A Few Disclaimers
That title should have probably read, ‘Why I gave up on the idea of a happily-ever-after African marriage for myself.’ Of course the key words there; Happy, African, Marriage, and For Me. That’s the difference between someone coming at me to ‘set me straight’ and me basically just sharing why I chose a certain lifestyle for myself.
The idea of me saying I don’t wish to ever get married to an ‘African man’ automatically rubs people off the wrong way, and I don’t blame them. I would feel some type of way too if I heard a black African man say something like that about African women. But, I can explain!
I suppose I have to make the disclaimer that I’m divorced. And no, he isn’t the reason I happened upon this path because aside from a few weaknesses, he was actually a wonderful human being. The reason I’ve referenced that part of my life is because most people I’ve had this conversation with before tend to assume it’s because of that experience that I chose this path. It’s partly the reason, yes, but it’s not even half of it.
The ME in the Equation
It’s ME, not you.
I am the major reason why I gave up on the idea of a fulfilling African marriage for myself. And another disclaimer here: there are plenty of Africans out there who are happily married and I envy them for having the courage to completely surrender their souls to love and trust that no matter what happens, their love would have been worth the risk. I deeply envy them.
This is a Me issue, as opposed to it being a racial or cultural issue – but the lines get blurry somewhere along the way, for obvious reasons. My experiences and my personality make it almost impossible for me to be the ‘ideal’ wife to an African man. Most people will say ‘I am not a marriage/wife material’. In this article, I explore the ‘experience’ aspect in much detail, but I’ll touch on the personality part briefly.
I am a loner at heart. I find constant human interaction suffocating. I can be a social butterfly when the moment demands but I’ll require the same level of energy and commitment to relieve myself off of all that ‘humaning’. No matter how in love I am, I expect to have some space all to myself at least three times a week. I can have people in my house running around and living their best lives, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. My me-space. I have tried to compromise on this since I developed breasts but the results are always the same: Suffocation. So I know beyond reasonable doubt that being stuck in bed with another human being every day of the week for the rest of my life is an overwhelming adventure!
On the Matter of Submission
Firstly, the ideal African wife is one who is submissive. Apparently, this is based on the Bible. However, I’m not sure if the way most Africans translate this is exactly how the Author intended. To most, this submission is without merit. By virtue of marriage, submission is earned. Submission to some is “Shut the hell up when I’m talking to you woman!” As opposed to, “Let me speak first, and you’ll also say your piece.” Submission is not nagging a man when he comes home at midnight asking where he has been or who he was with. It’s keeping quiet when your in-laws abuse, disrespect, or take advantage of you.
Submission means not to be assertive or opinionated. To be demure, soft-spoken, slow to anger (in fact, never getting angry at all is the most ideal), dressing ‘modestly’ – which means not exposing the skin of your thighs, arms, or cleavage. It also means having the patience to cater to your husband like a devoted wife five minutes after discovering he’s fathered another child with another woman because you need to win him over back to your side with your meek ways and kind heart lest the devil wins.
I am not that kind of woman.
I believe in holding adults who have some level of influence in my life accountable for their actions. Be they presidents, ministers, husbands, siblings, etc. This means asking questions in a respectable manner and at the appropriate time and place. For the traditional man, none of this matters because what are you doing asking questions in the first place? I refuse to submit to a man who has not earned my respect. A man who has not proved he is worthy to lead me in any way. My love and respect are very conditional. One would assume that by virtue of marriage, these conditions would have been met, but I’ve found that that is not the case for most relationships.
On the Matter of Partnerships
In an African marriage, the gender roles are very specific: the husband is the financial muscle and the wife is the homemaker and child care provider. Even in a world that has fought to shift gender roles, the African marriage remains the exception. A woman like me might get lucky and meet a gender role-fluid man, but the people behind and around him might not be so fluid. In my culture, we marry the whole village, not just the individual – figuratively speaking.
I desire a man who can cook, clean after himself, wash dishes or place them in the dishwasher in the correct manner, and also handle 50% of the childcare without him thinking he is doing me a favor. It doesn’t matter if he has a day job or not. If I was a full-time homemaker and child care provider, I would expect to have an assistant or two during the day in form of a maid or housekeeper and/or nanny. Naturally, I would expect to ‘knock off’ from my day job, the same way my husband gets to knock off from his paying job. At which point of course the 2 assistants would have knocked off and the 2 of us would have to find a way of dealing with the rest of the evening/night without the other person thinking they’re doing the other a favor.
Clearly, I’m very ambitious! I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are very few African men who are gender-role-fluid. He knocks off from work to relax on the couch and watch Arsenal yet again fail to win the Premier League title while you (despite having a day job as well) will be laboring in the kitchen and taking care of the kids. If you’re very unlucky, he will be chilling with the boys at a pub somewhere until such a time he sees it fit to make an appearance at home. And if you’re super unlucky, he’ll be with another woman…or man. I know me very well. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Period.
On the Matter of Promiscuity and Polygamy
In most African cultures, a man’s cheating isn’t frowned upon. In fact, it’s a demonstration of his very masculinity! We used to call it polygamy at some point until some Bible-wielding Caucasian ‘explorers’ told us it was a sin.
When I was younger, I fought against men having multiple partners with an unrivaled passion. Then somewhere along the way, after my divorce, I happened upon a truth I no longer wish to wrestle: Most men (black/brown/white) find the idea of having multiple lovers fun to explore. Men will swear by the nails that pinned Jesus to wood that they love you despite their misadventures. And I no longer have the strength to fight losing battles.
I have attempted to have multiple partners in my life. Attempted. Failed miserably. I have neither the emotional nor physical capacity to handle two or more grown African men. The most that African men bring to the table is money. They rarely clean after themselves, cook, wash or physically and mentally take care of the kids they bring into the world. So what would any sane woman be doing trying to have more of such, especially if she is financially stable? There’s only so much sex you can have as a woman. At some point, it starts to hurt!
I am monogamous at heart, which is why I refuse to exchange monogamous vows with a species that believes it was not engineered for monogamy. I would be selling myself short. Exclusivity rarely exists in African marriages, and mostly on the side of men…although lately, women seem determined to even the scores. But that’s a topic for another day. If my man cheats and if it so happens that I don’t have the energy to leave him, I’ll simply cheat back to balance the equation. However, me being me, I’ll probably get tired of creeping around or I’ll want him to know that I’m giving it just as hard to someone else…which sort of defeats the whole purpose of marriage, you know.
On the Matter of a Conclusion
And that, my dear brethren, is why I’ve deemed myself ‘unworthy’ of the African man. I have naturally removed myself from his list of potential mates, and I would hope he sees this as a favor, rather than the insult it appears to be. I do not wish to fight a system that has proved to work for many for so long. I have accepted who I am, fully aware of my strengths and inadequacies. Chances are that I might die ‘unmarried’ as long as I live on the African continent. I absolutely have no problem with that.
Will I have moments where I long for a permanent companion? Hell yeah! Will I settle for a conservative man if it means less loneliness and a bit more respect from society thanks to my marital status? Triple hell nah! Do I think there is an African man out there who meets my expectations? Yes, but only a handful. Have I met such a man before?