Let us take our romance PLC

Public Displays of Affection – what is your take on it?

Coming to London on summer vacation as a child in the 80s, I used to get dumbfounded when I saw punks with their brightly colored hair and piercings kiss passionately on the Tube. It really grossed me out to the 3rd degree, like tufiakwa! Back in the olden days in traditional Igbo-land, men didn’t even kiss women at all. Romance started off in the cassava farm or village stream and ended up on the raffia bed of the man’s hut. Usually after dowry payment and marriage of course.

I was around 7 years old, the first time I saw an oyibo couple in affectionate embrace. It was actually close-up on the top deck of a London red bus. They boarded the bus, and came and sat directly in front of me. They were both dressed in black leather, black make-up and had rock tattoos all over their hands and necks. They played tonsil tennis for a while before lady gave the man a hickie, which turned red on the spot. I sat there open-eyed, gazing at them. The man then returned the favour by giving the lady a thick “love-bite”. I let out a whimper. The couple turned back to look at me at the same time, and grinned mischievously. I quickly crossed myself as these people looked like vampires. Even then, I knew I had seen too much for a kid. I would never kiss a tattooed girl on a public bus when I grew up.

Public displays of affection in Nigeria have traditionally been a no-no. There are cultural as well as historic and religious reasons. Even if Ekaete has only just graduated from a traditional fattening room in ancient Calabar, Akpan the randy young fisherman dare not try to kiss her in the market square in view of everyone, unless he may risk drawing the ire of Pa Nsikak, her short-tempered father who is the best hunter in the village.

Perhaps it is also for the best that Nigerians are less prone to caress and smooch each other in public or in film. I mean, who really wants to watch Rukky Sander and Kanayo O. Kanayo make out in a raunchy Nollywood love scene? Salty and gross.

I know that romantic scenes on television differ from seeing people doing the same in a public place, but trust me it is all the same where adults are involved.

There was this weird toothpaste advert that used to show on TV in the 80s. The jingle for the ad went “I wouldn’t do it till you have done it…” and showed an East African looking couple trying to kiss each other. The woman had mouth odour, so the man turned away as he held his nose. The next scene showed the couple brushing their gnashers with the magic white toothpaste, before meeting up for a date. They then decided to kiss….it was at this point that my mum always made me switch off the TV. Never mind that the soap opera “Behind the Clouds” was on at that time.

I also remember swallowing repeatedly as I watched a steamy shower scene in the movie American Werewolf in London while my uncle peeped up angrily from his Vintage People newspaper. He couldn’t take it anymore, as he barked ‘that is enough!’ and hastily ejected the tape. Somehow he didn’t believe that it was only a thriller.

I grew up thinking that there was no way my stingy uncle and his wife, my aunt could be having sex, how much more kissing. They acted like prudes. He didn’t even hold her hand on their wedding day. During the wedding reception, he also tried to catch the bouquet, as he chided her loudly for trying to waste expensive flowers.

During a visit to his house, I once asked him “Uncle, please where does a baby come out from?”

Looking very embarrassed, high defensive and boxed into a corner, he replied with a shrug “…the nyash.

Same place as poop right? Uncle you shouldn’t have; you really shouldn’t have.

How can we talk of public displays of affection when many adults or parents cannot even get “the talk” right?

I recall the day we had sex education lessons in primary school. I was in primary five then.

The lady giving the speech was a female teacher called Ms. Ganiyu. She seemed ill at ease as she looked everywhere else but at us. She then decided to divide us into 2 separate groups of boys and girls. The girls were then taken to another classroom instead.

The headmistress stood outside the class, by the entrance and fiddled nervously with her keys. Ms. Ganiyu herself looked like Whoopi Goldberg’s character in the movie “For Colored Girls”. She said the word sex like it was a very filthy word.

Looking at her with her plain face devoid of any make-up, drab clothes and chapped lips made me want to take a vow of abstinence forever.

Then when it came to the sub-topic of the consequences of sex like aids, STDs and unwanted pregnancies, she was in her element as her face lit up. She spoke of gonorrhea and herpes like they were bosom buddies, pounding and waving her fists for emphasis. All the pupils in the class nodded nervously in agreement.

I still wanted to know where babies came from. I put up my hand to draw her attention, and before she even obliged me, I blurted out my question “Ma, please where do babies come out from?”

