Words designed to Intimidate

It's very funny when people size you up and think they can just manipulate you anyhow with words even when they have no point.

My first conscious experience of this was when someone brought his sister to my house. The guy was just tired of working, and didn't know how to say it. So this girl comes, sizes me up in my house maid clothes and funny headgear typical of ladies with natural hair in their comfort zone. Inside my ragged attire was my very small body so she concluded she could intimidate me with words. So she started talking, blasting her British accent cos she just came from England the previous week. She was talking about the fact that her brother was stressed out and all, and they never sought her opinion before allowing her brother work so he would stop working. She was out to intimidate, and she wasn't hiding the fact. When she was done, I asked her two very simple questions.

"Did your brother tell you that I am extremely analytical, and that I am a spoken word artist?"
And with that, I opened my mouth, and shredded all her statements, bullet point after bullet point, using the appropriate words with my very normal accent. After all, I didn't grow up in yankee or jand.

When I was done, she was all "oh, I didn't know so so was the case. He didn't tell me this and that"
She obviously expected me to talk like the tiny illiterate she sized me up to be.

Anyway, I just shook my head. It was her brother I blamed cos we are friends and he knows the way I reason and should have warned his sister.

Last week, someone tried to manipulate me on Facebook. After the punch interview, I got loads of Facebook request. I normally don't accept Facebook requests from people I don't know. It doesn't even matter cos everything I post on Facebook is public (I use social media mainly for publicity) so my Facebook friends don't really have that much advantage over my non Facebook friends. Anyway, 5 days after the interview, I accepted some of the requests mostly from people I have mutual friends with.

Only for me to get a message that
Madam young under-30 entrepreneur Atilola, shey you see somebody cannot like something on your facebook wall now. shey you wee nor accept our friend request ni? ese gaan o
You see this message is typically designed to do something- make you feel guilty. They don't address you directly by your name. That's why she said madam young entrepreneur. She didn't just say Atilola, accept my request. She positioned her words to make me feel like the reason I didn't accept her friend request is because I have been featured as a young entrepreneur. These things are very subtle but they get the job done. They are designed to make you feel guilty, manipulate you and push you into a tight corner.

She didn't even consider that I might not have seen her request or I don't accept random request, which was the case here

The mistake this girl made is that she forgot I'm a spoken word artist and word play is my game. She tried to sell ice to an Eskimo. I don't even know her from Adam. She should have just sent a polite message and I would have started chatting with her in a jiffy but she chose this path instead?

So what did I do to her? I considered replying her to tell her that she could have been more polite about her request instead to trying to be manipulative. But I did what I normally do in cases like this – I ignored the message, and faced my work, hoping she would just leave me alone and realise her error.

Anyway because of these two cases and many more, I wrote this poem below, and it is dedicated to all spoken word artists and everyone whom someone has tried to scam at their own game.

You can fight me with money, knives, guns, wealth, influence or insults
But please don't fight me with words
I am a spoken word artist
I use words to make you laugh, cry, reflect, dance, fall in love, condemn or praise
It is my skill and trade
I do not know how to insult
I detest vulgar language
But I can bend words to do my bidding
They are my weapons
So please don't fight me with words
Cos if you do
It won't be a fair battle, it won't even be a war
It would be cold blood murder!!!

I was called a liar yesterday!

So I was in church by past 8am yesterday when I turned off my data to get last minute emails before I start working when I saw an email from the punch correspondent who interviewed me. She had sent me an email by 7am but I did not see it on time because of church rush.

I started calling people who could buy the newspaper on their way to church so I could take a screenshot and publicise it. It was difficult as everyone was saying they couldn’t get newspaper for one reason or the other, but eventually found someone, and my mind became at rest.

My work started by 8.45 on the dot, and by 9.30am, the person came to me, and explained how he couldn’t get it. By this time, I had to stop myself from panicking cos I did not plan to get home till about 9pm, and by then, the day would be over. I got back to continue my work with the teens.

After teaching/preaching sha, I had like another 45 minutes of rest before my next meeting. It was then that it occurred to me that I should call my mum to get the paper and read the interview. All I needed was for her to see it with her eyes and tell me the page.

I picked my phone, and immediately saw a twitter notification from HoneyDame. I never knew there would be a time HoneyDame would come through for me in a time of emergency, because not only did she notify me of the interview, she had done a screenshot of it. It was as if God told her exactly what I needed at that time, and just told her to do it. I was so excited, though she didn't realise the impact she had on me because there was no way I could have left church to get what I needed.

