On Difficult Women.

When I finished the first story in Roxanne Gay’s ‘Difficult Women’, I had to take a break and figure out whether I wanted to cry or not. I think I tweeted at some point, that I had just realised that the book would make me feel feelings.

At that point, I thought it would just be the usual mix of sadness, triumph, hopefulness, anger, pain, and that familiar feeling of oh-my-God-Roxanne-Gay-is-an-amazing-writer. I was pleasantly surprised, and then thrilled by her historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers 🙂


Whether with a tweet, an article, or a short story, she is excellent at making me feel feelings, and this book was no exception. What I was not expecting were the historical futurism, allegory and fantasy stories. No spoilers. I’ve quipped a couple of times about counting Gay as a fantasy writer because she wrote a Black Panther prequel. I was not entirely serious, but I am now and I’m paying attention. There is a story about a stone thrower who marries a glass woman which sent my mind reeling with all sorts of imaginings… Most of the best stories ever, I believe, leave you imagining more… because they never seem like they really ended, and this story – Requiem for a Glass Heart – is one such story.

It’s an eclectic mix of fantasy, gritty realism and a whole world of heartbreak, wonder and stubborn home in between. I loved everything about Difficult Women, and I am now quite happily a Roxanne Gay stan for life.

To say I enjoyed reading it doesn’t seem like the right way to characterise my experience. It is not light reading, and if you have trauma in your past, this book is likely to bring up memories… Even without past trauma, a reader will find many of these stories dark. The thing about that darkness is that there are usually glimmers of light, but not in the usual neat ways where light overcomes happiness and every thing is cast in maximum saturation. The darkness is complex and contradictory and there is not a lot happily ever afters, but this doesn’t mean there is no happiness at all… it is what it is

I received my copy – an uncorrected bound proof – from Susan de Soissons of Little Brown Book Group, via Ghana’s favourite literary event organiser @BrunchoverBooks. Follow @BrunchoverBooks on twitter for book chats, book swap events and giveaways!

2017: My Year of Acknowledging the Log in My Own Eye

The title makes it seem like I’m just now going to start doing this, but it’s catchy because New Year and all… so let’s go with it and pretend this hasn’t been sitting in my drafts for more than a year 🙂


At some point perhaps 3 years ago, in the midst of an argument with a male friend about “a woman’s place” I got so severely frustrated and depressed that I thought there was no hope in the world. Dramatic, I know, but he was a black man who had moved to the USA from Ghana when he was 12 and one of the first people to really connect me to racism – in that I actually knew him and he recounted experiences to me. We would share readings on the subject and discuss the unfairness of that system and that’s how we remained friends really… 

But here he was, using some of the same kinds of arguments racists use to justify their oppression to justify my oppression as a woman. I don’t think I cut him off, but I stopped talking to him about that stuff, and since that was really the only stuff we talked about, we just stopped talking. 

Then last year, that memory popped into my head, probably triggered by a tweet I saw. That and other incidents of oppressed people who should know better oppressing other people weighed me down – I believe at some point, a prayer was said by me – “I want to stop caring!”, I cried out. (Lol, I annoy myself sometimes with how moist I get smh) 
And perhaps this is an answer to that prayer by some entity I didn’t ask, but it’s working for me and I accept it.
“When you point a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you”

I don’t remember if I read it or heard it but it stuck in my head, and for some reason connected with my thoughts about all the hypocrisy I saw in activist spaces I’m part of. Anything I thought I saw in someone else, I examined myself 3 times (roughly) for similar. In this there’s no conclusion yet, because I haven’t figured out what to do with it, fully. I mean, it certainly hasn’t made me shut up when I spot an injustice, the main difference is I think of the related injustices I myself commit and then I’m able to frame things better and approach people from a place of understanding and way less judgement. This isn’t completely satisfactory to me though, I feel like I can do more… or differently. 

What do you think? Thoughts & ideas welcome – leave them in the comments (and stop whatsapping me Anji & co)

More rewarding in terms of General happiness has been my application of Kuukuwa’s Finger Pointation Theorem to my personal life and relationships. I’m more thoughtful in my work interactions,  as well as in my interactions with my friends and fam (well, most of the time but I’m trying!) 
Basically, when I get irritated or mad at someone, I examine my own role in the situation and how I might be at fault too. And while at first I felt I was silencing myself and should just let out everything I feel, with time and practice I noticed I mostly only confronted people when I had really really thought through the situation. More of that in 2017, I hope. 

