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THE JOURNAL: Much Naija Ado About Kissing In Public

Dear Diary

Eketi Ette, a woman after my heart (except when it comes to matters of the LGBT and how fast I can get her to write episodes of Compound Matters) recently shared an experience on Facebook. She titled the post ‘TO KISS, HOLD HANDS OR NOT?’

Before I go on to tell you, Diary, about my entry, I’d like to share this post. She said:

‘I was returning home from work one day, when my cab slowed to crawl, in order to get over a speed-bump. Just beside the road, a young couple held hands and were smiling into each other’s eyes. I was already smiling at the pretty picture they cut, when the man leaned down and kissed the lady. Obvious newlyweds. I grinned from ear to ear in delight.

The cab I was in was almost past them, when one of the passengers said something that withered my smile.

“Make una go find bedroom,” he yelled at the startled couple. “Na for road una won do? Mtcheeeew!”

“No mind them,” another man in the car said. “All these young people have been spoilt by the Western culture. Is it not an abomination to stand by the road and be doing love?”

The driver joined in and they went on and on about how un-African it is to show PDAs (this is from a man who probably can’t name ten African countries). I had so much I wanted to tell them, but I held my tongue. Actually, I was very hungry, and I don’t like talking when my stomach is empty. It’s like driving without fuel.

Public Displays of Affection aka PDAs…why do many Nigerians have a problem with it?

You walk into Shoprite and a couple are being all lovey-dovey and some people nearby are curling their lips in displeasure and disgust.

It’s almost ironic that we’re a nation that has no issues with fighting in public. Even the hallowed chambers of our National Assembly is no stranger to blows, slaps and unholy hands extended in heartfelt wakas and sheges.

We cry, laugh, jump, dance, etc., but have a problem with couples who hold hands, hug continuously, and kiss. In fact, if not for pregnancies, many Nigerians would be safely able to claim that they have no idea what sex is.


What is it exactly about PDAs that make us so uncomfortable?’

And there ended Mademoiselle Ette’s befuddlement with Nigerians. I remember I’ve talked about this – sexand how we like to act like it’s an act that is just too beneath us to own up to. It is un-African, they say, like Africa is this exclusive members’ only club. But darris by the way.

The issue on ground is how the average Nigerian finds public displays of affection revolting. I was reading Eketi’s post and I remembered something that happened when I was like eighteen or nineteen.

My maternal aunt who lives in the States had just transitioned to a career that was all of a sudden very demanding of her time and she needed a full-time, live-in nanny for her children. Of course, such help was going to cost her a bundle to get over there. I don’t know if she minded much, but I remember the suggestion coming up that she hire someone from Nigeria – any elderly lady willing to travel abroad to live with her. Of course this elderly lady should probably be in her forties to fifties and be someone our family knows; we weren’t just going to just pluck a stranger from the streets and send off to obodo oyibo.

So my mum and another aunt did some research and fact-finding and happened on a woman who fit the profile. The woman was widowed, married too young and had kids who were all already grown and catering to themselves. Negotiations were broached, consents were given and agreements were reached. My mother was traveling to the States and the process was fast-tracked so she could take along the woman with her to my aunt’s.

I traveled with my mother and her would-be companion to Lagos. I’d insisted that I wanted to see my mother off to the airport. We were in Lagos for about a week, before the evening finally came when they were going to take off. The party that went with the two women to the airport was me, my uncle and this other aunt. The pre-departure procedure was gotten over with in record time, and soon, the five of us were seated, idly chatting and just generally waiting for their flight to be called.

A sea of travelers and non-travelers eddied around us, people lugging about luggage, some others simply standing or sitting, voices rising and falling, a million conversations swelling around us. That was my first time in the Lagos International Airport, and I was overawed, gazing about and taking in all the activity, barely paying attention to what my companions were saying to each other.

There was one other person who was taking in everything with wonder, as I was – the going-to-America nanny. Occasionally, I noticed her, with her pursed lips, wizened face and squinted eyes, turning her head this way and that.

At some point, I noticed her face contort with unveiled revulsion. Instantly I followed her stare to what had her attention. It was a young couple – a black (I’m guessing Nigerian) man and his Caucasian wife. Perhaps she was his girlfriend, but I wasn’t checking out their ring fingers. I was too busy watching them be so in love. The man had his hand around her shoulder, her face was upturned to his, and every now and then, they would rub noses together, smile and exchange a sensual kiss.

They were just standing there in the centre of the lounge, one or two smooches away from giving us a live feed into a biracial porn show.

To my young impressionable mind, it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen, especially since they seemed oblivious to the world around them.

“Just imagine!” the going-to-America nanny hissed in Igbo. “Lekwa iberibe ndi a na-eme!”

I was startled out of my appreciation of the love-play to face her. Her lip had curled with reproof and her countenance appeared to be carrying the wrath of God’s celestial army – you know, that division that is against all public displays of affection.

