There she was in the kitchen, as always, pounding away at another pot of plantain fufu which was to be accompanied by a steaming pot of okra stew with all the fixing. One thing my mother knew how to do was make a meal. On this day we spent time in the kitchen refreshing my cooking lessons because no child of hers can go on without knowing how to cook. I jokingly said to her “Mom, I might not even marry an African and an American guy may not even like this cooking” she laughed it off because I was always quick with excuses.
I waited about a year before I introduced my mother to my first real boyfriend. I was 20 and he was 26. I wasn’t nervous about her opinions on our age gap, it was the fact that he was American that I was afraid of. I had never been this serious about any other person before so it was important for my mom to like and accept him. And to my surprise, she seemed to like him and the relationship continued without any opposition from her.
Throughout the 7 years of that relationship, I did my best to teach him about my culture and to expose him to values I held dear. It never fully caught on. I took him to African functions and even tried teaching him the language but I could tell he wasn’t fully vested. I specifically remember a conversation we were having about our future children. I’ve always wanted to have children raised in Benin and told him about my plans to send them there for a while so they could truly grasp their culture before coming back to the US. This was a very common practice amongst African parents who have children abroad. His response shocked and appalled me. “I’m not sending my kids to some poor country.” Looking back at it now I should have known by this answer that we could not have lasted. This wasn’t just some random country, this was MY country, my place of birth and I couldn’t imagine having children that would never have the opportunity to know it. There were other cultural offenses but I won’t boil my blood listing them here.
when the relationship ended I promised myself that I would intentionally seek out West African men or just men from Benin. In my mind, it would be easier to date within the West African bubble because of shared customs and values and more importantly, I figured this is what my mother wanted for me. During my two years of dating, I have gone out with African men and learned that although they have the potential of being assholes just as any other culture I found a certain level of comfortability.
I’m still single AF btw, and I fully understand that intentionally focusing on one group of men limits me from the potential of finding great guys elsewhere. Everyone has preferences when it comes to dating and I believe that it’s a requirement. My belief is that without preferences you search without knowing what you are searching for and leave yourself open to anything. I can also shamelessly admit that my thoughts on this based on the pain I suffered from my Ex. My goal isn't to completely rule our men of other culture but I do have dreams of the first dance at my wedding being a fusion on azonto, gwara gwara and coupé décalé and I need a man whose hips can easily catch the beat.
So back to the plate of fufu and okra stew. I plainly asked my mother “would you rather I date an African?” Her reply was just as good as the plate I was eating. “I want you to date whoever you want so long as they are not lazy”. Aside from everything our family has been through our financial struggles resonated the most with my mother. She explained that my future husband didn’t need to be wealthy or from any specific background so long as he had a work ethic and the willingness to take care of a family. It was the perfect answer. To the future bae who fits this category please submit your application via my DM. My mother may not be as picky as I thought she was but the pressure is still on to find a husband and to give her grandchildren.