Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When the Heart Decides, and the Family Says No

Hello Blogsville,

Happy new year and yes, shame on me for putting up my first blog-post of the year in March. I have no excuse, and can only promise to do better. So without much ado, here goes...

You know how difficult it is to find that person who makes bearing the inherent risks of a committed monogamous relationship seem like peanuts to trade for the joy of being together in all the ways that count? No? Yea, me neither… 

You know how people are always saying a good man or woman is hard to find? Finding such a (wo)man seems to increasingly be a Professor Acheampong designed Calculus II proof question. You know the answer. It’s been given to you in the question. And yet, there are a myriad of wrong tangents you could go off on if one does not exercise utmost caution in one’s approach.

Imagine the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment when you are finally able to prove that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars and comes back, it is still ‘x’. You heave a huge sigh of relief knowing that at least you’re assured full marks for that question.

But wait a minute. You’re not home free yet. You have to ensure that you have not broken any mathematical law, and that you have used every relevant piece of information in the question. It is possible that you have proved that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars and comes back, it is still ‘x’. However, imagine the horror if you come out of the examination room only to realize the question asked you to prove that when ‘x’ jumps to Mars wearing a Speedo suit of 5 pounds mas

That, my friends, is my convoluted (forgive!) attempt at describing the sinking feeling you get when you find the (wo)man of your dreams  and s/he is from a part of the country or globe your parents forbid you to wed from.\

You know how football, the map of Ghana and Wofa Atta’s (bless his soul) funeral seems to suggest that we are one people? That oneness is in no way true when it comes to marriage, make no mistake. When it comes to marriage, all 56 or so ethnic groups are every vocal about what they will and will not accept. And ethnic stereotyping (a canker which unfortunately seems to transcend education, religion and football) rears its very potent, very ugly, timeless head. Almost every family has its list.

I hope I will not be thrown under the proverbial train for being that foolishly courageous one to point out that the chief priest has stained teeth when I say that most Ghanaian families, especially Akan ones, are not particularly enthusiastic about welcoming Voltarians into the family, or ‘sending’ one of their own into a Voltarian family, as the case may be.
I recently caught up with an old friend who was dating the sweetest boy I have ever come across, let’s call him Edem. I inquired after Edem, feeling smug for remembering his name only to be told Edem was history. “Mommy must have been crushed”, I said. Edem was in charge of the teen’s chapel in their church and Awo’s mom, having observed his service and dedication as the head of the youth ministry, often joked that she could not have picked better for her daughter if it had been up to her to choose.

Awo quietly disclosed, “That is what I thought too, but she confessed during one of our post break-up mother-comforts-daughter sessions that although she loved Edem, she was never comfortable with where he came from and so perhaps it was all for the best. Imagine that!” I could not imagine…

Apparently, within the Volta region itself, they are not holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’ by a fire-place. There appears to be a case of Northern and Central versus Southern going on, or as someone put it less diplomatically, everyone else versus the Anlos. Naturally, my Anlo friends insist ‘they just hatin’. It can however be quite serious. I recently sat down to lunch with a friend from Peki who was telling me about his parents’ stated preference that he NOT bring a southern Voltarian home. He further disclosed how this feeling was so deeply ingrained in the family that an aunt had three unmarried daughters between the ages of 33 and 38 still at home because these poor girls seemed to have acquired a taste for Anlo men.

I expressed the sentiment that one would think as a parent, one’s first priority would be the happiness of your kids. But the thing is, for most parents, they truly believe they are looking out for their kids and saving them from a lifetime of misery with these prohibitions. Many have personally witnessed or experienced things that made their minds up and so we may even say have valid reasons. But this does not ease the pain of star-crossed relationships, nor make it right.

Pardon my idealism but I just fail to see how it’s looking out for your offspring when you refuse to acknowledge your children and grandchildren after eight years of marriage to their ‘undesirable’ spouse (as in the case of my neighbor). I’m unable to see how denying your children and grandchildren your presence and support is in their best interest. A mother disowns her daughter and refuses to go to her bedside as her daughter lies dying of cancer at 35 because she married from a tribe she does not like. And whom does this help? How?

While we’re being idealistic, shouldn’t your ultimate goal be their happiness? Granted, you’ll sleep, and eventually, rest easier knowing they married someone from your village. But should you permit their not doing so to rob both of you of whatever time you have left together? Who knows how much time that is? And are there not more pressing issues in this life?

I know this will probably not change (m)any minds but can we at least think a bit more about it when it gets to our turn? No? Okay, then consider this writing therapy for me *sigh*.


  1. There's this adage here in Nigeria that "what an adult sees while sitting down,a child will not see even if he climbs on an iroko tree".Parents really know what we don't,i've come to realize that.Sometimes,it based on sentiments,while other times,it's based on real love for their children.I have a cousin who was told by her mother not to get married to her husband,but because she loved him so much,she went against her.In the end,she didn't have children and to make it sadder,she lost him to the cruel hands of death.Now she's approaching 50 without a husband or children.I can't help but wonder if she hadn't gone against her mother.

    1. I really appreciate your comment. The proverb has stuck with me. I know too many times disobedience causes pain. My plea was that when the choice has been made, we do not allow that to destroy our relationships with our children. It is the same sages that told us that "when your child defecates on your thigh, you do not cut your thigh off and throw it away; you clean it."

  2. Na waa ooo. It is amazing how in this age of enlightenment parents still have issues with tribes.

    1. The problem in our society is that a lot of people have merely gone to school, they are not enlightened. They merely speak, read and write English and other languages. Their thinking is not affected or influenced in any way by their education.
      So sometimes you can understand why parents do not want their children to go 'somewhere'. They don't want them to be affected by attitudes they feel are negative within a particular community.

  3. I know right! as if it's not hard enough to find the one, and then when you do he is forbidden to you.
    I am pretty sure many people have horror stories after 'crossing carpet' and were met with harsh 'I told you so's. I am also very sure that there are an almost equal number who are very happy with their 'mismatched' choice.
    I think good parents, like Awo's mum, while they may not be entirely comfortable, seek the happiness of their children and so do not interfere unduly. They hope for the best and hold you as you cry if it doesn't work out. Or heave a sigh of relief and thank their God that their family got the 'good one' out of the 'lot',lol.


    1. Lol. Abena, say it again! Lol at 'the good one of the lot'. What is the opposite of Mensah?