On Memory 

I have often wondered about memory – how are our memories constructed, and why do we (consciously and unconsciously) construct them they way we do?
As I traveled with my mother to Sokagope about a month ago, we had had a conversation about my childhood…

 It started when a baby boy in the bus threw a messy tantrum. Shaking my head in a amused superiority,  I said something  along the lines of “I would never have done that – I was a quiet well-behaved baby”. 

Now, I know this because I have been told by aunties, grandpeoples and uncles… but mama burst into laughter and said, “yes you were quiet but quietly doing naughty things”. 

I feigned shock – I mean, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this, but it’s the first time I’ve heard it from her. I always thought I outsmarted her! Darn. 
Anyway, my latest latest favourite story from my childhood is about the teacher who taught me to love mathematics. In my memory, it is the epic story of my love for one of my favourite studies teachers (extra classes tutor) and how we fought against all odds to achieve something I don’t even remember anymore. 

Of course my mother remembers it differently… Apparently I wasn’t always the maths shark you know me to be 😊. Up till class four, I would get between 90 to 100% in every subject… except maths… I was languishing around 50% or 60% there. I wouldn’t swallow this dubious information hook, line & sinker if I were you – it’s clear my mother has an agenda :-/

Back to the story – naturally, this inexplicable poor performance in Mathematics which I am clearly naturally good at worried my parents so much that they found me a maths tutor who with careful instruction, clever quizzes and outright bribery got me to a 90-100% grade level. Boring.
Now I don’t remember that – I remember hating the “Cedis and pesewas” topic because my little brother would tease me about having a clever mouth except when it came to answering cedis and pesewas” questions (No wonder I used to beat him. I should go beat him now even. Nonsense)

 And oh, I remember, I remember that I LOVED Mr. Abanga. My mum said I sometimes wouldn’t eat lunch until I saw him and that I wouldn’t shut up about everything he taught me.

 I remember he taught me to write “w” the way he did – Beautifully. I remember I wanted to scratch his girlfriend’s eyes out. (I still do, now that I think about it. If you’re reading this, come let’s fight) 

I also remember he took me to the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park for a show and that’s where I first saw Tic Tac and learned the Philomena Kpitingeh dance (If this makes me sound older than 16, then change Tic Tac to Efya, and insert Efya song). 

I remember he bought me a necklace – a bit of string with a glass trinket hanging from it which was my most treasured possession until… I forget when… my next great love interest I suppose.

My mother tells me the funfair was my reward( or bribe) for scoring 10% over the 80% target Mr. Abanga set for me.

I liked hearing my mother tell me her version of events, and I totally understood her when she added how worried she was about the appropriateness of the whole thing when she realized how serious my infatuation was… Apparently when he realized it, he tried to create distance between us…. But it was tooooo late, I knew his house and I was scoring 90% – 100% in maths. 

He left Ghana eventually and though he came back briefly, I don’t know where he is now. Mr Daniel Abanga, if you’re reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you and please get in touch. We can talk about how you remember all of this ❤️

…….
The other thing I remember differently is not as heartwarming…

So! I have a vague memory of eating the most delicious pastry ever when I was a child. They called it “tyt” which I’m pretty sure is almost definitely actually supposed to be ‘tart’ lol. I remember it as a creamy, delicious yellow bread-like pastry, and so therefore when I heard a woman shout “yeees tyt” at Tema roundabout as I sat with my friend Sarpong waiting for a trotro to fill up, I immediately told him about it. And then I bought one. And bit into it. Waiting for the Angels to break into song. It was disappointing. Tasted like cardboard soaked in the tears of disappointment of Arsenal and Liverpool fans and fried in the oil off the faces of heavy-breathing Accra Hearts of Oak fans. 

<shudder> Anyway, on the way to Sogakope I asked my mother about tyt. And got laughed at. Again. Basically, she didn’t feed me much sugar in my childhood and tyt was one of the first sugar-rich things I ever ate. According to her it’s always tasted like that – but as I noted earlier, she clearly has a nefarious agenda here. I therefore reject her memory, and encourage you to reject it as well  – I SWEAR it was soft and creamy and buttery and delicious – so if you have a memory of tyt (which echoes mine), let me know.

On Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

It was in busily thinking of an argument to counter a loud, brash and proudly antifeminist acquaintance that I had the (second or third) greatest epiphany of my life.

