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What we can learn from African tribes about dating.

Picture the scenario. It is a Friday night and you are in a hot, sweaty, loud nightclub. It is filled wall-to-wall with people. Everyone is there to have a good time and have a few cheeky drinks until they build up enough courage to dance. However, the overwhelming sub-context is, of course, that most people are there looking for a potential partner.
As usual, half of the club-goers are dolled up to the nines in their best dress, plastered in make-up, whilst the other half watch longingly from the sidelines, silently deciding who they find the most sexually attractive. Anyone who has been to a Yates’ will have experienced this magical scenario.

Except, in the scenario I am describing, the people dolled up are all men and the people standing at the sides are all women. ‘Well, that is clearly an alternative universe you’re describing,’ I hear you say. But it’s not. This is exactly what happens in Niger in the Wodaabe tribe. Obviously it doesn’t take place in Yates’ and I doubt they’re all drinking Blue WKD and playing on fruit machines. But the rest is the same.  I am being serious. Approximately once a year, at the Gerewol Courtship Festival, the  Wodaabe tribe of Niger organise a dance which is, in essence, a male beauty contest. The guys spend hours fussing over their attire and painting their faces a lovely shade of red. Then they stand in a group and dance whilst women stand around and pick out the man they want to get up close and personal to.

This got me thinking: isn’t it about time we re-assessed our culture of dating in Britain? Surely, there has to be a better formula than the one we currently have. Think about it. Our generation spend the first 25 years of their life attending various pubs and clubs, doused in perfume and desperation, in the hope that we will meet ‘the one.’ Then, when that fails, we move to stage two: Tinder. We swipe right a few times but that inevitably fails and so we move on to stage three which is Bridget Jones territory and consists mainly of sporadic and painful ‘pity dates.’

All this is endured so that one day we can pay a lot of money (that we don’t have) to stand in front of all our nearest and dearest with another human and point at that human and say “this one. I pick this one to be with forever and ever.” But a lot of us do not end up staying with that human, because, well… things change. And so the vicious cycle begins again.

The whole dating game is insane.

I think it is time we started branching out and looking to other cultures for dating ideas. I am going to say straight away that Arranged Marriage is a definite NO for me. I cannot get on board with that. I don’t like people choosing my drink for me, nevermind choosing a husband. But the Wodaabe tribe has got me interested. Aside from the women taking the reigns in the courting game, the other amazing thing is that most of the people at the Festival are married but set their marriages aside for a few days to meet someone new. No one gets upset about it and everyone’s marriage is a little refreshed afterwards. It’s sort of the Niger equivalent of throwing your keys in to a bowl with Steve and Veronica from next door.

As it stands, British society has the same relationship values as Termites. Termites mate for life and that is exactly what we aspire to do- but we, as humans, have proven again and again, that we can’t get that quite right. So, it’s time for a relationship revolution, starting with our own Gerewol Festival please.


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