So I went to this Greek restaurant on the Leopoldstrasse, in Munich, to get something Greek for dinner. I was not comfortable sitting out there to eat for all the reasons you could imagine. It was a very nice open space like most places were; the kind of place I never saw a black man sit or stop in my entire two weeks stay in the Schwabing Area. This area is known to be the Bohemian quarters of Munich, an area supposed to be the one of the most affluent residential areas in Munich (Munich itself being one of the most affluent cities on the planet – Talk of Bayern Munich, BMW, Munich Re etc) with their endless rows of Banks, Designers shops and magnificent buildings. Right in this neighbourhood is the famous English Garden, one of the largest public Parks in the world, supposedly bigger than London’s Hyde Park or New York’s Central Park, with its towering Chinese Tower. It is also popular with students as Munich’s two largest universities are located in nearby Maxvorstadt.
My first experience at the restaurant was not a pleasant one; the waiter, clearly Greek, like the rest of them pretended I spoke Monkenese, and was jolted-ly surprised when I spoke clean English. His first question when I asked for the Menu was, ‘WHAT?’ So I sat down without answering, drawing the attention of another waiter, who literally rushed to the scene and asked if there was a problem. I was all along mindful of the many eyes fastened on me. I smiled and pretended the other waiter spoke in Monkenese, a language yet to be invented and therefore my little or no comprehension of it. So In clear English, I asked for the Menu. He smiled and asked a very ordinary question; a question so ordinary the hidden racial undertow hit me after I answered him. He asked, ‘You will take it away, yes?’ I said sure. He smile and handed me a Menu book.
The PG in me decided to annoy him; I asked for an English Menu book without looking at him, pretending to be browsing on my phone. Clearly, after walking about 70m from my hotel, I was out of coverage area of my free wi-fi connection with an average download speed of 2.1Mbps – We will find time to talk about that later. The waiter had a Mama-mia-negro-got-guts look on his face as he scuttled off and appeared a few seconds later with the Menu.
I quickly went through it and chose something that I could identify with – Boiled Potatoes, Pork something something and the rest was just endless chain of names after names. I was praying that if it was not the will of God for me to eat that food, He should let the waiter tell me it was a wrong choice. I was in full doubt he would… especially after annoying him. When he came to take the order, he smiled and said it good choice and went away.
As I sat there observing the faces looking at me as they passed by, all I could feel was the silent scream, 'OMG!-what-the-devil-is-a-black-guy-in-jeans-and-tee-shirt doing here?' These were the same eyes that looked at me in wonderment every morning on my way to the office; from their Audis, Porsches, Beamers, Benz, VW and all that you can imagine when you think of the Legendary German Machine.
And I do not blame them; for the entire period I was there, I met at close range only three black guys. One was a Togolese Shop Attendant in a shop two blocks away from my Hotel on the Hohenzollernstrasse, one was a Ghanaian in an outfit wisdom prompted me against asking where he worked, especially when I was in my Calvin Klein Suit, Diesel Belt, Breitling Wrist Watch, CK One Shock perfume and… who made my shoes? I need to check. My bad. We just bumped into each other on the street I could not resist taking my chances….besides no one looked more Asante-ish than him. The other guy was a Nigerian I went for the seminar with. All the other dark skinned people I saw were Half Castes, or People of Indian stock, probably East Africans [who I don't consider to be of the Negroid stock] or from the many islands in the Indian Ocean. And even for them, they were few. This is Schwabing in Munich in Bavaria, lower part of Germany, very white, small and almost every one could communicate in English.
In no time, my order was ready and I left leaving behind a tip for a statement – An African can give to the Greeks. I could feel the many eyes fastened on me as I moved from row to row of whites from all ages and economic backgrounds.
However, this is not the story I am going to talk about; not for today at least.
What I am going to talk about was an epiphany I had when I went to the same place a few days later. The same routine happened; different waiters, all guys, same dumbness. This time I make sure that their dumbness was not rewarded. I left with my tip firmly tucked away in my pocket; mean me.
I went to my hotel room, ate, and blessed the Lord. Then came the awakening, which was in my line of thinking and something I am passionate about – Marriage and the family.
I went to a restaurant I had no clue what they served. Beyond that, I did not understand the language in which what was being served was described neither could I appreciate the depth of the culinary sophistry in front of me. Moreover, if there was any chance of me making a choice, it was going to be as per how that choice was described in the menu and how it appealed to me. Was the taste in any way a reflection of the name and the description? It was a guess I was making; a risk I was willing to take and pay for. I understood the waiters’ trepidation; this was a place with a particular set of patrons; I was not the usual sort.
There I was trying to play the big boy; trying to say that if anyone could eat there, I could too. I wanted to have that experience. This was not some corner-side so called Greek Restaurant, somewhere in Accra. This was the real thing, owned by the real people, serving the real stuff. I needed to bite on that experience.
Nevertheless, I knew that being awake to the many things onlookers might think, might intimidate me and make me fumble if I sat there to eat. The truth was I felt bit out of place and intimidated. Besides, I wanted to be home and alone and take my time to appreciate the food, whether it would it be mmwwaahh, salty, tasteless or straight up bllluuurrr. I would find out if I took a bite and I wanted to fully express myself when I do, but not in a way that may embarrass me. For me the best place to do it was in my hotel room.
