This African Love: The Amala Gentleman

Recently, I heard this story which made me reflect on the very real threads and points of reality that are woven into how we pursue love. It’s no less poignant for its brevity.

***

Once upon a time, I met this woman.

She seemed really nice – we chatted throughout the day, gisting well into the small hours of the night.

It was great. I felt I was ready for the next step – an official date in person. I asked her out, and she accepted.

The time for our first date approached, and I found myself looking forward to it. I’d asked her to choose the place. She chose this restaurant in Victoria Island – somewhere I wasn’t too familiar with, but I imagined that she went to often. She said she really liked eating there.

At the restaurant, I let her pick the dishes. After all cultural etiquette dictates that this is the thing to do and the way to go; let the lady choose the place, let the lady order what she wants. Plus, I tend to order the worst dishes at new places, so I let the seasoned expert take care of that part.

I remember my collar felt a bit tight when I looked at some of the prices. However, since this was a woman I’d been talking with for awhile, I felt she understood my headspace, and she’d keep my pocket in mind. But I had a surprise for her – I’d budgeted twenty to twenty-five thousand Naira for this date, so I felt confident I’d be fine.

Some time later, the bill came.

It was fifty thousand Naira. Mo gbe!

My collar felt tighter.

Fifty thousand?! That may be nothing to some people – but to me, fifty thousand was a lot of money. It was my diesel bill for the month – at least, the diesel I could afford. I spent more on petrol because I lived farther away, so I work within my means. Plus, we know our people. How much is my salary? Do they even know? Or care? I will still pay rent, fuel car, form big-boy, eat, clean my house, do Chairman and weekend when I go out.

Me, I’m an amala man. Five hundred Naira rice and stew. Sometimes I eat corn and ube for lunch. When I go out, it’s two thousand, five hundred Naira I spend on food.

I looked at the bill again, forcing a smile on my face. Fifty thousand? Omo. I no dey there again.

Anyway. I paid, and I tipped the waiter. After all, it’s not the waiter’s fault – and these people need to eat, too. Even if not at this restaurant.

The woman and I walked to the parking lot – forming polite, friendly conversation. I walked my date to her car.

I got in my car, inhaled deeply, and opened up my phone.

I went to our conversation, tapped on her name. Then, I scrolled down to ‘Block Contact,’ and I proceeded to block her number.

It was the most painful date of my life, so far.

Not because I didn’t have a good time, but because I realised that the ‘goodtime’ couldn’t last.

***

There’s a Yoruba adage which says; T’óò bà mo’bi t’ó n lo, má lo.

The meaning: If you don’t know (trust) the place you’re going to, don’t go there. People have opinions. For some, what I did was… harsh. I’ve been told my reaction was dishonest, insufficient, immature. After all, the woman was doing what she normally did, being herself only – so why did this display of who she is, seem to bother me so much?

That’s where I remind them. Another Yoruba proverb.

Tí iwájú ò bà sé lo, èyìn á sé padà sí.

If you can’t move forward, you can go back. You can start over again, with where you feel you really are, and with people who can match you there. No man is an island, no man can be who he isn’t if he’s to be happy. I ask a woman out on a date, I pay. I let her set the tone because her comfort is important to me. But my comfort has to matter to her, too. In life, one must always remain a gentleman.

I’m a gentleman; it’s just that I’m an… amala gentleman.

She… is a lady, but she’s not the lady for me. So really, there’s no point. Be who you are. Lobatan.

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