By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
While growing up we had a lot of lofty ideas about some issues, of which today I do not know what the kids are thinking about it. Maybe they know better because of the internet explosion.
Many years ago, we thought that the man with a pot belly was well-fed. We called them “big men.” Some climes presumed that since the tummy is so big that the wallet is also big (rich man). Today’s men are fighting the big belly. It is assigned many things. One common conclusion about a man with a big belly is lack of exercise.
The second, which is not far from the first, is the bad food syndrome. In our time nobody wants afo-beer (big tummy). Most men are looking for six-pack-abs which are not easy to come by because we know that from our adage maintaining beauty is costly (mma bu olu).
If you go into any doctor’s office now with that protruding stomach for any sickness not concerning your big tummy, the first question would be about your exercise routine. The next one would be to watch what you eat. Then he would be ready to listen to your complaint.
So, my question is, “What changed that big tummy is no longer fashionable and having a big tummy has gone from high demand to no no no?” My friend went overseas to have surgery to reduce his pot belly. I told him that he can achieve it through food and exercise within one year. He replied that he has no time for exercise and that staying at home for three weeks would be easy. So, he had the surgery and was looking good. I saw him last January he is back to the status quo ante bellum.
The second misconception was the eyeglasses. We thought that people with eyeglasses were intelligent. The illusion we had was that it makes the person look smart. Martin stole his father’s eyeglasses and was putting them on only in school to look smart. We all presumed that Martin was a smart boy because at that time we believed that it was only professors and the children of the learned who read a lot that would have eye problems. They would need eyeglasses to help them to read more.
We admired people with eyeglasses. Some of us would even lie to our parents that we have eye problems in order to get eyeglasses. Our parents were so poor that they could not afford eyeglasses and they would go to the chemist or pharmacy store and get eye drops and keep pouring them into our eyes until they came back to their senses and told us that now you kids can see clearly, you are being smart by half (Ina awa anya). Now let us go back to the story of Martin, my good friend. We were all surprised that Martin had eyeglasses.
Although we do not know how the eyeglasses came about because Martin did not check the boxes to merit wearing eyeglasses. Martin was not such a very bright student that eyeglasses would be something we would accept, and the parents were not rich, nor were they educated, so how come Martin had them? When the news came out that it was his father’s eyeglasses that he stole, the whole school erupted with “KAMSIKWANU.”A walking stick was also a sign of affluence.
People with walking sticks were regarded as the bourgeoisie in society. We always looked out for what kind of walking stick their parents were using. Even today our young generation are parading walking sticks with golden head and lion heads to show their wealth.
But age would tell you that when you have partial stroke or arthritis and rheumatism, a walking stick is not an option, but a necessity and it is not for the rich but for the sick. Walking stick groups in the 70s were a very popular group.
Their pictures would be showcased with their walking stick. Fast forward to 2023, nobody wants to use walking sticks anymore. They go for all kinds of treatment to show that they can still walk without any aid. It is no longer fashionable. When I was in a parish in the hinterland, a parishioner was given a walking stick by an orthopedic doctor to help recover from a broken bone. He refused to use it and stayed home.
When I visited him, I asked why he has not been to many activities since he came back from the hospital. He said that he didn’t want to appear in public with a walking stick and that they would laugh at him and mock him for getting old. I told him that we used to see people with walking sticks as rich men. His reply was, “That was when the world was ignorant, now they know better.” I think he was correct because the walking stick has more to do with sickness than wealth.Finally, the bald head (Isi Nkwocha).
This one was very huge in the misconception class. A man with a bald head was presumed rich because too much money makes you lose some hair, especially starting from the center. Now we know it is alopecia in kids and old age in the elders. Many elders would pay everything to keep their hair. Not only to keep it but also to maintain the original colors. The parents who showed up in the school in those days were judged by their bald heads.
If there is a bald head, we would conclude that they were rich; if the hair were complete, it meant he was a simple middle-class person. Now we know that bald heads have nothing to do with money but a lot to do with age, genetics, and alopecia. Nobody wants to have a big belly because it is a sign of bad eating; it has nothing to do with status in society. Eyeglasses have nothing to do with smartness or dumbness.
Glasses can be given for different reasons other than being smart. And a walking stick is an aid not for fashion or rich people only.