I was jejely sitting down and minding my own business when someone came and chooked finger inside my eye. Well, not literally but you catch my drift.
We were in the sitting room of someone bereaved offering our condolences. A woman came in to do the same. She sat close to me without saying hello but that was ok. After a while, she blurted out a question at me.
“Did you use dye?”
I turned and looked at her bewildered.
“Huh?” was all I could say.
“Dye, dye, did you use dye on your hair?”
“Yes…” I answered. My hair was a bit of a mess. I had dyed it auburn and now it was a faded funny brown seriously streaked with my grey hair. I was on a ‘hair break’. I also hadn’t had time to go to the salon…come, why am I explaining? Biko a bad hair day is allowed.
The woman shook her head as one would in the wonderment of looking at something really bad like… a collapsed building.
But I thought, stupidly, that maybe she liked it.
“Don’t use dye again, use herbs… herbs is better.” I was furious. WHO IS THIS RUDE WOMAN?
The audacity of telling a stranger you don’t know from Adam what to do without being asked and without even pretend felicitations.
I gave her a cold stare and said
She eventually stood and left without so much as saying bye or a backward glance.
Manners people, manners.
Should there be some mandatory course added to our curriculums to teach people social etiquette and sensitivity? We Nigerians have no qualms about saying whatever we feel like to whomever and that is just plain manner less.
So, I will be a good Aunty and take a few lessons on what to say and what not to say today.
- If you bump into someone you have not seen in ages, do not interrogate them about their lives. “Where are you ‘based’?” “Where are you working?” is really none of your business. If you decide to meet up and have a drink then you can each catch up on the other person.
- “Ah Ah! You have put on so much weight” no matter how gleefully said is not acceptable greeting anywhere in the world. Neither is “You have lost so much weight! Are you sick? It doesn’t fit you abeg.” See, we all have mirrors. Chances are we know exactly how we look and may be sensitive about it. If you see nothing to compliment then KEEP CHUT. Someone saw me a month after giving birth to my son and said “After one baby and you are like this?” Do not inbox people after seeing their pictures on Facebook and be rude. You did not congratulate them on the lovely kids they gave birth to, you just leap inbox to say “Try and come down or you will look like you are your husband’s mother”… [email protected]$*[email protected]$
- “You never marry? Wetin you dey wait for?” and “when will you call us to eat rice” are just plain rude questions and again none of your business. Do people marry themselves? Is it by force to marry? Do not offer dating advice or tell them they are picky or do not pray hard enough. Because you crawled into a compost pile and selected ‘Baba Ibeji’ does not mean you are now a ‘how to find a spouse’ hexpat… Unless you want to propose do not prod people to know why they are single. If you want to eat rice, cook it.
- “You still dey do fine girl and fine boy, you no wan born.” This is one of the worst things you can say to a couple with no children. Chances are they are probably trying and nothing has happened yet. Why increase their anxiety? Do you have any plans to assist them financially when they do have kids? Do you know how many women you have sent to tears with this stupid question? A woman saw it fit to ask another woman without children ‘what she was waiting for to have children’, this woman had had it up to here with these veiled nosiness that she retorted “I am waiting for your husband to come and have sex with me so I can conceive” and then she stormed away. I think she deserves a medal for that clap back. It is not ok to argue with people on the number of children they should have. “Ah ah! Only two girls? You need to try for a boy.” “God forbid don’t say that you want only one child.” Please MIND YOUR OWN CHILDREN.
- If you do know a couple with fertility issues, unless they have asked you for advice, please do not offer any. Especially if you did not have fertility issues at any point in your life. Do not suggest herbs, men of God or hospitals unless they come to you. Do not ask them “How far?” or starting lambasting them with prayers. Be a quiet praying distant support till you are drawn in.
- If anyone tells you they are trying to lose weight, be sensitive. Do not say things like “This one you are disturbing yourself will not work o.” or “You have not lost any weight today.” Or “It is like you are putting it back on.” Or “Don’t lose more than this o, you will not be fine again. If you cannot encourage by saying positive things then don’t say anything.
- Do not ever say “Why is this baby so small? Kai, he is small for his age o. Is he eating? Give him Ogi and fertiliser…” to a mother. I tell you that she knows this already. Most likely, you will send her to the hospital extremely worried. The parents may be battling a condition with the child they do not want to disclose. They may even be on top of the situation with medication and other things. Do not push them over the edge. And seriously folks, are we all supposed to be the same size? Unsolicited parenting advice and criticism from strangers is annoying. “Why is she still wearing pampers and using a pacifier?” “Why are you still backing this old man?” “Why are you using oyinbo carrier and not putting her on the back the African way?” Please stop this!
- Never EVER say “Your husband is finer than you.” So what if he is? Of what use is that statement? So what do you want her to do? Have plastic surgery? Divorce him and stay alone with her ugliness? Hand him over to you that deserves a handsome husband?
- Do not walk up to anyone you have profiled and begin to sell herbal weight loss concoctions to her/him. This has happened to me several times. Someone randomly approached me to sell tummy blasting herbs to me. I told him I was pregnant and enjoyed seeing how shamefaced he was as he left. I was only pregnant with the joy of the lord but he deserved not to know that. Stop disturbing we fat people. If we want to lose weight, we know where to go. Till then, abegi, leave us alone.
- When my mother died, someone actually said that we did not pray enough. In other words, we killed our mother by not praying for her. My goodness!!! This not just rude and insensitive, this is WICKED. Dear Nigerians, support the bereaved with mostly your silence. There is no need for so many words. Do not accusingly say “I called you and you did not pick up” to a bereaved person. The person might have been in a fetal position in the corner of his room crying. Do not say “Hard Luck”, what is that even supposed to mean. Do not try to rationalize it or explain death. You are as bewildered as the bereaved, don’t assume some false superior knowledge.
- If you suspect that a person has left his/her marriage. Resist every temptation to ask. If you do not know for sure, you are definitely not part of their inner circle. Pacify your inner gossip with Linda Ikeji or something. And if you do know that they are divorced or separated, do not begin to blame anyone.
- Why on earth would anyone look at a child and begin to declare “He does not look like his Papa at all!!” Pele Mr DNA! We can hear the accusations of infidelity as loudly as you intended us to hear. Of course, in your village, children are only allowed to look like their fathers.
- It is not ok to visit a couple in THEIR home and begin to suggest how they should live. “Ah Ah, na daddy dey wash plates? Biko don’t turn my brother to woman o.” “Your wife goes to a different church? Hmm it is not done like that o.” “Why are you allowing them to drink coke? It is not good.” If you have ever said anything like this, you are possessed with the ‘scatter home’ demon. See a pastor.
- Have you ever seen an overwhelmed mother of toddlers trying her best to manage her children in public and people still feel the need to say “Madam, control your children!”. How callous are you? If all you need to keep your kids well behaved is a push on the button of the remote control you carry, then please go ahead and berate her for forgetting hers at home.
- “You are not married or have any children, what are you doing with money?” Jite’s has already answered this (read here). I could go on all day but the bottom line is, blurting out the first thing that floats in your brain is what children do. Use a filter. And if you do not have one, then keep quiet. It is as simple as that.
Catch up with Abiodun