One summer I was living in Ibadan, Nigeria, working for my father at an agricultural research institute. Ibadan was the largest village in Africa and sprawled across the countryside without any particular order. There were a few hotels and “proper” restaurants but not many and we rarely went to them.
My British and American friends, Simon, Ed, David, Francis, and a couple of others decided to have a night on the town. We went to a rooftop Lebanese restaurant for a filling dinner of kabob and hummus and then on to a proper Nigerian nightclub. It had a fence around it and a large grass roof and a dirt floor but no walls. There was a very loud band playing at one end of the room and an area to dance. We took over a table at the other end of the room and ordered beer all around.
Francis was being very protective of me and it kind of made it look like we were “together”. Francis was married with five children. A Nigerian came over to our table and asked Francis if he could dance with me. Francis, quite embarrassed, told him he would have to ask me himself. Of course he came right over asked me to dance. I had been in Nigeria long enough to know that this could only lead to trouble. I was getting ready to say no, thank you very much, when Simon started kicking me under the table and making gestures like I should really go have a dance. Simon, of course, was a trouble maker himself, but I got up and danced with the guy. Keeping in form with most of my other white American girl/ black African boy experiences, by the end of the dance he had asked me to marry him.
About half way through the evening I really had to go to the toilet. Everybody said I should just forget about it. I said, “no really, I gotta go”. So David escorted me to the ladies’ toilet. We went through a beaded doorway where women were just hanging around and inside there were two stalls with holes in the floor. There were no doors to the stalls. I went in and squatted and David stood guard. It wasn’t that terrible, partly I’m sure because I was a little tipsy by this time, but it was interesting. The women were obviously just waiting for business. I didn’t get a chance to look around but I assume there were other rooms in the back for other activities. David seemed very nervous about the whole thing and said I was not allowed to drink any more beer. I think David might have been back there before.
Back at the table my dance partner had re-appeared, apparently not finding any other takers for his marriage proposal. I was the only white girl in the place. He insisted that he would be a good husband and would have no problem accompanying me back to the United States. When we got up to go home, he said he could come with us. He had no plans for the night and was happy to stay with us. He followed us all the way out to the car and the guys acted like they were going to let him in. I was totally appalled. How could they be so mean? Finally they got tired of him and kicked him out.
Later that summer I had a stalker show up at my office. He knew who I was and all about me and said he worked in the building. I asked around but nobody seemed to know him. For a couple of weeks he was standing at my door at the end of the day and wanted to walk me home. I never led him on or agreed to anything. He kept asking to take me for a drink or to walk me home. Finally I said I would have a drink with him.
He said he wanted to marry me and he had it all planned out. We would be married and he would return to the United States with me and he would go to school with me and we would always be together. I told him politely all the reasons why it was just not possible, the least of which was that we did not know each other at all and I was leaving the country shortly. And he had a counter proposal for every one of my reasons. Finally I just became quite rude and told him to leave me alone.
I was sad to see the summer end but I was very happy to leave that situation behind when I returned to college in the fall. Nigerian women were very blunt and straight forward. They didn’t care if they hurt men’s feelings, they gave it to them like it was. I think Western women had difficulty being so cold about it and in turn perhaps were more approachable. On my next trip to Africa, I was much more Nigerian than Western when dealing with African men. Its all about adapting to new cultures.