You love cocktail parties, don’t you? If you’re an expat you probably adore the ones sponsored by embassies and big international companies where everybody has sold his or her soul to the god of networking. Well, the working spouses have. If you’re a trailing spouse accompanying your partner to such an event, you are lucky because you can consider this . . .
An educational opportunity!
I’ve spent many an edifying hour standing around in my finery amid a gaggle of foreigners and listened to riveting honks about small ruminant value chains, the standard TSMA, gender-disaggregated data, and so on. This can be excruciatingly fascinating boring and usually we trailing expat spouses will find each other and discuss other matters such as fashion, breast implants, and potty training dramas. (Please don’t write me about how insulting this is. And yes, I know some trailing spouses are male, and they discuss deep philosophical matters.)
However, one evening at a cocktail party in Ghana, West Africa, I met businessman Mr. X. And he did not talk about politics or international finance. Here’s what he did talk to me about:
Beauty and the Bad Boy
Mr. X is a charming, sophisticated Ghanaian with graying hair, a mischievous glint in his eyes and a story to tell. He has a beautiful British accent compliments of a PhD from Oxford and we are chatting at an outdoor cocktail party in Accra, the capital of Ghana. It is a dark and steamy night, the frogs are frogging, the drinks are flowing, and the malarial mosquitoes are zooming in ecstasy over the abundance of naked flesh. The naked flesh being faces, arms and legs, just to be clear here.
Also to be clear here, the title of this tale, What Men Want is . . . well, a cheeky generalization. After all: Which men want what, where, when, why? But that would make the title a bit long, don’t you agree?
So onward with Mr. X’s story. His tale involves a visit he made to my homeland of the Netherlands when he was a young man, a young African man who had never left his native land of Ghana. As an unworldly 20-year-old on a two-week business course in The Hague, he was excited beyond description to be in the land of cheese and tulips. He had a wonderful time, at least until the last evening there when he attended the big goodbye affair with food, music and dancing. Dancing! Girls! Dutch girls!
Now, Ghanaians know all about having fun eating food, making music and dancing (and they learn young), so Mr. X was looking forward to the evening.
Some of Mr. X’s study-course mates had been abroad before and shared with him their acquired wisdom relating to the treatment of western women, such as how to behave at the dance and how to make a good impression.
What women want
He was told that the women were expecting to be asked to dance. He could make his own choice by looking around to see who looked available and willing and then go over and ask her to dance.
“Give compliments,” he was told. “Tell a girl she looks beautiful. That she has pretty eyes, a nice smile, that sort of thing.”
Not so difficult. Young Mr. X was up to the task.
Older Mr. X smiles at the memory as he relates this story. He takes a drink from his Scotch.
“So,” he continues, “when dinner was over and the dancing began, I looked around and saw a beautiful girl with blond hair and blue eyes and I went over to her and asked her to dance. She came to the dance floor with me and we commenced dancing and talking. I was charmed! Then I remembered what I’d been advised about giving compliments, so I told her she was beautiful and then something went awfully wrong.” The glint in his eye is unmistakable.
“What do you mean?” I ask, spellbound by his story. What woman doesn’t want to hear she is beautiful? “What happened?”
“She glared at me and stormed off. Left me standing there in the middle of the dance floor. I was perplexed! I was giving her compliments! What had I done wrong!”
“She took off because you told her she was beautiful?” I am equally perplexed.
Mr. X smiles, enjoying telling me his tale. “Yes,” he says, taking another sip of his drink. “I told her she was beautiful. And so nice and fat.”
Dear reader, do I need to explain? In Ghana, as in some other African countries, the traditional view is that being fat is beautiful and desirable. The historical reason behind this is the thinking that if a woman is fat she obviously has lots to eat, which means that first her father and then her husband is prosperous. Many young Ghanaian women now have adopted the western idea of beauty and like to be slim. However, there is still a trend that favors wide hips and big bottoms and you can buy pills and potions to help you to become gorgeous.
And do check out these beauties here:
The Curvy Celebrity Goddess Galore in Ghana
What men want? You tell me.
* * *
What cultural experiences, or experiences with foreign men, have you had about body image? About what you should look like? How much you should weigh or what the size of various body parts should be? Get some milk and cookies and think about it.
In Vietnam, thin is in. Anything above 2% body fat makes you “fat”.
