In Nigeria, an accent is a catalyst for love

yaba

I have been debating whether I should write this for days but a conversation with a friend just convinced me to do it. Please hold up on the hunt for me till you’re done reading.

When I decided to spend 30 days in Lagos, I intended to just work and go back home but many people told me that would be a loss. Lagos is one of Africa’s most vibrant cities with something exciting each week. Its people are dynamic and energetic. I am yet to be in an African city that makes being African so cool and sexy and just darn fun. Yes, there are some challenges here, most of them deal-breakers but that is a different conversation.

As I come to the end of my trip, many people have asked me if I met any nice guys here (I hope my father doesn’t read this). I didn’t go looking for guys, and to be honest I had no interest but I did meet a lot of people and a number of them were guys. The dating scene in Lagos has mixed reviews from residents, some who love it and others who despise it. For most women, that I spoke to, it seems that Nigerian men are not much loved, some of them. “Nigerian men deceive with intent, it’s almost as though they set out to be evil and hurt you,” someone recounts to me. The creepy thing is this perspective is held by both men and women. My male friends warned me to not be alone with guys I just met or have only known a few days, and to watch everything I drink while out. It paints a rather terrifying picture of men in Las Gidi.

While men are deceiving with intent they also seem to be existing in a faux conservative world. More than one 20-something confessed their undying love to me after only an interaction of less than 15min, maybe I got mad game maybe not. When I relayed this to a friend he responded “it’s that tinge of British in your accent”. Nigerian men and women seem to fall for people by their accent, at least that is what I understood from his response. Here an accent is a catalyst for love, marriage and the world because Nollywood. The movies say when you fall you should fall hard and it should be a forever kind of thing – real or not. I would be flattered if I didn’t feel quite ridiculous every time it happened.

No one here ever tells you they just want to have sex, the conservative nature of the country makes that a fake taboo. It’s not like people aren’t doing it they just rather pretend. Goodness me, Nigerians can lie. Men lie about their physical desires and what they want from women, women do it too it would appear. Is there a law that says you must lie for survival? Nigerians believe in love at first sight, or at least they think they do. The way it plays out it seems Nigerians need to grab love by the collar and make it theirs immediately. They see a girl and they fall hard within 10mins. They will pledge their lives to these women, send flowers and even offer to buy lingerie. Nigerian girls must know the rules and signs of this game by now, so why are people still playing it?

No one asks you for a date, they ask you for a lifetime as though those are easy to give away. People throw the L word around like its going out of fashion, it’s rather perplexing. Why? It’s been an interesting 30 days learning and watching. The politics of love, dating and sex is weaved into the fabric of this city. Here it seems people are paying for sex one way or another, with the promise of love, marriage or money (security). In some cases all three. Quite the costly exchange for the promised.

Courtship and intimacy: the scar tissue of the Tinder generation

Tinder-Logo

“You are a walking contradiction,” Demi says to me as he peered into my eyes trying to unlock its secrets. He had interrogated me for the last 70 minutes. We were on a first date and somehow it felt more like an inquisition than a date. I met him on Tinder the previous week and we chatted for a couple of days before I summoned the courage to ask him out. It wasn’t a big deal, but call me old-fashioned I still wonder if people I meet online are serial killers.

For reasons I will not explain to you now I spent two weeks on Tinder, it was an experiment, of which I am not sure what my conclusions are. I found myself sitting across the table from my Russian interrogator, his probing gaze daring me to deny him the answers he desperately wanted.

“Where do young successful people (women especially) meet people?” I was asked two days before my Tinder explorations began. I get this question a lot, I don’t know the answer. I don’t think these so-called young successful people know either.

“Somewhere on the path of life?” I offered.

Somewhere between theorizing where these young people found to mingle: for love, friendship and dare I say it for sex, I found myself signing up for Tinder. There is some irony to that but I digress.

“You have to tell me more about your travels. Have you been to Saratov, I am from there.” Demi’s thick accent was giddy with excitement as he whispered the word ’Saratov’ like a love song, a longing for his home town no doubt.

I have never been to Saratov, much to his disappointment but his questions were not done. He had one critical one left.

“Why did you swipe right?” he asked.

Do people actually ask this question? Shouldn’t you just assume that people swiped right because something about you piqued their interest. Are we a generation of such insecurities that we are surprised that our carefully chosen images and perfectly crafted bios get us attention?

The truth: my friend that convinced me on this ludicrous exercise actually did. But I don’t tell him that, I know where all this is going. Instead, I get cheeky and ask, why did you?

“Because you look like you would be good in bed.” All sense of civility was gone, and the false curiosity about me peeled away. A part of me admired the moxy a statement like that must take but another part of me rang in the ‘told you so’ with a disappointing sigh.

The evening ended and Demi went home alone. I had a series of dates some playing out like the one above and others bored me to the point of narcolepsy. It really could just be me, I could just be a disinterested snob. Though from the people I have spoken to about their Tinder experiences, it seems there is a sense of understanding. One person called it a ‘sex app’.

In the last three weeks I have read a lot about Tinder experiences and what is happening to the generation of Tinderers. Young people all over the United States see Tinder and apps like it for what it is, is a means to gratification. One that mostly leaves women hollow and some men counting.

Tinder is a platform sorely dedicated to satisfying the sexual appetite of a generation too busy to figure out how to make connections away from screens. It gives this generation carte blanche on openness and sometimes bad behavior. It is the play ground of instant gratification, there is little to no real human connection there.

