Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Marrying Cousins.... AGAIN! smh

           What the heck is the rush to get married?! I know part of it is a cultural thing. Many young women my age here are already married and/or have children. But honestly the last thing on my mind at this point in my life is marriage, and somehow it keeps coming up! Yeah, you guessed it. I got another marriage proposal.
            The first time was really just amusing to me. I was prepared for the conversation, had the script all laid out in my head, I was cool and calm in my demeanor and confident in what the outcome would be. This time was not so smooth, in fact I would go so far as to call it awkwardly intense! I was completely caught off guard ( less by the content and more by the situation which ensued)
            This proposal was made by my cousin Mamudu (Du for short) who is my age.  His grandma is my grandma’s sister. At least I’m pretty sure that’s how we are related. Either way it's too close for comfort! 
            We had been in and out of contact for the past 4 months. I met him in February. He’d call to say hi and occasionally I'd catch a toca-toca (local public transport) to visit him and his two older sisters. But randomly he invited me to a local restaurant and, not thinking anything of it, I accepted the invitation.
            At first everything seemed normal. He was a little bit bossier then usual, but there was nothing drastically unusual. We chatted for maybe an hour or so about family members, family drama, our dedication ( or lack there of) to Islam, and the situation in Bissau.
           But small cues throughout the conversation were leading me to believe he was going to bring up marriage. I should have listened to my gut feeling and left before he had the opportunity to say too much. One hint  was when he when he was talking about how his older sister’s husband, who is in Portugal, will bring 5 people with there with him. He is going to take his wife, and the child they just had together, his other son from a previous marriage, my other cousins son, Cherno, and the last spot was for Du. Then he looked at me and said,”But how will I get to America?” I told him once he is in Portugal and has European citizenship its a lot easier to get into the states.
            At another point in the conversation he explained to be that him and his girlfriend of 6 years had broken up. Then he was offering to take me on the back of his motorcycle to Gabu so we could try drugs at his friends house. I was confused by his offer and even more confused by the was he was offereing it. As if it was some romantic getaway!
            I let the comments slide. I wasn’t going to confront what he was getting at out of fear he would spark a marriage conversation. And I didn’t want to try to leave because by then I could tell he was on a mission and that he would bring it up before I tried to leave. But ultimately I think I was in denial at what I was hearing, so we sat and chatted until finally he dropped the bomb.
            Now having been in this situation before, I decided that my first approach would be to shame him. I explained I was sad because I realized he was just like the rest of the family hoping to get something from me, in this case a ride into the US. I was really hoping we could have a connection that simple, and simply familial.  I told him marrying cousinsAnd I really did, and do feel this way, but I was hoping this would be a diplomatic enough way to end the conversation


            Let me explain something.  When you ask a favor or ask something of someone here, it is very rarely refused. Again, it's a cultural thing. This country is full of people asking each other for things. Its simply because one day you will have and your neighbor will have not, and the next day it could be the other way around. So when a favor is asked, your almost always obligated to do it.
            Being a young Guinean man, his logic was obviously very Guinean. He said that asked of me my hand in marriage and so I had to accept. I really wasn’t expecting this as an argument. But  he really felt like that was a legitimate reason.  I really wasn't expecting him to have this way of thinking! I guess was fooled by his youth that he would be more open minded. Despite his youth and access to ‘new’ ideas and ways he is still Fula and Muslim and raised in those cultural contexts in Guinea Bissau. Thus the argument began.
            I was surprised with how quickly the conversation took a turn and even more surprised by  how he was handling the conversation.  He was not accepting the fact that I didn’t have to marry him well. He kept repeating things like, "You are Guinean and you need to learn and adopt your culture.” or "I understand that marriage has to be mutual, but im asking you to marry me so you have to marry me " and "Whenever a man asks a woman to marry her she has to accept it so you need to just accept it." 
           Then he switched his approach and kept repeating how it’s a beautiful thing to marry your cousin. That It's better to keep it in the family then to marry a stranger. He even tried to drop the L-word.
           It's difficult to describe how strange it was to hear my cousin tell me that he knew I the one from the first time he saw me.  I knew this wasn't true because he barely knows me! Now in other conversations with foreigners we’ve all shared experiences where “Guineans say they are in love with us after knowing us for a very short period if time.” This has led many foreigners to believe that many Guineans don't know what love is, and experience lust or passion and think it is love.  I'm not sure how much I believe this, but in my experience, Guineans are quick to drop the L word. Period. Especially if they want something from you. ( This is a generalization, because of course this is not true for all Guinean men and women. However, this what i have been noticing/experiencing)
            My first approach failed me, so I needed another. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I needed to be clear with him from the beginning there was no way I was going to marry him, which was turning out to be harder then I thought. As the argument intensified I was tempted to leave it at, “ I hear what you are asking, just let me think about it. “ But I knew very well what that saying that would think there was some hope and I didn’t want him thinking there was any chance.
          Through out all of this I learned something about my self. I have very little tolerance for  uncomfortable or circling conversations. I will stay with the conversation up until a point where I feel like its going nowhere or its so uncomfortable I cant 
          So after a solid 30 minutes of arguing back and forth trying to explaining I'm not obligated to marry him  I decided I’d had enough. Getting to a point of mutual understanding or some sort of “ let's a agree to disagree" seemed futile, and beyond my patience.
           I got up and said I was done with this conversation. I even said I would pay for our drinks.  He saw me getting up and tears began to fill his eyes. He asked me to stay so we could finish talking. He followed me to the register said he would pay then asked me to wait for him again so we could talk outside. He was struggling to hold back tears. This hole conversation was just frustrating me but I was not expecting him to be so emotionally involved. It made me wonder how though he had put into this idea. I think he was really ready to commit to a marriage and thought this will all play out like he had it planned in his head.
           I let him pay and took this opertunity to get ghost! Excuse my slang, I mean I took this opertunity to get out of sight! My neighbors younger sister lives across the street from Benfica. I put a little pip in my step and ran to her house. I knew if he saw me outside trying to catch a taxi it would be another 30mins of talking outside and I wasn’t up for that. Fortunately she was still up and I waited about half an hour chatting with her before I walked home.
          Du has the type of personality where if he wants something, he is going to get it. I think its very indicative of the fact that he is the youngest of 5 children and he is the only boy. I'm pretty sure he is used to always getting his way.
           I should have known better. Because suddenely everything made sence. He is one of my cousins who called me the most and I appreciated him reaching out because I thought, or hoped rather, that he was a family member that just wanted to get to know me and doesn’t brush me off or expect something from me ( money or a trip to America). Many of family members are like that. 
        One of my uncles explicitly told me that since I am working I need help support them financially. Unfortantaly (for him) his approach was so demanding that even though my intention was to help before he asked, I now have very little interest in doing anything for him. It's sad. Family doesn’t mean family, family means I have a right to what you have, so pay up!  And on the other hand I have my family members who are doing really well and are very well off, and they brush me off. They either never call or call and say lets meet up but it falls through.  One cousin in particular has flaked on me 4 times! 
        Since then Du has tried to call and txt me.  I haven’t responded to anything. After a conversation like that theres no going back to where we were in terms of a friendship. At least I cant go back, because I already know his intentions and Im scared out of my mind that he might do some crazy voodoo “stay in Bissau and marry me” trick. Haha! 

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