Romance, Relationships and Personal Ads

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Personal ads are everywhere — from the local to regional and national news medium and the Internet, personals, as they are fondly called, are everywhere and have become the number one means by which people who are in search of love and relationship of various descriptions make contact. Unlike in earlier times, they are now widely accepted and used by people of various social, economic and political standing. Do you want a one-night stand, a zip-less fuck, threesome or stadium-sized orgies or a short or long-term relationship, or even a life-long partner? Well, name it or describe it — the chances are you will find a willing partner and participant.

Whatever you want and however you want it, personal ads are there to meet your needs. But how common is the Singles Personal Ad within the Nigerian community in the United States? Well, it is hard to tell. I am not sure any one is keeping scores of such pervasive social and cultural activity. However, of the forty-three Nigerian males, ages 25-40 that I have spoken to, twenty-three acknowledged either haven placed or responded to such ads. And of this number, only fourteen respondents recorded any sort of success, with two marriages borne out of such ads. On the other hand, only two of the sixteen women I spoke with admitted to have ever partaken in such activity. And in fact, the vast majority of the women deemed such exercise frivolous or desperate — insinuating that no Nigerian woman worthy of reverence would engage in such silliness.

Frivolous and or desperate is not how I see personal ads. They are useful tools. I think such ads are simply another avenue through which singles can connect with likeminded individuals who are also seeking and are ready for the next step. Most people are busy with work and school and other commitments so much so that finding a lover becomes the last thing on their agenda. And even if one has the time, the pool of available and like-minded Nigerians of the opposite sex may be scarce in their immediate community. Besides, personal ads give one possibilities and probabilities almost without limits. For instance, if one lives in Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana it may be difficult, if not outright impossible to find a love-interest of the opposite sex; therefore, it behooves one to look to places like New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and the DC-VA-MD axis.

Some Nigerians resort to personal ads because they are not too keen on going home to marry (either because of the expense and the immigration and embassy rigmaroles, or because they are not sold on training greenhorns). Going home to marry and then importing the wife or husband can be an expensive and delicate proposition. Things don’t always turn out as expected; and increasingly, imported partners are absconds their matrimonial homes within a few years of receiving their Greencards. And even when personal introduction is involved, the rapport, values, interests and similar worldviews are not always assured. A good friend of mine had the good fortune of being introduced to nine potentials. But unfortunately, and in all cases, there was never a match until he met his current love at an APSA conference. She was about to go home in search of a husband when they met.

The best thing about personals is the choice, the almost infinite possibilities they present. They allow you to present and or to request different human variables in terms of height, weight, age, vocation, and salary and hobbies and things like that. Indeed the medium allows you to be culture and ethic-specific. Do you want a beast or a beauty? It also allows you to be serious, casual, discriminating or silly. Moreover, if you want to cross the race, nationality, religion and creed boundary, well, you are welcome. Most sites don’t even care what your sexual preferences are. In case you don’t know, there are gays and lesbians and pedophiles, and those with interest in scatology and bestiality and incest within the Nigerian society, too. Their numbers are scant, but are rising and here to stay.

The down sides to personal ads are many, i.e. the lies and liars and cheats and deceits. And hyperboles. That is to say a sizeable number of people exaggerates and lie about their age and weight and height and look. Five or more year old pictures are sometimes presented as “current.” The big and the fat would sometimes lie about their weight. The vertically challenged would lie about their height. The ugly ones would make you believe that “outward appearance is inconsequential…what’s inside is what counts.” May be. And then there is the issue of personal security. How do you know you are not dealing with a rapist, a serial killer, a psycho or some badass degenerate? The lonely, the abused, the desperate and the needy are more susceptible and are twice as likely to be mislead and taken for granted.

Virtually all the Nigerian-related websites have sections devoted to singles. In most of these sites, you may place your ad for free; but you will be charged if you want to retrieve your messages. Very few sites are totally free, especially the ethnic-related websites. In recent years, I have noticed that non-Nigerians, especially the African-Americans, the Caribbean and White women patronize these sites looking for their Nigerian or “African prince.” In the last year or so, the number of Asians patronizing these sites has also increased. These phenomenon makes me wonder what it is other women see in Nigerian men that some Nigerian women don’t see and appreciate. And never a week passes without a non-African respondent asking that I introduce her to my Nigerian male friends. I wonder why.

Not all Nigerians are constrained by cultural considerations. Even so, how do you tell your mother and father that you met your wife or husband through an Internet dating site? I won’t even bother to imagine the look on their faces. How sad and disappointed they must feel. They’d probably wonder why one didn’t “come home to find a loving wife or husband from a respectful and respected family.” Most African parents find solace and joy in knowing that they had a hand in finding their children a wife or husband. They prefer social order and they want continuity of tradition. And even in cases where they had no say in how the partners met, they still find joy in knowing they were there in the “beginning” to give their approval or blessing. Cyber-relationships are beyond their wits.

But whether our parents and traditional society understand and or approves of cyber-marriages is a separate discussion. What we have, what we know here and now is that we are experiencing social change. The world is changing at a rapid pace. Love and marriage may come to life on campuses, at the work place, in the grocery stores, in the library, on public transportation, or on the Internet. It may even come to us through time-honored mode. Increasingly, places of worship are becoming a fertile ground for love and all sorts of relationships. In the end though, marriage is marriage. How one meets ones partner is not as important as the health and well being of the relationship. A healthy marriage is the best marriage. And so as informal as singles personal ads may be, it has its place and purpose in our ever busy and complicated world.

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