I needed to process a benefit for a colleague, the company in recognizing the difficult economic terrain had amended the rules to indicate that an employee could either get that particular benefit as immediate cash or deferred benefit. I reached out to him to confirm his preference and he gave the response 99% of Nigerians will give in the circumstances (myself included)- he would prefer cash. Because he and I had a friendly relationship, I teased him that why not defer it since it wasn’t a lot of money. He insisted it be paid out immediately, he went on to list a few pressing needs that money could sort and ended with: Shey me I don’t have responsibilities yet, and shey I have a sponsor!
This question/ assumption, alongside the- when are you getting married (or whatever variant of the question the interrogator chooses to use) are one of the most frequently asked questions I currently get. In the workplace, at social events, among friends; it’s like everyone not-single keeps asking this question. The ones not asking are thinking it and will ask it one day.
I find it particularly exhausting. Like everytime it comes up, I’m just tired. The reason for this tiredness is; for everyone who asks this question, I scream a mental not you too! Or another one bites the foolishness dust! And I sigh. Deeply!
I find it particularly sad (and irritating) that someone will believe that any sane person, in this Lagos (regardless of marital status) will choose to put his or herself through the torture of waking up at an ungodly hour everyday- every blessed work day, navigate Lagos traffic, endure shitty less than stellar bosses and work colleagues; because of fulfilment, or to keep busy! Doesn’t make a lick of sense. And calls into question your sense of judgement if you hold that opinion. Maybe if I worked in another city I could better understand the logic behind that question and belief, but because we (my interrogators and I) work in Lagos, I cannot understand it. No matter how much I try.
The logic is, because you are single you don’t have any responsibilities, abi? Single working-class folks are just piling up the money, no responsibilities. Yeah right! It’s even worse when you are female, guys are given a somewhat free pass- because its believed they probably have a girlfriend(s) whom they foot their bills (the belief that men foot their lady’s bill is just bullshit an empty belief. Where are the men who supposedly foot their women’s bills- or even like 50% of the bills (and I’m not referring to transactional relationships)? I haven’t met them and no one around me has! But that’s a rant for another day).
There’s also the ones that will come to borrow money from you and get upset when you decline. That one is just plain old bad behavior. But then, you’re single; what do you do with your money? Why won’t you have money when I need to borrow it?
Let’s take a step back before I totally go off; while I agree the married person has more responsibilities in that the family is bigger (current nuclear and previous nuclear family), do we stop to think, just for a moment that; perhaps, just maybe the reason the single person is still single is because- current responsibilities will not allow for added responsibilities? Possible? That’s a thought though.
So, you ask the married person for his/her responsibilities- and they always without fail mention their parents and/or siblings in addition to their spouse and children. The question now is- did you just start caring for your parents and siblings when you got married? If no, then perhaps you shouldn’t be asking the single person what he/she does with his/her money. Shouldn’t the answer to that be very easily derived?
A thought does occur to me though, maybe I shouldn’t be looking at this lapse in memory as a single event but should look at it from the perspective that we Nigerians have very short memories and can believe the most outrageous things. All it takes for something to become authentic is for us to hear it being repeated often or repeated by someone we believe knows better (an influencer- off and on-line). Even when someone is trying to rejig our memory and to remind us of past events that negate our current conclusions, or to logically point out another perspective, we adamantly refuse to reason because it is said or Lagbaja said so. Case in point- pre and during 2015 elections. Its 2018 and some of us have still not regained our reasoning.
Or perhaps I should situate this question (and other such) in terms of the fact that we are naturally nosy people who never mind our business. Maybe if I did, I won’t find it so sad or irritating. With us, if it isn’t this one thing it’s another, we are always all up in other people’s business at the detriment of ours. It’s a proven fact that Nigerians are very good at putting out fires in other people’s fields while our kitchen is on fire. And when someone points out that our kitchen is on fire, we deny with our last breath, even when the smoking kitchen is obvious for all to see; our kitchen isn’t on fire. Case closed. That’s our story. Or do you want to argue with the owner of the house about the state of his/her house?
To avoid being on the giving or receiving end of offense, we should all learn to mind our business. Might be difficult, particularly for those of us for which it will be like learning new skills in old age, but it must be done. It isn’t my business what I do with my pay- the company which pays me doesn’t ask me what I do with the money they pay me; and that’s because I have worked for the money. Same way you shouldn’t ask me why I am yet to marry or have a child, or get a masters, or go bungee diving, or have a plastic surgery for the heck of it. We should all pay attention to our businesses aka: Mind Your Business! It isn’t that difficult. Abi? How difficult can it be to mind your own business?
This article was initially published here on BellaNaija.
Photo credit: Dreamstime/BellaNaija