I spent some time with a close guy friend a couple weeks ago while stateside, and a
slightly inebriated trip down relationship/situationship lane concluded with some chilling realizations and some good insights for me going forward. I thought it was time to start turning wounds into wisdom, so here goes.
The conversation began with the acknowledgement that ‘yes, there are always signs when something’s not going to work out, but we choose to ignore them- While for men, ignoring usually involves a fight between both “heads”, a woman’s fight is usually between her head and her heart. So given this fight, how does one pick up that you’re not ‘his wifey’ in order not to waste your time? Good q. For the remainder of this piece, I’ll try to recount John’s** side of the conversation in italics slash give my thoughts and list out six key findings in bold. Although these are personalized to me, they are general takeaways for everyone on how to know before you know.
In no particular order:
1. How many times did I tell you to let this one go? And not just me, how many people told you to let this one go? You put it down, you pick it up. You walk away, then turn right back around and RUN back. You let it half way heal, then with one little itch and you’re picking at it. >>> When your guy friends cry foul, it’s a problem. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I’ll reiterate it because it’s such a good test. Maybe even before ‘your man’ admits it to you or to himself, sometimes your guy friends can pick up on actions or inactions and let you know what’s really up with a guy. Listen to your guy friends when they tell you to keep it moving, especially when it’s multiple friends and said repeatedly. It’s not an exact science, but this is definitely better than listening to your girlfriends who tend to rationalize actions with you..
2. Not one? single one of his
close friends, period, knew of the existence of his and your situation. And that is all on you, boo. As a relationship blogger, you really should know better. >>> I really should. I mean, I have a blog post that even discussed this… so no excuses on this one. Let me just copy/paste what I already ‘know’: His Family and Friends not knowing about you is a problem. If you’re ‘together’ and every one of your close friends and family knows about him, but none of his close friends or family knows about your existence/relationship, it’s time to reconsider the situation. If you drop hints of loving to meet his family/friends and he evades or shuts down the conversation, it’s time to consider why. And this includes the lot of ‘I don’t tell people about my personal business’ folks. Yes, some men don’t like to gossip about who they’re fooling around with, but when he’s serious about you, he’ll want the important people in his life to know about you. And for you to know them.
3. And on that note… the ex never left the picture, so you better go take several seats, little girl. If it takes any man 6 months to break up with a chick, don’t think for a second that thing is going to die
easily >>> When the ex never leaves the picture, it’s a problem. So you did your research once the two of you started talking… Who was before, how serious was it, is she outta the picture? But it’s not always about the past, you need to also consider the present. Even if others have opinions about what their situation was/is, even if he said ‘she wasn’t wifey’…trust your gut. If things don’t feel right on more than one occasion, maybe it’s for a reason. And things not feeling right can manifest in various forms: 1. They’re still really good friends (a little too good) 2. She’s someone who never let go: Checking in… ‘Hows your mama & ‘em doing?… Did your pops receive the Christmas present I sent him’ Etc.*side-eye* 3. His friends never understood why he broke up with her, and continue to believe she’s the best match for him (See #2 again) 4. The general public/ his friends and acquaintances still associate him with her in a romantic sense… Everyone pause for a moment: I actually had a conversation once with someone who referred to the person I was currently talking to as ‘oh, you mean so-and-so’s ex’… Errr yup, that’s exactly who I was referring to… *side-eye*. For this one, John was stressing that perhaps I never lost him because I never had him to lose. That perhaps he was never the one, because he was always someone else’s one. If she’s got the best friends and family on lock, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle; just don’t be surprised if in 2, 3, 4 years even they’re back together near engaged *shrug*.
3.5. Not to belabor the point, but you took too long to decide what you wanted and then to tell him, and in general there will be less encroachment on territory if it is clearly marked. One reason someone can come back so easily into a man’s life, is when he’s not locked down. You have a window of opportunity to lock it down with a guy, once that’s gone, you can’t really do much after that. >>> When it takes too long to get commitment, it’s a problem. If you want something, decide quickly and take it. If you get hurt in the process, at least you can say you tried… But don’t allow a situation to float in the milky way undefined. One of the most eye opening lessons I’ve learned in the last year is the power of a decisive woman in a relationship. And this is all from the mouths of men too: ‘Women sometimes underestimate their influence over men (especially educated black women). A woman can have the power to make decisions for ‘us’, because sometimes we don’t know what we want or what’s best for us, and we need a woman to make a case/decision that ‘hey, we’re doing this’.’ What I’ve seen over the past year living in Ghana is that the purposeful/intentional/aggressive women be killing the game- and the laissez-faire, well…they’re not. And intentional here is not thirsty or manipulative, it’s just being straight with what you want.
4. Your values/ religion did not align, and no one backed down. Love compromises, so if yall weren’t willing to come to an understanding on this then there’s not too much you could do there >>> I know this is a dicey one. In our favorite guest post on White Women, the author called foul play on African men brought up by traditional/Christian mothers who wanted to deviate from that with their own significant others. However, to that all I can say is: It’s. Allowed. God forbid men don’t want to marry their mothers, even if they think the world of them. You’re allowed to adore your mama and not want to date/marry ‘her’ per se, or allow ‘her’ to raise your kids in the world we live in now. And I find this true for a lot of African men who’ve grown up/ spent a considerable amount of time abroad. It’s the same thing really as marrying outside your race/culture. And I am fully aware that opposites attract and there are successful inter-faith and no-faith/faith couples, however if the two of you don’t see each others values/religions as assets (or at the very least not liabilities) to the other’s character, then its a red flag. And this is more than tolerance, it’s respect and a willingness to live with the consequences of that persons values/religion… Including (if you’re to get married) how you raise your kids.
5. Count for me how many times in 3 years, you TRULY felt this boy was going H.A.M for you, as in putting in serious time and energy to make the relationship work.
1, 2, 3 times? Maybe a handful?
Actually that’s okay, you don’t have to answer.
