Since I returned to Nigeria, I seem to be bumping into people I know from the past everywhere I go. It is a delight to cross the initial hurdles, “You look familiar. Which school did you attend? Where do you or did you work?” and finally make the connection.
Somewhere in between catching up and exchanging telephone numbers, they inevitably say something like, “You have not changed a bit; you look just the same!” That remark makes me wonder if they are blind or trying to be kind. Now, I admit that I am colour-blind to the shades of grey that should be painted on the canvas of friendly conversation. Trying to be truthful, but frantically digging into my shallow well of diplomatic graces, I guardedly reply, “Well your face has not really changed either,” forcing my wandering eyes to focus on the face and not the torso that shows telltale signs of a lingering love affair with food.
It is a thrill to hear what they have been up to or what they are currently involved in. I listen in child-like awe as they highlight past achievements, summarize current assignments, and state their aspirations with convincing conviction. If I bump into two or more male acquaintances, I am amused because their antics remind me of a book title I’d seen years ago, My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours. Nevertheless, I marvel at just how well people are getting on with their lives.
My bubble burst when I recounted my various run-ins to friends who were not impressed. “Effizzy, it’s all effizzy,” they replied. Responding to my blank stare, they informed me that effizzy encompasses a wide range of attitudes, mannerisms, and lifestyles that make one appear to be The Jones that others are keeping up with. I disagreed and commented that people have carved niches for themselves in consulting and others have resigned from well-paying jobs to become entrepreneurs.
“Ha!” they scoffed. “I consult for several schools, is effizzy for I take my portfolio round schools and try to convince them to buy my goods.” “I resigned from my job to start my company and we are into telecommunications, oil prospecting, you name it, is effizzy for I almost got fired so I quickly resigned. My office is in my living room and I am trying to swindle any unsuspecting!” I wondered if they were not being too cynical, after all, what is wrong with working hard to score a good impression?
I did not give our effizzy discussion any more thought until recently. I had gone to the salon to have my hair done and a smartly dressed young man introduced himself as the resident trichologist and chief stylist. He reeled off other credentials that I cannot remember and wanted to fix my hair. I declined preferring instead to have my usual stylist.
He commented on my eyebrows, which I had carefully tweezed that morning and thought looked great. He insisted that a beautiful woman like me needed to complete my look by having nicely arched brows. He wondered quite loudly if I had ever had them professionally done. I began to feel small and unsophisticated in this posh salon before this proficient beauty expert. Inwardly praying that he would stop the verbal harassment, which portrayed me as unglamorous, my voice dwindled to a whisper as I maintained that I was happy with my looks.
A few moments later, a client walked in. Mr. Trichologist wowed her with his resume and he proceeded to fix her hair. I was startled from my silent introspection over the arch of my brows by a scream from across the room. The new client was upset with Mr. Trichologist because he had damaged her hair and weave. Mr. Trichologist remained unapologetic while insisting that he knew what he was doing.
As I gazed at her over-processed, nearly burnt tresses, two words floated from my subconscious: articulate incompetent, oh I mean, effizzy!
Timi Yeseibo © 2009
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