making me feel so special on my birthday. I will never forget it. I have never been here before! I have been to very few restaurants, actually. You should have seen my husband’s face when I was leaving the house all dressed up in my red heels. It was a shock to him. Haha! He’s not accustomed to me going out, but this is a new me. I’m 41 now. It’s time for a new me.

 

*The tale of the Night Nurse, as narrated over dinner at Cheesecake Factory for her 41st birthday. And as sad as her tale is, it could be worse. She could be the Sunday School Teacher….

 

Discussion notes:

Given that the Night Nurse’s culture allows space for the dissolution of a marriage if it’s a stressful union, do you think religious beliefs should usurp the pursuit of her happiness? Does suffering in marriage make it more holy? Do you think the Night Nurse and her spouse have hope for the future? Do you think it is important for women to be made to feel valued for their contributions, or is the Night Nurse just kvetching over nothing?