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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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Africa

ūüíĮ

If you’ve been here for a while or recently stopped by to take a look at my little corner of the Internet, you know that I am Ghana-born, partially Ghana-raised, birthed by a Ghanaian woman and man, product of Ghanaian ancestry. Honestly, I’ve never wondered if there was anything else in my blood. I just never have. But one sees ads for Ancestry dot com and one gets curious. Even larger: I never met my paternal or maternal grandfather. Would a genetic test perhaps reveal a few things about them? Would genetics speak of them in some way?

I decided to find out. There was a sale on Ancestry so I took advantage of it and signed up to receive the at-home DNA kit to send back to them for testing. When the kit arrived, I was disappointed to learn that no, this wasn’t a Law-and-Order type of DNA test with a Q-tipped cheek swab. No, I would have to–ugh–spit into a vial. Side note: I believe, with all my heart, that spitting is ugh. So, yeah, the kit sat there for a while, ignored by me. Eventually, however, I got the nerve to re-open the kit and just do it, already. Conveniently enough, Ancestry sends you return packaging so I put everything together and sent it off.

The results came back to me a few weeks ago. Shall we discuss?

Pic

  1. Cote D’Ivoire, Benin, and Togo, oh my. Like I said earlier, This Square Peg never doubted the presence of Ghana running through her veins. But I’ll be for real: seeing Cote D’Ivoire and Benin
    yesss
    Girl, please. She knew she was 100% African.

    and Togo…WOW. WOW. So very cool and and intriguing all at the same time.

  2. 100 percent of something. A friend of mine remarked that she’s never seen results where someone is 100 percent of something. “You are 100 percent African. That’s really amazing.” Hearing that gave me life. Because it is amazing. I never needed confirmation of my genetic makeup, but seeing “100% Africa” above was just the coolest thing.
  3. French. Is it any wonder, dear reader, that I’ve been attracted to everything French since I was 12 years old? For reasons I’ve never quite understood? Could the presence of Cote D’Ivoire and Benin and Togo, all officially French-speaking countries, have anything to do with this longstanding amour? Can genetics determine devotion?
  4. Mama. When I informed my mom about the results of the genetic test, she responded with the following: “We don’t know anyone from there.” I laughed and replied that this wasn’t a list of people we knew, but rather what my ethnic heritage is. ¬†She was silent for a bit, seeming to marvel over this information. I wondered if she was thinking about which one of our ancestors perhaps emigrated into Ghana
    Africa Map
    Photo courtesy of Africa Guide.

    from the three places, primarily Cote D’Ivoire. After all, if you glance at the Western side of my continent, Ghana is flanked on both sides by the other three countries. Anyway, I then mentioned to my mom that this could explain my abiding love for the French language (even though, real talk, I I speak Frenglish), a statement that she quickly agreed could be true.

  5. In the End…Other than wondering¬†about genetics and DNA and the past and my forebears and on and on, life went on after learning my results. My curiosity was assuaged. I didn’t gain a wealth of understanding about the stories of the men and women I didn’t have the opportunity to meet. Nevertheless, it was just plain cool to add this new piece of information to the mosaic of me.

Have you ever done a test like this?

Feel like talking about it?

Can you hear the comments area calling?

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Blogvember #15: Your Square Peg.

Had no clue what to talk about today. My equilibrium is off and I want to nap. So here’s a photo of me at 8 years old, sitting for a passport photo, giving you frosty face/don’t come at me/who do you think you are?/just try me. An expression that has served me well through the years.

Happy Tuesday.

Throwback Thursday: The Scowler.

SquarePeg1

Meet your Square Peg, a.k.a., me.

I found this photo in my mom’s “secret” stash of photos one evening last week. I should tell you that my mother’s things–her clothes, perfume, shoes, etc.,–have long fascinated me, which means that since I was little girl, sneaking into her room to see what I could find and gaze at lovingly remains a pastime. Don’t worry: I leave most things undisturbed. Except the clothes. Anyway, I love that she keeps hidden photos and mementos that we don’t have access to. When I found this, I snapped a quick photo and placed it back into its hiding place.

This was taken in August 1983 in Accra, Ghana. I was 4 years old. I’m 100% sure my Dad was the photog, being that he loved taking photos of his children and family, even when we were sullen teens and refused to smile.

My birthplace and my home.

That Mustang, which was my mother’s. (Yep, Mama Square Peg rocked¬†a Mustang!)

Those fat braids. (This was obviously was my go-to style.)

That dress.

Those shoes.

That face.

Oh, that face. Most photos from back, back, back in the day rarely found me smiling. I was a serious kid. I discovered those teeth a bit later, as you can also see from that ruffled, picture day photo. Other ones are of me coolly staring into the camera, as if we’re moments from battle. Ah, memories.

Happy Throwback Thursday.

She Twirls.

  
15 seconds of Queen Lupita twirling during her InStyle magazine shoot, as posted by her highness on her Instagram page. Take in all that African Girl Wonder. Breathe it in. And then find an empty office somewhere and do your own Friday twirl. Slow motion would even be better.

Bon weekend, dear readers. 

