My Wealth is Determined by the Number of Modiglianis I Have

Ever since Ifemelu and Obinze made their ways to the US and England, respectively, they’d been surrounded by people of higher status, and their desire to succeed. A universal belief of success means this so called successful person possesses wealth, whether in the form of land, oil, stocks. etcetera. Okay, so by that standard, Curt, Kimberly, Emenike, and the other ladies and gentlemen Ifemelu and Obinze rubbed elbows with at dinner parties were wealthy.

These seemingly impressive characters are somehow of the “higher order” either through their work, income, or possessions. Their favorite pastimes include gloating about their success (pardon my excessive use of “success”), using verbiage to give an air of higher education, and collecting trinkets from countries formerly under imperialism.

People commonly use the amount or lack of paintings in one’s home to distinguish their socioeconomic status. What is it with paintings that gives someone the facade of having so much money that even God would ask to borrow from them? “Rich people” only buy from the dead who can no longer paint, thus displaying their superb taste for only the most “limited and original” paintings in existence.

Believe me, I’m not going to hate on the arts; it’s not the artist’s fault some guy who inherited money from his robber baron ancestors wants to impress the bookish girl with his interpretations of the meaning behind the harsh and dark lines as a way for her to sleep with him. It’s a bit hypocritical that the wealthy enjoys hoarding high art, while simultaneously letting art majors starve because they’re a dime a dozen and need a real job in order to make money. Does the wealthy feed off of the jealousy and admiration one receives of owning one-of-a-kind pieces of art that this superficiality oozes out of their skin and splashes onto the marble floors their maids have to clean?

What can you do with art other than fill up your ego and assure yourself that you’re wealthier than someone? What kind of stability does money protect and give the beholder? Financial, yes. Relationships, maybe. Mental, nope. I can’t speak for all, but the wealthy people readers find in books, namely Americanah, contain hollow, shallow bodied individuals who rely on material possession for an establishment of power. Maybe it’s a trope, but I think Adichie was getting onto something when she created lackluster individuals who had money but no way to happily spend it and be content.

When The Writer’s Block Hits In the Finale

Ahh! Americanah was an excellent book, for the most part, but I feel I can say that any reader is relieved (or feelings a sense of accomplishment) after finishing a book. I do appreciate and enjoyed the major motifs/social situations brought up in the book, but I cannot say the same for the ending. It was a trope. The ending was so disappointing that I completely forgot this book was supposed to be centered around the issue of race.

First of all, what was that, Adichie? Americanah’s ending was so predictable that I screamed in anguish after putting down the book. Viewers, please don’t argue that it was a great ending just because the “OG couple” got back together. Yes, Kosi was superficial and confrontationally-challenged about her marriage, but that didn’t give Adichie the right to try to paint her as a villain so that readers could sympathize with Obinze leaving his wife. Can you really blame someone for wanting nice things? If you’re a capitalist, you sure can’t.

I think Adichie always loved Ifemelu and Obzine together and hated writing her characters with other partners. Why else would she actually include chapters dedicated to Obinze’s life after college? Adichie needed a scapegoat and found Kosi’s flaws as a way to ensure the two got back together while facing complications, in order to add more juiciness to the story. I mean, come on! Kosi wasn’t a serial killer nor committed any heinous acts, so why can’t readers sympathize with her? She’s left with a child and a failed marriage that never should’ve happened, even if her now ex-husband was “in a bad place” when he married her.

I am in no way saying that couples shouldn’t be able to divorce, only be cautious of when you decide to marry someone. Don’t marry someone because you’ve lost hope of getting back together with your past love and because you’re finally in a new–yet unhappy–relationship. You (cough, Obinze, cough) are only hurting yourself and your partner who you don’t actually love, yet is led to believe that you love them.

As for Ifemelu, what were you thinking?! You knew Obinze was married, so how could you get mad at him for being troubled on figuring out what to do with you and his marriage? Don’t expect him to drop everything and come back to you just because you’ve returned to Nigeria. God, it’s such a cliché when two lovers are separated by distance and time, and then they meet again years later only to be with someone else (try every Nicholas Sparks book ever).

