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I’ve been working on this series for a while now. I had hoped to complete it all in one go, but soon realised it would take an incredibly long time to do so; and it would be too much to read in one go. So, I’ll dish it out in installments. Here is the first. Grab a beverage.

1. Soft on the eyes. Yes? No?

Obviously, you need one that you won’t mind waking up next to everyday for the rest of your life. Yes, yes, it’s all about what’s inside. But let’s be real here, ladies. If you don’t like the look of him, the chances that you’re even going to hang around and talk to him for 30 minutes, let alone 5, range from slim to none. Mercifully, handsome lies in the eyes of the beholderess. A good calculation on nature’s part, too, and something I’m happy about, as I’m a firm believer in someone for everyone. Yes, there is someone for everyone.

2. You find out his surname, QUICK!

He just may be your brother. No, I’m not kidding. Among the Baganda, we’ve got a clan and totem system that is patrilineal. Members of the same clan are considered brothers and sisters, even if they don’t share birth parents or even great, great grand parents. Members of a clan are also considered to have descended from a single lineage, and when called upon to do so, introduce themselves as grandchildren of a certain clan head somewhere in history (in spite of what I’ve just told you in the sentence before this one). We’ve got 52 clans, each with hundreds of surnames specific to it. Children do not simply take on their father’s name. They are given their own. Often, not always, a surname will have a masculine and feminine variation. One’s clan can be told from their surname. See where I’m going with this? Once he introduces himself, surname and all, you know what you’ve got to do.

  • Option 1. Keep it at hello and goodbye.
  • Option 2. Go right on, get frisky if you want, ’cause he’s not your brother.
  • Option 3. Commit incest, while telling yourself it’s a one night stand, then you keep going back to each other, next thing you know you’re in love with someone no one will let you marry, not even the most objective person in the country, and you risk being excommunicated from your family and clan, if they haven’t done so already. I know of a couple that knowingly walked into this one, and years later were hoping the rules would be broken for them. Are you kidding me? In which universe? The girl’s brother couldn’t even stand the sight of his sister’s boyfriend, couldn’t believe any one could be so dumb. I’ve also got a friend that went slightly past hello and goodbye without getting his surname, only to find ought later that his name was the very variation of her own. She never ever talked to him again. Here is how the phone call went. (What? Phone call? You were supposed to find out his surname the very day you saw that look in his eyes. The one that said he might want more. Not days later!) Anyway, here’s how it went down.

Guy: I really enjoyed talking to you last time. I’m glad I came out to the party. I was practically dragged there, you know. I can’t believe I almost didn’t get to meet someone as intriguing as you are.

Girl: (flattered) Oh, come on! You lawyer types are just smooth talkers. You’ll say just about anything.

Guy: No, I mean it. I enjoyed your company. I’d like to see you again, send some more time with you, get to know you better.

Girl: Well, maybe. I enjoyed your company too.

Guy: So? What do you say?

Girl: By the way, what’s your surname?

Guy: Yiga*

Girl: (Crap! Aargh!) *Hangs up phone without saying another word*

Guy is left wondering. Later he texts: what’s up, did I say something wrong?

She texts back: I’m called NAYIGA*!!!

Neither one ever contacted the other again.

Well, to be honest, some of that conversation is made up, but the hanging up and texting part is completely true.

It’s very serious, the surname and clans issue. When I first met my boyfriend’s elder brother one of the very first things he asked (barely 10 minutes into the conversation) was what clan I came from. I immediately allayed his fears by first letting him know which one I did not belong to, namely theirs; then went on to declare mine. I also went further to explain which section(variety) of my clan I belong to, as mine is probably the only one with sections in it. And because it’s so huge, it’s one of only two clans allowed to marry amongst each other, ’cause well, we are just too many. We’re all over the sampling space for mates. Still, I can’t get with someone of my clan if we belong to the same variety of the clan. In explaining my clan when asked, I had to be very clear as one cannot marry someone of their mother’s clan, either. That would be like marrying your mum/paternal uncle or her sisters/brothers. From your father’s (and hence your) clan, elders or contemporaries of your father are your fathers too or paternal aunts, and your contemporaries are your brothers and sisters, as you’ll be of the same clan. Elders from your mother’s clan are your mothers or maternal uncles.

Gives a whole new meaning to ‘it takes a village to raise a child, right’? Now you know that saying came from Africa.

So you see? Once you’ve found out his surname and you’re both in the clear, you then have to start hoping that his mother is not of your clan, and he’ll be hoping your mother is not of his clan. These things are also never as straight forward as they sound. People obviously won’t start discussing each other’s mothers’ names until they’ve gotten quite far into the relationship. Maybe this is all part of why we haven’t got the I don’t want to take on the man’s name fuss here. As a woman, you never lose your name to start with, even if you take on his once married. Your surname stays with you, as does your clan, and your children will know your name not just as mum’s middle/maiden name.

What’s in a name? Everything, Shakespeare my friend. Everything.

It’s not as tideous as it sounds. It can all be accomplished in a single greeting. It’s also not the only reason you’ll want to know a potential mate’s surname upfront. And no, it’s got nothing to do with his bank account. But that’s another long story that probably warrants a post of it’s own. When I write it, if I do, you’ll be the first to know.

*Not their real names.

Next installment coming out soon.

Meanwhile, what dating/mate-hunt/marital customs are dictated by your culture? Got any? Love ’em or hate ’em?