|Image from here|
I was showing some friends around the VI/Ikoyi area in Lagos the other day: a man, his wife and their two-year-old. We stopped at Silverbird Galleria on Ahmadu Bello, to find something to eat. I hadn’t been there in ages, and so we paused at the lobby while I tried to remember where the Barcelos restaurant was.
Out of nowhere, two young ladies materialised in front of us. They were conducting an opinion poll on the recently passed anti-homosexuality bill and wanted to know what we thought. I was casting my eyes around looking for Barcelos, wondering if they’d moved and if we should leave the galleria, so I wasn’t paying them too much attention. The couple explained that they were only visiting Nigeria and weren’t aware of the bill.
One of the girls was gazing at the wife, an adoring look on her face. ‘You’re so beautiful,’ she said. The wife replied with a polite thank you, and I was about to suggest that we go upstairs when the same girl looked at me and added, ‘Sorry, no offence.’
I took a moment to try and figure out the possible implications of her ‘apology’: sorry that she’s so beautiful and you’re so not? Don’t be offended that I have no compliments for you?
Yes, Person That I’ve Never Met And Probably Won’t Ever See Again, I care whether you think I’m pretty. I want you to like me, Stranger. When I woke up this morning, my thoughts were on you. I prayed that when I ran into you today you’d look upon me with eyes made of dreams and tell me that I am beautiful, and thereby validate my existence. And now that you have not, my life means nothing. Excuse me, for I will now rush on home and slit my wrists in the bathtub – or standing in the shower, as I have no bathtub. Over my gravestone they will write, ‘She Who Was Not Deemed Beautiful’.
This is what I might have said to her, if I were a different kind of person. But I’m not. So I said, ‘I’m not offended’, and I herded my people upstairs.
I’m learning to find silver linings in dark, ugly clouds, so here’s one: if I hadn’t had this partly annoying, partly amusing encounter, this blog post would not exist.
Still, it wouldn’t have hurt to have given her something to think about; something like ‘You’re stupid, no offence.’