Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"Plate-Sharing:" An International Response

My recent blog on Kellie Magnus' article on plate sharing has ignited an international storm of emails, starting when I sent a link to the blog to my sister Ruth aka "Rootie" and her husband Kofi in South Africa. Out of necessity, she has a mega-list of world-wide contacts, some of whom responded to her email.

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-----Original Message-----
From: Ruth Kwakwa [.]
Sent: Thursday, June 01, 2006 7:20 AM
To: Francis
Subject: Re: Feedback on Kellie's article on 'Sharing food'


I forwarded your article to a bunch of my friends--a lovely mix of singles, married, divorced, african, caribbean male and female friends, because of a topic that came up about 2 months ago. The topic arose in a conversation between two friends living in Joburg. The cast of characters involved were:

  • a black South African 38-yr old girlfriend of mine who attended a prestigious grad school in the US...politically shrewd mind, stickler for process, senior manager and public figure, very single, and getting increasingly frustrated about the prospects as she wants to have children
  • a Ghanaian guy, PhD, senior exec, brilliant man, in the process of getting a divorce. He's been dating South African women for the past 2 years, ranging in age from 20-little to 40-plus
My girlfriend was having a heart to heart with the Ghanaian guy about why good men were so hard to find. He basically broke it down for her, and in addition to telling her to play down her corporate life and her success and her nice car (with all these things, how will a guy ever feel needed?), told her she would have to do nice little "wifely" things like dishing out a man's food for him.

Well girlfriend just laughed her head off, and in a lunch that she and I had together, she reported what he had said, and told me that the guy held me in high esteem, because (not exact quotes, but same idea) "for all the education that Ruth has, and despite the fact that she and Kofi are from different backgrounds, Ruthie treats Kofi the way a man should be treated.

She serves him, and knows when to downplay her non-Ghanaian-woman-ness and play the part of the Ghanaian wife." (Kofi will probably smile and say there's still some work to be done, but my Ghanaian friend was truly impressed).FYI, among Ghanaian men, Jamaican women have a reputation for being as tough as nails and no-nonsense. No compromises, no beating abound the bush. They are happy to meet and date a Jamaican woman, but many are mortified of the prospect of marrying her and carrying her home.

My girlfriend, looking to me to discredit what the guy had said, said "Ruthie? Is it true that I have to do all these things? No way. Unbelievable. Serve him? what, can't he choose and carry his own food? Lord have mercy! (She learned this expression from me, and it sounds so cute coming from a Sowetan!) Girl, I have too much on my plate, to be worrying about serving out food!"

So, I gave her my opinion, about why I serve Kofi, and remembered to point out that if my JA girlfriends saw me serving, they'd probably open their eyes in disbelief and voice their opinion loudly, and probably make a sarcastic comment to Kofi like "Cooyah! What a way yuh life good ee Kofi. Yuh wife love you plenty!". Flip side, is that in Ghana in certain situations, it would be an embarrassment to Kofi if I didn't serve and attend to his needs....[Cultural note...many grown Ghanaian men do not even enter their kitchens, which is a hard-core female space...many guys won't even fetch a glass of water, let alone open the fridge...there's always some female in the house to do that.

In Ghana, if a woman stops cooking for her husband, it is grounds to call in the relatives and start talking about divorce]. Hell, in Ghana, at a social function, if I were caught lounging in the living/entertainment room with the men, while the women all busied themselves in the kitchen, I would get tons of raised "why-are-you-hanging-out-with-the-guys-who-do-you-think-you-are" eyebrows from the women. And in Ghana, before and during any function, whether they are helping to cook or not, the women all stick together, first in the kitchen, and then on the periphery of male conversations. Yep. Women with Phds, MBAs or not, rich, poor or in between. The same applies.

So, ever since my conversation with my girlfriend, we've been referring to "how to get a man and keep him," with serving food being an the centre of our comments.
Right. So here's what I sent out in a massive email to friends, and their responses:

I wrote:
To the chicks who have partners....to share out/dish out/serve his food or not to

To the chicks who are looking for partners...have you thought about this (could be a relationship maker or breaker...)

To the chicks who had partners...would it have/did it make a difference whether you dished out and served or didn't?

To the guys...tell me the truth.

What do guys really want??

Having recently had a heated and passionate discussion with friends of mine about why able-bodied and highly competent men need to have their food shared/dished out by their wives and girlfriends, this article was a God send....Kellie the author (who I happen to know) is much more articulate than I am on the matter.

A little background...To my West and East African girlfriends, the tradition of "sharing/dishing out food, has been under threat in Jamaica in my generation. Hence the article and indignation from the author, who went to university in the US.

To my fellow nithe girlth (nice girls)...nuff said. You can fight it, but "sharing out" still brings joy to their faces. We do it 'cos they love it, we love them, and love them to love us.

