Betty Mensah was a girl who had a lot going for her. Only she didn’t know it. An only child, she had graduated from University when she was in her early twenties, which I think gave her too much spare time on her hands – too much time to think about getting married and settling down with the ‘One’.
I think it was because her parents who had her quite late in life had such great expectations. That is not a bad thing. Expectations are good. All parents should have them but they should not become a noose around a child’s neck that repeatedly drags them into the wrong situations, careers and relationships. Betty wore this weight with her usual understated class and style and grace but by the time she came to see me, the strain was beginning to show under her designer clothes and carefully applied make-up.
Betty was the child her parents had waited 16 years for. They had poured all their hope and expectations into her petite frame. She was going to go to the best University, become a lawyer (like her father), get married and settle down and have children (much earlier than her mother) and not mess around (like all the other girls in town). They said it, they prayed it, they thought it, insinuated, lived, breathed and dreamed about it.
She woke up one day and she was 30 and then the grinding oars of parental anxiety, paranoia and self-pity went into motion.
She was the one stopping them from being happy, fulfilled parents and grandparents. It was down to her to make up for all those long painful years of childlessness when they were the mockery of the rest of their contemporaries in their close knit Ghanaian community in Peckham, London and get married. This marriage was going to be to a professional of Ghanaian parentage like her so that their children would not grow up in this Godless, culture free country and adopt the ways of the locals.
Betty was a compliant child. I could see that from our discussions. All she wanted to do was make her parents happy. When she was a child she could do that by keeping quiet and reading her books, getting good grades, or as a teenager – being a good girl and not having a boyfriend, and she was able to keep them happy. When she left Uni and started work, she was constantly being called into Important Family Meetings where older relatives would gather around and start demanding to know who her boyfriend was and if she did not have one, what the problem was. She wasn’t bad-looking. What was happening? Could the witches in her mothers town put a spell on her all the way from Takoradi?
She was ripe to fall into the hands of a user. There was something about the earnestness in her eyes. They simply said –
Love me. Im so nice. Educated. Ready to cook, clean and have your children – just as I have been trained to from the time I was a child.
A bit like those teddy bears in the shop with big brown yes that said “Love me and take me and look after me. I’m adorable.”
Betty just wanted to be loved by her parents and if it took getting married in order to do so, she would do it. Even if it meant getting married to a user and abuser. Such sheer hunger for marriage breeds desperation and wolves have very keen noses.
I was sure I would see her back in my office for counselling in a couple of years. Only this time it would be marriage counselling and she would have a kid in tow and maybe a few faded bruises.
I know the script.