The Things We Allow
Have you ever heard the saying “The minute you settle for less that you deserve, you get less than you settled for?”
Well I’ve been thinking about this idiom of recent.
I walked into a shop I frequent the other day. The owner is a friendly flirt. You come in and Mbah (let’s just give him that name) will call you his baby, his sweetheart. If you get close enough he’ll try to pinch your butt, steal a kiss, or hug you pressing your breasts against his chest. It was his way; he does it with almost all the young female customers. And we allow it because the mostly young ladies he does this with know that by batting their eye lashes and overlooking these liberties taken despite the presence of the family portrait of his lovely wife and two kids hanging behind the counter, Mbah would reduce the prices of whatever we want to buy or just let us take it for free even. It is a wonder the shop is still open.
On this particular day I give him my things and he catches my hand kisses the inside and says I have “thrown him” (I always wonder how one can “throw” what they never held in the first place) but I just smile ignorantly while he goes on calculating my stuff and winking suggestively at me. I notice he gives me a lower price on the goods than he did a male customer before me and I smile and go ahead.
I had come into the shop with a younger friend, a “small” and as soon as we step out she exclaims “Men are not ashamed oh! That one does not sell oh, he is just here to flirt, as you were selecting things he was chatting another girl and then you will come and he will kiss your hand!” She sighed loud and long and I had to laugh at her attempt at reporting Mbah to me as though I would take offence. None of those girls Mbah flirted with took him seriously they just allowed him his nonsense so they go their lower prices, and so they didn’t seems like “spoilsports”, taking things too seriously or misunderstanding that what he was really doing was “complimenting” them. And to think of it Mbah didn’t take them seriously as well, hell the man probably didn’t take himself seriously. It was all a game for him.
But, that aside my friend had me thinking. I realized we should take offence. Of course what Mabh does, borders on sexual harassment, but because we allow it and accept it knowing that it has its benefits (lower prices) and knowing too, that if we take him to task over it we will come out looking like we are making a much ado about nothing, none of us bother.
And I thought of how and why we allow other things, like the boys who pushed their wares on you at the market gates, and reached for your hand as you passed calling you names if you shook them off. Or what about the number of times we Anglophone Cameroonians allow Francophones to belittle us even in our own regions speaking to us and expecting replies (in our state offices) in a language other than our own. I thought of the many things we allow, and how one thing led to another and how allowing was very much like settling yielding less and less, with everything we let slide.
I thought of how we allow the little things, like paying 500frs to the police on the roadside, but we want the ministers embezzling in high offices to be sacked…
And we allow what is traditional “cultural” to rule unquestioned despite the ills of FGM breast ironing etc. but we would control modern culture with decrees on decent dressing.
We see nothing wrong when rules are bent, and laws not obeyed when the someone bribes to have a drivers license made, after all everyone does it, this is Cameroon! But then we are all aghast when a few months later a deadly accident occurs, we do not trace what we allow to what happens every day.
Most times we are just like the young ladies who would enter Mbah’s shop will allow his flirtation and teasing gropes then complain that “Men are dogs”… Well of course they are for a long time we have allowed them to be.