Sunday, Oct. 19
Yaounde, Cameroon

Men have hassled me far less in Cameroon than some of the other countries I’ve visited. Until, that is, I arrived in Yaounde.

Here in the capital, men hiss at me from the side of the road, yell “Cherie, tu es belle!” (My dear, you’re beautiful!), or ask if I’m married without even bothering to say hello. My white skin apparently has dollar signs all over it.

But it doesn’t much bother me because these Cameroonians aren’t hassling me in a threatening manner like some of the other West African men I’ve enountered. Most of the would-be suitors here aren’t persistent, and after I ignore them once, they usually leave me alone.

In fact, for many of these guys, approaching me seems to be a game, simply to see how I’ll react with the slight chance they’ll get lucky. So when I’m in the mood, I play back with them, particularly those who ask for my hand in marriage.

“Oh, you want to be my second husband?” I reply, turning the polygamy that’s so popular here on its head. “I’ve already married one man.” That dissuades a whole lot of the bunch.

Sometimes, at their urging, I tell them about my (imaginary) husband who is waiting for me in the States. I’ve talked so much about him on this trip that I half expect him to pick me up at the airport when I arrive home.

Occasionally a man asks about my absent wedding ring. It’s not safe to wear it outside of the house, I explain. I’m afraid someone will steal it.

Very seldom — but it does occasionally happen — a man propositions me politely and is so good-looking that I have to kick myself internally to reject him like all the others. Cameroonian men, I must admit, are a hot lot.

But not the guy behind the ice cream counter nearby the church guesthouse where I’m staying, who pursues me every time I go for a scoop. When I went in yesterday for some double chocolate, he again made it clear that he’d like to marry me — or any white woman, for that matter, he said. That takes some of the romanticism out of it, doesn’t it?

I retorted with my favorite line of the bunch, one I figured would throw him off his game.

“You know,” I said, “in my country men do laundry.” I paused for effect, then continued. “Men also cook and wash dishes. And they look after the children.”

The man looked wonderfully horrified. “Oh, no,” he replied in a serious tone. “Not here.”

“See?” I said, unable to hide my amusement. “That’s why it’s impossible.”

With that, I turned and left the shop.