Random Thoughts

#8. Introducing….Ohemaa

She’s thick, coily and kinky as hell; her name is Ohemaa and that’s the name I’ve secretly given to my afro who – as her nickname says – is the Queen who has zero chill and basically does what the heck she wants when she wants to.

A little bit like the woman who carries her from place to place 😉

 

I remember when I first decided to go natural; my thick permed hair was breaking and the ends were splitting. I cut it twice before I realised it was not going to grow back and decided it was time to go the natural route.

In hindsight I should have extended my research a step further beyond “my hair isn’t growing anymore so I’m going to do what my sister is doing so that my hair will grow to my bra strap”; and actually researched into different hair types, available products and protective styling.

But I didn’t so there was a period of trial and error before I checked in with the sister-in-law-turned-bestie-turned-sister, Vesta Fosu. She soothed my panicky soul with tips and products and told me to follow her blog for more advice. She’s been blogging on natural hair and beauty products for almost five years (www.chocolatencurves.com – check it out when you have a minute; you won’t regret it) and it’s become my online Bible for hair tips.

During our three years together this is what I’ve noticed she likes:

  • She loves getting washed, she loves the rain, she loves the liquid part of LOC…everything about water thrills her. And she retains it like a pro.
  • Shampoo, deep conditioning and hot oil treatment – because who doesn’t like being pampered?
  • A protective style that doesn’t feel like her roots are being ripped out.

On the other hand, she dislikes:

  • Tight braids, especially around the edges (aint nobody got time to be looking like an old woman around here)
  • Cornrows (she will grow out of them in five days and look at you like ‘okay, what’s next?’)
  • People pulling at her (she’s sensitive and needs to be treated as such, but some people are just animals. Yanking away as if she’s a bell. When that happens, she yells at me in pain and I yell at the person causing the pain).
  • Hairdryers (we’ve given up on those; the process hurts and the end result is more weak or damaged ends and neither of us has the time for another round of weak ass ends or split ends)

 

But the thing with Ohemaa , when her coils are either packed away in a braid or tied up in an up do, she is determined to slay the hair game all day every day.

A lot like the woman who carries her around from place to place.

 

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Random Thoughts

#7. What every single Ghanaian 30-something year old  woman needs

Remember that  list that was so popular a few years ago? About a woman needing enough money to rent out her own place, owning a Black and Decker screw driver and a lacy set of underwear etc etc. It’s a pretty useful list actually; but as a Ghanaian woman who happens to be single and in her early 30’s I know there’s at least two other things a single woman needs.

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Firstly, she needs a mother who is not obsessed about getting her daughter married at all costs. Like my mother; my mom wants me happy, healthy and whole and to be in a healthy relationship with a man who loves, adores and respects me. And if he’s taking a while to show up, no need to panic. God still makes everything beautiful in His good time. Not to say she’s not itchy for grandbabies (that is a constant refrain) but she’s not stressing me out about not being married. And this is a huge relief because in Ghanaian society, if you’re single at 30 it’s looked on as a curse.

How can a young beautiful woman not be engaged? Wait – you don’t have a boyfriend? Not even someone in the wings? Buei.

So the fact that I have a mother who doesn’t stress out about it makes it much easier for me to block out the snide comments.

The second thing a single woman needs is a gang of married girlfriends who tell her that having a husband is not a walk in the park – it has its own set of rules, ups and downs, challenges and laughter and a dollop of stress.

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A friend shared a story with me a year ago that still makes me laugh; she and her hubby are Ghanaians and they were heading home for a visit. She arrived in Accra a week before he did. She says (and his mum swears it is true), a few days after she arrived he rang her and asked where he had left his belt.

He was in London, she was in Accra and he was calling to find out from her where he left his belt. And she told him. And he found it.

Adonbelieveit.

Their advice to me is always this – marriage is beautiful but its hard work; hubby is and can be a 5 year old in big boy trousers about a lot of things; you will pick up, you will cook, you will clean and you will spend as much time organizing his life as you will your own.

Not to say their husbands are completely useless (none of them has confessed to me that they want to divorce because they’re fed up); but they want  me to understand when I’m feeling broody and worried that marriage is not the dreamy, froth-filled fantasy of movies. Plus, if you’re Catholic (as all my friends are) it’s a forever deal.

