Dear Auntie Chambu,
My girlfriend and I are spending our first Valentine's Day together. She wants us to dress up and go to a fancy French dinner and then dancing. I asked her what was wrong with the local Senegalese restaurant we usually go to or the food she cooks for me at home and she got angry. As an African man, I believe she is being sucked in by money centered Western notions of romance. How can I make her understand that my money would be better used sponsoring my family back home?
In traditional African cultures, romance is reserved for the courtship before marriage. Back in the days African men and women had unique ways of flirting with each other. A man might smile at a girl he liked or he might offer to carry her basket, basin or any other load she was carrying. He might even offer to walk her home for protection through the bushes. During gatherings, dates were often made through gestures or whispers. For instance, some older males usually would ask the girl they liked to pour them palm wine during which time he flirted and attempted to make a rendezvous with the girl. Some males asked girls they liked to search their toes for bugs called "jiggers". More daring males waited to talk to the girl they liked by waiting for them on well-traveled paths.
This was the simple life but even in the village men would spend some money to woo the woman they wanted. To up his game in his pursuit, the suitor often lavished not only the girl but her entire family with gifts. I can still remember how much my mom and all her children enjoyed the generous presents from my beautiful big sister's many admirers. They brought us palm oil,bottles of groundnut, salt, dry fish, dry meat, long bar's of soap, and many jars of rubbing pomade. Oh how we enjoyed it all. Even in modern Africa, some of these skills continue to be used to get a wife or girlfriend.
Yes America has a slightly different system as far as love is concerned but not so foreign to our own. Also the girls that come from Africa today are quite informed about the western ways via TV, the internet and other mediums. You might be wise to treat your new girl friend as you would an American girl.
I can still remember the day when my husband told me that if I wanted flowers I should go out and find some. Just like in the village. I was not happy.
So lover boy, I will suggest that you really romance your girlfriend. Buy her flowers. Take her out to eat and buy her gifts. Don't be ashamed to hold her hand or show her affection in public. Please and honor her as much as you can . After all, isn't she worth it? I guarantee you that you will be smiling in no time. "Darling" or "dear" she will call you for now. Later on she might even call you "honey",when you get that sweet. You will get back what you dish out.
Auntie Chambu, 52, was born and raised in the grasslands of Cameroon. This sheltered nineteen year old, boarding school girl came to a rebellious 60's United States to pursue a college degree and her dreams. She garnered degrees in social work and counseling, got married, and had four kids who constantly put her education and home spun wisdom to the test. After over twenty years of living on the two continents, her advice has a great mixture of traditional African insights with a spirited American independent thinker streak.
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