Hugs and laughter from Ruth

Here are the written responses I got, and a little context:
> See? Life is all about horse trading! You give people what
> they want (or perceive as valuable) and they'll give you
> want you want (or perceive as valuable)! Cannot be simpler
> than 1+1! ( a divorcing man , late 30s).
> Hi sweetheart - are you a plate sharer? I am not, and I think my husband
> is most upset by this, as his sisters and sister in law are all plate
> sharers, their husbands sit and have their dinner shared after the wife
> has stood up for the better part of an hour preparing the meal, and then
> the hour after that cleaning the kitchen.
> My friends who plate share are definitely happier than I because their
> husbands are happier than mine. Maybe you just have to do it to have a
> happy life. ( 40-plus year old married Jamaican woman )
>
Loved this article to bits. How I laughed when I read it! I didn’t want to re-start a debate by confessing which category I fell into! (38-year old married, Ghanaian woman)
Thanks for this Rootie babes. Now I know I am sane afterall. I hate hate
hate dishing out food or plate sharing. Resentment fills my heart if I am
compelled to do it. Why can't everyone get their own I ask? I'll cook a
feast. A banquet even, but I will not share the plates. At least now I know
I am not alone! ( 40 year old highly degreed Ghanaian woman, going through divorce)

I had/have no problems with the plate-sharing. It is a personal thing which men adore and since half the time I'm not the one who prepared the food (that's a whole nother story/issue), I might as well share it out anyway. ( 40 year old divorced Jamaican woman)

The only circumstances under which I have ever been eager to "share out" my boyfriend's dinner is when I'm bent on securing the best bits for myself! (38 year old single Jamaican woman with a non Jamaican partner)
Thanks for funny email on plate sharing. Its an Indian gal thing and yup we girls do it! (married Indian South African lady)
I have to say it, I am a plate sharer/server as well but it takes a real man to appreciate that in a woman! (Highly degreed Southern African 30 plus year old woman)
My response to the Indian lady was :Amazing the reaction this 'plate sharing' idea gets....with the most resistance of course, coming from my highly educated girlfriends who are struggling to find partners....they all say "If I have to dish out his food, well hell, I'll just not get married!!!".....I warn them that I said the same thing, but then realised that it was a small price to pay for a warm and fuzzy household, and making the partner worthy of being the father of my kids, happy. Funny thing is, many of them would serve their girlfriends tea and crumpets without a thought.....its just the idea of serving a man that freaks them out...hmmmm. Been there, done that, aint worth waving the flag of feminism for. Serve the damn food and get on with it already!
So there you go, reactions, which are still coming in. Most of the guys have been quiet, because they know the deal....they love it!!!! Kofi just smiled broadly when I told him about the article (he still hasn't read it, but will probably get a real chuckle out of it).

For the sake of argument, let's put the shoe on the other foot....Women are strong enough to open a door, and no harm will come to them if they enter an elevator or room behind all the men. Women can carry their own bags, because they lift weights that are heavier at the gym. Whether a car knocks a woman or her husband down in the street is irrelevant--the injury will be the same, the hospital bills the same, and the bills will be covered with the same bank account. Women often earn enough to buy flowers for themselves. Women can always stretch the budget to buy nice things for themselves, if needs be.

However..... knowing that men will open a door for them, let them enter a room or elevator first, carry their bags, walk on the side of the pavement closest to traffic, buy flowers and simple gifts for them are all optional extras that make men appealing.

The bottom line? All human beings, men and women, love to be cared for and given special service by the people they love. The service has little to do with ability to DIY, and more to do with desire to do a little extra something to make the recipient feel loved and cared for, above anyone else around.

Here's one last sobering thought for all of us, that came from a Jamaican girlfriend living in Joburg, whose mother died here last year, after years of suffering. Her South African husband made all kinds of sacrifice for his mother-in-law, going as far as to move out of his marital bedroom so that the mom-in-law could stay there. He even cut her toenails for her. Go figure.

Plenty sacrifice there, to cut the toenails of your dying, bed-ridden mother in law. Plenty. Through all of this, what stood out above everything else for my girlfriend, was the extent to which her husband would go to make his mother in law feel special and cared for in her dying days, and by extension, to make his wife feel special and cared for. After her mother died, my friend was left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and the secure feeling that her husband was desperately in love with her, and would do anything for her.

As a result, when she's talking to single girlfriends who are on the man market, and who are about to settle down with a man, she always asks them..."Is he the kind of man who will change your (Depends) diaper when you get old and incontinent? Will he change your bedpan? Will he be there for you, at your side, when you are old and shrivelled, and make you feel as though you are the most important person in the room, and the Queen of his life?" My friend, having seen her husband treat her like a queen through the way in which he treated her mother, has no doubt that her husband loves her unconditionally. Do you think she has any issues about sharing out his food? I bet not.

Mercy, I'm exhausted now.

Take care everyone,

Rootie

3 Comments:

At 9/20/2010 1:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A month ago I was exactly feeling how you are feeling now, in pain, crying, heart broken, and then I found this site saveabreakup.com and I followed their instructions, I had my girlfriend come back to me in no time so fast !! I was so so happy and I'm still very happy, don't give up! I suggest you view the free videos that tell you what to do on saveabreakup.com

 
At 2/19/2011 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamaica really is great and I would emigrate there - but how would I do that?

Agnes Babinka (the famous one)
http://bringtheexback.com

 
At 2/19/2011 7:08 PM, Anonymous Agnes Babinka said...

This is much better - I don't like to be 'anonymous'!

All the best!

A.

 

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