Courtesy HoneyDame

So I took her screenshot, and used it for publicity, and then called my mum to buy the paper, and keep it for me till I get home at night. By this time, amidst the plenty talk with teens here and there, it was time for the next meeting, and then the next one. By the time I was settled, it was about 2.00pm.
I went straight to my car, got my laptop, and resumed work for the day. I was well prepared cos I had to be at the SheHive open house for young entrepreneurs by 5pm, and there was no way I was going to go to the mainland, and return to the island. And the amount of work waiting for me was just too much. So I stayed back, worked, and left church by 4.30pm. Of course, my car was the only one in the premises, and it is not a small church by any criteria.

I went for the gathering, and finally got home around 8.30pm, and my mum gave me the newspaper. I just took it, kept it aside, and continued working till late. If you didn’t read the interview yesterday for any reason, you can read it online here.

I really wish I could say this stressful weekend was a one-off for me. But my weekends are always packed even though I turn down a lot of appointments. They are far tighter than my week days, even though I don’t even go to social gatherings – no weddings, parties or all that, except I am performing there.

Someone said I lied about the fact that I started with just N3000, while someone commented on Instagram, asking if I am sure about the figure.

This is exactly the mindset that is killing some people in Nigeria. They think they need all the money in the world to start a business. Most of you who read this blog know where African Naturalistas started from, the days of paper stickers and Gbadebo market plastics. We started from NOTHING. I don’t know if people don’t believe in starting small again. They just see businesses that look good on the outside, but they don’t know the beginning story. I don’t even understand why I would go to the pages of newspaper, and lie… as if starting with such a small money would fetch me one medal or something. I think many people just don’t want to accept that they can do so much with very little. I have several businesses I do, and I have not used start up capital for any of them.

The way the world is going now, the creative industry is debunking the whole 'capital' mentality. Don't get me wrong, you might need some investment to expand your business after it gets to a particular level, but not to start afresh.

Secondly, according to my lifestyle, I am very open, and very truthful. It is not because I am saint, but because I generally have no reason to lie about anything or cover up stuff, since I basically have nothing to cover up. I believe once you are not shady, and who you portray yourself to be on the outside is who you really are one the inside, there would be no need for lies.

To everyone who has supported any of my ventures, thank you. Please read the interview here, if you haven’t read it.

HoneyDame, thank you for coming through for me yesterday. You saved my day from getting scattered.

Disobedience temporarily disfigured my face

If you have been following me for a while, you will know that there are some strange things going on with my dental life, and it started right from a very young age.

I first mentioned my open bite on this post, and pointed out that my canine and incisors are practically non-functional. I cannot bite or tear.

The last dentist I saw said that according to science standards, I should have a speech impediment due to the position of my teeth and shape of my dentition. She was very surprised that I could talk properly. If only she knew that not only could I just talk properly, I actually earn part of my income from talking. She said that I shouldn’t bother my head. Ideally it would have required a surgical process spanning over 4 years or so, to correct. I had done some research on that surgery two years ago, and I knew I couldn’t go through it cos it would kill my career

I guess the talker in me would not be stopped when at the age of 5, my grandmother noticed that my teeth wouldn’t close. At that little age, the fighter in me learnt how to distort her lips, roll or flatten her tongue to get every word out, just like a person blessed with normal dentition. I do it so well that you might have to capture me speaking in a picture or intentionally look at mouth while I am talking before you see the magic being performed, lol. Even my mum never noticed the disorder until she watched me on TV, which is strange considering the fact that I have been this way since about 5 years old.

I am not that child that falls sick or gives her parents the usual medical problems, but when it comes to dental issues, you don’t want to try me, even though I don’t have a sweet tooth. I have replaced a tooth, filled a tooth, removed a tooth, and even had impacted 8 surgery where I was operated upon live, with my jawbone drilled into, tooth removed, and gum sewed back - the worst experience of my life, that I would never wish on my worst enemy.

Anyway, after my last dental appointment last year, when I went to replace my tooth, and opted for a silver crown, the dentist warned me not to eat with one side of my mouth, in order to avoid being disfigured because of lack of mouth exercise, which is a condition normally noticed in people that have gone through similar procedures.

I thanked her, and assured her that I would heed her warnings.

I won’t lie. It was difficult. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat with the left side of my mouth, and after 1 week or so, I gave up.

Exactly a year later, while rehearsing in front of the mirror, I felt something was wrong with my face while I was talking, but dismissed it since I have always had to distort my mouth in order to correctly get the words out.

A few days later, I appeared in the picture below. One look at it, and I knew there was fire on the mountain.