>>> He likes you
a little less than you like him. It’s the time tested rule passed down from Grandmama that we all heard growing up: You want a man who likes you a little more than you like him. For obvious reasons… or maybe not so obvious, so I’ll explicitly say it… Men like to chase and women like to be chased. It’s like the circle of life or something *shrug*. If you as the woman are driving things, if you’re the one trying to manipulate situations to see him, speak to him scheming to make it work, it’s prob not supposed to work. If he shows unwavering commitment to his friends and family, and for you it doesn’t quite seem like he’s putting in as much dedication to show you how he feels… sooner or later, the truth always surfaces. And I’m not advocating for playing games here either… I do think women should make their feelings known, but after that if he’s not reciprocating on a similar level then keep it moving… And I realize there’s a delicate balancing act one has to do between this and #3.5.
6. WTF. Even as a man, I WAS confused of this guy’s actions. He’s in, he’s out, he’s up, he’s down. >>> Indecision is a decision. And I’ve already talked about this …. twice. Don’t necessarily equate leaving and returning as a sign that he wants to be with you… Because although he comes back, he still leaves again. If he can’t make a permanent decision about you, and it’s been more than 12 months…keep it moving – words from a man, not me. And I can’t give enough stress to #1, if your guy friends cry foul… well, you know the rest.
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Well, that’s the list I
uncovered can remember with John. Perhaps he was a little hard on me, but I needed to hear it and I think many women need to as well. What’s worse than being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back, is wasting time on being with someone who truly doesn’t want to be with you, so use the 6 tests above… I think they can save you a lot some of the head heartache. The guy may like you (even care for you deeply), but the key here is that he’s not into you enough to stay permanently… Enough to tell his fam/friends about you… Enough to pass the smell test with objective guy friends. I think more than this being a therapeutic post for me, I also don’t want anyone to ever spend too much time on a one-sided love, or ever have to hear a guy say to you after three years, ‘you know, you don’t exactly fit in with my whole life situation’… *shrug* It happens.
**Name changed obvi
A while back, when this blog was the official bandeka blog, I told a reader that I would post her response to a blog that I did. In getting caught up with the move to Rambling Roommates, I never did. Although we’ve moved on from the topic, I still want to honor my commitment… so see below for the thoughts of one of our readers. She is responding to this piece that I wrote, which was a response to this previous guest post.
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I think more than anything this black man/white woman thing is a phase/status thing. In my observations (based on family members and two exes who married out of the race) black men actually want black women (and vice versa) especially the older they get. No one wants to grow old with someone who has foreign customs and culture and they also want their children to grow up with their culture and learn their values. When we are young we are open and flexible to life but the older we get, the more we experience the world and try to make sense of it and find our sense of belonging which makes us want to retreat to our cocoon of comfort and what we know, namely our customs and culture. Also, there comes a stage in a man’s life where he expects/looks for a woman who “is like his mother” because again that’s what he knows.
Where (in my opinion) we “fail” as African women:
1.We forget who we are and get so caught up by the blinding and false promises of Western culture that we shun our customs and norms and name call them names in our bid to be white sorry I meant Western there I go again, I meant to modernize ourselves.
2.Ladies, yes we are very capable of anything a man is capable of; in fact anything a man can do we can do a hundred times better (sorry brothers but it’s the truth :p) that being said we should not try compete with our men. A man needs his place to be recognised, he needs to be honoured and respected (WOAW before you come baying for my blood ladies and reminding me of women who fought for my rights please listen with an open mind). Fact: men are stronger than women (but that does not make a woman any less of a human being) and as the stronger sex they should be the protectors of a home and that is what African culture (as well as other cultures) dictates. I’m not saying the man has to be the sole provider and the woman has to be subservient to him just that men and women are different and not just anatomically. We each have different strengths and roles we bring and play in a relationship. Yes, be ambitious but do not try to dictate to your men and STOP trying to be a man in the relationship. There’s a saying in my culture that you cannot put two bulls in one pen it’s the same with a relationship you cannot have two men in a relationship (unless it’s a gay relationship but even then one acts the role of a man). If you honour your man he will honour you back and support you and your ambitions.
3.In response to Lady B’s song: one, Beyonce was just selling a song. Secondly, none of us knows what Beyonce does behind closed doors. We don’t know what she had to compromise and put up with to get that ring.
How the white woman hook our men in:
1.They are light skinned, have long silky hair and colourful eyes
2.They give them the honour they are looking for and make them feel like a MAN
3.They are open to compromise and are willing to do whatever to please them (e.g. move across oceans)
But they also end up messing it up in the end, when they’ve secured their place their true colours come out and they start dictating, demanding and become less compromising and that’s when our brothers come back to us by that time we’re willing to try anything and are more open to compromise. (LoL)
Last bit: I once shocked my white colleagues when I told them that I want a bride price to be paid for me, I’ll never marry an uncircumcised man and when I get my husband shall be KING of my household. They were shocked that an “educated and independent” woman like me would think like that. But I told them that in my culture that is how it is and I know when I make him my KING he will make me his QUEEN. I’ve seen it, I come from a family of strong, educated and working women (mother, grandmother and even great-grandmother) they honoured their husbands and they had successful marriages and I’ve had three marriage proposals before so I guess I must have done something right. In conclusion, compromising and bending for our men is not an off-set of giving up our independence.
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Now the only few words I (Afua) will say about Anon’s piece stem from this article: Below are some interesting facts and statements from the article, which lend to what our reader has noted above. The article is quite on the money, minus the ridiculous amount of underlined, italicized and bold font… and this is why I’ve taken the liberty to separate out the interesting points for you. Although the article is about black relationships in the US, I think some of it applies to Africans in the diaspora and on the continent too… sometimes we get disillusioned with what we see (cough…the guest blogger), and forget the entire picture.
The interracial genocide of Black love is a FALLACY… When news organizations put this garbage out, we eat it up
95% of Black males marry Black women
We easily believe all the negative and depressing commentaries about the state of our community and our inability to LOVE one another, even though the FACTS prove otherwise
Eighty-three percent of married Black men with an income of more than $100,000 put a ring on a Black woman
Black men with college degrees also overwhelmingly marry Black women to the tune of 85%
By 35, 75% of Black women are experiencing bridal bliss, and have headed down the aisle at least once
All this BS about the Black man’s exodus from educated, successful Black women is FALSE and unsubstantiated
When you look at the percentage of Black men out there who comprise interracial marriages, the reality is that those men most likely did not EXPLICITLY choose a white woman over a Black woman, they choose what was most available to them
Also, some wise words to all black female bloggers were included in the article- we must be responsible in our speech: ”Stop propagating falsehoods because you are NOT adding intelligent and intellectual commentaries on a “serious problem””.