The whole class fell silent as all eyes when from me to Ma Ganiyu.

Her eyes squinted at me with so much venom like I had asked her to prove an impossible calculus equation. The headmistress who was still by the door had her hands over her mouth too.

Just then the ringer went off which signaled break-time (recess).

Ah, talk about the classic “saved by the bell” intervention.

Ma Ganiyu obviously had no plans of flattering my question with an answer and she dismissed the class.

Rather she looked relieved, so turned around and started wiping the chalk-board furiously in the manner a washerman scrubs very dirty clothes.

She then opened a pack of Samco milk drink, and started gorging on it to relieve her stress.

I never knew the answer to that question until I watched the movie Last American Virgin.

I was on a luxury bus to the Owerri some years back. A man who was one of those Igbo traders based in an eastern European country had come back to Nigeria for Xmas with his oyibo wife. Somewhere after Ihiala in Anambra state, she decided to sit on his lap, straddling across him. There was an Okey Bakassi Nollywood film playing as part of the on-board entertainment, but none of the passengers was laughing or watching anymore. People coughed uncomfortably as they eyed up the lady until the conductor came and asked her to take her seat if ‘she wants to continue her travel”.  She would never have tried this nonsense on a trip to Zamfara.

Sometime in the early 90s, my folks dragged me to a wedding between these two 30 something year olds.  At the reception, the best-man called out the bride and groom to start their couples dance. During the dance, the bride who was a voluptuous, dark-skinned lady by the name of Ijeoma, started French-kissing the groom passionately. Alarmed, the MC then shouted “Ahn, ahn, Ijeoma it is enough o. The wedding is not yet over!” Her parents looked visibly upset as they eyed her aggressively from the high table. Why do they always take it out on the woman?

So there you have it; those were people’s attitudes to the subject of sex education back then. It consequently had an effect on displays of affection especially among men-folk.

As a pre-teen, the only outward display of affection I saw among adults was when my aunt peeled big oranges for my uncle to suck on as they sat with each other on the verandah in the evening.

Today, some chaps would not even hold hands with their girls in public. There used to be a joke that when a guy holds open a car door for a girl, it is either a new girlfriend or a new car.

Some guys are averse to using affectionate terms of endearment like sweetie, baby, sugarcane, cherry etc. I know a chap who called his girl ‘my portable’ in public – don’t ask me why, she was about 5’10 and weighed over 220 pounds.

I went to Silverbird cinema to see The Takers when it first came out. I went up to the penultimate row to sit down. I ended up not hearing a word during the movie. A guy and a girl behind me were making out without a care in the world. The girl even sat on the guy’s laps, and in the process spilt his popcorn everywhere.

When the movie ended, I overheard the girl making a remark that she didn’t even ‘get’ the movie. Throughout their tryst, no one in the cinema hall even noticed or looked twice at them.

However there may be evidence that old attitudes still exist especially among the pre-civil war generation. There was a wedding in Lagos in 2009 where the bride and groom were commanded to do numerous unprintable things by the randy MC.  He told them to French kiss for 10 minutes non-stop, then made the bride do a raunchy butterfly dance routine. The bride was also sat down on a chair while the groom serenaded her with a mini striptease. The groom was then instructed to use his teeth to wear a lacy pantyhose up the bride’s foot.

The older people there, including the bride’s dad decided to leave in droves, taking their blessings and kolanuts along with them.

What are your views on public display of affection in Nigeria? Would you French-kiss your partner at Murtala Mohammed airport if he/she were travelling? Do you hold hands in public places like events, malls, weddings, engagements etc? At cinemas, do you pay for two seats but use only one? What would you say is the most acceptable limit for couples on their wedding day? Do you think that they can go all out as it is their day?