Don’t get me wrong; this was not the first time I had to eat outside; in fact these two occasions were the only times I was actually going to take my food to my room. The reason was simple. This was Germany and if I was going to blend in, I had to eat whatever was placed in front of me. The Greek dish was supposed to be more of a one-off, but to be relished and savoured since it was not going to come every day. Besides, every other place I ate, I ate with a familiar crowd who explained what I was about to eat to me. This place was new to me; the food, the people, the atmosphere.
And I say this, that was one of the best food I had in Germany, the reason I went for it again.
The epiphany I had was simple: When it comes to the decision to marry, we all act like me and mostly get people treating us the same way the waiters treated me. For most people, once you mention marriage the first question you get is, ‘WHAT?’ Your friends might ask you first if most of them are single. Your family might ask the same question if they are all depending on you, or you have some bigger siblings who are single. They might ask you that question if they do not see the seriousness of a person ready for marriage around you. They will ask you, if your lifestyle is contrary to that of a person everyone expects to marry. Your pastor will ask, ‘WHAT?’ Clearly, your name is not in his tithe register and you do not belong to any wing in the church; in fact they do not even know you in the church. Your boss will frown because that means you cannot be made to stay in the office till 9pm and get you in on weekends as well.
Coming to you, you know that is big decision you have to take. You have no clue what goes into it; you have lost count of the women you dated and the men you let go over trivia. You have heard of this whole business of submission and love and forgiveness and all of them. Seriously? How do you cook all that and make it taste good? Your mum and dad are still living together and you wonder how your daddy is able to cope with that Menu-paused nagging wife of his. And some are wondering if the abuse their mums suffered in their marriages leading to their divorce will not play out in theirs. You have a lot if things running through your head; but you still want to try it.
And do not forget the onlookers; they are also wondering. They are all having their questions playing in their heads, only they cannot vocalise them. They smile to keep up appearance but in their heads they have a whole bunch of WTH???? running wildly.
However, like me, you sit down and ask for what goes into it. Ask your family, about the traditional aspect, ask your pastor, counsellor, an elderly person, a significant other whose marriage excites you, what goes into it. Ask them about the roles of a husband and a wife; get to know what to do and what not to. Find out about the money issue, conflict resolution and communication aspects. Do not just ask about the marriage, find clever ways of presenting your choice to them and let them tell you what they think.
Sometimes, as young as we are, we think we are wise and we know; it is my field, she is my woman, he is the man, I cannot go wrong. Well guess what, this is a Greek Restaurant, and you don’t know Jack. This is marriage, it is a completely new ball game and you do not know jack, so keep calm and be taught. Sometimes we take the decision to marry and settle, before we decide we need better men and women than what we currently have. Ask what makes for a good father and a good mother; what makes for a good spouse in all sense of the word. You simply ask. There is no shame in asking. Let them throw open all that is in the books, and make a choice and hope it is the best.
Critically, however, after you have made your choice, and you are a few months, weeks to the marriage, you keep the focus and close your mind. You will definitely hear others making their choices and placing their orders and you will see and hear how excited they are about their orders; if you listen to everything you hear, you might change your order a million times. You do not get a better meal by changing your order because someone picked someone different from what you picked. Sometimes we even get the confirmation that our order is a good choice, yet we get distracted by what others have chosen and in the process change our order. If it appeals to you and it looks good enough, especially where you can't tell number 3 from number 8 on the menu book, then by all means, stick with your choice. Do not be swayed by what you see others have. Each one and what appeals to them and each order and its pros and cons.
Like me, it is a risk we all take. Will the lady be good because she looks and appears good? Will the man be the perfect man for me because someone said he was a perfect choice? Risk. What makes it even more problematic is when we attempt to prove to people that ‘we too we dey’ by living our marriages in the full glare of onlookers. Remember people even think you might not last in it; marriage to them is for some people of certain class and standings not the likes of you. So when you place your order, decide to take it away if you can.
Marriage is an institution for two people – a dyad. With time a child is added to form a triad of a family. Try to keep it private. Keep it private until such time you can confidently open up for the world to take a peep. The first few ‘bites’ might be unsettling; it is salty, it is tasteless, will it give you the mmwwaahh effect or the bllluuuurrrrr effect. Is he good in bed, is she a person to shower with gifts for her wifely abilities, can you write anything meaningful home regarding his man-of-the-house abilities? And trust me, you do not want someone to see the look on your face when you taste any of these to confirm what they truly taste like. You do not want to be discussing your first night with friends and family whether good or bad. You do not want to be discussing your impression with the father-of-the-house business after the first one month of marriage with your colleagues. Everyone is watching to see whether you will throw up or grimace with the first bite. Do not give them the pleasure.
Take it home, to your room; quietly, privately and experience it. Explore it, build it, build yourself around it, bond with it and accept each other. There will be more time in your marriage to open up to curious eyes; the early part is just not the time. People think they know and everyone feels their opinions count, but eventually it is between your tongue and what is on it. Ultimately, that is what it all comes down to. Do not give people the morbid pleasure of knowing how the first few bites went.
It is your marriage; you have made your choice, go home and savour it. Young man, marry the wife of your youth and be ravished daily with her love and only HER love. Young woman, keep your home and make it a place he would daily come home to and keep adultery far from you.