The Anatomy of An African Dad Meltdown

I've spent a lot of time in the card section of retail stores lately.  With the sheer number of people in our combined families of origin, the amount we spend on greeting cards during the Spring and Summer months could be a line item in our household budget (Happy Birthday mom).

When I was growing up (does that statement mean I'm officially old?), card categories were pretty simple.  But in my most recent card procurement excursion for Father's Day, a few new categories caught my eye like, "He Was A Good Man," (whatever that means) or "Loss of a Pet Who Was Like Family."  And while eavesdropping on the conversations and under-breath-mumblings of my fellow card shoppers, I'd recommend adding the category, "Someone You're Angry With But Feel Obliged To Send A Card To Anyway."

Though not the case for all interracial couples, some carry years of pain connected to the challenges they've faced from loved ones or family members regarding their relationship choices.  Holidays and celebrations are loaded with unspoken presuppositions about having consistently whole, happy, and emotionally connected relationship with all family members at all times.  But sometimes they feel more like funerals -- where we choose to focus on the positive over truth and reality because there's not a whole lot you can do to change things.

If you have an african dad, or any dad for that matter, what was his reaction when you disclosed your interracial relationship?

I recently came across the hilarious Pranking My African Dad video by Emmanuel "Eman" Kellam.  In the video, Eman sets up a camera to capture him pranking his dad, leading him to believe that Eman, at the age of 16, has impregnated his 14-year-old friend Annabelle.

What I found especially interesting?  The similarities between Eman's father's reaction and my own father's reaction when I told him about dating the man who is now my husband.

My observations have led me to believe that when approached with emotionally charged situations involving their children, African dads will exhibit the following 10 stages of a meltdown:

Stage 1: Engage in conversation like a reasonable human being. (0:30)
When I called home to tell my parents about dating someone, it was just one of our normal, weekly, Sunday calls.  In fact, once I told my dad I was dating someone, he started giving me all kinds of unsolicited dating advice.  I thought to myself, "This is way too easy," which led to:

Stage 2: Confirm all white people involved in the story. (0:47)
Thankfully my father has never referred to my husband (or anyone for that matter) as, "THE WHITE ONE?"  But when I did bring up his race as an aside toward the end of our conversation this happened next:

Stage 3: Scream for wife like a newborn baby calling for its mother. (1:10)
I found this particularly funny because my mom's name isn't Funke but phonetically, it is very close.  And just like in this video, my mother was conveniently out of the house and not immediately available for comment during our conversation.

Stage 4: Slip into mother tongue since English can't capture the magnitude of distress. (1:20)
You can say a lot of things about Nigerians, but you can't say we're not in touch with our emotions.

Stage 5: Call on the name of the Lord due to a belief that death is imminent. (1:21)
We're also dramatic (See also: Nollywood).

Stage 6: Proclaim a series of disastrous yet unfounded consequences. (1:38)
Clearly Eman's father doesn't think too highly of the career prospects at McDonald's.  No discussion about character, integrity, responsibilty... just school and work. 

Stage 7: Ask God a series of rhetorical questions in rapid fire succession. (2:07)
At which point I thought to myself, "Is this what the Book of Job was like?"

Stage 8: Offer irrational, nonsensical, and cost-prohibitive solutions. (2:14 and 2:40)
I mean who just buys commercial, first-class flights to Nigeria the night before a trip? I mean really? Who does that?

Stage 9: Declare that [insert African nation of choice here] is the best prevention. (2:30) 
No comment.

Stage 10: Assault and Battery?! (3:02)
Watching his father get up was like watching a scene in a horror movie.  I was like, "RUN EMAN! RUUUUUUUUUN!"

As I reflect back on one of the most important conversations I had with my dad almost ten years ago, I'm grateful that I only witnessed Stages 1 through 3 with my own eyes.  And after all these years my husband still retains his title as "my parents' favorite child."

Happy Father's Day to my dad, one of my favorite readers.  We'll be thinking of you Monday while watching the USA vs. Ghana World Cup match.  And a Happy Father's Day to all you fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, step dads, and father figures celebrating your special day.