Right on time for Valentine’s Day, a new Jamaican dating site has been launched. It’s Fiyahstick, founded by veteran journalist and prominent businesswoman Janet Silvera. The clever name is based on a seductive Jamaican proverb, “Old firestick easy fi ketch.” It’s a promise that an old flame can suddenly blaze up with unexpected passion. The proverb could also be seen as a warning that the fire of ancient domestic battles can be hard to extinguish. People carry feelings for a very long time. Both love and hate!
Of course, Silvera is not marketing old firesticks. These are brand new. But it may not be so easy to light the fire of passion with inexperienced sticks. Knowledge is sexy. And managing an online dating platform can be very challenging. The business of selling illusion is quite tricky. The expectations of potential clients can far exceed the capacity of the dating service to deliver. When reality clashes with fantasy, friction produces heat. And not the romantic kind!
The youthful male host of the Wiz wat’s Next YouTube site gave a most edutaining review of Fiyahstick: “So let’s face it, I can’t give oonu a honest review without going in the field. So, of course, I had to sacrifice myself, eh, and made an account to do further investigations and research.” He highlighted the old-fashioned look of the site; the large number of photos of Caucasians and the difficulty of navigating.
I was intrigued by the young man’s choice of ‘sacrifice’, plus that cautious throat-clearing ‘eh’ to describe his decision to set up an account. If he wasn’t doing research, he, obviously, wouldn’t be caught dead on a dating site. He seemed to echo Holy Perv’s comment on The Gleaner website: “imagine dem cant find someone near? Inna dem community, inna dem church, old school mate, work or business functions … ? … I would immediately think something is very wrong… . Failure to find someone by demself is the biggest red flag fi me.”
HOE AND STICK
If these sceptical male responses are typical, Fiyahstick is not likely to fulfil the optimistic prophecy of another Jamaican proverb, ‘Every hoe have dem stick a bush.’ There’s a man for every woman. In email correspondence, Silvera confirmed that most of the 200 clients who have signed up for the dating service so far are women. This is not surprising. Jamaican men are entirely confident about their sex appeal. They don’t need any dating site to help them find women. So there might be an imbalance on Fiyahstick of heterosexual women wanting heterosexual men.
Singles Club 876, the first Jamaican dating site, has not been able to solve this perennial problem. There are just not enough men in their database. I attended a couple of events at which there were hardly any men. On one occasion, the ratio was seven women to one man! And not one of the few men in the club is interested in women their own age. Much less older! They all want young gyal. I’m still on the club’s mailing list and I’m amused by the persistent flyers. There’s a social today at the Sky Dweller Ultra Lounge. It promises, “Meet + Connect + Fulljoy.” Sounds like wishful thinking!
It’s precisely this scarcity of Jamaican men willing to date online that made Silvera decide to not limit Fiyahstick to the local market. As she reports, “When the site was conceptualised about a year ago, the aim was to make it strictly Jamaican, but more and more our research showed that in order to sustain it we would need to introduce it to other nationalities, namely other Caribbean countries, people in the diaspora (UK, Canada and the USA). Our featured photo was taken from stock photos of black couples. However, we plan to change it because many of our friends have told us they don’t fit the bill.”
‘MI FINGER NAH BAWL’
Last Sunday, I got a heart-warming reminder that off-line romance is still possible. It was a video on the CNJ Jamaica YouTube channel about a beautiful wedding that took place on January 22. The groom was 73 and bride was 91. Unfortunately, the interviewer, CNJ, didn’t give their names but I picked up that the groom is Mr Wilson and the bride is Emily.
In 1957, Emily fell in love with the man who would father her eight children and they lived together for 21 years. Then they fell out. She met her present husband in 2009. She was drawn to him because of his kindness when she was sick: “What my children should do is him do it.” Asked by CNJ how she knew he was the one, she gave an amusing answer: “Well, I really don’t know if he was the one because, I tell you the truth, he was talking about it. ‘Mi a go marry yu, yu know!’ But me wasn’t listening.”
Emily self-confidently explains why: “Mi pass a lot of ring when mi young, yu know. Cause some a dem when dem ask mi, mi tell dem seh mi finger nah bawl, yu know.” Many desperate women need to take lessons from Mrs Emily Wilson. A bawling ring finger is not appealing. On- or off-line!