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 – sex – and 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