Thank you, author. Your words are noted… (hence the ridiculous number of black love pics in this piece )
On another note, if you want to have your say on Rambling Roommates, let us know: email@example.com.
When I got to Ghana a couple months ago, within weeks I had a couple frank conversations with two highly educated persons in my life regarding their definition of dating. This isn’t a rare occurrence, however the stark differences between their definitions AND mine have led me to write this post. I’ll let yall help me tease this out, but essentially I’m wondering whether these differences are a case of semantics or whether fundamental differences in dating styles play a determining factor in the success of a relationship. I’m leaning towards the latter, but let’s see how I feel after writing this.
So here’s (my take on) each person’s stance:
Life must have order/structure, and that goes for relationships too. At the point of dating, you should have thoroughly vetted this person through the friendship & talking stage, therefore at the stage of dating there must be exclusivity. Dating exclusively is not necessarily a committed relationship leading to marriage, ie. I could be dating you exclusively and not necessarily want to marry you, but you (and you only) are my girl for right now. Dating also means we’re intimate. During the friend/ talking stage, we could have been intimate or not.
As much as humanly possible the
candidate person I’m dating must be thoroughly vetted and if we’re not compatible for a certain percentage of compatibility points, it’s a no go. Compatibility points A, B, and C are automatic deal breakers. Comprehensive vetting can take upwards of 5 years. The ultimate goal here is to minimize the number of potential points of contention during the stage of marriage Control.
Ms. Think Like a Man
I used to do the conventional dating of one person at a time, but along the way the experience became emotionally draining (serial monogamy with
headheartache in the end). After taking note of numerous dating blogs, books, radio shows, how men date, I came to the conclusion that I needed to switch up my approach: do not put all your eggs in one basket.
Always have a rotation of guys that you’re dating: it’s a numbers game. Dating should be light and not exclusive. Dating is going out/ talking on the phone- No Intimacy (not even kissing). When it comes to kissing and anything else, discussions should take place first. Before you start kissing, you should have gone on multiple dates. Most men will bore you and not even make it to date 3 or 4… You should be at date 4 before you start kissing.
Once you’ve figured out who you really like then you start laying people aside, and inevitably start spending your time with your ultimate boo. This approach cuts down on time and foolery. When you’ve always got folks in the wings, you won’t be caught up in folks’ nonsense and become emotionally invested in people that haven’t earned a spot on the team. Haters reveal themselves pretty early, and folks that just want to get in your pants rarely make it past date 2 or 3. Intimacy obviously comes after you begin seeing one person and the two of you have had a conversation about exclusivity. This dating strategy is more objective since you get to balance your time, diversify your options and explore more of yourself. This strategy is also good since guys are dating more than one girl at a time as well. For more information on this, see
one of the articles I consulted Here.
Ms. In Between
To me, the bedrock of a relationship is friendship. Ideally, I would love to develop a deep friendship with a guy and follow his promptings for more (than friendship). The friendship/ getting to know you stage is (decently) lengthy, genuine and runs deep. At this stage in life, dating doesn’t need to be too long before we know that there could be a path to marriage (because the foundation has already been set). Obviously, there must be mutual attraction (you don’t date all your friends), and there must be compatibility on goals/vision of what you want to do with your lives. Dating is essentially a committed relationship with some direction (yes, life happens & things can end up not working out, but at least there’s a path to the relationship and we’re not walking around aimlessly). Intimacy comes when a path has been agreed upon.
The jump from friendship to a committed relationship isn’t the grande canyon, thus the actual dating period doesn’t need to be too long. Beauty fades. People get fat. The feeling of love fades. Sex
can will become monotonous at some point. People get annoyed with one another. Folks rise and fall in status and economic standing. Common interests, political leanings change. But what’s your foundation? When you figure that out, everything else can be worked on… Everything else is fluid.
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So considering these three definitions, could Ms Think Like a Man (Ms TLM) successfully date Mr Logical (Mr L)? Or could Ms In Between (Ms IB)? Do semantics get in the way of love or are our definitions of dating, love, relationships just labels?
Lemme see if I can tease out my thoughts on this now…
For some aspects of love, it is just semantics, ie. Mr L and Ms TLM in the beginning stages have similar approaches, just that Mr L would call Ms TLM, his friend, and Ms TLM would say she was dating him. Either way, they would have the mutual understanding that they are in the getting to know each other phase, and that they are not exclusive. Cool? Cool.
However, imagine Ms TLM is dating a MR. IB. Ms TLM has a roster of dudes and a rotation of potentials, but Mr IB is probably not on that rotation because he is just a friend. The two of them hang out, but it’s not like Ms TLM is checking for him like that. However, Mr. IB begins catching feelings… so what happens when he wants to jump to exclusivity, but Ms TLM has moved some members of her squad to her starting lineup?
A little awkward.
Or what if Ms IB and Mr L have passed the talking/friendship stage, however their definitions of when intimacy comes into the picture differ? Mr L needs intimacy as part of the
vetting dating process, and Ms IB wants to know that there could be a path before she’s intimate.
I’ve been toiling over this blog for a few weeks now, and I believe my conclusion is that definitions do matter in as much as you make them matter. We all have stated yes’s and no’s and do’s and don’ts, but do we really stick to them, esp when we meet someone we really think is worth bending our definitions for? I believe people can change their definitions: I’m sure if Ms TLM also realized that she had deep feeling for Mr IB, she would be willing to drop her starting 5, right? Or at least I would hope…
And if she didn’t, then maybe he wasn’t the one (to move her enough to change her definition), right?
Like I said, I’m not done thinking this through… But, I wanna hear from you… And Amma.***
I might even ask our real live Ms TLM to guest post for us (since she seems to be the one that throws a wrench into the various scenarios)
***When you think through this topic, note that I am not arguing about the soundness of each person’s dating style, but rather exploring whether different dating styles impede lasting relationships, which may otherwise be successful outside of clashing dating styles.
In my last post we established there was a survey and people responded...
