Of Cupid and cupidity: The unwritten rules of Nigerian dating

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The unwritten rules of Nigerian dating

LIFE in Lagos can be hard, even for a young, salaried professional. The long working hours, the endless traffic and the pressure to keep up appearances in a city that idolises wealth often leave people exhausted by the weekends, which are packed with lavish weddings and lengthy church services. They can also make it hard to find love.

Tinder, a dating app where users reject or select potential partners by swiping left or right, has not proved as popular in Lagos as it is with time-poor young people elsewhere. “Friends thought I was insane or looking to be murdered,” says a female lawyer. For those who dare, men mostly find “runs girls” (aka sugar babies) looking for rich boyfriends to buy them gifts, or outright prostitutes. Women find cheating husbands. “The first time I signed up…I saw three guys I knew who were married,” says Efua Oyofo, who runs the blog Dating While Nigerian.

However, many young women in Lagos want to be the “side chick” of a married man, deeming them more responsible than the single ones. “It was crazy,” a 26-year-old journalist says, recalling the sudden attention he got from young women in his office when he wore a ring on his fourth finger. “They’re more patient,” says Eve, a software developer who prefers older men. “And there’s the money.”

For heterosexuals looking for something serious, megachurches run singles events. Weddings are also seen as a good place to meet future spouses. “Unlike a nightclub it’s actually a fairly well-lit event, so there’s a sense you can survey the market,” says Ore Disu, who runs Nsibidi Institute, a think-tank. However, many women worry that nuptials are frequented by “Yoruba demons”, stereotypically promiscuous young men from south-west Nigeria. Gay Nigerians, most of whom are in the closet, tend to meet at private parties.

Whereas ethnicity is less of a barrier to love in Nigeria’s cosmopolitan commercial capital, Christian-Muslim unions are still frowned upon. Parents also put pressure on their children to find a partner, inviting men over for dinner or sending women to meet their sons. For many young people the only way to date is to find someone who lives and works nearby—and spend time together during the long commute.

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