So relax and enjoy your singlehood as long as you can because when it’s gone its never coming back.

I’ve always wanted to marry my best friend and raise a horde of children and that dream hasn’t diminished over the years. And I’m so grateful that I have a mother and sisters and married girlfriends who  remind me to appreciate where I am now, on the journey to where I want to be.

Random Thoughts

#6. Miss Jaye gets her nails done…..and she likes it

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Let me get this out of the way, I love my cousin Chief. He is soft-spoken, sarcastic and quick on the uptake. He also tied the knot recently and his only clause to me was to pack my natural hair away before showing up.

And for him, I wore a silky weave and threw in acrylic nails to boot.

See how much I love him?

Well, it’s been two weeks since I went to Salon Services to have them hook me up with acrylic nails and its time for me to assess my performance with them. Wait – did I mention this is the first time I’ve ever worn acrylic nails? In my long-legged life?

Deep breath in and out……

I thought they would be a pain but they weren’t.

PROS:

  • My hands look prettier and more feminine J
  • The nails make a lovely noise when tapping on desks, car doors and kitchen counters.
  • They look great with whatever outfit I wear.
  • I can handwash my clothes without fuss.
  • I can prepare my favourite meal with them
  • I can wash dishes without hassle.

 

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CONS:

  • I can’t eat fufu and soup, banku and stew, waakye…..hell, I can’t eat any of my favourite meals that I can normally eat with my hands. Bummer.
  • Its hard to type with acrylics; they hurt when you press the nails, it’s uncomfortable when you use your fingerpads. It’s not been an easy ride this past week :/
  • I can’t open a can of Coke easily.
  • I can’t close shirt buttons.
  • I struggle with earring bolts.
  • I have to be careful how I use my fingers because the nails are tough but are surprisingly sensitive to pressure and can break and rip off my real nails.
  • Erm….that’s it, I guess.

So, will I do it again? Most definitely….I’ll just have to figure out how to alter some aspects of my life to accommodate them. Or, I can fix them every three or four months.

Or I can just enjoy them until I get sick of them.

Either way, good times 🙂

 

Throwing Political Tantrums

#12. Murder and mayhem in the Gateway to West Africa

Or isn’t that how we’ve branded ourselves? God-fearing, hospitable, nice people…the Gateway to West Africa…all that jazz?

People who waves white handkerchiefs and praise God on Sunday then beat up a soldier on Monday and we call ourselves ‘hospitable.”

Commander-Mahama

Tweekai. We should all bow our heads in shame. My atheist friends who always thought Christianity is a messed up religion, now believe that the rest of us who believe in God are certifiably insane.

It’s been 48 hours since the brutal lynching and setting alight of Captain Maxwell Mahama and time has afforded me the opportunity to sift through the conflicting reports from the DCE and assembly man of the community and to internally process the true horror that occurred at Diaso in the Central region.

Now the thought running through my mind is this – mob justice and lynching is not a new phenomenon in Ghanaian society. In fact, there have been a number of  publicized cases from the Ashanti and Greater Accra regions but the victims’ families did not receive justice because in the eyes of the public, the individuals were petty criminals and thus did  not deserve it.

And we all know the police service is notoriously slow to bring the perpetrators of this type of crime to book.

It’s a sad fact that more Ghanaians rely on the media and mob justice to get the results they need. I can’t tell you how many times people call the newsroom saying there’s a fire at so-and-so or an armed robbery at x-y-z, and when you ask if they’ve called the police they snort and pass comments.

For whatever reason, as a society, we have allowed the reputation of the Ghana Police Service to deteriorate to a point that we view them with derision and scorn. The GPS is ill-equipped, badly resourced and overly criticized. Their offices at the district and community levels are interior decorating nightmares. And the way the officers on night patrol behave is simply appalling – collecting money from motorists with the words “Oh you know its late…for the boys..”  and always haranguing the trotro and taxi drivers because they know those commercial drivers tend to act the fool so they can collect bribes from them. The way they drag their feet when solving crimes in developing communities because the infrastructure there is piss-poor.  And, if the posts sent to Awareness General Francis Kennedy Ocloo are true, some even demand female drivers either kiss them or have sex with them instead of paying fines for traffic offences.

In short, Ghana Police Service is a mess with many issues that should have been resolved ten years ago.