I feel that there could’ve been many better ways to handle the ending while giving Ifemelu and Obinze their happy ending, and without leaving readers thinking that it’s okay to acquit cheaters (“but they were past lovers, they’re meant to be!”).

I shouldn’t be so critical of the book; it’s just hard when the ending is only the final pages you’re left with to read and make sense of the book as a whole, yet that’s where it upsets you the most!!! I will say, Americanah did leave me “enlightened” and I shouldn’t harshly judge the novel, as it didn’t entirely revolve around Ifemelu’s relationship with Obinze. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, if you’re reading this, did you ever get back together with your college love?

Going Back to Your Roots Without Reconnecting to Them

In Chapter 44 of Americanah, readers finally (!) get to revisit Lagos from Ifemelu’s perspective. Her experience is a lot different than when she lived there for two specific reasons: her age (obviously) and her newly ingrained attitudes from American influence.  I found it a bit odd and surprising, reading her new opinions on her homeland, at how much more hostile and unforgiving she is about the land she grew up in. Ifemelu harshly critiques a tile installer for his shoddy work and threatens to run him out of a job if he doesn’t fix the floor. It’s almost scary at how American she sounds (honestly, if you’re American, you can vouch that a lot of people are critical of smelly streets like in New York and the work people put into their jobs).

It makes me wonder if immigrants–who go back to their home country–carry new beliefs and almost forget that they grew up in their home country. My father is a first generation immigrant from Lebanon and has since visited once. He was two when his family came to the U.S. so his only Lebanese influence was from his parents, but he wasn’t uppity and stingy about the condition of Lebanon’s cityscape and work ethic in comparison to America’s when he visited. He’s proud of his heritage and tends to overlook the flaws in his native country, but he also doesn’t speak for all immigrants.

America’s heavy emphasis on a capitalist society with all parts functioning and needing to do their part in order to succeed has bled into the minds of its citizens. Ableism can in part be attributed to this mindset since people with capitalist values would tend to be prejudiced towards those who aren’t able to fully partake in “contributing to society.” Ifemelu’s quick lashing out to the man’s poor job at assembling the tiles could be one of two things: he chose not to do a very good job/was poorly trained, or her inner American, capitalist-influenced mind came out. Either way, she’s changed and it can be argued either way, good or bad.

Personally, I believe it’s a bad change. The outburst just added to her already critical view of Lagos and portrayed her as out of touch with her homeland–I guess you kind of are out of touch with your roots if you’ve been gone for a decade. People should always be grounded and realize where they’ve come from. Although it’s hard, the best way to stay in touch with your true self–especially when coming back to your motherland–is to acclimate yourself as soon as possible. You may have had to act a certain way in order to survive in one country, but you don’t need to carry those negative attitudes to the next.

Not Just an American Thing: Depression Hits Internationally

Despite being a small motif–maybe a “sub-motif” of the American culture motif–, mental illness has been brought up in Americanah through Ifemelu’s first few years living in the U.S. and, recently, with Dike’s attempted suicide. Although Ifemelu is reluctant to admit that she has depression, “Depression was what happened to Americans, with their self-absolving need to turn everything into an illness,” please keep in mind that depression–among many other mental illnesses–is a real thing.

Forget everything Tumblr has told you about mental illnesses (this website has had a problem with romanticizing mental illnesses in the past, which is hella messed up). According to Psychiatry.org, depression is

“a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act . . . it can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.”

Although I cannot say whether Nigeria is a country that openly discusses mental health/has doctors who specialize in this kind of psychology or not, an immigrant’s disbelief to an illness just because their country has lower rates of it/never identified it among those who have it is a bit irrational. According to MedPage Today, immigrants coming into the U.S. are at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety. The research focused on native-born Mexicans who migrated to America and, despite some who may argue that this could be an attempt at trying to keep Mexicans out of the U.S., I firmly believe this is true, such as in the case of Ifemelu.

