The saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomache” has no more literal meaning in the world than it does in the island of Orango, off the coast of Guinea-Bassau, West of the African continent, neighbours to Gambia and Guinea

Imagine this: You’re 16. For two years now you’ve been having a major crush on this boy who lives in the next village. Strong, handsome and good with his hands, he is also funny and kind, and comes from a good fishing family. How to get his attention? You catch a fish, and using a traditional recipe of palm oil and spices, cook it as only your mother knows how. And wearing your best straw skirt, you walk to his hut, carrying the steaming plate of fish, and with it, a message: Marry me.

The Seattle Times carried an article today about the females of Orango, and their right to choose whom they want to marry. And this is not just some tradition. It actually has sound reasoning behind it (as sound as all the women in the world would wish it to be, I’m sure):

“Love comes first into the heart of a woman,” says one of the male inhabitants of the island. “Once it’s in the woman, only then can it jump into the man.”

“The choice of a woman is more stable,” says another man, 90 years old.

Well, d-uh! Haven’t we been saying these things, like, forever? Of COURSE we know better when it comes to finding the right man. If it were up to me (and the good people of Orango), all the men should stay indoors and wait for a plate of fish. That way, it would be just so much neater (and what’s more economical than a homecooked meal, and a fish, I ask you?) and to the point, don’t you agree? No having to date. No having to play stupid mind games. No having to stop eating. And best of all, the men can’t even say no, because why should they when you know what’s best? Just shut up and eat the fish, man, and everything will fall into place!

And this is great for the men too. No need for expensive gifts or dinners. No anxious nailbiting on whether you’ve misread a girl’s signals (just watch out for the girl with a plate of fish walking into YOUR hut). No need even to worry about a house. It’s all taken care of. No fuss, no muss. Isn’t that what you guys usually want? A fuss-free, no-frills courtship so you can get on to more important things? See, we DO know everything!

To all my single friends: make your next vacation to Orango Island, Guinea-Bassau!


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