But unfortunately we’re being too slow; because now too many citizens don’t believe that the police service has the gonads to fight crime and give them any justice. People feel that the police are only in it for their pockets and not for the public good; the police are just there to protect the ‘big men and women’ in society, if you don’t know anyone or you don’t have any big man to speak for you, your case will die an ignominious death.

And how many people can pay bribes every other day to get the justice they deserve? And how on earth did we get to this point where we have to pay before we are protected?

As a society we have ignored the cracks in our police service and now they are huge chasms that are difficult to cross.  We have created a society where lynching and mob justice is normal and justice via the police service is not.

We have normalized vicious beatings with heavy stones, bricks, blocks and pieces of wood before setting the dead victim alight.

The  animals in human clothes who killed Captain Mahama should be rounded up and thrown into prison for the rest of their lives. They are not fit to mingle with the rest of us. Captain Mahama’s death should not just shock us into action, it should be the catalyst that forces us to seek justice for every Ghanaian who is a victim of mob justice. This descent into madness must brake somewhere and this callous murder of a man who swore to defend his nation should be the last stop.

60 years of independence and we have become a people who wave white handkerchiefs on Sunday then murder a man in cold blood under dubious reasons on Monday.

Hospitable much?

 

Random Thoughts

#5. #Menaretrash and matters arising

The day I read the story behind the #menaretrash hashtag, the shock and horror that filled me was difficult to articulate. So many thoughts ran through my mind and honestly I struggled to express the profound sadness I felt.

 

And the disquieting feeling that it could have so easily been me or any of my sisters, cousins or female friends.

MENARETRASH

Some stories to illustrate:

  • A few years ago when my sister Tricia won the Miss Malaika crown, we spent one long Saturday roaming in town moving from one of her appointments to the other. Her car had gone for servicing so we were taxi hopping. We headed home quite late and basically collapsed into a moving taxi. It was late at night, maybe about 9pm and there were very few people at the Manet junction. I was sitting in the front passenger seat and Trish sat in the back. Shortly after we sat down, two young men and the driver entered the car and banged the door. Immediately after they banged their doors, I opened my door told and told my sister to get out; we’d take another car home. I can’t remember if the driver asked questions or the guys but I didn’t care. Up til now, I haven’t had such a feeling like that before; that deep visceral fear and that feeling of ‘get out, get out now.’ I’ve sat in taxis beyond 9pm since that episode but that feeling of ice-cold fear has yet to strike me again. Because, we were the only women in a car full of men we didn’t know late on a Saturday night. Anything could have happened…….
  • I’m not a ‘girlie-girl’ in the strictest sense but I do love dressing up for weddings. For my friend’s wedding in August 2015 I wore a long dress with a bustier style top that showed a hint of cleavage. (And if you know me you know a hint is really all you’re going to see, I am not top heavy at all). Anyway, I took a selfie with the dress, leaning forward slightly and doing ‘duck-face’. I thought the picture was cute and used it as my WhatsApp dp. Within a week I changed my dp because two older men I respect a great deal sent me sexually suggestive messages that made me cringe.  I felt so uncomfortable that I chose to change a picture I liked so I could have my piece of mind.

As a woman in a 21-st century patriarchal society, it is easy to forget that Ghana is still steeped in strong traditions that govern the way men and women interact.

Over the past couple of weeks social media has been it with a hashtag that started after the brutal murder of a young South African woman by her boyfriend. To state that she was murdered is to simplify it – she was killed, doused with acid then set alight before buried in a shallow grave like a piece of trash.

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Jesus.

And when South African women took to twitter to express their grief and outrage at this senseless death, men and women across the continent didn’t understand.

#MENARETRASH

How can all men be trash? Does that mean your father is trash? Your uncles? Your boyfriend? Your husband?

Simply put – yes.

Let me explain why with another story.

I once rode in a trotro to the Accra mall from Teshie and all was going smoothly – people were chatting, the driver was speeding and insulting his fellow motorists and I was listening to music via my earphones. Then all of a sudden the woman ahead of me started talking agitatedly, demanding to find out why the man who just entered  had held her breast before taking his seat.