Let’s get the boring bit out of the way. I considered making an infographic of the demographic information, but I didn’t want to incur Afua’s judging eye. You all know she wishes she could do hates my diagrams. *brushes shoulders off*
So here is a round up of the makeup of those surveyed:
- 34 women responded to the survey
- Most of the women surveyed were between 22 and 30
- Over 2/3 of them have Masters degrees
- The demographic is basically split 50/50 between living in Africa and living in the US/UK/Europe
- A majority of them are either in business or nonprofit/ policy type of work
Essentially, all of the women who responded are iterations of Afua and I— so yes… selection bias… *we know*. But it’s interesting that within this selection of women, there were varying levels of expectations. Yes, we did find that most of them were fairly together (good looking, well educated and well situated in career/ finance). However, there was a lot to be said in terms of values (religion, communication, wellness) for both themselves and their partners. The graphs below illustrate how women responded about themselves and then about their partners.
Some of the ladies admitted they were walking around aimlessly or only sort of where they want to be, while they expect their mates to already ‘be there’ or be really close. Someone commented that this was because they want a man who is head of the household and is able to be a leader in the home. I speak a lot to guys about this topic and many of them would prefer women who are with them on the come up and who are willing to be part of their career journey. To them, gold diggers aren’t just the uneducated video vixens that Kanye raps about looking for a ticket out of the ‘hood— someone’s else’s words… not mine. Well. Ok. Sorta Mine… but paraphrasing from guys on the matter. I don’t think it makes you a gold digger for wanting someone who is well seated in his career. However, there seems to be some insecurity on the guys part about genuineness from a woman who’s lost in her own career path but holds solemnly to his firm foundation. And then there were the women who were ok with someone equally situated in their careers. Nothing surprising there. But if you are a woman with a masters degree, six figure salary and excellent 401K, couldn’t he just be en route? I mean, is nobody at least willing to be with someone who is not quite all together… yet? Michelle was killing the game before Obama meandered his way onto her radar… and we see how that turned out right? One respondent put it this way:
“…Career focus is a close 4th, but it’s not to say he would need to be or aspire to be a CEO. He needs ambition matched by action and follow through and he’s good with me.” #touche
This was an interesting one. Yes… Yes… its true: All of my friends are hotties. No… you can’t have their numbers. But while most of my girls are fours… they are willing to be with threes. Which is to say, they are willing to choose to be with someone who is less attractive than they see themselves. There were individuals who want more attractive men, but I know them and it’s near impossible because they are definitely really good looking. Nevertheless, it looks like attractiveness isn’t as much a priority as I hypothesized… or at least that looks aren’t the sum game of attraction (though it certainly doesn’t hurt). So this is essentially a middle finger to those who say the problem is
educated black women all want Denzel’s and Chris Attoh’s. We would be just fine with the Idris’s Tyson Beckford’s errr, regular guys of the world.
Health and Activity
I laughed when I saw this because it sort of reminds me of how I generally hate working out, but definitely don’t want a guy that doesn’t excel at some sort of sport. I see my sisters agree. The narrative is: ‘Look— I am going to hope that my metabolism does not slow down and these fries don’t catch up to me… but you— you BETTA not get fat.’ I mean I, like my paddies, fall somewhere between being a total lazeball and remembering to skip rope from time to time. As long as we both don’t end up looking like the Klumps… I think this is fair. I know guys who say the opposite in that they expect a woman, after child birth and desk jobs, to somehow manage a Victoria Secret figure. As if!
Most Important Characteristic: It seems in our survey that the most important trait for everyone is monogamy, followed by religion. The comments people left offer insight into the interplay between religion and monogamy, and make it clear that we want loyal husbands above all. The first quote rightly points out that the interplay is still flawed because no one is perfect and people are tempted no matter what their spiritual affiliation:
If hes a christian, issues related to monogamy, and a few other categories shouldnt be a problem….shouldnt….shouldn’t
It is really important that my future mate is very supportive. I think that a lot of these characteristics are great independently, but if there isn’t that love and support base then I don’t think you have much long-term.
Religion/spirituality and monogamy tie for third. A man who shares similar spiritual beliefs will should also (in theory) highly value monogamy. Career focus is a close 4th, but it’s not to say he would need to be or aspire to be a CEO. He needs ambition matched by action and follow through and he’s good with me.
I found it interesting that the second and third most important characteristics were communication and finance/ career focus. On the issue of finance, one person rightly noted:
The finance section is most interesting. One’s proclivity to have fully manageable accounts is different from your current state of finances and this is a gray area in the survey. For instance, though you typically may have money management on lock, recessions, education financing, family circumstances or other components may skew the answer to be “out of control debt/ broke as a joke”
I was mostly correct in my hypothesis except for the bit about looks. Attractiveness was not even a close fourth or fifth which should restore our belief that woman of high caliber are not superficial women with impossible standards.
As if fifteen metrics were not enough, someone also pointed out ‘respect for culture’ as an important ideal. This is really important in the African context when we consider the diversity of ethnic groups and the increasing inter-ethnic/ interracial phenomenon. They had this to say on the matter:
Culture… it is hard to be with someone who does not value culture and or is not open to people of different people. For example, he has to be willing respect rule and follow traditional practices out of respect for me and out of interest. not just say ok thats good for you… he need to be interested on his own also if he is from a different culture he should know enough to share with me!
Well— really smart, good looking Afro women want monogamous men who may not be that attractive but are more fit and more ambitious than they are. They want men who have similar ideals with respect to sexual proclivity, number of children, political inclination and attitude. Essentially– partners who can be leaders in and outside of the house. I wonder if this is a really antifeminist conclusion (I will leave that exploration for the discussion). *shrugs*
Funnily, a work mate of Afua’s once commented that men could only be two of three things: good fathers, loyal husbands, excellent businessmen. Either you get a good father who is a great business man but cheats… a dead beat dad that’s faithful and has a great job or… a man who is both a great father and husband but can’t hold a job. Based on this, I would say that women want a good husband with a great job… I don’t know where that leaves the kids though… no one is perfect right?
So I have to ask, if you could only choose one of the three combinations. Which would it be? Sound off!
To see the rest of the graphs and charts from the survey, click here for the google analytics.
*** All quotes from the respondents are taken verbatim. Even if they have grammatical errors, you can catch the spirit of the words… so… catch them. ha!
I am not complaining about the fact that Jesus gave me baby bottom skin.
I just want to make clear I am grateful that, as they say, black don’t crack and the cellular make up of my skin allows for me to avoid the worry of wrinkles and crows feet.