It is simple, so devastatingly simple – yet rather easy to miss – “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”

It is easy, I suppose, to live and think in extremes. Dismissing something as all bad or embracing another as all good is something many of us do naturally. And though this might be realistic or accurate to some extent in conceptualising simple entities and basic thoughts, one must admit, if one really thinks deeply, that when one considers a human being – an inherently complex human being it is not so simple. And if it is difficult for a human being to be all bad or all good, imagine that complexity and nuance multiplied a thousand or a million times over in an organisation, a movement or a religion.

As I said, it was in thinking of an argument to counter this guy – who declared feminism and feminists were useless and stupid because he had discovered a group of feminists who practised free-bleeding – that this occurred to me. At that time, I was going through an areligious phase myself, and I often proudly declared all religion to be useless and unnecessary. And yet in that brief pause in our argument, I saw myself for the hypocrite I was. You see, I was perfectly willing to accept that the different cultures, contexts and life experiences of different human beings resulted in different manifestations of feminist thought, and this was fine with me — and yet I refused to allow for this same nuance in religion. And when I put my mind to it, I started to realise other not-so-black-and-whites.

Life isn’t always black and white – there are usually several shades of grey.

Ever since I accepted the greys, it has become easier to understand and engage with different modes of thought. I almost never dismiss a complex ideology/ organisation/ movement because I do not agree with some of its tenets.

Remembering my Primary School teachers… :-)

I just felt a burning desire to list all the class teachers I had in primary school. These women and one man played an important part in shaping me. If I have time when I’m back in Ghana, I would like to track them and visit. Especially my class 6 teacher. How about you? Do you remember yours?

Class 1 – Mz Asare, I think her first name is Christina. I remember how thrilled she was about my progress in class. You see, I had been jumped from KG 2 to class one because I already knew all the lessons for KG2. My mother, when she was on maternity leave after having my little brother was so bored that she spent her days teaching me things she had no business teaching me. One thing that really stands out in my memory was the afternoon i got into trouble because I said sorkorpimpim. It was a very naughty word and I don’t really remember who taught me or what it meant exactly (had to do with sex), but I said it out loud in class and horrified Mrs. Asare. It’s probably why she wanted to jump me to class 2 after a term, but my mother wouldn’t let her – she thought the other kids would pick on me.

Class 2 – Mz Darko. Elizabeth (I think) was a force of nature. Even now I remember her as an extremely confident woman. She also had the most beautiful shiny dark skin and curly hair – I learned later on that they were called jerry curls. Two moments stand out from my encounters with her; first, she cured me of my “cry-babyism” when she sharply reprimanded me about always crying to get my way. I was so worried about disappointing her as I was equal parts awed and terrified of her that I stopped! Second, she didn’t come to school one day because she was ill, so a substitute teacher took over the class that day and set us to writing get well soon letters. In mine, I wrote that I would bring her Lucozade. Lucozade was a sort of energy drink that my father swore by and I really did think it was the thing to drink when you were ill. I still do! Anyway, the next day I actually did bring her the Lucozade, making her so happy. She actually had tears in her eyes.

Class 3 – Mz Cecilia Boateng. I have one very sad memory from class with Miss Boateng. She didn’t do anything wrong – she was a kind, gentle soul. I think even then she had rather sad eyes. My sad memory was walking into class early after break time one afternoon and finding her sitting with tears in her eyes. She didn’t even notice me, and I didn’t understand why till I overhead some gossip from other teachers about four years later. Gossip that is not my place to share. It is sad that that moment has overshadowed any other memories I have of her.

Class 4 – Mz Millicent Obeng. She was a member of the Deeper Life Church. I remember this because she told me after I asked her why she wore no earrings and wore her hair the way she did. It was in her class that I decided to be a scientist. It was in her class too that I discovered my competitive spirit.

Class 5 – Mz Adanse. Another powerful personality – from her commanding voice to her “presence”. She had a way of walking into class and “filling” the room. It had nothing to do with her size, it was just the sort of aura she had. I liked her and used to visit her at her house which wasn’t far from mine. She also used to make meatpies and rock buns to sell in school and I used to help her carry the little bucket she put the pies in. She was also very good at caning. She used to strike fear in my little heart when she picked up her cane and thrashed some poor soul. I don’t remember getting caned by her, possibly because I was extra good so as to avoid a beating!

Class 6 – Mr Samuel Otoo. He really was my favourite. He used to chat with me at break time when I was going through my antisocial stage, and he took me seriously. In his class I decided to be an astronaut, an crime lab technician, a credit analyst and a professor in no particular order. He was always very interested and I lived for the days when my mother said it was okay to let him walk me home – he also lived near the school. After secondary school, I went by his house and found out that he moved. I don’t know where he lives now, but I would love to meet him again.

