Ugandan men don't propose

06:48 by tsup ug
“He did it! It was so romantic. We were at this classy restaurant, when the room went silent and then soft music propelled him to one knee and he popped the question.”
This is a typical line from a film script that Hollywood has perpetuated for a long time, to give film lovers a feel-good feeling of falling in love and that love is achievable.  
So what is a proposal? It is when a man asks the woman in his life to marry him, usually on his knee.

In Uganda, where people – like they do world over – fall in love and get married, the notion of fanfare and a romantic proposal is still a rarity. An American philanthropist, Bethany Gray, who observed our society, thinks a marriage proposal in Uganda is impossible because we don't believe in any public display of affection in the first place.
“In Uganda, marriage is so different, it’s like people don’t even date. It is even hard to see lovers holding hand in a Kampala street yet they do exist, so I can’t expect any of those people to even accept a public marriage proposal,” said Gray.
She even seemed surprised that even after Ugandans claim to be engaged, they don't see more of each other as many continue living with their parents.

It is necessary?
Take 26-year-old Mildred Kansiime, for example, who is getting married in September; her fiancĂ© suggested marriage but did not pop the question. “We were in one of those good moments and I think he hinted at getting married. I am actually the one who stressed his point, and the next thing was to plan for a meeting and draw up a budget. For me, whatever he murmured was a proposal: I wasn’t expecting a formal one.”
Indeed the lack of a proposal did not upset Kansiime whose bridal entourage said she is elated about her upcoming nuptials.
Kansiime later tells me she doesn't believe in Hollywood styled wedding proposals, according to her, the entire arrangement is not African.
Just like Kansiime, Boniface Kizito, a car parts dealer, also believes proposals are simply a spur of the moment.
“I didn't really get a chance to propose, but when my girlfriend told me she was expecting, we had to do the necessary to legalize our union. It wasn't a proposal but a suggestion,” he stated.
“How do you live with someone's daughter for four years and propose in the fifth? That would clearly tell her you've just been testing the waters in the past four but not really sure,” added Kizito, explaining why he didn’t propose.

The two also concurred with the fact that the whole idea of a proposal is a Hollywood or western import.
“This is diamond we are talking of, which African man will give you a temporary ring mbu engagement? Do you even expect a man to ask you to marry him when you've been sleeping in his house for over a year? The day you decide to move in together, by default you are looking towards marriage even without a proposal,” said Kansiime, a mother of two.

How it is done
Although a few brave have stammered or sweated on one knee in Uganda to propose, Kansiime maintained that men abstractly propose with statements like: ‘I didn't like so and so's cake. We should get a better caterer for our wedding’ or ‘Which colour would you choose for a dress?’
“With that statement a Ugandan [man] has proposed,” she said.
Ugandan men don't propose, like bosses, they suggest marriage
 Agnes Nalutaaya’s man is one of the few that proposed. During her kwanjula, he went down on both knees to give Nalutaaya her engagement ring – much to the guests and MC’s chagrin.
 “Omusajja mu Buganda tafukamira,” they burst out, meaning “Men in Buganda don't kneel.” Clearly our African culture is not at peace with this western import – even if it is a sign of love and respect – that is deemed to lower a man before his woman.

But there are some proposals that a chosen few enjoy, with all the fanfare that comes along with them. Brenda Enzy’s was one such proposal and it took her by surprise (just like most young women).

“I think he was meant to do it on the 31st of December but while he continued collecting the guts to, we sneaked into the New Year,” she recalled. “He went down on one knee amidst the church celebrations and asked me for marriage.”
Now the young couple has been married for two years.

Nevertheless, Enzy feels that it is wrong for society to place the onus of proposing solely on men. “I find no sin in a woman proposing marriage.”
Immaculate Luwedde, a children and marriage counsellor, agrees with Enzy. She said that the future of proposals lies in women’s hands. “It would be for example okay if the two parties involved in a marriage can initiate it.” She also noted that there men may find it hard to accept women’s proposals because they hardly ever propose.

For now, only time will tell when proposals will take root in Uganda and become the norm. In Enzy’s fiancĂ© proposed but she said that imperfect marriage proposals (and no proposals) are still a part of us.
“The ring he came with was actually a wedding ring; I bought another one though,” she said sheepishly.
In fact, young women, like Enzy, have taken to buying themselves engagement rings to make a statement that they are indeed booked. “By the way, most of the girls with engagement rings never got proposals,” said Enzy.
“I think perfect marriage proposals will be done by our children not us,” she added.

Sometimes, young men make a mockery of proposals by using a marriage proposal as bait to get women. And some women, especially foreigners, get confused.
In 2008, Kathryne, a mzungu woman, came to Uganda for the first time and she was hit by a barrage of proposals from men in the clubs. One guy, she won’t forget, hit on her, proposed and told her that they would even relocate as a couple to America.

To date, Kathryne can't stop talking about Ugandan men and their bold approach to proposing; and sadly, she never got to see a real proposal in Uganda.

1 comment:

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