Having said this… I think my skin is stopping me from being great. Wherever I go… if I am to be approached I can almost guarantee that 95% of the time the guy is younger than me… by at least a century. I have been hit on by so many high school aged/ uni freshmen that its disheartening. And it would not be as disheartening if there was the balance of sophisticated suave men of my age group trying to pick me up at airports.
So first I was like… do I smell?
Should I wear my degrees on my forehead?
Should I walk around in blue/black/ grey and get a FLOTUS bob… it totally works for Afua.
Maybe I should wear make up… weaves mayhaps?
Anything to repel these small boys, abeg!
I recently concluded that in my next relationship story I should date someone who is older then me. I have had my share of younger guys and I think its time, as I consider a long term forever type of situation, that I make time for more established men. The problem is… The ones I have met have been too rigid and super… Well… Boring.
Its not like I need tattoos, earrings and jays (though I’m still a sucker for a proper pair of sneaks— trainers as they’d call them here). I just feel like I need someone who can balance being a useful member of society with utterly useless moments. For example, is it absolutely positively necessary that on BBM or other chat platforms I use proper greeting etiquette? If I hit you with a ‘yo’ or a ‘question?’… We should have the understanding that all of the niceties that might normally precede are included. All of the ‘How was your day’ and ‘how are you this fine blessed mornings’ are part and parcel.
Or is it just me?
Well recently Kerry Washington got hitched to a Nigerian football player 5 years her junior (and no… It wasn’t for papers). I gave her a standing ovation in my mind and then I thought… Maybe its not me. At the end of the day, if I can’t establish a working social contract with guys my age… That doesn’t make me a mad woman… Does it? My dad thinks dating younger is crazy and my history hasn’t helped my cause… But Kerry gives me hope, have you seen the guy?.
*Two slow claps*
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You do smell.
We all smell.
Even before we open our mouths, we have an
odor aura that projects statements about us, right?
I’ll admit when I first picked up on this trend of yours, I was disturbed. ‘Amma, for the why?’ ‘You do know men mature slower than women’ ‘Can’t you at least get someone your own age.’ But now, honestly I’m warming up to the idea, and for two reasons. 1.) I used to think you needed a serious man to balance you out, but the more I know you, the more I know you have an internal balance already, and 2.) The older we get, the less age matters (within reason)… So for these younger guys, sha: if you like it, I love it.
I don’t understand this new conclusion for your next relationship, because in terms of your list of priorities for a forever type situation… a guy’s ability to be outright silly and abreast with
popular black culture trumps age, period. And the former tends to be found in guys that are of a certain age group. It’s not a bad thing, it just is what it is. You and I both share the blessing of a ‘baby face’, and on top of that I also stand proudly at 5’2 on a good day (I lie, 5’1.5, but who’s measuring), however I recognize that if I were to meet someone attractive on a flight for example, say from Kumasi to Accra last week, my first few exchanges with him would not be about the differences in the release of ‘Yeezus’, ‘Born Sinner’, and ‘MCHG’. (Dear Reader: If you don’t know what any of those three things are, it’s okay).
So, my point is…
It’s not the face. It’s what you place as priorities for your mate as well as for yourself, and how you project it.
I will say this, the combination of being ‘down’, yet enlightened may be a little difficult to find in Ghana… you usually get one or the other. Most of these youngins make it through your first tollgate, but remain parked there, ie. they would not be able to spar with you about the merits of Moyo’s ‘aid is dead’ argument vs. Gates’ ‘aid can never die’ argument (Dear Reader: If you don’t know what any of those two things are, it’s just a little less than okay). But there’s hope for you yet, because your predilection is likened to that of Kerry Washington’s, so hopefully with a population 5x the size of Ghana’s, you can pick up someone suitable from our friendly neighbor… road trip soon?
One of my favorite memories of college was this summer program I attended before my first year. I had quickly become very close friends with these two ladies who would go on to become my besties. The three of us were inseparable and it seemed I quickly became known as this asexual weirdo who wore bright colors and spoke with her hands. When guys would come around with open arms expecting hugs, they would quickly extend a hand to give me dap. I also remember being the one who said, without batting an eyelid, ‘kissing leads to sex… and that’s all men really want. ever.’ Like Afua, I felt that guys were emotionless and should be treated as such. I felt it was most important to be friendly… but to be super discriminatory with vulnerability and affections. Guard your heart above all else, right?
Unlike Afua’s hypothesis, these feelings were a direct product of being raised by immigrant African parents. I was told that my priorities in life were: God, family, education (in no particular order). One can see how hand-holding and footsie were not central to my understanding of relationship building. I felt that love was something you showed to others and that you felt for family. I thought you could compartmentalize your feelings and prevent hurt by avoiding commitments to guys.
Nevertheless all of that changed.
It’s funny how it’s easy to be calculating and pre-emptive when you are dealing with someone who you have come to know over time… Someone who you sort of liked in passing, but grew to care deeply for. It’s completely different when you loved the person before you met them, and when you met them… you knew.
It’s so much easier to be a heart breaker when it cost you nothing in emotional expenditure to be without the person. When it’s taxing to even dream of a world in their absence, then there are just things you won’t– scratch that— Can. Not. Do. I have always been a bit matter of fact in life… even my father makes fun of my ability to be insultingly exaggerated and snide. I love it. But there are some people who cripple certain types of derisive behavior. That’s probably why they say love is a dangerous emotion. That’s probably why Afua thinks she should figure out
every detail logistics before she finally makes a dive into something different. That’s probably why I think she is wrong.
