Nigerians, especially older ones, can be very tactless.
When I was in Nigeria last year, one of my grandmother’s neighbours started calling me orobo (slang for “fat person”). I decided not to take it personally, because I had expected someone to call me fat during the trip. I told myself that she’s an older woman who feels like she’s just stating a fact and isn’t trying to be rude. So when she’d greet me, saying something like “Orobo, how are you today?” I’d respond politely. But things only got more difficult to ignore: when she’d see me she’d call me orobo, then repeat it in a different way, saying “Orobo…iya repete (I think that means something like “blubbery woman”?)” and move on to mention a part of me that was big. It seemed the more agreeable I was, the longer her names for me grew, and the more she felt it was ok to comment on my size. I eventually got annoyed and told her that where I live, it’s considered rude to call people fat. I didn’t say it rudely; just matter of factly, and none of the adults in the room chastised me.
My grandma’s neighbour just laughed, which made me say “I’m serious! No one would call you fat to your face like that.” (imagine me saying this in very poor Yoruba). She got the message though and she actually apologized. Too bad I waited until the last few days of the trip before saying anything.
Although I eventually got annoyed with this lady, after the fact I started thinking along the lines of At least she’s saying it to my face; how many people are thinking the exact same thing but not saying it? Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is better. Obviously the best case scenario would be where we all see more than a person’s imperfections and instead focus on recognizing their good points.
If you haven’t read about my own great aunt’s comments on my size, read it here.
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