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pickup lines

`I’m on a bus enroute back to Manzini after my glorious Mozambican vacation. I score a window seat on the side of the bus that’s out of the sun and I pray as the people pile onto the bus, that I would get a female seatmate, instead of a male.

My prayers are not answered. A man, with bad breath, to top it off, scoots in besides me. He cozies up next to me and tells me that he wants to be my “special friend.” I stick my ipod buds into my ears and pull out my GRE flashcards. In America, most men would get the hint and leave me alone. That is not the case in Swaziland. Every few minutes, the man pokes me to get my attention and I switch off my ipod, turn away from my flashcards and listen to his questions and comments. It’s not threatening or anything, he just won’t take the hint. I eventually end up switching seats to a windowless seat in the sun, where I roast all the way back to Manzini.

I have been lucky that the male attention I’ve received has not, with a few exceptions, involved touching or obscene comments. However, the hardest thing I had to get used to was the persistence’s of the men. Over the past two years, I’ve tried various arguments to shut them down, and they always come back with counterarguments, ranging from the whiny to the brilliant.

The most common pickup lines we female volunteers get are 1) “I want to marry you.” 2) “I love you.” and 3) “I want your number.” Of course there’s variations—like the pickup lines that use race—“I wish to marry a white woman” (golddigger much?) or my favorite “Hey umlumgu (derogatory term for “white person”), I love you so much.” Because, insulting someone and treating them as a skin color and not a person is the way to a girl’s heart.

One of my most common comebacks, in response to the never-ending stream of marriage proposals is angifuni indvodza (siSwati for “I don’t want a husband”). This leads to laugher and Leni? (Why?) I explain that I am not ready to be married yet, and the men ask me my age. When I tell them, they tell me that I’m EXTREMELY old and that I MUST be married IMMEDIATELY. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because there’s plenty of Swazi women in their mid-20s who are still unmarried.

Some of the volunteers invent a husband. I don’t do this because a) I feel like I’d be saying that married women have more right to not be bothered than single women, and, b) it doesn’t work. Married volunteers get hit on all the time and even Mkhulu and Gogo’s daughter-in-law says that the men who know she is married still propose love.
Another comeback I use is that I don’t want a Swazi husband because Swazi men are unfaithful and bring home HIV to their wives (I know, blanket statement). Although this does not deter the men, it always prompts murmurs of agreement and shouts of “Right on!” from any women who might be listening.

I thought I had the perfect comeback when I decided to play on the traditional gender roles. In Swazi culture, women are expected to keep a clean and orderly house. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of sharing living space with me will testify under oath, that I’m quite possibly the worst housekeeper ever. So my argument was “I can’t be a Swazi wife because I hate cleaning.” The response I would normally get was “I’ll clean for you” (right, I’ll believe it when I see it). The one that took the cake, though, was the guy who looked puzzled for a second and then declared “You can just be my sex mate instead!” (thanks, but I think I’ll take a pass on that).

My lovely friend Darryn came up with a response that I thought was unshakable. This particular response incorporated four aspects of male behavior change that would drastically reduce the HIV prevalence rate. The gist is, “I can only be with a man if he 1) gets tested for HIV 2) gets circumcised* 3) uses a condom every time he has sex 4) is faithful to me.” Then the guy would either be so embarrassed that he would stop the one-sided flirting or he would start asking questions, prompting an opportunity to educate. It was genius. I decided to steal it from Darryn.
I was on the bus one day and I had the opportunity to use this response. The guy considered carefully, looked back and me and said…
“Well then I must have your number so I can call you when I have done all those things.”

The most infuriating response I tend to get is “You refuse to love a black man because you are racist.” Actually no, I tend to not love anyone who is rude and pushy.
It’s not like white Swazi men have had any better luck with me, since the few encounters I’ve had with them tend to go like this…
WSM: We have the same skin color, therefore we should have sex.
Me: No thanks.
WSM: I have a REALLY NICE CAR. I can take you out in my REALLY NICE CAR. Have I mentioned that I have a REALLY NICE CAR?
Me: Not impressed.

Of course, while many of these encounters are annoying, some are just plain amusing. Highlights include…
1) “I’m very romantic because my birthday is February 13th, the day before Valentine’s Day.” (One could easily poke a hole into that argument by pointing out that 13 is also an unlucky number...as I did.)
2) The guy who dropped down on his knee and presented me with a ring fashioned from a blade of grass.
3) The drunk on transport who, after hearing that I didn’t like drunks, proceeded to make out with his empty beer bottle and say to it “I loved you so much…but I love this lady more! Goodbye forever!”
4) “I love you very quickly.” (Considering that he didn’t even know my name, I would say that’s true.)
5) “I love you so much, I love you more than my new school shoes.” (The funniest part is a friend of mine had received that EXACT same line a year and a half earlier.)

I should say that this blog does not mean to insult the several fantastic male friends and co-workers I’ve had, who have shown me respect, NOT proposed love/marriage and have been some of the kindest, smartest and funniest people I’ve ever met. You’ll find both assholes and good men, no matter what country you go to and there are some good men in Swaziland.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Feb. 16th, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
Local girls doing bad things Go Here dld.bz/chwZG
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