The specific causation of depression is difficult to pinpoint. Some people have seasonal depression, they miss the sun when it’s gone and their mood starts to dampen. I hate the winter and the dreary weather, it makes me sad for four to five months and my unhappy thoughts start to increase. But other times, it’s more long-term. Sometimes it’s attributed to a genetic predisposition, too little serotonin in one’s brain, or distressing events.

What amazes me the most, though, is one’s quick reaction to denying developing depression as others sense the onset, or one’s resorting reason as depression when they feel a little down. To those of the former, never let anyone diagnose you–or even self-diagnose–but if your friends and family notice a persistent and abnormal change in your behavior and appearance (disclaimer: you can’t always point out who does and does not have depression), then it might be a good idea to consult your doctor (see symptoms here). To the latter group, please recognize the difference between short term and long term changes in behavioral patterns; depression is a serious matter.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Depression/any mood disorders are not to be joked about. 15% of those who are clinically depressed commit suicide.

With that PSA being said, I should briefly mention how to handle friends and family members with depression (among other mental illnesses). Do not tell them they have no reason to be sad, nor try to act like you understand what it’s like being physically and mentally bogged down on a daily basis. Please be patient and caring, we can’t always help them and they can’t always control how they feel. Most of all, don’t expect those who are mentally ill to apologize for it–it’s out of their control for God’s sake.

When The Road Turns Rocky for Longer Than the GPS Said

Throughout Americanah, the issue on relationships and their worth has been brought up multiple times. Whether it’s being cheated on, the mistress, long distance, the bum, or the  unavailable; every relationship has its problems. Although relationships can be fun and exciting at first, if things start taking a turn for the worse you might need to reevaluate the importance of this relationship (whether they’re romantic or friend-related). In regards to my title, it might sound too simplistic to assume all we have to do is look for signs to guide us in our life endeavors–which is true–, but hey, it was my analogy and it’s a damn good one.

As a junior in high school, my relationship advice/experience is at the bare minimum, three boyfriends: the first one didn’t really count, the second wasn’t much of a relationship, and the third I’m currently in–which, if I may add, I’m happy in. But that’s all beside the point. I can’t speak as someone who has been cheated on or has cheated on another, but I can offer my opinions on these situations and stories from my MOTHER’S dating escapades.

A long time ago, after graduating high school in 1980, my mother decided to marry her “mature-er, two-years-her-senior boyfriend,” Rob*. What a mistake that turned out to be. After a nine year downward sloping marriage, popping out my two half-brothers, realizing Rob was a toxic and lazy bum, my mom said, “Sayonara.”

Jump forward to the high times of the ’90s and my mom was dating Lars*, a daddy’s boy–maybe these descriptions of men are too harsh, but if the shoe fits–whose father was CEO of Medtronic. Going boating on the weekends and having a family who rented out a castles in France for a long weekend didn’t faze her simplistic ways. Lars didn’t take too kindly to sarcastic comments ergo my mom could not fully be herself in the relationship–not that she tried to change for him, she just had to restrain a part of her personality. Lest to say, it ended on an angry note: “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” my mom joked one evening. Apparently he took it as her way of ending the relationship, and they lived happily ever after–without each other.

Of course there were single stages in between divorce and dating; you always need time for yourself and where your priorities lay. It’s nice to have a partner, but it’s never a necessity. My mom was 19 the first time she got married and 36 the second. Some people become too obsessed with the idea of marriage and believing their window of opportunity at having a life partner closes with increasing age, but it really doesn’t. Anyone can marry at any age, and with that being said you shouldn’t settle for less just because you’re afraid of being alone nor should you worry about never finding a new partner just because of a sudden breakup.

Loneliness allows you to be completely free to make any decision you want, along with not being responsible for another person. I won’t preach one type of relationship over the other (a relationship with only yourself versus a relationship with another person), but it is healthy to have a mixture of both in your life–the latter relationship is not exclusive to romantic types, human interaction in general can fall under this. I’m sure–hopefully–anyone can make a pros and cons list to either relationship type, but what I’m saying is that if you’re feeling mistreated or unhappy in a relationship it’s time to quit it. If you feel you’re “too much alone,” it’s time to go out into the world and interact with others.

