I write with pleasure on a game as passion-filled and as tantalizing as the game of politics itself. At first, my readers may be wont to assume that I am carried away with the time, the tide and the gale surrounding the waters of the present World Cup tournament (I used to wonder as a kid why people did not compete for the bigger kitchen utensils like the pots and pans and the stove but had to fight for an ordinary cup). Not so now. As I am an enthusiastic soccer fan as well as an active participant, words have not come in handy for me to express the depth of annoyance most of us feel here in Nigeria at not being in Germany, either just to baffle with our bullshit or dazzle the world with another famous upset.
My subject is the subject of romance and the one important game involved. Let me let you in on it at this first juncture that this is one game a lot of us are not a master of, very unlike the game of football (why didn’t they call it ‘feetball’, as it is played with both feet even though not in a simultaneous manner?). My interest here is mostly to x-ray one shibboleth associated with the events leading to a relationship with the opposite members of our sex. A friend’s encounter and the ones we encounter each and every other day should suffice. But first, I hope you do not mind if I strike a pose and try to establish certain observations I made when I juxtaposed this one game of the heart with that of the mind and matter popularly known as politics. Believe it or not, both games are first cousins in terms of the dirt and slime associated with the Nigerian brand of politicking, especially when considered from the sometimes egressing, holier-than-you standpoint I write from.
To manouvre and out-manouvre just about anyone you are involved with in the game of politics (I use the word with the mindset that there is just about ‘politics’ in virtually any place where there is human activity. But here, I mostly refer to the schisms among those jostling for political, public offices), there are several dissertations and treatises you could consult or refer that provide guidance and the necessary implements with which you could navigate the piranha-infested waters of Nigerian politics. Look in The 48 Laws of Power, The Mafia Manager, or better still, the grandfather of subterfuges-Machiavelli’s The Prince. First lesson you must learn in the school of hard knocks is the ruthless, unscrupulous credo that there are hardly permanent friends but permanently prominent interests, as well as the fact that the means is subordinate and a slave to the end. If I read those books when I was a little younger than this, well, perhaps I should comprehend matters better than I do now. But all I am consigned (as most of us are) is siddon look by the banks of this river and mostly observe the participants tear or get torn asunder by those who were their yesterday pals and with whom a meal of pounded yam and egusi soup with bush meat is equivalent to dinner with Old Nick himself.
But not so with the games of the heart. If there are books to be read and there are reference points like a written constitution as the compass that guides the free for all fight that is the game of power, I have not seen any with the games of the heart. Or better still, let me rephrase and say I have never come across any reliable one that is a do-it-all or a touchstone like Green’s or Machiavelli’s. The rules of the heart resemble that of the British Constitution. They are unwritten and based on serendipity and folk tales of either a smart ass like Robin Hood or that of the Virgin Queen herself or that of the other sirs that became the grundnorm upon which to establish the tradition of government. See, what works for this fella may just be the mine field that blows up in your face, all of the nice and tender sentiments that you gathered somewhere nicely in that special corner of your heart.
The first thing that strikes me as ‘normal’ in the experiences that we have in the game of love is the well-nigh natural propensity to lie. We would lie better than the devil or than the old inhabitants of the Island of Crete to impress the man or woman of our dreams. We would lie to build up all of those fantastic castles for the lady to live in and play house. And please ignore all of that gobbledygook that ladies tell you, that they hate liars. Some love to be lied to and lie glibly, effortlessly. And if you go about trying to woo a lady and you present yourself as this good boy (if you really are); this bible-reading, church-going sissy who could not hurt a fly, you would be surprised that it is the flamboyant dude with the clean robes and luciferous attractiveness, blessed with the smooth tongue that eventually sweeps the lady off her feet and into the hay eventually. In this game, please remember that a lie shares a unique characteristic with a woman. A lie, like a woman gives birth not to a baby but to another lie and is sometimes the aphrodisiac that stimulates and sustains the relay (I mean the relationship). The surprise of it all is that even when the duo at last gets married from the make-believe that the lies produced, there is usually no end to the festival of lies that both parties tell to try to sustain a relationship that was built on the blocks of guile. Let me substantiate with that event that I talked about earlier, that is a very good example that no, not just men but women are also smooth talkers if they want a man that bad. My friend has had near-successful relationships that were built on trust and honesty and all of those fine virtues and the present one was experiencing a major setback mostly because there seemingly was almost too much of those virtues. He decided to date again and put that relationship that gave him a lot of heartache on hold for the moment. I thought about all of the commitment and the effort he had invested in that relationship that was on its deathbed and boy, my head reeled. But go on, life must.
The lady he met this time carried a bag of lies with palpable signals of an emotional hangover. Her former boyfriend was a tall, dark, handsome dude who was the most caring man in the world (according to Lady X). She thought the guy was hers for keeps until the proper owner showed up and exported him to where he really belonged. For now, if there was anybody who did not fit this emotional and psychological character portrait, then Heaven help the not-so-tall-good-looking-semi-caring wannabe. Well, before they met, we reviewed the lady’s vital statistics and it was important for us to do so. My friend was passing through a trying time of his emotional life and needed all of the support that we could garner and provide. So we revised whatever information was there. Lady X is a score and five years, a graduate from a first generation Nigerian university. She described herself as fine, easy going and fun to be with.
We had no problems with the fine-easy-going-fun-to-be-with part and this is because these are the natural instincts most women showcase when they present themselves to be wooed. They must be fine and this is because nature has endowed every lady with just about enough finesse with which to find her man. The problem was with the declared age. Twenty-five. It came too easy. I am yet to meet any lady, who would declare her age, snap, just like that. Women don’t want to grow old but want to be young, beautiful and snazzy forever more. And this is why references to their age is a no-go area for which they will feel mightily insulted and embarrassed. And surely, it was a semi-crest fallen bro we accosted after that date. Lady X was not twenty-five and he could not say if her other vital statistics were still tenable or no. Even the name was a lie. The discussion that ensued to mollify our friend’s bruised psyche established it that the people you meet on the Internet or wherever may not want to disclose their true identities, ages an
d financial status because a revelation of those circumstances at that initial stage of the date may lead to complications. Someone among us wanted also to know what to do to deflate the emotional balloon of the tall, dark, handsome good-looking stereotype or hype. This fella was sure that this was just a nonexistent genii ladies conjure up to satisfy their ultimate desire in a mate. Well, whatever it is, I still am a strong believer in telling the truth or being discreet from the onset whether on the Internet or elsewhere. Discretion is not the same as outright lies. The emotional bags of frustration that men and women carry along the journey of their romantic lives begin with those little lies that get told so as to embellish and establish a veneer of attraction that wears when the relationship comes down to earth. Sometimes, you would find it a lot easier to deal with the great expectations and the equivalent dose of disappointment if we put our standards at zero-gear and let the things you see on ground on the first and second dates determine how you intend to cope with the relationship.