Are Ghanaian Men Unromantic?

Sun, 8 Feb 2009 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

With St. Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Ghana’s airwaves ? from Accra to Tamale, from Ho to Takoradi, from Kumasi to Sunyani ? will soon be inundated with discussions about romance, love, affection, and friendship, issues that are generally associated with this unique holiday. There are three legends that are associated with St. Valentine’s Day, but I will share only one of them at this time. It is believed that a few hundred years after the birth of Jesus Christ, the Roman Emperor, Claudius II, made a proclamation that his soldiers not be allowed to marry, as the emperor was convinced that single men made better warriors than those beleaguered with the complications and idiosyncrasies of marriage. However, St. Valentine, a priest, considered this ruling unjust, and thus continued to perform marriages between soldiers and their fiancées in secret. When St. Valentine’s deeds were found out, Emperor Claudius II ordered him executed.

This article was inspired by Kela, a female friend of mine domiciled in Accra, who, through a series of electronic mails we had recently exchanged with each other, wanted to know why many ladies enjoyed accusing Ghanaian men of being unromantic. Thus, this publication stems from a desire to engender a discussion about the romanticism and sexual passions of Ghanaian men, and I hope that the reader will freely share his or her knowledge about love and romance with the rest of us, taking into consideration the unique nature of our Ghanaian culture.

Maryjane is a 22-year-old Tema-based civil servant who met Fiifi, an Accra-based lawyer, 5 years her senior, about a year ago. While Maryjane seems to be very happy with the relationship so far, she is beginning to complain that her boyfriend does not pamper her with flowers and also rarely buys her gifts, such comments not atypical of some women, a situation men have had to live with for centuries! In effect, Maryjane “wants it all,” and although Fiifi is sweet and caring, the lack of the latter’s gift-bestowing quality has slightly eroded Maryjane’s confidence in her boyfriend. Is Maryjane not being greedy? Is sending flowers to a woman not primarily a Western idea and thus should not be imposed on any Ghanaian male? Yes, the Western world has taught Ghanaians some useful things, such as the positive values of democratic governance and the rule of law, but do we have to copy everything Western?

My argument here ? perhaps it reflects male-male solidarity with Fiifi ? is that Maryjane is being ungrateful for the other qualities that Fiifi possesses: Fiifi does not buy Maryjane flowers, so is that the end of the world? As far as I am concerned, Ghanaian men reveal their love for their women in so many other ways: by giving them money routinely, usually before the ladies ask; by taking them out to eateries regularly; by taking them to exciting places, such as the many beaches and festivals, mostly on the weekends; and by trying hard to exhibit fidelity, a quality that our common culture errantly excuses. These are the values that I consider to be primarily Ghanaian, so for Maryjane to be unhappy because she does not receive flowers makes her very ungrateful indeed.

Now, Kela has come up with the following unique arguments: Do two lovers not have to learn what each other’s “love languages” are, and should they not attempt to meet those needs to make the relationship meaningful? For example, assuming that Maryjane loves to be touched a lot, whereas Fiifi simply enjoys being adored as a man who provides for his woman, is it not required of either partner to meet the “need” that makes the other person most satisfied? In this case, even if Fiifi did not grow up believing that he needed to constantly rub his lover’s shoulders and neck to make her happy, is it not his duty now to learn to do so? Similarly, would words of affirmation not be required to constantly proceed from Maryjane, if these actions were necessary to make Fiifi feel like a real man? Kela has compartmentalized her love language into five tenets: Cash flows; gifts; words of affirmation; quality time; and acts of service. Let me explain these tenets next.

By cash flow we mean the willingness of one partner (it is more a man’s duty than a woman’s in Ghanaian society) to freely offer the other person cash if there was the need to do so. Gifts, of course, are those material exchanges that ostensibly strengthen any relationship. Words of affirmation I have already explained. Quality time is perhaps one salient activity that many couples miss in their relationships. By quality time we mean the capacity to make time for the other person, by going to an isolated place away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, or by huddling together in the home, with as little interruption from the outside world as possible. Finally, by acts of service we mean the capacity to serve the other without bickering, a willingness to seek the greater good of the other partner ? in effect, a yearning to be selfless in the relationship. For example, if Fiifi were to ask Maryjane to prepare his favorite dish after work, Maryjane, in the absence of any mitigating circumstances, should do so unreservedly. Similarly, Fiifi must not hesitate to serve Maryjane, if his time and assistance were needed by her.

So what does the reader think about Maryjane? What about Fiifi? My argument is that Maryjane is being selfish about the issue of flowers, so long as Fiifi is making her happy in so many other ways. Should Fiifi be forced to embrace this Western idea of pampering his lover with flowers, were he to receive an ultimatum from Maryjane regarding the relationship? Do we have to copy all Western values in order to feel good about ourselves? Should we not be happy with our own cultural values and accept that some of our men’s actions simply may never fit the Western description of “romantic?” Even as St. Valentine’s Day draws near, many of us would reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of our relationships, but we must do so by learning to separate fantasy from reality, legitimacy from falsehood, sagacity from imprudence, and rationality from illogicality. I will leave my readers with the following quotes:

“Young love is a flame; very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.” ? Henry Ward Beecher

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ? Lao Tzu

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.