Her revulsion also caught the attention of my mother, uncle and aunt. They turned to her and my mother asked her what the problem was. She pointed a finger at the couple, with such ministerial affront that an image leaped into my mind of God, on the judgment day, pointing a sinner to Hell and booming, “BEGONE FROM MY SIGHT!”

“See them!” she railed at my mother, still in Igbo. “Just look at what they are doing! Don’t they know there are places for these kinds of things. They are just corrupting everyone here.”

Yes, because everyone else is just such a saintly crowd in danger of the horror of two people kissing in public.

In response, the other three adults laughed. My mother shook her head amusedly and said to her, “You know you are going to America o. Better get used to this, because where you’re going, it’s very common.”

“Tufia!” the woman hissed, making a production of snapping her fingers over her head in punctuation of her disgust. “Tufiakwa!” she exclaimed again. “Ya buru ogwu, ogaghi erere ha!”

The declaration simply sent the other three into more gales of indulgent laughter.

That was the last time I saw the woman— Well, except for the time my aunt sent photos, in which the gone-to-America nanny was to be seen, looking like a sexy little mama, all lipsticked, well-coiffured and fresh-faced. As I stared at that picture, I couldn’t imagine her anymore turning down her lips, snapping her fingers and exclaiming, ‘Tufiakwa!’

I am @Walt_Shakes on Twitter

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. I get embarrassed when I see pda that involves kissing. I love holding hands and I do not mind a peck on the lips as well, I love the hands on my waist as we walk through the mall etc. I just don’t know why I feel all embarrassed when I see a couple kiss in public lol. I don’t ever look at couples doing the wedding kiss. *covers face*. I remember the first time I set foot outta Naija, I saw a young couple on the London bridge smooching and all..i was in shock! Lol!!! My companion made sure he gave me a kiss *covers face* and said I should go tell my friends back home that I had been kissed on the streets of London. Lol!

  2. I love PDAs & have done it quite a few times. Nigerians are hypocrites

  3. Hahahahahaha! Coy Aita.
    I’m all for PDA though. Saw it a lot with adults around me growing up, so I’ve never felt like it was something you see only on TV. I’m the guy that’d French-kiss in a room full of people, at the mall, in the restaurant, and so far no one has come to warn me or complain. That’s where Owerri will meet Aba. Otherwise, I can’t notice the disdain on anyone’s face if I’m doing things right ?

  4. Lool! I knw them..wrath of God indeed!

  5. The fact whether we choose to accept it or not is that PDA is alien to us. It has never been our culture. so pls don’t crucify anyone who feels uncomfortable with it. It will take a while before we get used to those things. Some are lucky to have gone to the western world or been exposed through books n the media. But that doesn’t account for the over 80% who haven’t.
    If you are OK with it, do your thing. At least nobody will come up to you to say stop.

    • This Fifi doesn’t disappoint. As i was going thru the comments section and came upon his/hers (I’m just never sure the commenter’s sex) I just knew I’d see something about African culture in the prudish comment. This African culture you and your lot like throwing around sha… Whether LGBT or PDA, it’s never part of African culture. The big bad West brought it all down on us. Oh chim…

  6. Well, I didn’t ‘use to’ subscribe to PDAs until just a while ago. And, then, mine is restricted to just holding hands. Yes, I’m one of those old-fashioned Africans that feel kissing should be a private affair. And again, the way people act so prude about sex sha…

  7. It’s funny how affection is frowned upon, but if two people were seen fighting and being all violent, passersby will stop to ogle and cheer them on even. The show of love (PDA) is considered best kept out of sight, but violence, not so much? See how twisted this country is?

  8. It has never bothered me

  9. I know nothing about PDA or sex

  10. I won’t blame Nigerians. Simple explanation: ignorance and environment. Nigerians are one of the most ignorant people in the world. By environment, I mean our culture. Just like we feel revulsion seeing a couple kissing in public, so also the oyibo feel revulsion seeing a person peeing in public. You know we’re champions of the latter. We dey even see mad man shit for public, but we carry on our business like everything is cool, na normal thing na. Environment also explains why the nanny changed after spending some time over there. So, the common factor in all these is exposure, which branch out to ignorance & environment.
    In conclusion, I’d quote a saying that goes thus: “When in Rome, behave like the Romans”. If you practise PDA in Northern Nigeria, you might lose a body part if don’t lose your head first.

  11. Hahahaha hahahaha… ??????..
    I think it all comes from our upbringing. People have no idea how much damage and distortion it could do to them at a later age.
    When you’re constantly bombarded with teachings of a particular act and being told its immoral/unholy/abomination, subconsciously, you’ll start working your whole life around that, living according to those rules and judging others who do it.

  12. Walter ga-egbu mmadu o! I don’t know the division of God’s celestial army that is charge against PDA’s.
    81 division or 82 division? Gwa m. Lolz

    • shakespeareanwalter

      Hahahahahahahahaa!!! My brother, if you ask me, na Angel Gabriel I go ask. Just hold on, lemme find out from Him.

  13. Hehehe. It’s a cultural thing. As is quickly becoming normal with culture, you pick your preferred stand and practise unselfishly … well, as unselfishly as is possible.

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