Between Compliments And Flattery
Maybe it is different in other climes. But around here, people are apt to take every seemingly harmless statement, good intention or even gesture, with a pinch of salt. Indeed, it is so bad that some will argue that when a Nigerian says ‘good morning’, you will do well to check again. Yet, this has not always been ‘the way we are’. I grew up, for instance, hearing stories of some Nigerians — imbued with the milk of human kindness — doing good to others, without expecting anything in return or just being their ‘brothers’ keepers’, without any prompting.
I also know, too well, that most children were brought up, in the days of yore, not solely by their parents. The ‘community’ also played a major role in seeing to the training of the child. This explains why an erring child got his desserts, even before stepping foot on his parents’ doorstep. And the beauty of it all was that the parents took that gesture of child – censuring, on their behalf, so well, the child was dragged to the good-natured neighbour’s house with gratitude. That was the Nigeria in which mutual suspicion was alien to our day-to-day life and living.
Today, however, the more distrustful of every word and deed of your fellow Nigerian, the safer you think it is for you. But, how did we come to this sorry pass?
True, it was in this same country that a sitting president swore — just in the bid to put the anxiety of his friend, who also had his eyes on power, to rest — that he would not spend a day longer on the seat of power. The upshot of that willful failure of one friend to keep his word to another is, today, not lost on every Nigerian. Little wonder that, on national television when you see the league of ‘political analysts’ and self-styled ‘advocates for public good’ shouting themselves hoarse and trying to outdo one another in ‘charting a road-map’ for our polity, the feeling of the discerning average viewer is that they are merely angling for political office. But this is true of so many ‘critics’ and ‘analysts’, who have appeared true and well meaning, in the past, only to end up in the corridors of power, helping themselves to the spoils of office.
Indeed, such is the pervasiveness of this negative culture of distrust that relationships between men and women, in general, and marriages, in particular, are not spared. To be certain, when boyfriends pay their girlfriends truly hearty compliments, the girls are quick to snap, by saying: ‘flattery won’t get you anywhere’. So, when these girls scoff at all compliments, taking them for flattery, how will they know when they get the real and untainted ones?
Yet, I know, for certain, that some women enjoy being complimented while others are enthralled by flattery. For the avoidance of doubt, a wife who knows how to cook and makes it a point of duty, by preparing her husband’s favourite meal, from time to time, won’t be expecting too much, if she feels bad when not complimented. Also, when a woman goes out of her way to dress ‘to kill’ and look good for her husband, she deserves all the compliment she can get. But this contrasts sharply to the world of very vain women who live in Tinsel town. Indeed, these women thrive on the very plastic and cosmetic tradition of being flattered. This is because, it has been done to them several times, they have come to live with it and accept it as the norm.
For whatever it is worth, however, the average human being can do with due compliments, as surely as the day dawns. Any man who has not been verbalising his pleasure with those things, which the wife does, believing that she should know, is only mistaken.
For every compliment you pay your wife, you have merely supplied her with even greater unction to function more effectively and optimally. So, do not wait for your madam to say: ‘How do I look, dear?’. She already knows. What is missing, in her view, will be your endorsement. So give it, without holding back.