[Pardon the Interruption]…

…But I’d like to deviate from the daily Parisian round-up¬†and share my new¬†poem with you. Enjoy.

Birthright

Before I could even learn to appreciate you, I was desperate to shrug you off, this mantle that clung to the nuances of my dark skin like birthplaces and legacies.

You were the mirror I was ready to turn away from, the reminder that I was nothing like them; not mysterious and joyous, but something to point at and destroy.

And what of it?

Merely the source of special names and special people;

merely the home of my creators;

merely a rich, colorful center.

Before I could even learn to appreciate you, they informed me that I was simply a location hoarder, not real like them, just the holder of an address that was not worthy of me.

You were the mirror I intended to claim, the reminder that blood and culture can be whatever I want it to be; not a clingy shroud of shame, but something to be proud of and accept.

And what of it?

Merely the source of special names and special people;

merely the home of my creators;

merely a rich, colorful center.

Birth and death, accents and colors, time and memory: you are mine and mine alone.

Let them cajole and caw.

I bear it well and I bear it unaffected.

Like the solid stance of a landmass, a continent,

you and I cannot be moved.

difficult names.

When I was a teenager, I lied about my name. True story. (Oh, irony.) My old friends once asked me what my middle initial, “O”, stood for. I didn’t tell them the truth. I didn’t want anyone to know my very African middle name. I had visions of them balking and laughing and eyes widening at the mixture of consonants and vowels. I didn’t want that. The mocking and bullying because of my looks and being from another country in my early adolescence had done their damage–I didn’t want anyone to know a thing about my African birth/heritage and name. Since I was in a different school system now, different from the earlier grades, I could lie like a rug and basically create a new identity. And that’s what I did.

New middle name: Olivia
New birthplace: San Francisco, CA

Regarding San Fran,¬†I took the fact that my mom, sister, and me visited the city when I was about 4 years old and ran with it. Anyway, my false identity worked for a bit. I allowed that my parents were Ghanaian but I maintained that I wasn’t. I wanted them to be convinced that I was thoroughly American, almost in a rabid attempt to destroy that little girl that walked into her new school and was gawked at when the other kids learned that she was from a whole other country. And then it happened.¬†An¬†application for something I filled out and happened to leave on my desk in French class. One of my old pals/classmates glanced at it. I remember him asking, pretty loudly, at that, what happened to my middle name. Isn’t your middle name Olivia? he asked. Everyone else came over to peer at it and saw the “k” and the “y” and registered various looks of surprise. Wishing for the ground to open up and swallow me didn’t work. So I blamed it on my little brother. “Oh, I think my brother was doodling on the application¬†and decided to play a joke on me.” Everyone laughed; they were already pretty familiar with the antics of my 6 year-old brother anyway, so the lie was accepted. They moved on. I, however, felt the lie in the pit of my stomach. (Side note: it’s amazing how certain moments in life direct us in the future. Notably, in¬†my short fiction, I write a lot about people fighting particular truths in their life and the repercussions that come. Art really imitates life, huh?) I’d like to say that it all ended there; feeling sick over the lie¬†inspired me to change and just tell the truth about who I was. Uh, no. I was 16. This was high school. It didn’t end there. I even told my counselor, who would be announcing my name at graduation, to merely say the initial and not the name. Her “but it’s beautiful” fell on deaf ears.

Alas, it wasn’t college that I started questioning myself. Why I was going¬†through all these hoops to hide myself? Why was I condemning my heritage when people around me vocalized their wish to identify¬†with an actual culture? (Honestly, I consider my time in¬†college as four years of straight, unrelenting epiphanies about myself.)

My middle name came from a wonderful woman who was like a second mother to my dear father. I was named after her. It’s the name of this here blog (the address above). When people ask how to pronounce it, I say it slowly, just for the sake of hearing my name repeated back to me. But really, nothing compares to hearing¬†my middle name spoken from¬†my own¬†lips¬†and falling in love with that sound over and over again.¬†I only wish I had fallen in love sooner.

20140618-100910-36550076.jpg

The Unmarried African Woman. (shudder)

Some of you know this woman. She’s your sister, your friend, your fellow cubicle dweller who insists on playing 70s soft rock on her Pandora station, your daughter, your cousin. Some of you don’t believe that the fact that she’s an Unmarried African Woman (UAM)¬†needs to be capitalized, or even an issue. And if that’s you, then you’re surely not African.

(I’m aware that other cultures may experience similar discussions and silly¬†opinions about their unmarrieds and singletons, but my vantage point is mostly African, so I’ll be commenting¬†on my personal¬†experience)

The truth is, this particular community doesn’t understand mid-30s and singleness. It’s not in the DNA, ya’ll. It is not.¬†Marriage and family are the¬†very center¬†of lives and culture.¬†And this isn’t a criticism, by any means. I’ve come to a place where I can look at everything with humorized (not a word) irritation.¬†Sometimes, it’s just pure humor and downright laughter. Anyway. This is generally what I hear as a UAM. Get ready…

