THERE is a popular perception that the type of car a man drives is an indication of how deep his pockets are. To this end, some young men drive flashy, sporty cars in an effort to impress attractive women whom they eventually hope to hook.
Conversely, gold diggers use the cost of a car to identify prospective victims. But do cars hold that much sway in dating as is popularly believed or is their role overstated? Titus Serunjogi writes.
NOAH Ggayi (not real name), a mid-twenties low-end employee of a telecommunications firm in Kampala does not own a car. But to the women he dates, he is a bit of an enigma. They confess they seldom come across guys who change cars like caps the way he does.
Little do they know that Ggayi is a nuisance to his colleagues higher up on the corporate ladder, whom he pesters for cars every now and then.
Ggayi, like many young men, has bowed to the societal pressure and perception that a car is a symbol of a manâ€™s power and can drive women into submission.
This perception is slowly but surely becoming ingrained in popular culture.
Gertrude Nalule, a local musician in her popular song Tafumita Lindaazi (referring to the role of money in a relationship) said dating a man who does not drive has become a no-no among many urban young women.
Whether Nalule was extrapolating this state of affairs from empirical research or mere hearsay is not known, but there are women who concur with her.
Angela Kalule, a singer and presenter of the Intimate Connection, a love show on Sanyu FM, agrees that preference to men who drive is an increasing trend among young women today, especially the educated ones.
Rev Dr. Vicki Owens, a psychologist at Makerere University, contends that there is a â€œsizeable portion of young women who look at a car as a symbol of financial protection in a man and that it is important to have a man who fulfils your financial needs.â€
She says the perception is common at Makerere University, but says most young women still seek their fulfillment from much more than just financial sustenance.
â€œThe reality is that all women want protection and all men want to give it. But whether that protection should be financial or not is what some young women find confusing. Most women find fulfillment in character, care and a man who will provide a rock â€” who is solid and stands by what he says.â€
But a Miss MTN from one of the Miss Uganda pageants organised by Sylvie Owori says while suitors naturally try to impress pretty women, women on the other hand scrutinise suitors for signs of generosity.
This includes his sense of style â€” his dress, scent, watch; how much money (rather, what car does he drive), what is his sense of humour?â€
The former Miss MTN goes on to tell the educated urban young women trying to make it up the corporate ladder, that a man who does not drive is â€œnothingâ€.
â€œYou cannot even entrust such a man to take your CV around on your behalf.â€
The presumption here is that the more expensive the car a man drives, the more capable he is to take care of you.
While not exactly in agreement with that, Kalule contends that, â€œwomen tend to generally believe that a man who drives has a more stable financial life than one who does not. Such a man gives a woman a sense of security.â€
Kalule attributes the trend to peer pressure and the changing trends in modern dating, which make the car something of a requirement.
â€œIn the past, dating was more about sneaking into the girlâ€™s home when her parents were away. Others used to date by accompanying the girls to the village well, choir or church. But those days are now gone.
Today, dating is all about â€˜pick her up, take her here, there, and drop her back at her home.â€™ Unless oneâ€™s going to use a boda boda or special hire, a personal car comes in handy.â€
Besides, she argues: â€œSome girls do not want to turn up on a date all ruffled and sweaty from a boda boda ride. Society expects women to appear neat and all made up.
But regardless of the amount of time she spends in front of the mirror, dressing up, making-up, and doing her hair, she will still come off a boda boda looking rumpled. So why not settle for a guy who can save her all the trouble and just pick her up?â€
Beyond the popular stereotypes, Kalule says cars can be a real eye-opener about a man to a woman.
â€œA car is the first private space that lovers can have to themselves even before they get acquainted with each otherâ€™s homes. A man can exhibit gentility in a restaurant, but he is often always himself when he gets inside the car,â€ Kalule says.
â€œForget the perfect gentleman who opens the door for his date, stands aside as she pulls her legs into the car or even helps her gather her dress into the car. Once inside the car, he is the rude bloke who booms the car stereo and keeps alternating radio stations without asking for his dateâ€™s opinion.
The more aggressive men will hiss and curse and swear at every other driver who dares cross their path. Some will even go as far as sticking their middle finger out of the car window when angry or at the worst, get out to fight the errant driver.â€
Kalule says some guys take it upon themselves to light a cigarette and puff away without even asking for their datesâ€™ permission.
â€œThere is no limit to what a man can do inside his car but it all guides the womanâ€™s intuition as to whether he is worth her time.â€
Deborah Nakku, a regular patron of The Venue at Garden City, says some girls like cars because they can tell a lot about the manâ€™s personal hygiene.
â€œOnce, I was meeting a guy for a first date and he wanted us to go get a drink. So he opened his car door for meâ€¦ lo and behold, it was the most disgusting site I have ever seen!
Several Red Bull cans, cigarette butts and chewed up gum were stuck all over the dashboard and cushions. Our relationship did not go beyond two dates.â€
But if you thought that for a man not to own a car was viewed as disgraceful by certain women, a man who cannot drive is looked down upon by many women as downright useless.
â€œI once dated this lawyer who did not know how to drive. It was such a turn off and I could never understand his lack of care,â€ says Doreen Katushabe, an events manager.
â€œCan you imagine I would be the one to drive him around town while looking for parking and sometimes trying to squeeze the car into tiny spaces while he just looked on from the passengerâ€™s seat?
Even when taxi touts would bark at me and call me malaaya eno (prostitute), he would never bring himself to defend me, neither would he say a word when traffic officers would pull me over and quiz me over this and that.
Anyway, I never want to see the dolt again. He even screwed up my car; he crashed it into a tree when I insisted that he learn to drive.â€
But you are in for problems if your intuition needs a car to judge a lover. Hadijah Sengo, a single mother who acted in the Ugandan movie, Too Late, says women should direct their intuition towards other things, not cars.
â€œThe secret has leaked. Every man now knows that the easiest way to deceive a woman is by showing her a nice car and clean cash right from the bank.
These things used to be the reserve of financially-stable men, but times have changed. Even the man who stays in a bedsitter (one room house) can afford to drive himself these days, so can teenagers.â€
The Intimate Connection once featured a letter by a certain Lynn who lamented that she had just realised that the man of her dreams, the guy who used to pick her from her university hostel every weekend in a Nissan Freelander was a broke chauffeur for an Indian businessman.
What was even more disheartening for her was the way her man crouched and trembled before his masterâ€™s wife.
Dr Owens cautions that if a womanâ€™s attraction and evaluation of a manâ€™s worth is based on the car and other material things, there is a likelihood that her love will disappear as soon as those other things do.
That said, cars and women seem to hold a similar place inside menâ€™s brains â€” beautiful and dangerous all at once, they are both full of pleasant tricks.
They are fantastic for showing around like trophies yet it only takes a moment for either of them to blow up in your face.
For many especially â€˜settledâ€™ women, the type of car a man buys her compared to what he drives is an indication of how much he cares, whereas some find smashing car windscreens is the best revenge on a cheating spouse.
Some women will judge the rhythm of a manâ€™s affection on how much affection he showers his car vis-a-vis her. But whether or not a woman cares about a car, ultimately, it is hard to deny they impact relationships.
Additional reporting by Sebidde Kiryowa
Does a car make a man a better catch?