See my normal smile below

Now, look closely at my face 2 weeks ago
Update: I had to highlight the picture to capture the difference cos some people said they didn't notice any difference, even though it was glaring to me, lol.

The facial muscle on the left had fallen, and my smile and lips was tilted to one side. There was absolutely no cheek raise because the musles couldn't be lifted again

I was getting disfigured, and I didn’t even know it. My one year of negligence and stubbornness was telling on me. It was like a slow fade effect that comes stage by stage, that you won’t even know when it is happening. I started to panic immediately. My facial muscle on the left had obviously fallen due to lack of usage. I didn’t want to be disfigured.  At least, now, I am the only one who noticed. Another six months of negligence, and it would have been deliverance session for me, lol.

I called the dentist immediately, and she told me what to do. Things are getting better, the muscles have lifted a bit, but not as high as they should be. The smile of mine that I never really appreciated has now become gold to me, now that I know it is possible to lose it.

As from today, I will never ignore my dentist’s advice. Who wants to go about with a permanently damaged smile?

Anything for the Boys?

I got back home from church on a demanding but very fruitful Saturday. I had gone early morning to inspect the presentation of some teenagers I trained on spoken word for a mentorship camp, while my students in church were waiting for me. I quickly ran to church and we did our spoken word rehearsals for a final presentation that was supposed to happen in service the next day.

By this time, I was already absent for the Bible boot camp we organised for our teenagers, where we were talking about the influence of music and media. I quickly finished up my rehearsals and went for the boot camp, where I tried to do some regulations, and looked for a little trouble. After, I had to run to Tomi Akibo’s house for an apology visit because I missed her wedding (due to work at church).  I then quickly ran home to sort myself out. I had two presentations in two different services the next day. I was basically praying for magic powers to help me split myself into two.

I got home, and someone packed insanely in the middle of the road, such that I couldn’t enter my house, and then my brother blocked the gate!

I was like “whaaaaattt? After such a day, this is the time for me not to be able to enter my house with peace of mind.” So I was stuck in the middle of the road. I got down, and thankfully I saw the road blocker, and begged him to remove his car, while I went to my brother’s friend’s house to call my brother to remove his own car. Nobody answered my knocks, so I walked back to my car, so I could get my phone to call my brother when it happened.

One of the neighbourhood carpenters who sometimes does menial jobs for me walked up to me, and said “se ki n wa?” should I come?

I said “fun kini?” for what?

He said “Fun nkan weekend.” For weekend things

I said in yoruba, “guy, is it not money we are all working for?” I was already getting pissed that I wasn’t able to reach my brother.

Immediately, the second guy, who I happened to call Uncle something cos we basically grew up in the same neighbourhood before he left and built his family, and had now come back to become a nuisance, said in a toutish “Emi nko. Ti o ba tie se weekend fun owun, sebi was a fun emi, egbon e?”
What of me? At least, if you don’t do weekend for him, you will give me, your senior.

I was boiling at this point, thinking “what do these people think of me? That I am father Christmas, or I just go out on weekends, and return with money?”

I said “nkan weekend wo?” what weekend thing?

The 40 something year old guy said “O ni lo o ti o ba se weekend fun mi.” You won’t leave if you don’t do weekend for me

I said “Okay, e duro sibe.” Wait there. And I basically, walked away, extremely annoyed. Yes, I walked away.

Bill Cosby Disdain
I was like this guy is not even ashamed to harass me for money. This guy was a full grown adult when I was celebrating my second birthday o. He doesn’t even know how I hustle from money to night to get money.

Anyway, I finally got my brother to remove his car, and packed properly in the house, totally ignoring the man, like he wasn’t even there.

So my first question is how do you deal with people who just walk up to you because they know you, and ask you for money just because they saw you, and no other reason?

Another thing is few weeks ago, I had the fantasy that I must change my car because I felt I saw a good deal, and I had always wanted a jeep. My brother said I shouldn’t get the car, the parts are expensive, it chops fuel, bla bla bla. He said I should get a smaller car. I said I wanted a big car. So after all the back and forth, I decided that I wasn’t getting any new car because the truth is I want a new car, but I don’t need a new car for now.

So imagine me driving that big car I fantasised about, and these people saw me. They basically have the feeling that I have hit jackpot somewhere, not considering how long I drove my old car, and how long I saved for a new one.

Once you drive a big car, you must be stinkingly rich, and ready to give them free money. If you don’t give them, then you must be stingy. It doesn’t matter how much responsibilities you have.

So my second question is how do you enjoy your climb on the ladder of success without everyone around you thinking you are a wicked person for not dishing a slice of the cake to them?