I didn’t see him grab her breast but the look on his face when he sat down and the way he spoke whilst looking out of the window was a dead giveaway. Now here’s the bit about this memory that still makes me pause – not one man on the trotro spoke up in the woman’s defense or to chastise the man. Even as her voice rose and became shrill with outrage and anger, and as the women in the trotro also protested against the man’s actions, all the men in the troskie looked away or down or straight ahead and listened to music on their phones.

And this my dear #notallmenaretrash supporters is the crux of the issue. I understand why you are offended when #menaretrash trends; its because there are not enough good men speaking up against the cruel sadistic ones. Too many of you have solid characters but you won’t  speak up when your fellow men rape and abuse and denigrate women. Too many of you sit silently; too many of you look away, down or straight ahead. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

But now the tide is changing; last week an impressive number of South African men took to the streets to demonstrate against the nightmarish levels of femicide in their country. Although much needs to be done to completely eradicate gender-based violence in SA, it’s a solid start in the right direction. Keep it up broers.

dav

My Gh brothers….chale, how far now? When are you rising up to protest against gender-based violence?

Or do you want to accept the tag #menaretrash as is?

Random Thoughts

#4 : Me and my ‘overrated feminism’

Feminism – a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish and achieve political, economic, personal and social rights for women.

Feminist – one who ascribes to feminism.

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It all started with a picture on Facebook. A good friend of mine and former University of Ghana classmate posted a picture of a young woman smoking (what looked like) shisha and getting her groove on at a club. Not a particularly unique pose. But his caption though “This one too wants to be a mother someday”; that caught my attention.

And my blood immediately boiled over and steam poured out of my ears. I was tempted to wave it off; after all he’s the same friend who posted about women who look like Alicia Keys on Facebook and Wiyaala in real life (and I still can’t believe that he didn’t understand when I pointed out to him that his comparison was insulting). I didn’t want to get into it with him again. But I scrolled through the comments and found my friend Affi telling him to ‘get of his judgment throne.’

I couldn’t just leave Affi there all by herself; I had to pitch in. Otherwise who knows what other drivel would have followed to invalidate her comment. (Or try to. Have you met Affi? Her voice is soft but her skin is thick)

So I asked him that there are men in the club who are fathers, so what’s the point of his argument? From that point the discussion degenerated with him telling me my ‘overrated feminist posture’ made me lose the point.

In hindsight I should have asked him: ‘Do you think your mother was a saint before she gave birth to you?’

That would have shut down the conversation and brought out all the ironic male idol-worshipping of their mothers which doesn’t relate to women who are not mothers.

But that’s a conversation for another day.

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People like to use the term feminism as a cuss word or an insult or a slur; especially if you’re a single woman who happens to be a feminist. In that scenario, you are the one people warn their married female friends about. Here are some examples :

“Don’t talk to her because she’ll advise you to demand your rights, fight with your husband and leave him. You know she’s jealous of you right? And the fact that you’re married?” So yeah don’t speak to your feminist friend; stay in your marriage were your husband beats the black off you every other day, then uses your money and has the gall to have sex with women half his age and get angry with you when you confront him on it. Don’t listen to your feminist friend, cos clearly she’s jealous of your ideal home life.

“If you’re in a relationship and your man is acting up, don’t listen to your feminist friend who will tell you to speak up for yourself and demand some accountability. Because she’s single and clearly jealous of your relationship and wants you to join her in Single Sister Land.”

“When you’re married you have to juggle house and home and the kids. And remember, your husband is your first child, he needs all the attention. So get ready to cook and clean and wash after him and the kids and manage your career and still look 22 otherwise a real 22 year old will snatch your husband away. And just because you work a 12 hour shift doesn’t mean you can’t stop what you’re doing and make the man a meal. Because you’re his wife. And please don’t listen to your feminist friend who tells you you’re not a pack mule and it’s okay to ask for help and ask your husband to help. Because if you do, hell, he might just do it.”

“Eish, you people should take it easy with this feminist thing oh. Otherwise your husbands will beat you.”

“You know my Reverend says that feminists are disrespectful and …don’t respect their husbands.”

These and so many others I hear from men and women and each of them have first degrees from sterling universities, some have masters, others run their own businesses, one I almost dated. People who I feel should know better.

And why?

Because I’m a Ghanaian woman who believes that other women should not be discriminated against and should be given equal opportunity and equal recognition for what they do.

