I believe my relocation to Ghana may be my own personal coming-of-age story. I’ve grown up a lot over the last few years. Ghana got my mid-twenties and developed what London couldn’t do in my early twenties. I am tougher, wiser and a lot more understanding of human behaviour; but as with anyone else, this learning experience is a life-long journey.
That being said, not all of our experiences are positive. Highlighting these negative experiences, constructively, is not a hindrance, but rather a way of mobilising change.
Here is a general view of what I’ve spent over a year and a half observing and learning about:
African men who lie, manipulate and “borrow” money from women
My perception of African men has always been of chivalry. Not personally from my father, but second-hand from friend’s stories (usually of Nigerian men) and observations of the pride the average African man sees as a caretaker of not just his family, girlfriend or wife – but the whole community.
I’ve heard rags-to-riches stories of men who grew fortunes and went back to build their villages. Others of men who sent children to school who were not theirs. There were also the enviable stories of women who were treated like princesses showered with lavish gifts.
With this in mind – cue me, Nwadiogo, moving to Ghana, from the UK, and encountering the reality that perhaps some African men are just good at branding.
In my first year, I had several men asking me for money, for various reasons, to subsidise that month’s income. I normally obliged – thinking nothing of it.
In my second year, it became worse. Different in the people involved but more consistent. I began to wonder if I had the words ‘rich kid’ tattooed on my forehead and not ‘starving artist’. The tattoo artist must have gotten my order mixed up.
But even then, I obliged.
This year I came armed with a newly learnt word – “no”. I am not against lending money to friends who return it and are in genuine need (if I have it). But as I began to “shine my eye” what I found in many, though not all cases, were men who were asking for money to keep up appearances. It is not that they needed the money, per say, it was that they wanted to maintain a certain bravado brought on by societal pressures.
Our societies encourage alpha males as the only acceptable form of manhood.
But that in itself was not enough to push me to write this post.
The push came as I sat in a car with two other women. Slightly older than me, they shared their own experiences of also being mistakenly tattooed with the words ‘rich kid’. They are women who “grinded” through school, paid their way and are saving towards a better future for themselves and the families they hope to build.
They explained how relationships and friendships with these men turned out to appear as just a fundraising exercise.
We wondered if it was a wider issue.
We discussed how our cultures enabled those men to continue their behaviour by not speaking about it.
We remembered a saying of how a woman passes the money under the table so men can pay.
And I began to think. Is it the pressures society places on men that drive them to desperately source money elsewhere? Is it our government’s inadequacy to encourage job creation and/or higher wages? Or is it that we allowed complacency in our men while striving to be the “good Proverbs 31 woman”?
The stories between us three ladies and those we knew around us highlighted that there may be a certain type of man out there, the opportunist, that was able to thrive because we let him hide in our secrecy. Our shame of being duped and/or with allowing ourselves to align with mediocrity.
Their goals appear one-tracked and irrespective of the women they target to assist their agenda of being the African dream.
So I wondered if the first step was to talk about it; what are our black men’s roles? How far are they willing to push those around them to achieve them?
And how far are we willing to work to change our collective narratives?
I can never claim the complete understanding of our men’s perspective, but I can offer my support by starting the conversation.
Author: Nwadiogo Quartey-Ngwube, threesixtyGh writer
Image Source: Google and Nwadiogo Quartey-Ngwube