I am writing to respond to the question you asked in your last letter. In that letter, you asked me to be sincere with you and tell you the truth. And what is this truth you wanted to hear?
You said there would be a day in our marriage that you may fall very ill and cannot do anything. Your question was, on such a day, if your pants or underwear are dirty and you plead with me to wash them, would I do it?
Serwaa, my answer is yes. I will wash your pants any day. You don’t need to fall sick. I will gladly wash your pants anytime there’s the need to do so. I will wash them any day of the month. That is my answer. And it is the truth you wanted to hear from me.
If you are still doubting, then this is my explanation: You have washed and helped me wash my clothes and underwear a number of times. If there is nothing wrong with you washing my pants then there should be nothing wrong with me washing yours.
I know any man who will chance on this letter will read it with a face contorted in distaste. For some men, this is an unimaginable absurdity. In our part of the world, it is not normal for a man to do this. Even if any man washes his wife’s undies, he will be too shy to mention it in public for fear of being ridiculed and called names. In Akan, they will call you “Barima kotobonku” and other derogatory names. But it is something I will do with pride. Men who do this prove that they are the real men. As for potent manhood, even the mad men on the streets have it, sometimes bigger and better.
Washing my partner’s clothes will not shrink the size of my manhood. It will not make me less intelligent. It doesn’t take anything away from me. So don’t be worried that if you fall ill in our marriage, I will pile up everything you have to do until you recover. I am a real man, Serwaa. Trust me! A man who cannot wash your pant is not worthy of taking that pant off you.
There is a problem about how we have been socialized and continue to be indoctrinated about what makes us real men in our part of the world. One day I ate lunch with a colleague worker at Multimedia. She was the one who had gone to buy the food and after eating, I volunteered to wash the plate. She protested. But I insisted. So I did wash the plate.
While this was going on, there was a head of department who was also eating lunch in our kitchen. He did not take it lightly that I, instead of the lady, washed the dishes.
“This is wrong and you should never allow it to happen,” she told the lady. “When you do this, you bring to question the kind of training your mother gave you at home,” he said. The look on his face and the sound of his voice were a proportionate mixture of anger and disappointment at the lady.
“I said I would wash the plates but he insisted,” the lady explained to him but he would not take it.
“You should also have insisted. That is not how you were brought up,” the man said. I tried to explain but he would not listen.
“Manasseh, do you see what you have caused?” the lady asked me when the man had left.
“What have I done wrong?” I asked.
“This is Ghana and you know not every man thinks like you,” she said feeling worried.
Serwaa, not every man thinks like me but it’s about time we forced them to think that way. I was brought up in a family and in a society where the man has no place in the kitchen. In the northern part of the Ghana, a lot of the men go down south to do menial jobs. Some of those odd jobs include pounding fufu at chop bars and restaurants. But when such men go back home, they will never help their wives in the kitchen. When they are hungry and their wives are not at home, they will starve until the women return.
Growing up, if I went to the kitchen and my sister slapped me for no reason, my father would side with her without enquiring of the reason. “You are a man. What do you want in the kitchen?” he would ask. But I have grown to realize such terrible mentality is wrong and I have trained myself to be real.
Now that I am single, I cook and wash and do everything on my own. Why in the godforsaken name of masculinity must I fold my arms and watch my wife do everything in the house when I marry? Is it not madness?
Don’t worry about the man you are about to marry, my sweetheart. I will be with you in the kitchen and outside the kitchen. I am deficient in the preparation of some meals but there are components of the cooking I can still help with. When I prepare okro soup, I often lose the slimy wires that make swallowing fun. But that does not mean I should stay out of the kitchen if you are preparing okro soup.
Serwaa, I want to marry you as a wife, and not as a house help. We are equal partners and there is not going to be a master-servant relationship in our marriage. You can count on me as a helper and so can I.
The only warning I will have to issue is that you should not take me for granted. Some women have the tendency to take such men for granted and ride on them like impotent donkeys. I am your husband and you are my wife. We have to understand what we are going into. We must understand the realities of how two distinct individuals with different potentials can complement each other to make a happy home, bring out the best in us and fulfill the purpose of God for our existent on this planet.
On this reality shall we build our marriage and the gates of divorce shall never prevail against it.
NB: The story was written by Manasseh Azure Awuni.