Afua says she is was a heartbreaker. And it is in fact the whole truth. But then I have never seen Afua hopelessly and foolishly do ANYTHING in life. Even ordering pizza at Starbites is the most logical task one can ever dream (shout out to Starbites!). Being a heartbreaker is not as haphazard as one might imagine. It actually takes a lot of tactical consideration to decide how to maximize value in this moment and minimize personal emotional loss by giving just enough to feign interest but not enough to foster intimacy. Being foolishly in love and hopelessly enamored creates a situation where you want maximal current and future returns. That requires a lot of risk. Being calculated and logical often mitigates risk. This is probably why Afua makes for an excellent finance-y person. This is also probably why I would not. Afua, just like me, had that ‘one guy’ experience, which
stopped altered her heart breaking ways in the moment *cue shock and awe*. So in a past-not-so distant she was once all hearts and smiley faces and ‘Why hasn’t he called bbm’ed’, which leads me to believe it could happen again. I also know that we all have different journeys in life, and while my experience curbed my attitudes for everyone that followed, Afua has slowly but surely arrived at the post-heartbreaker hotel. Interestingly… I can agree a hundred percent with all of the lessons Afua learned on her road to robotic heart recovery. Even the one about the double standard on cheating. But I have to add one more. Probably the most important one of all:
7. Do to others’ hearts what you would want done to yours. Period.
If you know you are going to do something, or you are being calculating in a way that could bring future detriment… it’s probably best to start sharing and communicating what you feel. Heartbreak is sometimes inevitable, but its best served with a clear conscious and genuine heart. That is the one lesson I learned from that one guy that changed everything. You cannot sit around expecting the worst of someone and being all let-me-hurt-you-before-you-hurt-me if you would go all ‘Lorena Bobbit’ on someone for pushing the same logic on you.
If Kanye has taught us anything… it’s that heartbreak can do one of two things: sell loads of records or cause us to embarrass ourselves in very public spaces (see: Taylor Swift VMA’s). I, for one, do not aspire to be the antagonist of anyone’s award winning album, and I am sure Afua doesn’t either. As such… this is our vow (read: Afuas vow that I am supporting as one should do any recovering heartbreaker friend) to be nice to guys and their hearts by telling them early in the game when its just not gonna happen… right afua? promise? :p
Let’s continue from where I left off HERE. There are a few things I’ve picked up from my former heart breaking ways, and I thought I would share:
1. Do not be fooled by the act, men are emotional too.
Although it manifests itself differently (and perhaps less frequently), men are also emotional- and I would dare say that when they’re emotional, the intensity can be much more than women. In my former life, I used the phrase, ‘he’s a man, he’ll be alright/ he’ll get over it’ a little too much… But the truth is he might not get over it (for a while). And just because he may not discuss it anymore, doesn’t mean he’s gotten over it. Men don’t have a memory like women in terms of breath, but they have memory in terms of depth (for the things they want to remember). So when you’re treating him anyhow and thinking it doesn’t matter, think again…
2. Break it off quick and as painless as possible when you’re not feeling it anymore.
Dragging something out that you know won’t work is bad for all parties. This is usually where I get into trouble. Leading a man on inadvertently, even if you’ve had a conversation to end it, creates mixed messages. This includes, but is not limited to: continuing to text/whatsapp/call (or respond), and continuing to see him. Actions speak louder than words and
human brings men just need a little attention to rev back up… especially if its physical/sexual attention. We women have an almost unfair advantage because of our autonomy (and the effect it has on men) so we shouldn’t use it irresponsibly. Sometimes you need to be the strong-willed one for the both of you.
3. No matter how small social circles can be,
stay away run with all fear and trembling from people within close networks.
Don’t do friends or extended family. I find that men are sensitive about this stuff way more than women are… I think it’s something to do with their territorial instincts. The thing is their feelings won’t manifest in the same way (see #1), but one day it might just blow up in your face. As difficult as this can be in African cities where the number of eligible 20- and 30- somethings is minuscule and everyone knows everyone, just try to play in different sandboxes as much as possible.
4. There are some unforgiveables, such as family.
*Le sigh*. I think I wrote about this from the woman’s perspective once, but on the flip side know your man and what his no-go areas are. That childhood memory you are not to mention, or that estranged relationship you should never bring up, just don’t. If a man trusts you enough to open up and share something with you and you use it against him, best believe there will be consequences to your actions. I’ve seen men go back to women who cheated on them while cutting off with the quickness and with no warning a girl who spoke (in their minds) negatively about their mama’s, plain and simple. So just don’t do it (see #1 again).
5. And, speaking of cheating. There will ALWAYS be a double standard applied when it comes to cheating.
There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it, a woman cheating will always be a bigger deal than a man cheating. Women, please advise yourselves: loyalty and commitment are
just as more important to some men.
6. And along those lines, exclusivity does not have to be explicitly stated for some men (see territorial piece again).
“Well I didn’t know this was exclusive, we’re just hanging out, right…?” You can see why
folks I get in trouble here.
7. Ladies is pimps too, period.
I don’t need to elaborate.
Not all the things I’ve picked up on the way are applicable to me, I’ll say. And to redeem myself a little from my earlier admissions: though I am a little more calculated and a little less emotional than most females, I have been in love before. Despite what some
exes people believe, I am not a robot. When I do fall for someone, I become more estrogen-esque. I’m working on things though, because I know men people need attention and affirmation. And even though men complain about women nagging, there’s a healthy level of neediness that they desire from their women. I remember sharing an office with a guy at work for one day, and at one point during the day, his fiancée called him 5x in the span of an hr- FIVE. TIMES. I couldn’t believe it. And what I couldn’t believe more was the fact that he picked up every single time and seemed to enjoy it… well maybe not the 5th time. But my point is he probably would rather be complaining of her neediness than her not needing him at all. So I am committing myself to begin making more sacrifices for love, even if that means not seeing movies by myself
I will keep you all posted, hey one day you might read about me having my first public display of affection moment in a mall or something (you can’t see me, but my muscles actually just tensed up as I wrote that) lol
Amma, thoughts? Anything I’ve left out that you’ve noticed over the last year?? And flow charts are not necessary in this response. Thanks.
Those that know me have come to the conclusion that in my semi-distant past, I would have been characterized as a heart breaker. It never started out intentional, however for some reason the track record kept growing. Ironically, I’ve always been scared that men would ping me as a ‘career woman who thinks she doesn’t need a man’, but I’m seeing the reverse to be true… to a fault. I think that guys, for some reason, have more traditional expectations of female behavior from me, however once folks get into the situation they get a number of shocks. Here are a few:
1.) It’s hard for me to share my feelings… It’ll be a while till I open up to you. Along those lines, I don’t say things like: ‘I miss you’ ‘I need you’ and ‘I love you’ by heart. This can be problematic with Ghanaian men, because they have this thing of telling you
when every time they miss you (and then asking you if you miss them)… errrm surre? *side-eye*. It takes a lot for me to tell you how I feel about you. A lot.
2.) I’ll be honest with you sometimes forgetting to take your feelings into account – isn’t it better u know the truth anyways… *shrug*
3.) To me, monogamy occurs after a conversation. So if that conversation hasn’t occurred, don’t be shocked if you’re not treated as ‘My boo’.
