It was the littlest thing. We had been friends for forty years, through the most challenging times and the happiest. Best men at each other’s weddings, guarantors for each other’s mortgages. We had laughed together, and we had cried man-tears. But it all came to a head on that wretched night over the choice of a venue for the outdooring.
Most of you may never have been to an outdooring. It is an old Ghanaian ceremony where a baby gets named or, rather, called after illustrious uncles or aunties or grandparents. The baby is supposed to take the character of the one who he or she happens to be named after, so you avoid the cantankerous, the drunken and the jobless and look out for the prosperous and virtuous, someone everybody admires. Should we really believe such legends?
Usually there are arguments about the name unless you come from that parts of country where they name children after the day of the week on which they were born. I always thought that was too simple. It spoiled half the fun. But it also meant that you knew what the sorry kid would be called without any fights.
The venue of course was fixed as well. It had to be home or, for the very adventurous, at the home of the benefactor who was going to give his blessing. That was fitting. So when Kojo said he wanted to do it at the local drinking spot, I blew my top. It was out of order, against tradition, and nothing was more traditional than an outdooring. The funny thing was that he had asked to name the child after me, which was a break of protocol, too. Friends hardly received that honor—especially when they came from another tribe like I did. I hadn’t argued with that, even when my wife Susan had asked “Are you serious?” with the kind of look that registered her obvious disapproval.
Two grown men who had never so much as wagged a little finger at each other became embroiled in a battle to determine who was the most respectful to our culture. We squabbled for days, consulted the oldest relatives in Cape Coast town, the relentless tropical heat not dampening our impassioned debates in the slightest.
Our friends and family were split right down the middle but to my utter dismay, Susan sided with him and so did my two daughters. I was even sure my black and white mongrel, did as well, as it took to barking furiously whenever we fought and licking Kojo’s hand with approval when we stopped. What they say about dogs being man’s best friend is not true. He was a rank traitor!
In the end, I punched him. But only because I was provoked. I mean what is a man supposed to do when his very honor is called into question? Nobody else saw it that way though. We never said a word to each other since.
So that is how the boy became known as Ataa Nii. His maternal grandfather’s name was finally chosen instead of mine, fancy that. I stayed away from the big event even though he had grudgingly sent an invitation at the eleventh hour and a bottle of schnapps to try to make the peace.
All I know is that I am hurting inside, but a man’s gotta do what he gotta do.
Oh yeah, and his son is going to become a balding, fat-bellied successful lawyer.
Image by Hernán Piñera via Flickr
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