You know I love you when you are loving me/

Sometimes it’s better when it’s publicly/

I’m not ashamed, I don’t care who sees/

 John Legend (P.D.A, 2007)

18 responses

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention P.D.A « LITERATI: SATIRES ON NIGERIAN LIFE -- Topsy.com

  2. I think a lot of young Nigerians are getting a lot more comfortable showing affection in public. As you rightly mentioned, our culture is pretty conservative and most of us grew up never seeing our parents kiss or show explicit affection. Nevertheless, I think there should be a limit, you definitely don’t want to make others around you feel uncomfortable.. even worse, you do not want to get your head chopped off in the middle of a Northern sharia crowd. We cannot ignore the fact that our Nigerian society is still guided by cultural and religious principles. C’mon even in western societies, when people ‘swap spit’ (;-p don’t mind my term) in an overt manner, most people around look away.. its just the way it is.. Anyway, I’ll hug, kiss and hold hands with my beau in public, except if I am in sharia-compliant Tudun Wada in Kaduna or old city Zaria. Ah! I no wan trouble! :-p
    P.S. I really love your blog and look forward to your new posts.. possibly u could make them a lil’ more frequent.. 😉

    • Hello Ubercool,

      A limit is definitely a good thing. There is something very vulgar and unsightly about seeing Nigerians make out in public. It just doesnt look right, does it? And given our propensity to stare, people will definitely not look away in embarrassment. Can you imagine what I saw on the Tube, happening on a BRT bus. Ha ha
      P.S Thanks for stopping by. I will definitely be speeding up the frequency of my posts. Love ya

  3. The new generation do not shy at PDA anymore and it seems like the adults too are catching on. Went for an engagement ceremony recently where the ‘alaga’ was telling the bride to do all sorts but in this case the adults present were laughing and cheering them on X_X

  4. Last week, a woman who works in my office had her husband drop her off in the morning. Just before he drove off, she leaned in and they exchanged a brief kiss.
    I wasn’t there, but i heard all about it from a few of my older colleages who were, as well as others who weren’t but had an opinion on the matter. I was shocked at the ovewhelming negative reaction most people had. I heard statements like “What did they think they were doing sef?” “What rubbish” “Shey na Oyinbo them think se them be” “Mscheww, abegi, This is Africa o”.

    I’m not a supporter of displaying overtly sexual behaviour in public, especially around kids, but i don’t think there was anything wrong with a married couple exchanging what it seems was a very PG(from all descriptions) kiss. It seems like we (Nigerians) are for some reason just plain uncomfortable with the idea of people displaying any kind affection whatsoever. I’ve also heard snide remarks about couples who hold hands in public. I personally didn’t get what all the fuss was about, after all, it was only a kiss.

    • I think you will find that many ‘forward-thinking’ people in Nigeria would still frown at a couple exchanging a kiss in public. The attitude seems to be ‘get a room’ or better yet ‘get to your bedroom’. Strange but true. This is Africa, eh?
      You have to admit that somehow it always looks more vulgar if we do it, than if a Westerner does it.

      I think those who criticize those holding hands are going a bit too far though

  5. I don’t live in Naij, but when I went to visit wih my now ex who also lives in another country, we went to see a movie & happened to make out occasionally during the flick (trust me, we didn’t do more than that ’cause I’m not too comfortable with a lotta PDA in any part of the world). As we were walking out, I heard a chick who seemed to be from 17-21 years complaining about a couple that was kissing during the movie. I might be paranoid, but if a chick who’s been exposed to movies like Twilight complains about my making out, what more of pre-Biafran elders?

  6. lol i read the first paragraph of your blog and burst into laughter… lol you are good. cant wait to catch up on the rest.

    I think i am semi pro PDA – not the blatantly lick my face kind, but more like as the situation warrants. if my bebe decides he feels like kissing me in the middle of third mainland bridge.. why not.. as long as it is passion driven (in a decent and sightful way) and not to prove a point that he owns me or just for PDA-ing sakes! as for kanayo kissing whoever.. the reason it aint sexy is because it isnt acted well! lol they need to learn to ‘act’ kissing scenes! I don’t blame them, we have all be scarred from growing up.

    lol @ your uncle and aunt! I cant believe he didnt hold her hand on their wedding day! as a sick romantic, that wont fly with me o.. lol plus trying to catch the bouquet! lmao!

    lol @ peeling orange n sucking it on the veranda being PDA.

    i would kiss my husband when he is travelling, i will hold his hands if i feel like and on my wedding day i will be decent and kiss him occassionally.. lol wont go too full out on the kissing. afterall, they HAVE to look at us and iw ont want to gross them out.

    • Hey Angelbeauty,

      Lol @ middle of 3rd Mainland Bridge. Watch out for armed bandits then.

      Nothing wrong with a little PDA with your spouse, though its distasteful to do anything that would prompt passer-bys to shout that you guys should get a room. Lol

      How are studies going?


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