For those who are unaware PDA refers to Public Display of Affection. We as a nation are well aware of public displays of disaffection, disregard for human life and hatred of one’s fellow human being as evidenced by the wanton killings we have come to experience on quite a regular basis in this country. I could chose to rant against the government and spew venom with my wit and modest yet unproven ability to write sentences but I will instead chose to wish those who have lost loved ones, acquaintances and even enemies (If I had any enemies I would not wish such on them) in the festival of violence that has engulfed our country my sincere condolences and hope they find comfort in these trying times.
Back to PDA, what is it? It is a range of behaviour that runs the gamut from holding hands, hugging in public, kissing, perhaps the occasional fondling and the piece le resistance so to say, le beast with two backs or more than likely with public trysts it will be the beast shaped like the letter ‘K’. Yes it will have two backs but one back will be diagonal belying the bent posture of one member while the other will be the erect figure (all puns intended) of the back door aggressor pushing with much aplomb to the promised land. There is also the car version characterized by a ritual riding of a horse into greener pastures sort of like leading the chosen one to a land of milk and honey spewing forth from the cracks between the lands engaged in tectonic action. You decipher that if you will. Hopefully all safety protocols are observed. If you don’t know the safety protocols ask you local SHE (Safety, Health and Environment)/HSE coordinator aka segsual health expert/ STD awareness expert.
Now that my public service announcement is done back to the topic at hand, PDA Public Displays of Affection whether of the conservative or more liberal tastes as described above are pretty rare in Nigeria and I m guessing by extrapolation Africa. Yes you might see the occasional person hold the hand of his partner in public or give a brief kiss but hardly will you see two people engage in a snog-fest in public where the tongues are engaged in fencing, “on garde” one tongue says to the other, let us shut the world and entwine ourselves in the romantic bliss of bacteria exchange and let our two salivas become one so to say. If and when liberal cases of PDA are witnessed in public you should not be surprised to have people ogling at you and your
partner in crime. Not that I am one to engage in PDA.
I don’t want to say that PDA is not in our culture because I am sure there
are probably traditional forms of PDA. Perhaps when a wife brings food to her husband and kneels down before him and says in front of the visitors, ”My husband food is ready” she is engaging in a time honoured ritual of displaying affection for her boo. Perhaps when the husband is given a chieftaincy title and the wife is the one who shouts the loudest at the conferment ceremony that might be her own way of displaying affection in public. When a man beats his chest in front of the village and proudly celebrates the birth of his new son or daughter in a naming ceremony with his wife beaming by his side perhaps that is a public display of affection. When his wife dies and the man observes the ritual rites or if the man dies and his wife rolls on the ground as in some cultures and wails loudly perhaps that is a public display of affection. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, when a young man spies a young lady for the first time when she is fetching water by the stream and he proceeds to run ahead of his friends with the risk of embarrassing himself and says to her while panting for breath in front of her friends, “Furaira, kin san ina son kifiye da kome a duniyar nan, ina so in aureki” translation “ Furaira, you know I love you more than anything in the world, I want to marry you” or when a young lady who misses her lover Dan Maliyo who is away on a trip sings to the hearing of everyone around her, “ Dan Maliyo, Maliyo nawa Maliyo ya je ina ne, Maliyo ya je Ilorin…” translation “Dan Maliyo, my Maliyo, where did he go? Maliyo went to Ilorin..”indeed these must be public displays of affection by Nigerians and even Africans.
However, I would be remiss to point out that by western and popular definitions of PDA many of us Nigerians; me included do not make the cut. Indeed on a more serious note, we often know that our partners or loved one knows that we love them but sometimes we do not stop to tell them publicly before God and man so to say that we love them in plain terms and then we lament when we lose them. I for one always shied away from PDA. Up until probably the age of 16, I would become as stiff and keep my hands to the side when anyone tried to give me a hug. I was the original bush man, that dude from The Gods must be crazy had nothing on me. Don’t even think of giving me a peck in public and so on. Diary of a socially awkward kid, I am still socially awkward somewhat. This behaviour continued when I ventured to land of the oyinbo and excessive PDA. Obviously as an Adamawa boy, I did not see many people kissing in public growing up except on tv or in the movies. Heck I will venture to say that even the Nigerian movie industry did not start to have intricate kissing scenes till the late 90s/ early 2000s and they still suck at it for the most part. I landed and of course as a fine boy with one or two pimples, I got some attention and was soon dating one person or the other.
In those days, for a girl to get me to hold her hand in public was a herculean task. The first time I held a girl’s hand in public it was as though electricity was coursing through my veins and I was an insulator that was bound to get burnt dude the resistance I was posing to the current she was passing through me. The first time I kissed a girl in public I confess that while her eyes were closed I left my eyes open and was looking left and right to see if people were staring at both of us. As for going past that in public, I have been sworn to the mafia code of omerta and shall take my secrets to the grave or if I am opportune to play never have I ever, the drinking game. I remember non-Nigerian or African folk especially those I dated finding my aversion or allergy to PDA surprising and took it as a sign that I had no affection for them or that I didn’t like them enough. O how wrong they were yet it was to be expected especially if they grew up in the western society. When I landed in the land of ashen faced people It was as though PDA was everywhere, people holding hands. People kissing in public and not just the brief kiss but the long passionate kiss that almost made you want to stop and watch hoping that they did what naturally followed the passionate kiss. To clarify, I am talking about the knacking of akpako. As I probably mentioned in a previous post on the Nigerian gay bill, I also saw numerous displays from people in same sex relationships, tongue and all. One experience that still sticks with me to this day was when I witnessed two drunk men go at it right after one guy had puked. I am still stigmatized. In the mind of my younger self who was a victim of what I believe was culture shock, these oyinbo folk don kolo sha.
You can’t blame me either. I grew up in a house where my parents weren’t the PDA type to each other anyway and probably not in front of me. I got all the hugs and kisses I needed not to be a psychopath and to be a generally likeable guy. However, I only ever remember seeing the folks kissing once and I don’t think I was supposed to see that. Hugs were exchanged after one of the other came back from a long trip and pet names did not exist mama “insert my name” and baba “insert my name” worked. I might have inherited my dad’s bushmanism. My mother is more prone to PDA. I think the African man is supposed to be the epitome of calm I guess. Anyway I am sure a lot of folks did not grow up with parents who always held hands, kissed all the time and called each other pet names but I bet a lot of folk’s parents have been together for a long time. That has got to be love, right?
Sorry if this post was extra-long (no I’m not talking about Lexington Steele, get your mind out of the gutter or keep it there let me join ;)), this was not the intention. So questions, Is PDA un-African or un-Nigerian? Why is or isn’t it? Any examples of what constitutes PDA in the African sense? Are you comfortable with PDA? Do you think the younger generation of Africans is more comfortable with PDA? Would love to hear you stories of PDA, or NOT.