“Saran, quit trying to find a man who is exactly like your father. It’s not going to happen and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will be more open to finding the one that’s right for you”. My mom tells me this every time we talk about relationships. My father is a great man. He spoils and loves us despite our flaws. He is the perfect example of what I would like the father of my children to be. Does that mean I am necessarily looking for a partner like my father? No.
At times, when asked what I look for in a man, I will say: “I really see myself with an African man but not too traditional”… “I mean traditional, but not traditional-traditional”. Then I ask myself “what does that even mean”?!
I grew up in a household with a dad I consider to be “traditional” but not “traditional-traditional”. My mom moved to the US at a young age to be with my father who was working for the UN at the time. She raised her 5 children through hard work and discipline. My father traveled a lot while my older siblings were young but by the time my twin sister and I were born, he was a lot more present in our lives. I still remember my older sister, my twin and I sneaking downstairs and slipping shoes on my dad’s feet, wrapping a scarf around his neck and patting a hat on his head before waking him from his nap and dragging him out so he could take us toy shopping every other weekend! He never could refuse ;).
My father would cook us breakfast each morning and make sure we took our Flintstone vitamins before heading off to school. He would go over our school work at times when my mom had had enough of repeating the same history lesson to us (what? History was not my forte ok!). When we moved back to Guinea when I was 11, my father did not want us to get a dog. They were dirty he said. I was crushed. But every pet I brought home after that, he welcomed “with open arms”. After my initial excitement about the creatures had dwindled, my father was always there to pick up the slack: he fed my parrot and turtle and consoled me when my fish died. I remember being so devastated about losing my fish. One morning when I woke up, I found two fish in a bowl just for me. My father had woken up early that morning, gone down the lake and brought them back for me. These are the sorts of things my father would do to show us how much he cared about us and the fear of disappointing him lies within me until this day. For a man who sacrificed so much to give his children the best life imaginable, this is quite understandable.
My father is indeed a great man. There are times however that I did not understand his reactions. For instance, I remember once being shocked that he got upset at my mother for wanting to wear pants to go say hi to his family. I remember saying: “but they are long and not even tight”! “Mommy, you should not go change!” But she did and told me there were some things I would understand when I got older. I guess I get it now but I definitely would not change if my husband found what I was wearing too “westernized” to go to his parents’ house!
I guess what I mean to say is that having lived in the U.S and abroad for half of his life, my father was forced to adapt to different cultures. And having children who were born in the U.S. he was also forced to be a bit more “modern”. This said, my father has always held on to his roots and has always wanted us to remember where we come from. The look of disappointment when he would speak to us in Malinke and we’d respond in French or English said it all. I will always remember where I am from and I would definitely like to share values and customs with the person I end up marrying. I have come to realize that it is possible to be traditional and yet stay open-minded. Thanks for showing me that dad. So the next time I am asked what type of man I see myself with I will simply answer: “someone open-minded who knows his history” 😉
What about you, do you think that with more of us moving the U.S., UK, France that necessarily means we are becoming more open-minded or do you think some of us get so scared of losing our identities that we hold on to our old traditions?