*Name has been changed.

White Men: “We Kinda Have a Thing for ‘Ethnic’ Girls”

After reading Chapter 18 of Americanah, I couldn’t help but cringe over Curt’s overeagerness to dating Ifemelu. The fact that he mentioned he’d never been with a black girl before shows his superficiality in only looking at physical appearances–especially the color of a woman’s skin. Curt’s comment may seem as an innocent act of small talk to some, but with his self-assured attitude at assuming Ifemelu would be willing to be his girlfriend after one date, it’s a mild case of racial fetishism that leads to bigger problems for women of color.

Racial fetishism, according to revolvy.com, “involves fetishizing a person or culture belonging to a race or ethnic group that is not one’s own—therefore it involves racial/ethnic stereotyping and objectifying those bodies who are stereotyped and at times their cultural practices.”

Racial fetishism is prevalent, especially by men, in today’s society and has been since the early days of European colonization. Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon displays fetishism and primitivism of five nude female prostitutes–two of who are wearing African tribal masks. Today’s examples of racial fetishism include Asian Women Date, a website where non-Asian men can meet Asian women, and the scene from Austin Powers: Goldmember where the titular character crosses “Threesome with Japanese Twins” off of his bucket list.

Men like to joke around and call this “jungle fever” (preferring to date black women) or “yellow fever” (preferring to date Asian women) when their pals discuss desiring to date one specific race/ethnicity of women. There’s a difference between having a type and blatantly saying “I’ve always been attracted to [insert specific race/ethnicity and gender here].” Those who are only attracted to a certain group of people usually carry internalized racism and stereotypes.

Men that “have a thing for Asian girls” associate women of Asian descent with being subservient, childlike in appearance and behavior, and probably kinky; Latina women as having curvaceous bodies, light enough skin, and a sassy attitude but “not too sassy as to be like compared to a black girl;” and black girls with asses big enough for twerking, nurturing, and promiscuous.

News flash, men: your attempts at being charming and acting like you’re paying minority women a needed compliment is not sexy nor impressive. The lectures on slavery in America and China going through a cycle of dynasties given to you during your high school history classes were not taught simply for you to use them at attempts of appearing well informed to non-white girls.

Another thing: never describe a girl as exotic. They are not pets, coffee, nor plants so don’t degrade them to the status of one. There are other ways do describe a girl (i.e. her personality) that do not relate to her “foreign looks.” You sound lacking in intelligence and vocabulary if you have to place a girl in the same category as a Capuchin monkey.

In short, yes, you CAN have a type without racially fetishizing, IF you can cut the knowledge crap and flirt without relying on stereotypes to continue the conversation. Happy dating!

Your Ancestors Were Immigrants Too, Ya Know!

In Chapters 9 and 10 of Americanah, Adichie gives readers a glimpse of the struggles Ifemelu and Uju face as a FOB (fresh off the boat) and a six-year immigrant, respectively. There’s an obvious culture difference and repression as Ifemelu thinks hot dogs are sausages and Uju tells her not to teach Dike of anything Nigerian–Dike even says he doesn’t think he likes Nigeria.

Once upon a time ago, in 1492, the floodgates opened and all hell broke loose. 525 years later and here we are, the United States, a tossed salad full of citizens with different cultural backgrounds. I refrain from using “melting pot” as race tensions in the U.S. continue thus prohibiting its citizens from fully converging and respecting all cultures as a united whole.

Despite the fact that there is no actual American ethnicity–even Native Americans technically aren’t from here but Asia–there is a difference in attitudes on cultural embracement.

Generally, by the third generation of immigrant families, people start to lose connection with their roots–obviously this isn’t the case for everyone, but it becomes harder to remember where you came from as your family’s time and submersion in a new homeland’s culture increases.

Generally, conservative Americans of the upper class today like to display their wealth by proving the American Dream still exists because their older family members were able to make money and pass that wealth down to their children. News flash: the American Dream doesn’t exist and institutionalized racism prevails, thus ensuring immigrants (more specifically, people of color) are locked in the lower ranks of society.

