I am one of the not-so-fortunate Lagosians who live in the same compound as their landlords.
Let’s not pretend it’s an easy thing. It is like living in the same building as your in-laws, or your boss. You’re under constant eagle-eyed scrutiny, and in Naija speak, you cannot drink water and drop cup.
Well, it’s been about a month and I have had my share of landlady troubles, chief of which is my introverted behavior. She calls me Eleha. Sometimes Anjonu. If you don’t speak Yoruba, it just means I am mysterious and sheltered from the rest of the world.
My landlady is the kind of person who links everything to marriage, so I have had the ‘Ile oko’ speech said to me a couple of times.
“If you’re this quiet in your husband’s house, they’ll say you’re a snub.”
“In your husband’s house, you have to be friendlier than this o, or else…”
I, of course, respond to all of this with silence and a smile. There is no better-suited response.
But my landlady’s complaint is one I am all too familiar with. I have heard it all my life.
My mum would come into my room when I was way younger and ask me to come out, because what is this heat and aloneness doing for me exactly? Living with my siblings over the years, each one of them has spoken of how much of an indoorsy person I am and how I should come out more, get some sun, see the world and feel its pulse. Clearly, by ‘world’, they mean the people in my street. Sigh.
At this point, I think it came with my programming and I am not sure I can be helped.
But I have met others like me, so I don’t feel odd.
We know ourselves, really. We are the type of people who, when invited out, start to look for every reason in the world to cancel, from seemingly genuine ones like “I have so much on my plate right now” to ridiculous ones like “I will have a headache on that day, so no.”
We would rather eat a bowl of cereal all week than step out to the street to get groceries. It’s like we are saying in our heads, “There is a bear in the streets. Outside that gate, there is a bear waiting. Better to die of malnutrition than to be eaten by a bear.”
Our best friends are on a screen, either practicing make-believe or being unbelievable.
Where is the lie?
There is the issue of what to wear, which we can hardly decide on in the five hours we have to prepare. So we keep pulling out cloth after cloth and messing up our wardrobes in the process.
There is the hair and makeup segment that we really couldn’t be bothered by, or most likely, don’t even know how to navigate. It is stressful, and we find ourselves making up and cleaning it up the next minute because it makes us look beat up.
There is the awkwardness of conversation, the polite plastered smiles we have to offer, the hands we have to shake and sanitize and shake again, the worry about when it is an appropriate time to leave, the restaurant menu and the decision of what to order because everything looks so damn great and your trust issues are coming out that maybe all isn’t as good as it seems.
Then there’s the tiredness you feel upon your return to your house, how you have to take a bath to wash off all that stressful interaction with mankind and dust alike, and when all your body wants to do is crash, your mind says Nope, and starts going over every conversation you had while you were out, wondering if you should have said that or done that.
The life of an introvert is a mystery box; you never know what to meet in it.
But that doesn’t even worry me. What worries me right now is that I know my friends will read this and say I am not an introvert.
Is it your introvert?