Wilson Orhiunu

First Gentleman with Wilson Orhiunu

Email: Twitter: @Babawilly

People approve of other people for reasons best known to them. The reverse is also the case. Even Santa will not get a hundred per cent approval rating on Christmas day; and neither would Jesus Christ come to think of it. People withdraw their approval as quickly as they give it.

Watching ladies arrive at social functions is interesting. While the men exchange handshakes, and say “how far” or “how do you do?” the ladies hug, kiss (a strange kind of contactless kiss that does not smudge the lipstick or the recipient’s foundation) and tell each other how good they look in an itemised way. Head to toe; hair, make-up, perfume, earrings and on and on. Most ladies who tell others that they look good are usually talking about themselves anyway (my theory) and seek validation. That means they expect return on investment; all compliments must be returned with interest.

Do people have the approval of others in mind when they dress up to go out, knowing fully well that the first item on all agendas is not the opening prayer or the welcome address but the intense scrutiny of weight, posture, carriage and apparel? People expect things and when those expectations are met approval is given through verbal and non- verbal ways. Everyone wants to be appreciated so there is a temptation to conform to the behaviours and actions that experience has taught us will bring the greatest admiration and approval.

The first law of dressing is nakedness prophylaxis. A dressed person is called dressed because they are not naked. The definition of what being dressed is varies greatly from one social cohort to the next. First timers ask questions and old-timers act like they know. To avoid strange glances one must turn up right.

Formal events have their expectations of dress. Award shows, dinners, weddings, professional meetings and traditional ceremonies all have written and unwritten dress codes.

The weather also dictates the kind of fabrics and the number of layers that are worn. All well brought up people of sound mind expect everyone they meet in a setting to be dressed in a certain manner. There are, however, some mavericks who never read any of the memos.

Peter Tosh, one of the original Wailers alongside Bob Marley and Bunny Livingston in his song ‘I am that I am’ from his 1977 Equal Rights album sang these lines

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations

Neither are you here to live up to mine

I owe no one no obligation

I first heard these words at a time when I lived exactly as my parents’ expectations dictated. I wondered what Peter Tosh was on about. He was obviously an original thinker carving a space for himself in this world.

Can anyone live outside of people’s expectations? A silly question really, because we all do. Friends spring up surprises when they disclose the unexpected. I get people telling me they disapprove of my running. (A bit strange considering I am a medical doctor and have a professional stake in physical well-being).

Why run on the streets?

One feels like answering in an equal and oppositely absurd way. “Because I don’t own a stately mansion on whose grounds I can do my running”.

People look at you like they feel sorry for you and the feeling is mutual but I think I have learnt to hide my feelings well. Living in England teaches you that.

I limit who I discuss my fitness regime with as there is nothing more irritating than someone challenging your lifestyle when you know they cannot cope with you challenging their own lifestyle in the same way.

I can never forget that patient who walked in and said, “Doctor, you look haggard” because I had lost weight.

I had a few replies spring to mind but I kept them in.

She did not approve of how I looked and she made her feelings known. Her first mistake was she did not consider that I might also not approve of how she looked.

What if I am extremely sensitive of my looks and would be thrown into depression because of her disapproving statement? (Rare for a Naija man sha).

I suspect that not everyone who buys designer clothes care for quality or functionality. Some do not even care for well-coordinated colours or fitting. All they crave for is to be accepted as somebody. A cry for help really. A desperate ticket to fit in, to be accepted as cool or at least not to be disapproved of.

This can lead to financial ruin as “fitting in” might mean buying the right car and living in the right location. Once debt has these people in a stranglehold, they don’t enjoy the trappings of their borrowed wealth anymore. They stop looking up to admire the beautiful sky that can be seen from every location. Stress just to achieve a higher approval rating from people who promptly forget you once their backs are turned.

I run daily with my iPod and naturally my mind drifts to Steve Jobs occasionally.

People might have expected a good computer from him but he did not live up to justify their expectations. He gave them the iPhone and iPad. A maverick who lived permanently around limiting expectations yet springing surprises that delight. And as for the clothes; he wore a black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers. He wore the same clothes every day while some of his customers ironically would never want to be seen wearing the same kind of clothes daily.