By Betty B. Blay Ackah. Communications co-ordinator, Maternal Health Channel Accra, Ghana
I have never been big on valentine’s day, and I still do not really know why. Anyone living in urban Ghana would tell you how massive an event it has become over the years! I really don’t take time to think about the numerous people clad in vivid red, to the shops whose red decorations are as loud as their aggression in marketing valentine gifts that they claim will be perfect for any date. The media channels embody the phrase “love is in the air” with how charged they make the airwaves with competitions and giveaways especially packaged for valentine love. It is almost as if the concept of love is nothing more than a wisp of smoke varnishing into the atmosphere, and it suddenly becomes an all pervasive smog as soon as February 14 rolls in.
I am quite cynical about the hullabaloo made on Valentine ’s day for a good number of reasons. In my lucid moments, I recognize that it is because I hate how commercialized it has become. Everyone seems to want their partner to show their love with effusive spreads of gifts. I don’t know anyone who would be grateful with a deep, soulful heart-warming hug as a valentine gift. A hug that will express all the profound and intimate things that their partner might not be able to capture appropriately in words. If there is anyone out there like that, please let me know, I would love to meet you!
When I am not being so clearheaded though, I am also aware that this is not my favourite day of the year because I have never had it go exactly as I want it! When I was in high school, it was an absolute disgrace for any girl not to receive a gift. You would be crowned a ‘gnashite’ and would have to suffer the pitying looks from your peers, with their lame crumbs of affection as they attempt to console you. Even a single card was enough to take you above the demeaning depths of ‘gnashing’. Of course, there were the brave ones who did not give a hoot and wore their ‘gnashite’ titles like crowns of glory. And there were the other ones, like me, who followed their brave lead whilst shriveling up inside from the knowledge that they would give anything not to be ‘gnashing’ but to be engulfed in the perfume of teenage-love-scented valentine cards from boyfriends.
As a student in the university, I was mature enough not to care about ‘gnashing’, and yet those were the times I would always get a present or two. My most memorable one was a dinner date I planned for a guy who was checking me out. He wasn’t my boyfriend yet, and so I would ordinarily not have bothered giving him anything. But this gentleman had surprised me in class with an amazing hamper, how was I not to reciprocate the gesture? I took him to a restaurant that served very exotic dishes, I really enjoyed the experience because he was so pleasantly surprised by it. Somehow, I committed the abominable act of not calculating exactly how much money I had on me. When the bill came and I pulled out my wallet, my money was about $5 short. I was so embarrassed, I felt like the rice I had consumed was dancing around in my stomach and marching up my throat! Eventually, after many false starts, I managed to ask him if he could pay the rest of it. I had never lived a more mortifying experience! And to make matters worse, I spent all my weekly allowance on that one date, I didn’t have transportation money to go for lectures the next day.
Now I spend the day like any other. If it wasn’t for all the red in town and the valentine noise on radio, I wouldn’t even recognize that it’s not just another day! Today I am all fabulously decked out in black, and will be hanging out with a fellow ‘gnashite’. We have a great night planned which includes a hot meal of grilled guinea fowl with kenkey. Pure heaven! We will of course throw in some bottles of wine, it’s Friday after all!! Valentine who?