Someone asked my friend Arimiyaw if either Dominique or Max, two EWB volunteers that have recently visited Karaga, were staying with me. This seems like a direct attempt to determine whether despite my “I have a husband” status, I was sleeping with multiple men in the same week. Sweet.
A man who I’ve become acquainted with at the Karaga market, which happens every six days, has told me that he has seen many white people before, but did not like any of them. Because they were not fat like me. I am the first one, he says, that he has talked to because he likes me. Really likes me. As in yesterday, we were chatting and he told me that he likes me so much that he wants to touch me, but knows it is not allowed in his religion and because I am married.
I get at least a few requests each day for men to marry me, or if I want them (sexually). This started out as more than ten/day, and something that kept me on my toes, and that I was very quick to divert. My friends have assured me that these are largely great jokes reserved for white people (women). Lately the requests have dwindled and my response has changed dramatically, to one that is far more relaxed and playful. People know me better now, and those asking are usually in the company of people who already know my answer, so I’m no longer hyper-proactive to make sure my message gets across. Plus, it’s funny asking a 20-year old if he’s going to go get his parents now so we can get married tomorrow.
People have absolutely no qualms about calling it as it is in terms of body image. As a result, being called fat is something that has been transformed for me from something people said to me to be mean in elementary school to something that just seems to be a natural descriptor for myself, someone who hasn’t taken the time to maintain my physical activity over the past few years. This one is pretty weird for me, because I have had a negative image of my body, especially my weight as I perceived it compared to others, since I’ve been aware of it (maybe 13 years old). Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me at all, but it has never been a part of my identity that I have been proud of. In Karaga, and I suspect in most of Ghana, being fat is a neutral to good thing. If you’re fat and a woman, you’ve probably given birth many times, you’re a successful person with lots of food to eat, and life is good. Regardless, it still stings a bit when people laugh when I’m double-riding my bike, and I’m the one sitting on the back, and they think I’m so fat I’m going to break the bike. Sheesh.
Some of the people I’ve gotten close to originally assumed that I was around 35 years old (one guessed 42) because of my body image. To think that I was a target within their age range (mid-twenties) released what seemed to me to be an onslaught of professions of love, requests for sleepovers, and assertions that I would be snatched by them from my husband by the time I leave Ghana. Regardless of the contract I signed as part of the JF program, and my solidly “taken” relationship status, I don’t have any temptation at all to consider having ten children with any of these guys. And that’s the general expectation, is that each wife attempts to pop out a bevy of kids. People are incredulous when I tell them that I only have one sibling, and that my ideal number of children is also 2-3.
Family planning is something I’ve only heard of in Ghana in one of my conversations. Most people have just asserted that the more children the better. My colleague Mr. Abanga feels otherwise, and is planning for only a few children and one wife, because he knows that he needs to be aware of his limitations in the care he can provide them.
My friend Eliasu, a marketing student at the Tamale Polytechnic college, asked me if it could happen too that women can become pregnant outside of marriage in Canada. I assured him that yes, it happens in Canada too, but if the people are still in secondary school that it is usually not good at all. It is pretty much expected that by 25 years old, women are “expired”, as my EWBer buddy Lyndsey so bluntly learned from her taxi-driver. This means that you’d better marry and prove that you’re fertile by this time, and the earlier the better.
How do Canadians express all of these concepts? These occurrences seem so distinct from something we’d experience in Canada, but how are there similarities?
In a Canadian context:
- How do you gain information about someone’s sexual exploits? How do people’s interest levels in multiple sex partners/cheating etc. vary compared to Ghana?
- Why do people find it inappropriate to tell someone that they are physically attracted to them if the person of interest is married/taken?
- How do jokes about relationships differ? Are Canadians too prudish/scared/shy to make fun of marriage? How would you respond if someone off the street asked you to marry them?
- Why do we find it offensive to comment on someone’s fatness? How does it differ from a comment on eye colour, or singing voice, or puzzle-solving ability?
- Why do we tap out after a few kids? What are the economic incentives behind this decision? Is there a societal time-limit on our (female or male) reproduction? Where does that come from?
I’m looking for at least one comment from each of these categories. I want to hear what you think, and how it’s comparing to my experiences So take a look at the comment list, and if one of these hasn’t seen any responses, take a stab! Don’t feel shy *ahem* chapter members*ahem*! Also, do not hesitate to ask me some questions in return!