Male Entitlement

It’s Wednesday night, I’m meeting up with some friends for happy hour – as you do. After a round of drinks I ran into an old friend (acquaintance at best). He’s sitting with his friend in town for business. We have the usual small talk and he mentioned he never had my number, no biggie – I give him.

Thursday morning, I get a phone call from a random number.

Guy: Hey, you probably don’t know who this is.

Me: No I don’t.

Guy: We met last night. I was with *describes my friend*

Me: Oh? 

Guy: What are you doing after work? We should meet up.

Me: Oh..erm…no thanks.

Guy: Why?

Me: I don’t want to?

Guy: But why? Is it your birthday or something?

Me: *looks around* I just don’t feel like meeting up with someone I barely know.

Guy: *curses* *apologises for cursing*

Me: …

Guy: You have to give me a better reason.

Me: I’m not going to make something up or lie to make you feel better.

Guy: Are you saying this because I’m not based in this town and you don’t see a future together?

Me: Woah. *shook*

Guy: OK. I’ll let you off this time, if you promise to see me next time I’m in town.

Me: *what the actual fuck* Honestly, I don’t have to promise you anything.

Guy: OK. But this isn’t going to stop me from calling and asking later.

Me: That you can do.

*end of conversation*

I have no words.

Inception

Talking to my mum whilst on a business trip, in the usual “how is it going” banter, I mentioned my global head (female) was in town as well to which she instinctively responded “you too will be a director soon in Jesus’ name”. I casually mentioned I have no interest in the corporate ladder I want the money not the responsibility. Alas confrontation follows “I thought you wanted to be a career woman?”, “how old are you that you already want to stop chasing your career?”. My first reaction: “I never said I want to be a career woman” but as she insisted on banging on I quickly deflected by mentioning this director had no kids and has no intention to have any which was naturally followed by a series of “God forbid”, “what sort of life is that” which thankfully ended the conversation about my lack of appetite for the corporate ladder (though only started a suggestion that I have more kids …sigh)

I genuinely don’t believe there’s a problem with choosing not to have kids, neither do I believe there’s a trade off between kids and career (though certain phases may call for prioritising or compromising) in fact I am ashamed of myself for using this as a deflection as it went against my core beliefs on the topic but it got me thinking…

  1. I never mentioned a desire to be a career person it just happened to be what my family always said would suit me because to them I had no business acumen and seemed better fit for the corporate world and going through life I have found myself believing what others thought of my abilities.
  2. What paths have we chosen out of own interested or discovered skills and which have been thrust to us in inceptions we have carried on following even though it defiled our logic? Marriage? Having kids? Which career path is shameful and which is noble? What things do we want so badly in our lives but inceptions of old make us feel guilty to even think about? And then there’s the question where do you draw the line? What desires are unrealistic youthful exuberance with selfish, untamed longings and who really decides this boundaries? Society? Religion? Self?

Ah well! Still on a journey to figure life out…

Workplace Etiquette

I don’t tend to wear earrings. I think I’ve been in make-up exactly once in my life – at the behest of a friend who was so insistent on painting my face I acquiesced. I figured it was not my labour so why the hell not? As it turns out, I now know why the hell not. Make-up doesn’t magically disappear, you have to wipe and then wash it off. Safe to say, never again. Too much work. The last thing I want to do after a long day is wash my face. Glass of wine anyone?

So really, if you are paying attention, it should be clear to you that really anyone who spends a little time with me quickly becomes quite aware that my aesthetic is at best, hobo-goth. And really, that’s being generous, most of the time I look like trash. It’s great stuff.

The past several weeks I’ve been consulting at a firm where I have to do that 9-to-5-ting. It sucks: having to wake up in the morning, wear ironed clothing, make myself look passably inoffensive and then interact with other human beings while attempting productivity. Adulthood is such a scammy drag; I don’t recommend it.

