Within the last eighteen months I have attended nine welcoming parties. These are parties by friends and acquaintances who went to Africa, marry and successfully petitioned for their wives to come to the United States. These types of parties, whether big or small, are taking place all over the US. The immigration process can be lengthy and frustrating — depending on the petitioner’s immigration status. In the US at least, one could petition for his future wife by way of the Fiancé Visa provision or through outright marriage which could take upward of twenty months. And lots of money, ingenuity and perseverance!
But why do African men go though this tortuous and circuitous immigration process? Why do African men go home to marry instead of marrying the women they’ve wined and dined and romanced right here in the US. Most of these women are well-educated, well-read and well-traveled; they are well mannered and have proven their reliability. They have demonstrated their abilities and capabilities in all matters marital. They are women of two worlds: they know Africa and also understand the West.
Why do African men go home to marry the “unknowns” instead of marrying the proven and the reliable here in the US? Well, it is because (1) they can; (2) most men are under the illusion that the women they knew back home are innocent, un-spoilt and virginal; (3) it is an ego boosting exercise in that it allows them to demonstrate to their people back in Africa that they too can bring one of their own to the US; (4) it allows some men to mask their “failures and shortcomings” since the women who are already in the US can tell where they are on the social and economic ladder. Additionally, some men want their women to look up to them since it makes them appear more than what and who they really are (at least in the initial stages).
And then there those who will tell you African girls in the US have all “gone bad…rotten…too exposed…too independent.” Ha, whatever that means!
The African male is perplexing. He can be enigmatic. He can be everything and sometimes, nothing. He can be sweet and loving and caring and benevolent and at the same time oppressive. His life is full of contradictions. In so many ways, he is a wounded animal as a result of his historical past. Once, he was the primary breadwinner. Once, he was the head of the household. Once, he was the man who moved mountains and parted the heavens so it rained. That was a time long gone. The modern times have not been exactly good to him because of the multiplying effects of globalization and modernity.
Even though the outside world is depriving him of his manhood, he has found a way to make part of his world his playground. His home has become his playground. And in this playground, he is the captain. He is the sole captain. No co-captains. His words and wishes are the law. Globalization and modernity may be creeping in on and chipping away at his manhood, he has found a way to protect his playground. Or so he thought! To make his thoughts a reality, he marries a greenhorn.
But you see life has a way of getting back at us. Sooner or later, Karma will come to play.
Life is dynamic. Ever changing. Never static. Therefore, yesterday’s greenhorns will become the “ever-present and ever-knowing” of tomorrow. The innocents will lose the mist in their eyes and become like all the women that came before them. Though the preceding assertion is not empirically grounded, one can not but notice that “greenhorn marriages” dissolve quicker — mostly within five years with or without offspring.
More often than not most of these marriages are not based on love or affection. Most are not even like the marriages of yester-years: a contract and a union between two families. On the part of the greenhorns, it is mostly about the need to escape the prevailing abject poverty and hopelessness that has engulfed most African countries. Most of these women wanted a way out of the sorrow and the lack of opportunities in Kenya, Guinea, Botswana, Liberia, and Eritrea and elsewhere. In Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Madagascar and Mauritania, it is about running away from the fetid and stifling conditions that stunts dreams and kill optimism. For most women, that is. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to hop, they pack and run!
As for the men who go in search of these women, well, their mindset has been discussed. What needs to be added is the fact that most are never happy because they got what they never bargained for: stunned, disappointed and underachieving wives who never knew about 40-60-hour work week; women who never knew there are no dollar minting factories down the street, that America is not what they saw in the movies and magazines, that America is not a world of instant riches and glamour. You toil and toil and toil!
The unfamiliar can be mind-sapping, you know. These women see ghosts and dream of “bad-bad-bad-things.” Depression and identity crisis then sets in. Those who can’t cope then leave their husbands and marriage and try to go it alone believing their lots would be better without the “extra baggage.” Big mistake, for most!
As for the men, well, some will plead with, cajole or trick their wives into going into the nursing or CNA profession assuming the women were not already one back home. The nursing profession, they believe, is a sure avenue for making money and living the good life. Be it in Houston, Seattle, Dallas, Miami, New York and every where in between, African nurses abound. They are everywhere working mostly the night and graveyard shifts, toiling day and night and away from their husbands and children just to make ends meet. With no time to smell the roses or to wonder at the beauties that surround them, they become strangers in the world they live in.
Why do we wine and dine and romance our women if we have no intention of marrying them? Why do we whine and complain when we see them lay their eggs in the nest of other races? Why do we sneer at them when they turn the “ideal age for marriage” and are unmarried? And why do we slap the culture book at them when they have children out of wedlock? It is a shame the way some African men in this country have treated and continues to treat some of our women. It is truly a shame!
Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Please, do not ask me about religion. I get the evil look every time I tell people I am an agnostic who teeters on atheism. My world resolves around ethics and the rule of law. That’s it. I have no use for religion: religious convictions are not part of my existence -- the laws of man are good enough for me. I have lived in several cities: Seattle, Miami, Norman, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, the District of Columbia, Houston, and Mankato. I am not sure where I am going to live next. And I have never really had a profession, only jobs: been a cook, a dishwasher, a civil servant, house cleaner, university instructor and researcher and so on and so forth. Every so often I get questions concerning the role and place of the African woman. Well, I don’t know; at least not with any certainty. What seems to work best is when both partners work as a team: cooperate, coordinate and collaborate their marital efforts. And they should be mindful of the insidious effect of modernization on the African family.