Thursday, May 20, 2010

Distance, Age or Colour

I'm going to make you cringe today, check this out:

'Remember that distance,age or colour does not matter in a reall relationship but love matters alot'

You've had these? If you've ever advertised for pen friends, you will have. And you've probably noticed the pattern too. The letter begins by saying that the writer is a 'beautiful young girl' or some variant on that theme. At this point, I think one's supposed to get all excited. Wow! A beautiful young girl is writing to me!

Next comes a statement saying that (s)he has 'read your profile' although she manifestly hasn't, because if (s)he had (s)he'd have noticed that I'm a woman, and have requested a pen friend who is proficient in English and can write a decent letter, adding that offers of heart or other anatomical parts are unwelcome.

The impression that your profile never got so much as a glance is reinforced by the standard of English, the charming line I started with and the signing off 'Forever yours'. Before closing, the writer suggests that pictures can be exchanged. Wow! I'm trembling here.

Occasional variants are offers of marriage, or a declaration that the writer is 'looking for love'.

Alright, you know all about this, so why am I rabbiting on about it? The answer is this: I've been thinking about the format of these letters, each so similar to the other, all containing the dreadful 'distance, age and colour' line, the same 'information' placed in exactly the same order time after time with only minor variations in the wording, and I'm convinced that they're the work of one person or a ring of people working in co-operation.

This really gets my goat (which has a bristly beard and those weird slot-shaped pupils and yellow irises and looks like the devil incarnate when its roused especially when steam starts issuing from its nostrils and ears). The thing is, this highly prolific person or persons is giving all Africans a bad name online.

Its hardly surprising that people now think that Africa has more than its fair share of scammers, when in truth, its probably a handful of people that spend all day trawling for email addresses and sending out what amounts to being exactly the same letter over and over.

Being African, I know my fair share of Africans, and they're just like people everywhere: the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful shaken together like liquorice allsorts and just as colourful. I don't know any Nigerians, because they have just as bad a name here as they do elsewhere in the world. I'm sure that some of them aren't drug traffickers, gangsters and con-men, but sadly, it seems to be the bad eggs that get about as a rule.

What's really disturbing is that somewhere, somehow, there must be people who are naive enough to take those letters seriously: who think that beautiful girls will fall in love with them on the basis of a pen-friend advert, that job offers in the hotel industry appear out of the blue and that there is such a thing as money for nothing. I don't know whether to feel sorry for them or whether to be cross with them. If scamming wasn't lucrative, people wouldn't do it, would they?

** Seeing as I'm being patriotic today, I'll post a pic of an African who looks more African than I do.

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