One of the advantages of having siblings of the same sex, within the same age range and body size is that you often get to flaunt more clothes than you really have. When you have someone like me in your family it means it doesn’t just stop at siblings, this ‘Olivia Twist’ goes as far as borrowing from her mother.
ọgọdọ nṅuṅu ejighi ya agbasi egwu ike. You should not dance your best with a borrowed wrapper, my mum would warn before she lends me anything that belongs to her. I don’t fail to tell her the same when she comes to borrow my makeup or purse too.
Whenever my mum buys something new for herself I admire it with her and begin a mental calculation of how the item can be of use to me. From a time when my mates were still wearing flat shoes and I was already standing on borrowed high heels – who cares that my aunty said I walked like a willowy tree blown by the wind in them? – till now that she has to hide her perfumes and jewellery from me, though she knows it’s a waste of effort, I have never stopped seeing the personal property of every female in this house as public property.
Early in the year 2010, we had one of our usual ASUU strikes and I came home with only the basics. One Sunday morning, wearing a new dress, the ashoebi for a neighbour’s thanksgiving, I looked down and noticed the flare of the dress was very transparent. My underskirts were in school. Black tights didn’t help. My sister was in the North, serving. Last resort was my mother.
“Mummy biko give me your half shimi. See.” I show her how exposed I am through the gown. She didn’t bat an eye at the request, just reached out and gave it to me.
Who among those who praised my style that day would have known that beneath the lovely dress I wore was an oversized underskirt, worn as a tube from chest to knee, rather than from the waist down? Which of them would have guessed that the fine brooch nestled to the left of my bosom was there, not just for aesthetics, but to pin the underskirt to my bra and gown so that my Garri would not pour and expose me in public?
The things clothes can cover ehn. The Yoruba people say; A she o pọ to yi, asọ lo fi bo. So it’s plenty like this, na dress you use cover am.
In the spirit of borrowing, I was in my mum’s room to steal ulor (Bentonite clay) from her stash when I noticed something colourful catch my eye. A new jacket. I think it is lovely and it would go well with my yellow hand bag. I am upset that it cannot be my size then I remember Rihanna wore a similar oversized jacket and we all called it fashionable. I know I am not crazy enough to wear it out but who says I can’t take a picture and save for posterity?
In the past, oversized jackets were fashionable. This fashion seems to be creeping back in, if it does then my children can look at this picture tomorrow the way I looked at a secondary school picture of my mum in a modern ish top and trousers and say “So mummy was this fashionable in the olden days when this type of fashion was not even out?”
But is that all there is to this post? No way! Now, I want to tell you a story. Sit back and get your popcorn ready.
Some years ago, in year two thousand and eleven precisely, a certain young woman went to a volatile state in the Northern part of Nigeria to serve her country. It turned out she enjoyed it more than she anticipated. Close to her lodge was a church and in the mornings she went for morning mass. While returning from mass one morning a certain good looking young man approached her. Though he was cute she scrunched up her nose at the thought that this one was going to try to woo her that early in the morning, but on getting close he said something along the lines of “Hello dear. I don’t know why but God has been troubling me to send a message to you.”
She felt special. It was not the usual generic message of “Sister, God loves you.” This one was a personal message sent from God specifically for her. It gave her joy all through that day. Subsequent mornings she would meet this same man and he would always have the right Godly thing to say. One morning he was waiting for her with a book. A book with the title ‘Unleashing your potentials’ by a very popular speaker.
“God has very big plans for you,” He said “but you have to prepare yourself for it. Read this book.” Though she had a professional exam at about that time she read every page of that book and returned it.
On the day she was to return it though something unusual happened. This man of God relayed to her a very heart touching story, kind of like I’m relaying to you now, but its content was different. His money was tied up in a very big business, his pastor who would have given him the physical cash he needed to live on had travelled, so he needed the help of this corps member regarding raising funds. She wasn’t stupid, far from it, but she also had a conscience. Her conscience and her sense fought a serious battle so she sought the advice of a fellow corps member who was also into all those church things. Eventually she gave him the money from her meagre government allowance. Afterwards, I’m sure you are not surprised to hear that the story changed.
First, by chance or design, he quit running into her so often, then when he did, rather than discuss the money, he proposed marriage to her. Yes he did!
Gradually the end of her posting and the time to leave the North came. She hadn’t seen him in weeks. Whenever she called he had an excuse ready. The night before she left she called again and he showed his true colour, it was the same hue as the angry flames seen in those pictures of hell; Red and black. The morning she was to leave the North he switched off his phone. She sent text messages which were not replied and calls which went unanswered. And that was the end of her money. But did she learn? No.
Some years later, she got a call from someone else who hadn’t called her in years.
“Please I’m on site, there is no bank around and my pastor asked me to send him some money. Can you help? I’ll pay you back the Monday after the presidential elections.” The word pastor rang a warning bell.
I’ll take a break from this story to warn you. Whenever anyone asks you for money and puts in the word pastor in same sentence they are manipulating your conscience. Don’t do it!
Now back to the story. She warred with her conscience again, but chose to help. One week passed, then months. He wouldn’t pick her calls, wouldn’t reply her texts or Whatsapp messages, but when she called with a different line he picked and rather than sound repentant went on the defensive.
I’m sure this isn’t a peculiar story. We all have met such people who borrow then will begin to avoid you when it’s time to pay up. When they run into you, the sky will suddenly look too beautiful to ignore and they get lost admiring it they fail to see you or acknowledge your presence.
No one has it all. Every one of us will have that moment when our Shimi is unavailable and we will need the help of our neighbour to cover our nakedness, but there is an implicit rule to borrowing.
Do not wait for the lender to call you. Be the first to call and let them know that you are aware you owe them, express your remorse for being unable to pay up just yet and promise to pay up as soon as you can. And by all means try to pay up, even if it’s just half! You are soiling your good name if you owe people and go about living large while ignoring them.
Uzọ di nma a ga ya nga n’abọ. If a road is good we take it twice. If you destroy the road you took earlier how do you plan to pass next time?
Don’t be about that borrowpose life except you are borrowing from your nuclear family.