It has been touted as the hookup culture, 20 years ago this culture still allowed for some human niceties and maybe polite conversation. Now it doesn’t seem you have to play at being nice anymore but available. The creators of Tinder built a place for people to meet, what they met for was up to the people.

Human beings have a propensity for creating technology that will make their lives easier. Food on demand, cars on demand, homes on demand, why not sex on demand as well. This is not necessarily a bad thing if everyone is clear on the rules of engagement.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. People who have met and made genuine human connections and since left the world of Tinder to go enjoy those connections. However, the majority of the Tinder experience are the rule, just read many of the think pieces that explore the average experience. Friends convince you to keep at it because they know guy who knows a guy who met his wife on Tinder.

What people do with Tinder is actually quite irrelevant, it is here to stay and with busy lives it is likely the easier way to try to connect. What I am interested is how Africans are playing on Tinder. Is the app’s use, results and experiences universal? Have young Africans too resided themselves to the hookup culture as well and is it a case of wham bam thank you ma’am? Is there even a thank you? Or do people just go back to swiping? Are we also playing the game of who gets to care less? Or Perhaps when it comes to sex and love, more is more?

There isn’t a fine line between love and sex. I am not sure people are looking for love on Tinder. How would that look if they were? However, there is a fine line between sex and intimacy, hookups and courtship. On Tinder, we don’t bother to fake intimacy anymore, the nature of the platform requires images to be doctored to attract a suitable coitus partner. There are no courtship just hookups.

If young successful people are looking for a place to meet like-minded people for the purpose of courtship, then we are all in trouble. We keep asking the question, where do you meet people in current times? It seems the real question should be why and what. Why are we looking for places to meet people? What is the outcome we hope for?

If Tinder is our last hope for connection, then we may have some thinking to do. Perhaps we need to begin with a redefinition of connection before we can find the place we connect. To exist in the world of this appify dating, you have to be open to the reality that no one will give you their heart, just their body. Frightening more, no one will want your heart, just your body. A generation that solely thrives on that is bound to leave some damage.

As we make our way through the evolution and revolution of our sexes we forget that most revolutions end in blood shed and the broken pieces of a world long gone. The hookup culture only works if everyone checks their hearts and feelings at the door. The societal and emotional damage that will follow is bound to shake up the fabric of how we date and maybe even love.

The scar tissue of what the Tinder generation are doing to courtship and intimacy will be indelible and not in a good way. No one has given this much thought, the consequences of who we are becoming, of who we have no choice but to become.

Dear single girl: it is okay to be alone and be happy

silhouette of mother kissing her daughter

Last year, on the occasion of my birthday I began to reflect on my life and the lessons I was learning in my twenties. As part of the transition from my early to mid to late twenties, my life was only as complicated as I made it.

As I settle uncomfortably into the last year of my twenties, the lessons from last year become even more important and my transition into adulthood is that much more critical. The questions that family and friends pose now are different. For the girl in her late twenties it is clear that it is time to forego the criticism that every act in her life is a publicity stunt because it is not the norm. It is time to just get on with it.

Single girls in their late twenties have a clock ticking, and everyone reminds them. Women in their late anything are problematic to the world. To some, it is an embarrassment to womankind, a terrible choice that likely stems from unchecked feminism that the examined hierarchy of life has not approved. Don’t achieve too much because the men might be too intimidated to share their lives with you. The thought is an insult to the men of the world. A society that prides itself on the assumption that men do not have the emotional maturity to handle success in women, an assumption that success is intimidating and not attractive?

We are the problem with the dating world, I have been told. We, these women who value success above all, these caustic women who refuse to be vulnerable and are able to separate their lives, emotionally and professionally. We are problematic because we are steely creatures with unapologetic sexual appetites. We, these women, in our late somethings entertain the thought of coupling forever without marriage — perish the thought.

There is a dynastic threat that single women in their late twenties and beyond pose. It is a generational question that is coming more and more into societal consciousness. How do you keep the ideals of old in a world where things of old are easily discarded or no longer on hand? The more comfortably you settle into your place in this new world of generational angst and raspy well-meaning voices asking questions you rather not answer, the finely honed your skill of civil politeness gets. For the most part all you want to say is ‘mind your own fucking business’ but civility demands you say something nice. No one bothers to ask if these women are single by choice, the assumption is that they are unable to attract a partner because of something they are doing wrong and by default happiness will elude them.

The real threat and problem is far more insidious than generational or hierarchical misunderstandings. It is the doubt that begins to creep into women’s minds that it is not okay to be alone and that being single is an unnatural thing. It is the dangerous problem that links happiness to coupledom and alone to loneliness. You could argue that this is not the case, that women are happy to be single and are not bothered by the comments from friends and family. Your argument will be debunked by the number of Facebook updates and Instagram posts that begin to take on a rose-tinted and happier tone once a significant other is present. Almost every book, movie and tv show always finds a way to couple up before the end. The happy ending seems to only work once heroes and heroines have been coupled up.

This argument is not that coupling up is a bad thing, but how we sell it and its unrealistic correlation to happiness. There shouldn’t be a culture of humiliation around being single, people should be encouraged to get to know themselves, succeed and fail before they find someone to share all of that with. We should teach young girls that their lives will not be judged by the match they make but rather the person they chose to become.

Dear single girl, it is okay to be alone for as long as you see fit.