4.) Sometimes I can be selfish, and not even realize it… But it’s not because I’m meaning to, or wanting to hurt you, it’s because I genuinely am used to being by myself and doing things how and when I want to. And no shade here, just being real. I had a guy once get upset with me because I went to see a movie alone… like without him. Like..God forbid..
5.) I rarely show those kind of quote unquote girlie clinginess characteristics (and when I say rarely, I mean. like. never.)… It’s just not in my nature. I don’t even have to talk to you everyday. Just as long as I know you’re mine and I’m yours, I’m good. Likewise, PDA… it’s very minimal for me. And when you’re not with me, interrogative questions of who you with, what are you doing, why are you hanging out with that person, why are you friends with that person, etc are not my modus operandi. Asking for things: buy me this, buy me that, do this for me…no. Even if you’re mine, you could very well be the last person I ask for help from because I hate inconveniencing people (we already know I have a problem asking for help. I’m working on it)
6.) If you start drifting away, I don’t plead/beg/chase/fight/cry for you to come back… Actually I usually just assist you along by halting communication with you. *shrug*
7.) No man has ever seen me cry.
In general, looking at traditional female behavior in relationships, I come across rather indifferent/cold borderline heartless. I think I take that whole “guard your heart” thing a little too far. I am working on some of these character
flaws traits… But I am a really sweet person down inside, I promise.
So I got a couple reads recently from people who don’t know me in this capacity. I won’t say the people were spot on, but I was shocked at their takes on me. And let me say this before I continue: I do not swear (like this) and the only reason this is being quoted verbatim is because it would lose a lot of character if i didn’t… parental advisory is advised:
You look like you don’t give a f*&!, like you’re the type of girl who doesn’t get f*%!ed, you do the f*cking…
Then to our new friend a few weeks ago. When asked to describe me and Amma after only knowing us for 20mins, he said of me:
You look like you’re too confident for your own good, you probably break hearts left and right, and don’t even blink.
Ouch. I hadn’t even said but two sentences to the guy at that point.
Am I that transparent??
To bring it closer to home, one of my best guy friends once asked me, ‘why are you like a man?’ *shrug* idk maybe it’s a product of moving around a lot, I responded… it’s easier to cut off people/let people go…
Whatever the reason is, perception is reality right… even if I don’t believe these three reads are entirely accurate… I shall come clean and say I used to have a problem of breaking hearts (self-awareness is the first step). However, I am, with the support of loved ones like Amma, recognizing my areas of improvement & moving away from such a lifestyle. In any case, there are a few things I’ve picked up from my former practices, and I thought I would share, starting with number 1:
SIKE… this post is long enough already, tune-in in a coupla days for my lessons learned.
Part 2 of Lessons from a Former Heart Breaker can be found HERE.
Afua’s ‘Love Does Not Conquer All’ Post found HERE.
Let’s revisit the story, shall we?:
Man meets woman.
Man and Woman fall in love.
Man and woman agree to spend 5 yrs in the US and 5 yrs in Ghana after marriage.
Man and Woman Marry.
Man and Woman divorce.
So was that love?
In my understanding of love, I know it to be patient.
I know it to be amenable to inconveniences and flexible.
I know it to be sacrificing.
In this version of love, I know that ol’ girl should have packed up at year 5, kissed her peoples farewell and moved to Ghana. Love doesn’t reneg. Love has integrity after all, and it recognizes the importance of covenant. Yes it is very possible that circumstances in their lives changed, as is the nature of people over periods of time. But I am sure she knew that would happen. And they agreed that they loved each other enough that whatever the circumstance, they would leave after 5 years. The love I know, would honor that kind of agreement.
It’s not that simple, Amma.
It never is. But love is about choosing to do what love requires, even when it seems impractical. But Afua says, before she even meets you at the love junction, she wants to make sure that you all are walking the same road. Her argument is that love is not enough in the face of logistics. To this I say: pish posh! Here are our two arguments in a nutshell:
Ok… so maybe I have exaggerated Afua’s decision tree a teenie- tinie smidgen in order to make my truth the most obvious right answer. I mean, there is nothing wrong with wanting to raise the next crop of talented tenthers. But I mean, it’s just that crazy in my mind. Afua’s tree automatically invalidates most people in a way that mine does not. I am always going on about how people really can change people. I have too many friends who were once diametrically opposed to certain dating principles, but faced with someone who is so closely aligned with their life dreams, these things aren’t as important. I knew a guy who wouldn’t believe that two people could meet and be ready for marriage in 6 months. He was preoccupied with investing a ‘sufficient’ amount of time getting to know the person, and he felt 6 months was way too short. He is now engaged. He bought a ring by month 6 and popped the question by month 8. If you knew him, you would know why this is major. Anything is now possible… including world peace. This shows that certain restrictions we think to be hard-and-fast fall away in the presence of meeting someone you couldn’t possibly see yourself being without. Someone who makes you believe that being in Ghana without them is a worse sentence than being anywhere else in the world with the person you love.
So… what kind of love is this exactly? Agape love. Unconditional love. This should be a precondition to marriage because it certainly overrides logistical factors like proximity in the short term. The truth of the matter is that, even in the marriage covenant these logistical issues can arise. Let’s say Afua were to marry a man and both of them agreed they wanted their whole lives to be in Ghana. Let us then say that she receives the chance of a lifetime, World Bank President mayhaps (look at me claiming it for you girl!), obviously a new discussion will have to happen. If the two of you are as supportive of each other’s dreams as one would hope, I know NO ONE who would stop their spouse from achieving that type of position and influence. If Michelle Obama was all ‘ Hey Barack, I am not about that DC life… Chi-town ‘till I die. Love me or leave me’, how might that have changed their course in history. But again… I am getting ahead of myself, because these are considerations that should follow the marriage covenant. Yet if you preclude yourself from love because of these types of things, who’s to say you are not missing out on an opportunity to be partnered with someone amazing to do something amazing… in an eskimo village in Alaska?
