Wa Courting Activities: Visiting Girls and Combing Hair

Wa young men and women usually begin taking part in courting activities called "visiting girls" when they are 15 or 16 years old. "Visiting girls" is usually carried out in groups. Independent activity is rare before the young people pair off. The visiting is mainly done at night. It has no fixed site and is usually held at a girl's home. When night falls, fellows and girls gather in groups of three to five. Traditionally, young fellows went to girl's home and played a three-stringed instrument and flute while girls watched and listened. Then they sing, dance, give tobacco and betel nut, comb the hair of one another, laugh and frolic, cast amorous glances and express their feelings with songs. If a fellow takes a fancy to a girl, and gets a positive response after visiting her many times, he gives her some presents such as a bracelet, necklace, comb or scarf. If the girl doesn't return the presents back in several days or a period of time, he can rest assure that the girl fancies him and is willing to be his girlfriend or lover.

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Wa young fellows and girls take part in courting activities called "Visiting girls" (Photo from qcyn.sina.com.cn)

Some girls accept all presents without caring who is the giver. They believe that lots of presents are proof of her beauty and charm so the more the merrier. Parents will also feel happy and proud if their daughter receives a lot of suitors. Presents are supposed returned back to a guy soon if the a girl doesn't want to develop a deeper relationship with him. If a fellow grabs away the girl's adornments or scarf it indicates he is proposing marriage to her. At that moment, no matter if the girl agrees or not, she will shout loudly and protest the theft. If the girl doesn't go to ask for her adornments back, it means that she has accepted his proposal. During the group activities, if a guy and a girl want to have a more intimate relationship they would separate from the groups and hang out alone. If they want to get married in a proper way, the fellow ask matchmakers to propose marriage formally, and they get engaged and married.

In most of Wa communities, young people can pursue sexual relations freedom before marriage. Traditionally when girls come of age, they leave their parents' home and move to a "girls' house" where they spend several years before they get married. In the courting season, when the sun goes down, young men gather in groups and go to the girls' house for singing and dancing. The Wa people generally have few gender division for labor, so young people usually get each other quite well working on the fields, collecting firewood and doing other chores. When a guy and girl fancy each other they often like to express their feelings by combing each other's hair. The Wa think that combing their lover's hair will help them retain the power of love forever.



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