But how does this relate to all Americans being immigrants at one point or another? Well, the point is, my friends, that from the start of colonial America, citizens have been disconnected with their roots, forgetting that Europeans were basically their brothers–and sisters.

Throughout U.S. history, there has been this idea of people “Americanizing” themselves so as to set themselves apart from their European comrades. This involves abandoning native tongues, dress, and customs for what is considered “American.” Eventually, POC took on this trend in order to fit in with white society, and now cultures from across the globe are considered too foreign for Americans. Of course, there are the white kids who love to act like they love learning about cultures outside their own (cultural appreciation) but end up appropriating them instead.

In essence, cultural identity is lost in the U.S. in attempts to conform to societal ideals. POC assume this is how they will rise above the lower ranks they fall into when immigrating to America–even though the wealthy elite continues to use systemic racism as means of preserving the social order. There really is no true reason to forget your past; embracing it is what makes people unique and more cultured than white people! Obviously, if you’re highly resentful of your past country, then there’s room for non-embracing your heritage, but think. You’ve only got a cultural background that distinguishes yourself from others, love and display it!

The Fake Communist’s Note: The point of this post wasn’t to tell POC immigrants that there’s no point in trying to conform and act like an American to others since elitists use racism to oppress minorities. The point was to say cultural differences should be embraced since they’re the only thing immigrants have when coming to a new land.

Having a Sugar Daddy While Not Being a Gold Digger

In Chapter 6 of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, readers learn of Ifemelu’s aunt, Aunty Uju, who happens to be the mistress of a married man. Everyone in society knows Aunty Uju is sleeping with The General as it is common for men of high ranks to openly have mistresses, but The General’s family is mad and threatens to hurt Aunty Uju after The General dies, leaving her as a vulnerable target. Despite the fact that The General was cheating on his wife, I do condone having a “sugar daddy”–just not when the money provider is already in a committed relationship.

First and foremost, according to millennial pop culture, a sugar daddy is–typically–a man who pays or gives favors to a–typically–woman for her company (this does not imply but isn’t limited to sex). There’s a large stigma with sugar daddies and, to a lesser degree, sugar mamas, because people assume the girls are gold diggers.

The difference between having a sugar daddy and being a gold digger is that usually “gold digging” women are seen as deceptive, conniving, and insincere. Conversely, having a sugar daddy or being in a “sugar daddy relationship” is basically a transaction deal. Although, in both situations, the party providing the money probably has a very angry family. In these cases, it’s usually grown up sons and daughters who go into hysterics at the thought of having a 20-year-old stepmom that will suck them dry of their inheritances after she becomes a widow.

The stigma with girls who receive cash in the form of companionship stems from the fact that people who lived in racist 1950s still believe in the American Dream. To be quite frank, it’s hella hard to survive in a competitive capitalist economy like the U.S., ESPECIALLY if you’re a college student drowning in student loans–I may only be in eleventh grade but I’m still not looking forward to the day I trade my soul for a piece paper and ten years of monthly payments to my alma mater.

I can’t personally speak on having a sugar daddy, but it seems like an ideal “relationship” for people with financial struggles. According to multiple online news outlets, Candice Kashani, a law school graduate at Villanova, was able to become debt free with the help of a sugar daddy or two. That is a true life goal right there, my friends!

Anyways, people will debate if relying on others for money is morally correct, especially if that person is having sex with them. Honestly, integrity is overrated and traditionalists use it as leverage to make girls feel bad about their personal decisions. If you’d really feel bad about having sex for money, then don’t seek sugar daddy relationships, or work as a prostitute or an escort, but DO NOT judge others for their choices.

To be honest, if you’ve got it flaunt; people shouldn’t be ripping on girls in sugar daddy relationships when there are people who make their earnings as pornography historians.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby (Seriously, People Need Proper Sex Ed)

Chapter five of Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah” deals with young love and the desire to express it. It took me by surprise when Obinze’s mother called Ifemelu into her room to discuss sexual relations between her son and Ifemelu. How awkward can that be, right? What made it even more cringeworthy was the fact that his mother wanted to know when they planned on having sex. A bit odd, but her culture also differs from mine.

