On Monday afternoon, I met Bree and Nicky in the market after work. We were looking for fixins for dinner that night–we had planned a Cards Against Humanity Obruni food PCV dinner party and I was only too happy to be included. As the truck I had hitched a ride on screeched into town, Bree texted. Nicky’s wallet had disappeared as she was shopping for a dress. In an attempt to recover her Driver’s license, we went to the local radio station for them to announce the loss. This was fine by me–I had nowhere to be that afternoon, and had never been inside the radio station HQ. Bree was friends with the broadcasters, and they welcomed us warmly.
The broadcast was going well. The DJ appealed to ghanaian sense of guilt at taking things from Peace Corps Volunteers who just want to save the world and don’t get paid for their efforts, while also making it clear that we didn’t care about anything but the license. Nicky went on air to appeal as well, using her best Ghana Pidgin and small small Twi. I was just dozing off in a lull of Air conditioner enjoyment when I heard my own name mentioned.
“And Sister Akweya Clara is here as well, she will be in Ghana long time. Sister, why do you wear a ring on your left hand, are you married? That doesn’t look like a wedding ring.” Before I could explain that Astronaut Mike Dexter was currently exploring Mars to make sure it was safe for the planned 2016 mission and would be back next week, Bree threw me to the wolves.
“Oh no, she isn’t married! In fact she is looking for a husband!” Cuz what are friends for?
Nicky was no help either “It’s true it’s true, she hasn’t even a husband!” I tried to kick them under the table, missed, and found myself falling out of my chair. By the time I had gotten my balance, the mic had come my way.
“Sister Akweya Clara, explain yourself: why do you wear a ring on your marriage finger if you are not married?” Ghanaians have a way of seeming more demanding than they actually are; while this was meant as a curious question, it came off as an intense KGB style interrogation.
Looking down at my offensive hand, I said the only thing I could think of:
“Normally I wear my ring on my middle finger, but lately my fingers have been Obolo because of the heat, so it only fits on this finger” I wiggled my Obolo hands to demonstrate. “See?”
The room got quiet and considered my case. My offending fingers were examined, the ring shoved on various knuckles, and everyone had a chance to make sure I was telling the whole truth. After a series of tests to determine that the ring was in fact mine and I was in fact not secretly married, I was declared innocent of all crimes, save that of having “Obolo Obruni hands” and being 23 and unmarried.
Lucky for me, they had a solution for everything. The main DJ, who had started the inquisition, turned to me and looked me straight in the eye: “So sister Akweya Clara, if you have no husband, will you consider me?”
I tried my best not to laugh; we were on live Radio after all, and it does seem poor form to laugh at a man who is proposing marriage, no matter how ridiculous the proposition.
“I have a good business here and I am a nice man. I can pay a good bride price and will never neglect you. So?” I froze and looked to my so-called friends for help. They were busy dying of silent laughter.
Confession time: normally I’m pretty callous with these things because they happen on such a casual daily basis. It’s one thing to turn down a proposal in a cab on the way to work or in a spot bar, it’s another to refuse potential suitors on live radio. For a split second I actually felt guilty saying no. And then I returned to reality and remembered how manipulative it is to propose to strangers on live radio because you happen to like the color of their skin.
However, that doesn’t translate in Ghanaian culture. In a place where women are glorified baby-making, fufu pounding, house elves, my frustrations with the Patriarchy and annoyance at impertinent strangers has no cultural grounding. What does translate is DRAMA. Ghanaians live for dramatic encounters, real or fictional. I’ve seen more Telenovela translated into Twi and English than I’ve seen in Spanish. I knew my only escape was to escalate.
“I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t possibly marry you, it wouldn’t be fair to either of us. You see, I’m madly in love with another man!”
Que gasps of shock, intrigue and surprise from around the table. Never mind that I had met these men not 15 minutes before–now the plot was thickening. How could I be madly in love with someone who wasn’t them?
My rejected suitor demanded, “Where is he? Is he here? Do I know him?”
“He’s not here. He lives in Spain.” Mild confusion ensued as everyone tried to remember where Spain was.
Bree, in an attempt to redeem herself piped up: “He’s a very famous scientist, and he’s incredibly handsome too!”
“Well when is he coming here?” the DJ demanded. My gut reaction to this question is always to say “next month” because it’s long enough that people generally forget, and no one asks too many questions. But these guys were pretty persistent–if a month passed and I didn’t produce Spanish Astronaut Mike Dexter, the gig would be up and I’d be harassed on the airwaves til the end of time.
“He isn’t. He can’t come because he is very ill. We are all praying for his health.”
This settled it. “We will all pray for his health, then!” After a quick on-air prayer for the health of my imaginary Spanish lover, we were thanked for our time and released. Though as soon as the mics were off, the DJ turned to me to say I was “a very bad girl” for being here flirting with Ghanaians and not in Spain nursing my dying scientist. Somedays you just can’t win.
All this to say fuck the Patriarchy–Ima wear whatever I want and don’t bother proposing–I’m on my way to Spain to tend to poor dying Astronaut Mike Dexter.