I am not beautiful, and that’s okay!

It was a decision I made, in 2008. I’m not beautiful. I stopped wearing earrings, stopped spending lots of money on clothes, gradually stopped spending lots of money on my hair. Most importantly, though not immediately, I stopped caring whether people thought I was pretty or not. How did I come to that point? I guess things had been building up for a while. From going through puberty in JSS where girls in my school would get ranked by the boys in terms of beauty, leaving a trail of bruised egos and battered self esteem… …To going through SSS and watching girls struggle to work makeup magic with Vaseline and talcum powder. Seeing girls cry pitifully because their breasts were too small or because their stomachs were too big. Oh, how many girls lost their virginity to the first guy that said to them: “You’re beautiful”!?… …Then being in university, watching girls spend up to 2 hours getting dressed and made up for lectures. Watching girls buy butt and breast enlargement pills, do stomach flattening exercises everyday, cry because some guy said they were ugly… Juxtapose that with having a male best friend and a squad of male friends who were virtually untouched by these “troubles”. And of course, add my laziness (waking up 2 extra hours early to get dressed is not easy for me), my desire to be first in my class, my inability to wear high heels or breathe in tight clothing, my reluctance to spend Cedis and hours in a salon, sitting under a hair dryer… Now there are women that are (almost) universally accepted as beautiful. Off the top of my head, Beyoncé, my friend Gyamfua, Genevieve Nnaji, etc. Now take your mirror, look at yourself. Are you really there? Ok, now put away the mirror and ask 5 strangers. I see too many girls fuss unnecessarily about their appearances, when frankly, there’s not much improvement in the befores and afters, and they really shouldn’t waste their time and money. And as my Anji and I say, pick your things in life and go be excellent at them. This is why I don’t play piano; I love music, but I sucked at it and it never “clicked” with me, so I pushed it aside to concentrate on other things… Some things can be bought, including beauty, but until you’re rich enough for that, stop wasting your time and with a joyful shrug, repeat after me…. I AM NOT BEAUTIFUL, AND THAT IS OKAY. Instead, work on things you actually + foreseeably have a shot at, such as a career, or a business or an education – you know, those things where it has been proven that time + effort = success. When you’re successful, you can buy a new face, breasts, buttocks etcetera. You don’t believe me? Just ask Nicki Minaj and Kim K! Also, my new catch phrase.. “Nowhere cool”. Kelly Rowland, who I thought was perfection, got breast implants. Charley even her, she wasn’t happy with herself. I wonder if she’s okay now. I mean, there will always be a prettier face, hotter body, bigger rack… So where does it end? At some point in 2008, I said to myself “who the hell (that I actually care about) cares anyway?” I certainly didn’t! It isn’t all rosy self-acceptance, mind you. I’ve had tough moments where a cheating boyfriend caused me to want to care more about my looks… Occasionally I relapse into vanityliosis, but thankfully these have been less frequent as I’ve grown older 🙂 About guys, I guess I’ve been lucky enough to fall for guys that aren’t really into looks (MOST OF THE TIME), and thankfully everyone I’ve liked has liked me back. 😔 Well, not everyone, Johnny Depp… *sigh*

I want to be a successful architect, and help people and improve lives with my talent. I decided early on that I didn’t need to be beautiful to achieve this, and that’s okay with me. I am not beautiful, and that’s okay.

Hating on Menstruating >_<

 I HATE menstruating. Why do female human beings have to menstruate? Can’t we just pass gas once a month?

When I feel that twinge in my abdomen that heralds the start of my period, I feel like crying. I used to take combinations of Ibuprofen, Hostan, Panadol and Diclofenac for the pain, but I cut down when I legit saw stars in the daytime once. 

I hate menstruating, because it’s hard to concentrate on work when you’re continuously excreting blood and constantly having to check if it’s time for a change. I hate it, because it means I can’t go to site, or take long trips if I don’t have bathroom arrangements planned in advance. I tried taking a long trip while on my period once, and ended up crying outside a pit latrine in Dormaa Ahenkro because that was the only place available for me to change in. (sigh) It also means I can’t eat chocolate, or sugar, though for some weird reason Coca-cola settles my stomach and soothes my cramps. 

 

If someone came up with a drug that stops menstruation but has no adverse effects on fertility… Chai!