I’ll admit, it is a bit refreshing to read about a mother who wants to know when her child in a seriously involved relationship plans on having sex. It’s important to be safe and understand what you’re getting into. Although it differs between households, many parents in Western culture–specifically under the influence of religious doctrine–prefer that their children wait until marriage before “losing their virginity” (quotes because no one can actually lose a virginity, it was never a physical object to begin with).

There’s something comforting in knowing that an adult who has more often than not been a teenager who wanted to experiment with sex themselves cares about younger generations not making mistakes without hindering them from making their own decisions–despite the fact that some of these said adults only preach abstinence (PSA this is not helping anyone, teenagers ARE having sex).

What’s almost as bad as having adults just tell children to stay abstinent is that parents in 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have the ability to pull their children out of sexual education classes. This is especially hurtful to the younger generations who want to learn. Not every child wants to be sexually active, but it’s important that everyone knows so as not to have unwanted pregnancies or STDs. It also sucks that sex ed is being taught in middle school while kids are still not mature enough to understand how the birds and the bees work, but I guess it’s better sooner rather than later.

In short, parents, please discuss sex with your kids despite how awkward it is for us to hear. It’s better to know about contraceptives and the risks of getting pregnant even without physically having sex (yes, girls can get pregnant if sperm gets inside their vagina), especially during the times of the Alt-Reich.

Fake Communist’s Note: For those of you who don’t know, the Alt-Reich is America’s government for the next four years. These politicians want to defund Planned Parenthood, a major tool in giving proper instruction on and access to contraceptives for low-income persons.

Christianity and The Quest for Converts

During chapter three, the heavy Christain motif shines through as a remnant of Nigeria’s past under British imperialism. Ifemelu’s mother is so consumed with religion that she converts to three different sects when the previous fails to uphold God’s promise of solving her family’s struggles. Of course, Adichie bridges African and Western culture in “Americanah” by mentioning the heavy role Christianity/religion has by looming over citizens in any society. This book strongly resonates with me as I can relate to Ifemelu in the terms of her position on religion and family.

With a mother who is a devout Lutheran and a father who is a little-to-nonreligious Catholic, it used to suck being agnostic-turned-atheist. Similarly to Ifemelu, I questioned the presence of a God and wondered if it was all just a concept. After multiple refusals to participate in church services and many arguments, my mother eventually learned to look past the fact that she was losing all four of her kids to science. I don’t want to totally denounce religion, if people want to believe in an ultimate controller of the universe then that’s fine, but I just don’t buy it.

In the wise words of Ricky Gervais, “If we take something like any fiction, any holy book, and destroyed it, in a thousand years’ time that wouldn’t come back just as it was. Whereas if we took every science book and every fact and destroyed them all, in a thousand years they’d all be back, because all the same tests would be the same result.”

I’ve personally come to believe that differing religions in a society are debilitating and can create tension. Anyone can see that, as people still do not know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim. Historically, factory owners purposely hired Catholics and other Christian denominations, because they knew the factory workers wouldn’t form labor unions with Catholics, thus no union. Obviously, you can’t make people not believe in order for everyone to have the same views, but people need to learn that not everyone’s going to agree (Google search “secularism”).

As with any family, religion can be a touchy subject especially when each member has differing views. It’s easy for moms and dads to think that they’ve failed as parents if they can’t get their child to believe in their god, but it’s universal for younger generations to drift away from more traditional stances.

There isn’t anything wrong per se with raising your kids to believe a certain ideology, but, parents, please don’t expect your children to conform to your belief system just because they’ve been brought up that way. I’m no parent and I don’t pretend to know what it’s like raising a child, but if you really want your child to believe then don’t ingrain your opinions into their head. Most kids–specifically teenagers–don’t do well to imposition and especially won’t listen to authoritative figures.