But at least now that I am six weeks into the ordeal, I’m probably used to it. I’ve even gotten used to the fact that people insist on praying before and after our board meetings. I’ve gotten used to those two co-workers, one of them 100% seedy, who keeps inviting me to “service on Sunday”. I was even invited to Wednesday vigil last week – cue raucous laughter – when it’s not like Industry Night at Spice Route has become incapable of elevating my Wednesday nights.

I digress. I just want to make it clear that I thought I was a pro at managing this Nigerian work environment thing. My bosses call me “dear” or “darling” and I’ve resorted to calling them by their titles “MD”, “ED” since there is no way I’m calling anyone “sah” or “ma”. Yet somehow despite these qualifications, I was at all not prepared for what ensued this morning. I am so naïve I tell you, so naïve I could be pre-resurrection Jon Snow.

It’s 10am and a lady I vaguely recognise from Procurement walks resolutely into my office. She failed to knock but I appreciate that she asks for permission to sit and “discuss something with [me]”. I assumed it would be work-related, but at the very worst, I also readied myself for the proselytization I knew I’d receive from one co-worker or another each week. I was poised to display my polite nods and enthusiastic “thank you so much”. It would all be over in 15 minutes. I am so naïve.

Big auntie from procurement instead wanted to know why I don’t wear earrings. In fact, she wanted to know why I always look so plain, “no earrings, no makeups, everyday black…your clothes are so loose”. I am still shook as I write this. Who is this lady? Who is she? Honestly, what is our relationship? Did I miss the part where my guardianship was signed over to this big auntie? Did the black dress I wore yesterday scream “Save the Frump!”? What am I missing here?

My aesthetic is driven by what someone described (of another) as a lofty laziness and it’s unquestionably apparent. But, at the risk of repeating a cliché, it is my body so I can look as trashy as I goddamn please. But apparently big auntie does not feel that way. She kept prodding, “are you Deeper Life? Or Mountain of Fire?” “You know as a young woman you have to package yourself,” she says laughing, “young men these days have a lot of distractions, you can’t be looking like this”. This is for real. I’m at my place of work, dressed in black shirt, grey-black blazer and black slacks. My co-worker deems it fit to offer me some styling advice so “young men” will want to look at me/fuck me/marry me? Somebody help me understand. Please.

Game of Chairs

Yesterday was my colleague’s birthday. By colleague I mean a Director at the company – I hate that I have to state this but it’s crucial for understanding the politics in this story.

Anyways, we were all invited for “casual” cake and drinks at the conference room 30mins before the end of the work day – perfect.

I’m going to try to tell this story in the most chilled way I can but there are so many deep issues that should be addressed. But I digress.

I arrive at the conference room on time. The conference room has one massive table with about 10 seats and some extra seats at the end of the room. On one side of the table was the Director, at the other side of the table were two expats, leaving about 7 empty seats at the table. The extra seats at the end of the room were filled with other staff. I was confused for a second, why are people sitting at the back when there are free seats at the table? Aren’t we just here to eat cake? So naturally I pulled myself a seat at the side of the table with the expats – mainly cus we work in the same department and I didn’t want to be caught in all the pictures with the celebrant. I make a work appropriate joke about cake, everyone laughs – the room needed it.

The room starts filling up more and the big Nigerian men were quite comfortable taking their places at the table. Finally one other Nigerian woman pulls a seat at the table – yay – not alone. The “casual” event starts with opening prayers and before I knew it people were making speeches – honestly this was expected.

Halfway through the event the “biggest” Nigerian man enters and I see people shuffling and whispering. I’m thinking oooh what’s going on? Drama? Beef? Should he not be here? None of that. They were basically panicking about him not having a seat. But he’s late? And we’re about to cut cake? Can everyone relax? They didn’t. Someone whispered into the ear of the other woman on the table and asked her to get off the seat so he could sit at the table 😦 This actually broke my heart.