My Vietnamese friends know that foreigners are fat and that calling a foreigner fat is insulting. So thankfully I’m exempted from the long and torturous discussions about who’s fat and who’s not. Exept when people mention that my husband and I are “a perfect 10 couple”. He’s the 1 and I’m the 0. 🙁
As long as you are a perfect 10 together, you’ve won the battle. When I lived in Indonesia I felt about as elegant as a hippo in spite of being short and having a respectable size in the West. There’s just no competing with the Asian women.
I lived in Fiji as a teenager and the ideal beauty was pale and fat! (The opposite of our ideal…)
The human mind is a marvelous thing. Pale and fat is beautiful in Fiji. Hey, why not?
Hahaha, this is like the time an ex-boyfriend told me he liked my stomach because it “looked like cookie dough” and he liked cookie dough. Needless to say, I started doing more crunches.
I’ve blogged about the different perceptions of what’s beautiful before but I love this post! You got the point across very well with an incredibly amusing story and the link to Extreme Beauties is interesting as well. Thoroughly enjoyed reading!
OH GOODIE!! ***jumping up and down and clapping my hands!!**
I don’t have to wait for the famine and for all the skinny girls to die??? I can just go Ghana!!! YEAH!!!!
This was great! I would so fit in there!
The poor guy must’ve felt perplexed indeed! 😀
This reminds me of a time I attended a party in a very small town in the middle of nowhere in Argentina. People attending were mostly farmers who do not have many chances of going out to pubs, dances, etc. and meeting strangers. A perfectly amiable guy asked me to dance and after exchanging a few words, it was apparently his time to make a compliment and he said that I had beautiful eyes: they were as green as a toad’s and my skin was as white as boiled chicken 😀
Oh, you had me in stitches with this one! Definitely a keeper and good for some party fun when you need a joke to tell!
I’ve had some experience with this here in Tanzania, too, where they also think fat, or at least plump, women are beautiful. When I said at one point, as all American women do at some point, “As soon as I get home, I’m going to lose ten pounds,” my Tanzanian boyfriend got very distressed and said, “Pleeeeze don’t lose ten pounds.” Which, of course, made me think I should marry him immediately. More recently, I was shopping for a custom made dress and my also expat friend started bargaining for the labor price by pointing out to the tailor that… Read more »
I love your stories! It’s so much fun to see the reactions from different cultural angles. I’d say, marry your Tanzanian guy and forget about losing weight!
At least he was smiling when he told the story. I remember listening to Oprah’s show on “What is considered a beautiful woman in different parts of the world.” Fat was liked in Mauritania. I posted about it and actually, that was one of my most viewed posts. Loved your story. P.S. I’m in Denmark right now where furniture is beautiful.
I saw that Oprah show as well. It seems that in Mauratania the government is recognizing the health risks now and trying to do something about this custom of fatting up girls. But people’s tastes/customs are so ingrained, it will not be easy.
I love modern/contemporary furniture! It is much more popular in Northern and Western Europe than in the US.
PS: Have fun in Denmark (it will be colder than California!)
Love the story, Miss Footloose and I am investigating moving to Ghana forthwith!
Ah, but the local lemons aren’t great!
Loved it! What a great story!
Oh, poor man. And poor girl. She’s probably scarred for life 😉
(note to self: if diet fails, move to Ghana)
I imagine she’s still telling this story, just like he is!
Nog een zalig Nieuw jaar. What a funny story You are quite a storyteller. I love that picture with the little dancing children
Hi Marja, nice to see you back here. I love to see children dancing. They are still so unselfconscious.
When I lived in England a girl I knew once told me she didn’t consider me a foreigner (being Dutch in England), since I wasn’t black. I thought that was very weird.
Yes, very weird!
This is soooo funny! OMG that picture is just hilarious. At least he didn’t tell her what a fat ass she has, that may have garnered a slap!
Poor girl, tough! She had no idea he meant well!
It’s true, in some countries, a plump woman is beautiful. Stick-legs and arms are signs of malnutrition, deprivation.
In Guyana, just like in other parts of the West Indies, the concept of beauty varies according to the level of society you belong to.
But in some places, right in the Windies, a gal is a gal is a gal, some men just lust no matter what she looks like.
It’s good to know there’s a place for all of us. Problem is, sometimes we don’t live in the right one.
Simple: A Hoar in the bedroom and lady in public and a chef in the kitchen. OR…..they dream of this woman.
Sorry political correctness is a bible, I dont read.
Let’s hope you got lucky…