And because I’m a Ghanaian woman who lives in a very patriarchal society, it is somehow an anomaly for me to want to believe that a society where men and women are treated as equals is impossible.

Question – why do so many people assume that to be a feminist means you have to be single and female? The feminists that I admire and look up to are married with children and careers. The first people who encouraged me to excel in my career and not worry about anything anybody says were men. Looking back, I realise how fortunate I am to have men as well as married women who are feminists to guide me to this path.

And yes, they are all Ghanaians. Each and every one of them.

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So why is being a feminist a badge of honour for some and a dirty word for others? Is it because feminists are always trying to right a wrong? Is it because we always look angry with steam coming out of our ears at the masculine hegemonic bullshit posturing that we’re exposed to on a daily basis? Is it because for every success women chalk up, for every victory against discrimination there’s an incident of patriarchy that makes us realise there’s still so much work to be done? So much education that needs to be done?

Well, whatever the reason, I’m not giving up my place in the fight for a society that respects women as highly as it respects men, one which recognizes the contribution of women to society’s development and one which treats women and men as equals.

And if you don’t like it, take a deep breath, grab your matches and go and burn the sea.

 

Random Thoughts

#3. For the Mothers

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As mothers worldwide were honored and adored via physical embraces and social media over the weekend, a line from Trevor Noah’s autobiography ‘Born a Crime’ comes to mind.

I chose to have you.”

These are the words of Trevor’s mum, Patience Mbuyi Noah who made the audacious yet well-thought out decision to have a child with a Swiss man almost two decades her senior.

Let that sink in for a moment – she is a Black South African woman who decided that she wanted to have a child and then she convinced the man she had chosen. She chose a Swiss man. She chose to have a mixed race baby at the zenith of apartheid; when having such a child was a criminal offense and could lead to several years in prison. And yet –

I chose to have you.”

Our mothers, your mother and mine, chose to have us. They chose to house us in their bodies for nine months, push us out or have us cut out of their bodies and ruin their figures. They chose to love us, respect us, build us up and straighten us up (by kindness or spankings). They chose to invest in us; support us, push us to the brink…and then carry us home when we were exhausted. They are our mothers. God picked us for them and they for us.

And then they chose us.

And if you’re wondering why I’m stressing on this last point, let me share a few stories:

–         A friend of mine in her mid-30’s who was married with three children under five and was pursuing a Masters degree, called me and told me she was pregnant. There was a long silence then she said in a tired, broken, quiet voice: “I feel so disappointed in myself.” There was another long silence and we did what best friends do – we had a silent conversation. This time, the topic was ‘I don’t know if I can handle another child’

–         A friend of mine in her mid-40’s fell pregnant and was told by her doctor that there was a chance her child would be born with a defect. The options available…were not encouraging.

–         A 19 year old friend of mine about to enter nursing training college fell pregnant. 19. Pregnant. And just about to enter training college. Her first thought : I can’t  have this baby.

 pregnant mom

And there are so many women with so many personal scenarios similar to the situations outlined above. Let me not leave out the women who struggle with infertility who try and try and invest so much money…only to lose the child. And after licking their wounds, decide to try again.

Another roll of the dice.

Another gamble.

Another prayer waiting to be answered.

I chose to have you.”

Ultimately, all the women I mentioned, chose to carry full term. Each of them is now blessed with beautiful children.

And what did my friends sacrifice for my beautiful nieces and nephews?

Their lives as they know it : their money, their dreams of a grown-up dinner with grown-ups. Their perfect schedule.

And what did they (the mothers) receive?

Squabbles among siblings.

Building blocks on the floor.

And love, the unconditional love a child has for his/her mother.

In other words – when God blessed them with the children they chose to love, they hit the jackpot.

“I chose to have you.”

So on this day, let’s remember that our being here was not simply the benevolence of God Most High; let’s remember that by virtue of the free will He gave us, our Mamas chose us.

The challenges are still there, but with a loving, inquisitive, often-times selfish, playful, exploring little person in the house – why wouldn’t there be ?

But despite that.. and all the drama and bullshit we create around us…Still, our mothers say : “I chose to have you.”

I am…we are… the final product of a critical decision between a woman and her God.

We are the blessed ones, the chosen ones.

 mama and baby