The event goes on with more random speeches from the men in the room. Finally the coordinator announces that he needs a female representative. Oh ok. Nice of them to acknowledge us. Then he quickly adds “to play the role of the Director’s wife and coordinate the cutting of the cake”. My heart sank some more. They picked a lady and decided to embarrass her a little further by saying she was picked because she’s a virtuous woman. *facepalm*

Cake cutting time. The coordinator calls some men to join in the cake cutting. Respectfully calling each one out. After he’s done, one of the men shouted “but there are no women here”. He agrees and calls some women out with sounds and nods towards their direction. Yes, myself included.

After the cake is cut my young female colleague (one of the brightest brains in the company) starts running towards the back of the room. I ask her what’s wrong. She says, “I don’t want them to ask me to share cake”. Wow. I thought she was being ridiculous until they in fact asked her to share cake. There was really no point staying after this. I said congratulations and left.

People are so quick to label us angry black women, but can you really blame us?

Don’t

 

  • Don’t cry.
  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Don’t lie.
  • Don’t steal.
  • Don’t hangout with “bad” friends.
  • Don’t talk to boys.
  • Don’t have sex.
  • Don’t show your emotions.
  • Don’t let people know your relationship issues.
  • Don’t bring shame on your family.

We are raised with a huge list of things we shouldn’t do. I wonder if most of us would be more rounded adults if the people around us encouraged us to do certain things instead.

  • Cry if you have to.
  • Engage in meaningful conversations.
  • Say things that bring people up.
  • Be generous.
  • Pick friends that share your goals.
  • Interact with the opposite sex at a pace comfortable for you.
  • Have safe sex.
  • Show your emotions, it’s healthy.
  • Talk to your friends and family about what you’re going through, seek professional help if you need it.
  • We’re proud of you no matter what you do.

I can’t blame our parents or society for this though…even most of the 10 commandments are a list of don’ts.

Community Service

I often get the feeling that I’ve been called into this world to do community service.

Yes, community service!

By this, I don’t mean the type you get for doing crime and being let off lightly. On the contrary, it’s believing that your main purpose on this planet is to serve your community and help members within your community.

And no, I don’t mean politics.

The community might range from very small units of society such as your family to bigger groups – countries and continents. We could say that community is basically anything greater than one.

The acts of service to be provided to the community are within a greatly expansive horizon; they could be anything from encouraging and supporting the little kid who stops by your shop, so that he’s inspired to be the best he can, to smiling cheerfully at the traffic warden or street cleaner so that they know they’re valued or just the random words of affirmation and affection to a loved one (or anyone) so they remember that they’re loved.

Life is already tough enough for everyone; whether it is those looking for where the next meal will come from, or you wondering if you’ll ever be half the man you had set out to be, or wondering how long you could carry on with a job you absolutely hate but need the salary or barely staying put in a marriage you’ve seemingly lost all appetite for.  I could go on but life is tough indeed. Seeing how tough life is, I believe we all as community servants are sent by God to support each other on this planet of His.

A few years ago, I adopted a personal mantra for my life’s dealings. “whatever helps her/his confidence”. How I arrived at this is an interesting story which will be discussed another time.

“Whatever helps her/his confidence” – in my opinion, confidence is the main currency for survival. Whether it be in the form of an improved self-belief/assurance in ones potential to succeed or trust that the universe will be fair on you, or a feeling of being good and not needing to be extra, confidence is key.

Now I’m not a motivational speaker so I’m not here to give you some feel good nuggets, but we really could be happier and better if we were more confident in ourselves. It will go on to affect our decision making and choices and just help us live better lives overall.

We all need a renewed sense of mindfulness. I’ve not mastered it all but I think it’s important to consider this in our dealings.

So I’ll end by saying these:

  1. Why not get involved community service today?
  2. Why not be the energizer within your circle?

 

Smile

Living in the shadow.
Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?
In the shadows people see you as happy and free.
Because that’s what you want them to see.
Living two lives, happy, but not free.
You live in the shadows for fear of someone hurting your family or the person you love.
The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free.
But you live with the fear of just being me.
Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be.
No harm for them, no harm for me.
But life is short, and it’s time to be free.
Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.
Smile!

– Gloria Carter