In my final anecdote, I will put one of my best friends on the spot. This is a girl who is a hundred percent accomplished in every right. This is a girl who hates EVERY city that is not Miami, Florida. She generally dreads travel, largely because she needs to know she can access spaghetti and meatballs on a whim. She is not really the risk taking type, and is calculating and meticulous in every possible way. I mean, she uses decision trees in real life. Like. Real. Life. She is also dating a guy in London. Not even another state… a different country. And suddenly, her priorities are shifting and she’s considering all types of things she never would have considered even a year ago.
So here is my point. There is a love that conquers all. It is agape love. It recognizes the importance of the person and your mission with them, and makes accommodations for that. In the initial story that broke the proverbial camels back, something might have brought her to the point of the initial pre-marital agreement about moving in 5 years but it did not bring her to the point of keeping with that agreement. Agape love will do that. It allows you to do crazy things like commit your life to one person forever… and do even crazier things like honor that vow. It is also a really good ‘prioritizer’. We are humans and muddle through this life with imperfect information. Though economists (and other academic crazies) would have us believe in a set of perfect preconditions, the truth is, we don’t actually know much about what we truly want and need. Though we may think we absolutely must be in New York City living lavishly on Park Avenue with a child and nanny in tow by 35, the truth is perhaps that’s not what we need at all. Agape love allows us to know and understand this by causing us to make real sacrifices. By choosing to love unconditionally in spite of differing logistical factors, we might discover there are actually other places and circumstances that can offer us true joy. And if you are truly meant to be in the place you are in, agape love will make it possible for that to become a reality. Really you have nothing to lose: either you fall in love and find happiness elsewhere or your happiness comes to you. Agape love conquers.
“Hey, he has a girlfriend, you know”… “And, so what?”
Wow. This week my cousin and I have been discussing the idea that a lot of Ghana girls do not respect the girlfriend of a man, ie. it doesn’t matter that a man has a girlfriend, he’s still fair game unless he’s married. I came to the realization that this is not just the thinking of, let’s say, ladies with no respect for themselves, but that some educated modern women also share this sentiment. The above quote was part of an exchange that I had with one of my best friends here in Ghana. So when SHE was unmoved by some guy’s girlfriend, it really made me sit up. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here, or because I don’t fully understand how relationships work here yet, but my views on this couldn’t be any further from hers.
Here’s my take: I agree you’re NOT official until you have TWO rings on your finger, however I DO respect girlfriends. I think it’s wrong to go after a man in a relationship, or allow him to go after you. One. You would hate it if someone did that to you, and Two. Karma is a b*%#! It’s one thing if two people are just ‘talking’, but with relationships, I’m not touching that. And honestly, even folks that are ‘in limbo’/ ‘dating’/ ‘friends with benefits’…I dunno, I just need you to
clean up your mess wipe your slate clean before we can talk properly. I remember once, I didn’t engage heavily with a guy for like 3 months because he was still sorting out a situation: ‘Well you go ahead and sort yourself out and I’ll continue on with my life; if when you’re sorted, I’m still single, you know where to find me and we can talk.’
I’m not gonna say I’ve never made a
mistake slip-up before, but as a general rule boyfriends are a no-go for me. Why would you want that kind of headache? And doesn’t that also give you an indicator of how this man approaches commitment?
What I find peculiar about the whole thing is that when I first got to Ghana, all the girls I met would tell me some rendition of
“Amma, do not mess around with these Ghana Guys. Tell us their first and last names so we can do a full background check on them. You know some of them have wives in Aburi while living in Takoradi with their college aged girlfriends. Guys here are sus.”
I am ever a skeptic so naturally I preferred to navigate it without those set of blinders… but then what gets me is that the girlfriend knows the man has a wife. The girlfriend is also hoping to get wifed… so who is really the triflin’ one in the situation? To me, if you are a (wo)man who is interested in a (wo)man who is already dating someone and you carry on some sort of dalliance with them… what happens when you reach that point where you want them to commit to you? And what happens when they do commit to you? What happens if they marry you? Do either of you now magically switch off this tendency to court other people? And if you have that magic power… are they selling it at a local MaxMart or market corridor where it can be purchased?! (I ask only for the Hillary Clintons and Lordina Mahama’s of the world). Whats that quote about thoughts becoming actions, actions becoming habits, and habits becoming character? So I mean, if you make a habit of stepping to committed men… even non-married commitments, why wouldn’t this just translate into your character? And if this becomes your character, then it defines you in moments of silence and opacity. When no one is watching, you will in fact do these backwards things like pursuing someone else’s man… even if they are not married yet. It always disturbs me that men are painted as these sex-crazed polyamorous infidels because I really have to ask… well who are they philandering with exactly? And are those women equally sex-crazed whoremongers? Would I be wrong to judge? All these soul shattering questions that lead me really to one conclusion: Do unto others…
That mindset that ‘Oh we are dating but we should still be looking’ is so problematic because if you are dividing attention between your actual relationship and your pursuit of better ones, all of them must suffer. It is just the way it must be. And in the midst of your crumbling episode of Things Fall Apart I hope you realize that, as Afua said, Karma SUCKS. In this world you put into the world the kind of things you would want to come back. Thing is, I have met many a man in a relationship and thought, “you’ll leave her. And want me. So I don’t care. I don’t care’. But I cannot say I actively pursued these men, because I would not want any woman doing that to my man. Unless they finally bottle and patent that magic Switch-Off-Infidelity-Potion… then… well… *shrugs* anything is possible.
- – -
In order to better understand how others feel, I spoke more in depth with my friend (from the quote above). However, instead of re-telling you her piece, I will quote memorable quotes from our discussion:
‘Adultery is in marriage. Once they’re not married, it is not a sin [to cheat] so it’s all fair game…’
‘If I like him, I’ll take him away from his girl; and if he likes her enough, he won’t be led astray.’
‘I wouldn’t do it if the girl was my friend or if the couple was one step away from being engaged, but everything else is fair game.’
‘In a relationship, there are no vows in front of God… I respect marriage, not relationships’
‘If I really like a guy, do you think I won’t go after him? Kai! His girlfriend and I will fight for him and the best woman will win’
‘I don’t think this is a Ghanaian women thing, all women think like this, we’re competitive’
- – -
So I guess the big question is: why should you deny yourself the opportunity to find love, just because he’s in a relationship? What if he is the one, but needs to get to know you small before he realizes he wants to be with you and not his current girl??
Amma, perhaps our ‘ones’ are trapped up in relationships, and we need to go pry them out eh…