Tuesday, April 5, 2016 5:22 pm
Recently, I was in a cosmetics shop to buy some items. As I was browsing through the merchandise, I could hear a woman talking on her cell phone. It took me approximately twenty minutes to make up my mind about what to put into my shopping cart. All this time, the woman was still on her phone. She was speaking rather loudly and animatedly, and at some point, she got emotional. For a while there were only two of us in the shop, and it seemed that she had convinced herself that even if people around could hear her, they could not understand what she was saying. You see, the shop was in Atlanta, USA, and she was speaking in Yoruba. You might be wondering why she did not think about the fact that I could be another Nigerian, but I have been told my dreadlocks fool some people into thinking I could not be African.
A few years ago, when I was in a shop in Liverpool Street, London, a guy was on the phone to someone, raving about the two women he was currently ‘banging’, and how hot they were. He said enough for me to know he was also married! The details were so explicit and juicy, I lingered longer than I needed to in the shop. When the guy finished, I decided to teach him a lesson in discretion, so I walked up to him and said ‘Good afternoon’ in Yoruba. He reacted as if he had received an electric shock. I did not know you are a Nigerian he said. It should not have mattered if I was a Nigerian or not. He should not have been having that kind of conversation over the phone in public.
Fast forward to my co-shopper in Atlanta. When I was ready to pay for my items, I went to the payment counter and queued behind my Naija sister. She was still on her phone. She was so engrossed in her conversation that it did not seem to bother her that there was no one to attend to us, she kept on talking. After a few minutes, I called out to get the attention of a shop attendant, and someone came forward to assist us. All through the process of payment, the sister kept her phone glued to her ear. As she turned to go, still on her phone, I looked at her and said in Yoruba, ‘It is well’. She too panicked for a second, then smiled and thanked me. I hope she got the message. In the twenty minutes or so I spent listening to this sister, I learnt a) She is married b) Her mother-in-law lives in Nigeria but looms very large in her marriage, c) Due to the insatiable demands of her mother-in-law, her marriage is in jeopardy and d) if her husband does not keep his mother in check, she will leave him and take her children with her. I fully sympathise with this distressed sister, but this is an awful lot of information to learn about a total stranger in a public place.
One of the things that has always mystified me is the need for adults to turn their lives into a daily spectacle online. I can understand why entertainers, politicians and ‘celebrities’ do it, they need to constantly be in the public eye. Yet, even they have to know where to draw the line. You don’t know when something might come back to haunt you. An actor today might become a President tomorrow. The postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for example have grown increasingly bizarre
We keep talking about how young people these days do not have values and manners. In the Yoruba language, when people talk about young people and manners, they are classified in two. We have the `abí ikó – those who were not taught manners when they were young and the àkó ìgbà those who were taught and refused to learn. For the purpose of this article, I am using 21 and above as my definition of an adult. Good manners are not something that was imported into African cultures from elsewhere. We all received the appropriate training from our parents, relatives, teachers, community leaders, religious leaders and so on, so we should not have an excuse for poor manners. When we become parents and wards, we continue the cycle of teaching and learning. We cannot claim to be good leaders if we lack character, and good manners is one of the foundations on which character is built. I will list a few pet peeves I have with regards to adult behaviour and good manners as follows:
1. The use of cell-phones: For those of us old enough to remember what life was like before we all had access to cell-phones, we are indeed very grateful for this innovation. The arrival of the cell phone should however not have coincided with the departure of common sense, decorum and sensitivity. How can we teach our children the appropriate ways to use their phones when we are guilty of using our phones in church, yelling loudly into our phones in public spaces, and relating all our life history in twenty minutes to the hearing of total strangers?
2. Social media and online platforms: One of the things that has always mystified me is the need for adults to turn their lives into a daily spectacle online. I can understand why entertainers, politicians and ‘celebrities’ do it, they need to constantly be in the public eye. Yet, even they have to know where to draw the line. You don’t know when something might come back to haunt you. An actor today might become a President tomorrow. The postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for example have grown increasingly bizarre. Not everyone can get away with the level of craziness Kanye West puts into his online rants – every real or imaginary ‘feud’ he has with himself or someone else online translates into money in his account. The next time you feel tempted to rant, gossip or assassinate the character of your Baby Daddy, Baby Mama, or ex-friend, take a deep breath. One day when you decide to run for office, you don’t want people to be reminded of times when your emotional stability was in question or what certain parts of your anatomy used to look like on Instagram. Just the thought of your children being old enough one day to read what you post should be enough of a deterrent.
The next time you feel tempted to rant, gossip or assassinate the character of your Baby Daddy, Baby Mama, or ex-friend, take a deep breath. One day when you decide to run for office, you don’t want people to be reminded of times when your emotional stability was in question or what certain parts of your anatomy used to look like on Instagram. Just the thought of your children being old enough one day to read what you post should be enough of a deterrent
3. Punctuality: There is no such thing as ‘African time’. I will tell you what time there is. There is ‘I take myself seriously’ time. There is ‘I respect the time of others’ time. There is ‘I told you in advance I will be late’ time. And there is ‘Even when I know everyone will be late I don’t have to be one of them’ time.
4. Chewing gum: A lot of people chew gum in public, old and young alike. Call me old school, this was not a ‘thing’ when I was growing up, so I can’t understand why people now have the need to chew gum visibly and audibly in public. Our teachers back then used to take a very dim view of this habit. You can chew gum in private, chewing gum in public spaces is rather tacky. If you need to freshen your breath, there are mints and sweets you can pop into your mouth discreetly. For the sophisticated who travel often, there are Listerine strips.
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Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com