Tact; (Noun) Skill or sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues
Tactless; (adjective) having or showing a lack of tact
Tactful; (adjective) Of course you’ve guessed this… having or showing tact
(All culled from the concise Oxford English dictionary, 11th Edition)
Tactlessness (noun); An illness suffered by the majority of Nigerians. A phenomenon in which people cannot intuit what is or isn’t their business. Resulting from this lack of intuition or shall we call it malaise, they make careless and insensitive remarks about something that otherwise should be no concern of theirs. This tactlessness is usually characterised by an abrupt change in subject meaning moving on from the damage they have inflicted without recourse to the implications.
In an ideal world, tactlessness should be followed by an abashed expression, abject mortification, a recognition that you have put your foot in your mouth and a fierce desire to bury your head in shame. Unless you are a Nigerian in which case there is no accompanying oops! I guess I shouldn’t have said that.
I’m in a supermarket browsing the aisles. A young woman is standing beside me also shopping. Suddenly, a man taps her on the shoulder and she turns to him. A few seconds pass before recognition dawns and she exclaims, ‘Oh hello Pastor whatever, hi. Long time.’ Pastor whatever says ‘Yes, I thought it was you! But I couldn’t be sure.’ Then he continues, ‘You have grown so large. See the way you are spreading.’ He indicates this spread by holding his arms wide. The woman is standing right in front of him. Chances are she knows exactly how much she has spread. And if there is any doubt, if the tightness of her clothes does not tell her this, if her husband (yeah that came up) does not tell her this, if her mirror and any mirrors she may chance to pass by in the course of her life do not tell her this, this near-stranger assumes the right to point out to her how she has gained in girth.
He does not stop there. ‘You no longer come to church.’ The woman explains that she is married now and attends her husband’s church. He asks which church. She says some Catholic church and he goes on to tell her how having been raised a Pentecostal, she should know better and how she had better drag her husband kicking and screaming back to the fold where the blood of Jesus clearly has greater efficacy. He is not done. He enquires if she has children. When she answers in the affirmative, he tells her how aha, this explains her weight gain but that this is not an excuse because … I tuned out. That or I would have had to stab him. Her too, for standing still and taking it. But I guess she had to, he being a pastor and all.
Two days after that I go to the salon to paint my nails. A little girl is getting her hair relaxed. The hairdresser begins to tell the mother, ‘see how your daughter is fat. She is not even like a small child anymore o. See her breasts. You say how old is she. Eight? No, you people have to stop feeding her o. This one is agric.’
Then she points to some other little, stick-thin girl in the salon… ‘see her mates how they look small. She looks like their aunty. Ha! Ehen, what colour do you want to paint your nails? Pepper-red? Let me see if I have it.’ The mother smiles and smiles. This mother needs slap.
And generally, it’s about weight although it could spread to every aspect of another person’s life.
See, these things are easy to deal with. The way to deal with tactlessness is with tactlessness of your own.
Strange man: Pearl, see how fat you have become.
Pearl: yes, but my fat is proportionate. You, only your bele is growing. As if you are pregnant. Are you pregnant sir? Or perhaps you have tapeworm.
Strange man: Pearl, see how thin you have become.
Pearl: yes, I have an active metabolism. Considering how much you eat, your metabolism must be very sluggish. You need to hit the gym o.
If the audience is right, you can employ sarcasm, irony, tongue-in-cheek remarks. But chances are, most tactless people would not get or respond to anything veiled. You have to jab them in the gut, you have to go for the jugular. So depending on the person’s sensibilities, try something that you think would hardwire them swiftly.
Like pastor above you could try…
Pastor: yes my daughter
Lady: F&%K YOU!!!
Just like that. Shit works every time. You’re welcome. Plus, you would have done a service to humanity. Said person would think twice about saying something like that to another person again – one less asshole to worry about.
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