They are everywhere. In fact if there were ever a truthful advert of the popular things in Abuja, “runz girls” would be one of them. ‘Runz’ , a word which does not exist in any dictionary, is the Nigerian slang that refers to exchanging sexual favors for financial lifestyle changes.
Since I started visiting the FCT, and now that I live here as a member of the National Youth Corps Service, more often than not, someone does or says something to insinuate that I am one of the runz girls.
Initially I was offended, downright insulted. What was it about my carriage and composure that would have anyone assume I was into exchanging my body for money? Although, to be fair, there is nothing obvious to the eye about this form of prostitution; it is more like corporate prostitution. Some of these girls are aptly educated and properly cultured. Close observation finally led me to realize that the prettier, fresher, more taken care of you looked, the more people felt it wasn’t of your own doing. Sometimes, the insinuations come as a compliment considering the deplorable conditions of my life as a “bloody corper”.
Like a friend of mine recently joked, the only way they won’t think you are that kind of girl is if you are ugly or deformed. No one is safe and it’s not as if I can blame them. Abuja is tough and overpriced; no young university graduate or youth corps member can afford much on their own without some form of assistance, even if from family. At the end of the day the average Nigerian believes that money is most likely obtained from politics so if you are not connected to politics you must be sleeping with it.
These inferences, of course, are for young girls alone. Older ladies are categorized as salary earners or married. While they may not suffer the judgment now, it’s possible that they did at one point.
It appears there is no way to avoid the assumptions. There is hardly any way I can start explaining to every cab driver that asks to keep my change that the money is truly mine. There was one instance that I tried and as soon as I managed to convince him he said, “Well at least you get boyfriend wey go pay”. At that point it dawned on me that the judgmental stares and suggestive comments were not just because they thought I was involved in corporate prostitution but also because they felt some wealthy person must be paying for me to look good.
I have heard young men joke that keeping a girlfriend is expensive and now I understand why. Society has given them the notion that a girlfriend is also a responsibility. But even at that, there are still so many girls out there that do not share that idea. If a guy wants to spend his money it should be of his own volition, shouldn’t it? Why is it so hard for people to believe that a young pretty girl can actually work hard to hold her own? It feels like society is indirectly telling us that pretty girls deserve to have it easy. What a messed up notion. But it’s not going anywhere. For whatever reason it came into play, it’s like a stain that just can’t be removed.
Even in that kind of situation, I am still not that kind of girl. While I do believe in traditional male courting roles – that a gentleman pays when he takes a lady out or buys her gifts, I do find it odd for an ordinary boyfriend to take up my bills. And I certainly won’t ask. Being completely honest, of course I would be thrilled if a boyfriend takes care of me, but I would prefer that my mother and my meager corper stipend are recognized in the effort as well.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Bevan Goldswain