  1. Is Your Daughter Waiting for a White Man? This is an interesting question, huh? My mother was asked this question by a family acquaintance about yours truly. (The question in its entirety was, “Is your daughter waiting for a white man? Is that why she’s not married yet?”)¬†Stunned by his question, she very succinctly informed him that her daughter was waiting for the right individual for her, and she wasn’t about to just marry anyone, white, black, or green. Go Mama, huh? When she’s not suggesting I marry someone who just needs to be “polished” (more on that later), she’s definitely on Team Square Peg. Anyway, I¬†suppose he took in¬†the fact that I’m your atypical African woman¬†(read: Americanized, which is a completely subjective term), raised in the suburbs and speaking with her accentless Valley Girl twang, and assumed that I’m waiting for my white knight. Who knows? Who cares?
  2. I know the PERFECT Man for You. No, you don’t. You don’t know me. We’ve spoken two times. Literally. Let that one die.
  3. He Just Needs a Little Polishing. I get that one quite a bit. The future¬†man in question apparently just needs a little varnish provided by me and my lurve, and he should be fine. It doesn’t matter that he’s typically seen talking to himself in a corner somewhere, or laughing at a private joke that only he and the invisible person next to him have shared with each other. Hey, I get that in a relationship, both will be enhancing one another here and there. I embrace it. But that’s a lot of polishing, ya’ll. He (they) needs medication. Not me and my varnish.
  4. So, Is Attraction Important to You? Nope. As a UAM, I definitely want to meet¬†a man who looks like¬†the creature from the black lagoon. No big deal. After all, I’m only getting older, right? And who wants to be vain and superficial? Bring it him on. (But don’t, ok? Don’t do any of that.)
  5. Perhaps Your Standards Are too High. Soooo, we have standards for the car we want to buy, for the pizza we want to eat. And don’t tell me you don’t get hot if they add anchovies when you asked them not to. This is forever. I have standards. Hopefully, so does he.
  6. Honorable Mentions. Don’t marry a short man (Mama), and don’t marry a man with a big head (also Mama). Those are my personal favorites. The reasoning behind these caveats are usually followed by curious African anecdotes that I never fully understand. But I love hearing them.

I’ve no doubt that some of these¬†interesting comments¬†cross cultural lines, but there’s just something about a crotchety African woman telling you that you need to stop being so picky. Kinda feels like home.

Can’t imagine what I’ll hear when I become a MAW (Married African Woman). Sheesh.

how not to be ignorant about Africa.

We won’t get into exactly what inspired this post, only that its absolute necessity is imperative. Shall we, then?

africa
Image courtesy of Free World Maps. Link here: http://www.freeworldmaps.net/africa/

  1. Africa is a continent. Not a country.
  2. When something weird happens in a country within the continent of Africa, it does not represent the entire country where it happened, the people in that particular country, or the people that live on the street/town/city where the weird thing happened. It is an isolated incident, borne from the choices that particular individual or group made.
  3. When someone is from Africa, do not assume that those sad commercials in which flies mill about the crying faces of starving children with distended bellies applies to them and/or represents where they came from. Yes, abject poverty and starvation exist in Africa, but the assumption that all Africans either lived in abject poverty or came from such is ridiculous and inane. Even if they did, how about not assuming?
  4. Disney’s The Lion King. I can’t even. That Swahili in the beginning of the movie? Is not the universal language spoken on the continent. Stop asking Africans what it means.
  5. Speaking of asking Africans random questions, it is 2013. We live in a Google world. There’s likely a library in the vicinity of your home. If you have a question about the continent, kindly research it on your own.
  6. I am proud to be an African woman. I am also an American woman. The fact that I do not have the dough to regularly visit the country of my birth does not diminish the fact that it is the country of my birth, or that I am proud of it.
  7. Oh, you thought this was just about the ignorance of non-Africans, huh?
  8. Ignorance is universal.
  9. Believe that.
  10. We all possess a level of ignorance about things we don’t understand. Rather than relying on age-old prejudices and/or foolery, take the time to sincerely find things out. You will be happier and the possibility of major side eye coming from me will be significantly reduced.

Africa3

from the start.

I’ve always been different.

I entered the world quietly. No crying or whimpering. As a result, the doctor gently swatted me on the bottom. My mother said I turned my brand new head toward the doctor and seemed to gaze at him with disdain. Like, did you just SWAT me, fool? I then responded to the swat with a slight whimper. She had arrived.

And so she has.

"You wanna fight me?"
“You wanna fight me?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was born into a world of beautiful women who never hesitated to speak their minds; into a colorful world filled with electric sights and sounds; into a continent that can best be described as enigmatic and compelling. Yet I came in quietly and remained that way. I observed; I feared speaking up; I sat still. But I also loved what I loved, held on to what I wanted despite the opinions of others, and leveled that same seconds-after-birth expression of disdain to whomever warranted it.

Painfully shy yet unflinchingly stubborn. Wanting to be like everyone else for a long time and hardly a thing like them at all. Never fitting into the mold people expected of me, including the things I wanted for myself. And finally, finally proud of the person I am.

This square peg…is about me. The writer, the worrier, the dreamer, the art lover, the travel lover, the thinker, the overthinker, the African girl, the African woman, the American woman, the silly, the serious, the foolish, the fearful.

Come away with me…

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