SUITS AND TIES

Blog_Suits & TiesMy name is JBoy. The first thing you should know about me is that I can be bold, brazen, really sharp-tongued and borderline insolent. Growing up, I was all that with no restraint. But as an older person, I have learned to curb my wildness. Instead, I have cultivated that attitude into a fortitude that keeps me in control throughout the adversities I have faced so far in my life.

One of those adversities was getting a job after I finished my youth service. Thankfully, I didn’t labour too long in the job market, before I got employed in the finance industry. You know, that industry that glories in its pristine attires of starched shirts tucked into trousers, and topped off with suits and ties. The industry wasn’t new to me; its employment opportunities were what I’d prepared for in school. So I knew I was going to be in my element at work.

I hadn’t reckoned with my workplace, however.

The first day that I became a staff, that I joined the workforce, was the day I knew that Fate had dropped me in the worst psychological environment I could ever be – the homophobic workplace. In the past, I’d always thought that if you’re not for us, then you must be against us. But with growth came the re-education that not everyone who isn’t in favour of homosexuality is necessarily homophobic.

That isn’t the case with the men and women I found myself calling my colleagues.

Now, apparently, the company distributes items of news to its staff members via their company emails, in an effort to keep them updated with current happenings, for those who don’t have time to watch the TV news or read the papers. And so, on that first day, the major headline news was that of the brutal murder of a man, poised to get married, who brought his gay lover to his house to spend the night and lost his life to multiple stab wounds. The morning brought about to the rest of the household the discovery of his mutilated corpse and the disappearance of the young man they saw their brother take into his room the night before. This happened in Bariga, Lagos.

My colleagues would not stop talking about it. Their expressions were twisted with disgust and outrage, their mouths spewed vitriol after vitriol, condemnations on these ‘children of the devil that are contaminating this country.’ Never mind the 419ners who trade in human parts, or the evil housewives who torture their house-helps, or the jealous boyfriend or girlfriend who pummels or throws acid in a fit of rage. These are news that floods the Nigerian blogosphere daily. And yet, the country remains uncontaminated, just until the vileness is carried out by homosexuals. Then the devil is upon us.

Anyway, that day passed. Other days came and passed too. As is expected in a workplace where you have men and women in a cluster, there was always gossip to be bandied about. And whenever the gossip centered on the gay community, the talk was always malignant, loud and vitriolic. These men and women truly despised this minority that they could not understand. Despite my talkative nature, I always remained resolutely removed from their gossip whenever it was about the gays. I would always choose those moments to maintain sharp focus on my work and my computer screen, all the while feeling my blood boil and my heart burn at the ignorance I could hear in everything they said. Every now and then, I would let off a snigger, a scoffing laugh, sounds that would draw their attention momentarily to me, even though none of them bothered to draw me into their conversations. As the newbie and the most junior of them all, I knew they were still trying to figure me out, to peg me, to understand where they could place me. I wasn’t quiet and sulky, I was exuberant and very relatable with them, and my sense of humour was always on point. And yet, during moments like this, when the gossip was vicious, they would observe me withdraw from them. Something about that was disturbing to them, I could tell.

And that is why I suppose what happened some months later happened.

I’d just got a new phone, the Blackberry Z10. And as it is with new acquisitions, everyone wanted to have a look-see of my phone. They would ooh and aah over the phone as they touched it and held it and talked about it. Days passed, and I started settling into my ownership of the phone, still trying to gain mastery of the workings, which included its security settings and all that.

And then, one afternoon, a male colleague (let’s call him Ben) approached me and asked me for my phone. I was swamped and slightly harried by the work I had on my station, so much so that when I handed the phone to him, I neither paid any attention to him or to the fact that in the period he had my phone with him, seated beside me, he never once asked me anything about it. No innocuous questions about how much I bought it, where I bought it and why I hadn’t bought an android phone instead. Several moments passed, and he simply sat there by my side, focused on whatever discoveries he was unearthing from the Blackberry. Finally, after some time, he suddenly dropped the phone on my desk, mumbled something to me and hurried off. I was startled by the abruptness of his departure, stared at his retreating back for a moment before glancing at the screen of my phone. What I saw caused my blood to alternately turn cold and hot with shock and outrage.

My Facebook page was open on my phone screen. Not my News Feed or Timeline or any of my friends’ profile pages – no! I was looking at the conversation thread of one of my Inbox messages. That bastard had not only violated my privacy by visiting my Facebook account, he’d also perused my Inbox. And the particular message I was looking at was the thread of Kito Diaries links I’d been messaging a friend of mine who asked me to help him stay updated. And it wasn’t even the recent thread that I was staring at. The motherfucker had actually scrolled back as far as a couple of months ago.

If he’d been investigating my sexuality, he’d had more than an eyeful of evidence.

My first instinct was fear. But that just lasted some fleeting seconds. And then, I was furious. Seething. Angry. But my rage was chilly. I didn’t flare up. I didn’t rise from my seat, stomp over to his work station and slap him six ways to Sunday before asking him why he’d dared violate my privacy so. No. Instead I took a deep breath and waited. I waited. I was waiting. Of course I knew he would tell someone, who’d probably tell someone who will tell some other person. And I waited them out, silently daring anyone to approach me with any silly questions. I was almost disappointed no one came forward.

And then, the Emmy awards came and passed. And it was another day at the office, and the gossip this time was talk about the awards. The fan favourites which are Game of Thrones, Scandal and Kerry Washington (Olivia Pope) did not win any laurels. That rankled with most of my colleagues. And to add salt to the injury, Modern Family – a show most of them dismiss as a gay series – had the effrontery to pack 3 awards, while Veep – another gay series to them – fetched an award for its lead actress, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The sheer audacity of these gay-friendly shows taking home awards that were meant for shows and thespians they felt deserved them more infuriated them. And so, they spewed lots of poison, damning the American LGBT community to hell.

‘That’s how they’ll be doing, all these faggots in America, looking for cheap publicity, trying to overtake in everything, making it so that if you don’t support their movement, you will not get properly recognized. That is why Hollywood has become so sinful. You can’t even say your mind about gays there; you talk anyhow and your career is over. Rubbish! Nonsense people!’

The hate was strong, the poison ever so thick. The way they were talking, you’d think all the nominated gay-friendly shows in Hollywood had a sweeping victory at the Emmy awards. I actually had to google the award wins to verify that other shows like Breaking Bad, The Good Wife and True Detective actually took home some laurels. But these bigots were blinded by the fact that something with the symbol of homosexuality in it could shine. To them, the gay community shouldn’t even have a voice, let alone worldwide recognition.

I sat in my corner, comforting myself with the many aphorisms that crawled through my mind.

Hating is the sincerest form of flattery.

Don’t hate what you cannot imitate.

Love us or hate us, either way we’re on your mind.

So many assume, so little know.

And then finally, I let out my usual mocking laugh. It burst from my mouth, sharp and loud, and on the heels of it, before I could pull the words back, I said snidely, “Hate much.”

Just those two words. And the room silenced momentarily, with the weight of their stares resting on me.

My heart started pounding and I mentally berated myself: Just great, Jboy, you’ve gone and done it! Surely, after this outburst, you must know you’ve outed yourself, don’t you?

And once again, I braced myself for any questions or confrontation, but none came. And as though my outburst had doused the fires of their indignation, the gossip hour ended right then, and everybody shuffled to their seats to attend to their work. Someone walked out of the office. Someone else walked in. The guy next to me pulled off his suit. I adjusted the knot of my tie. A swivel chair creaked. The air conditioner hummed.

And life went on.

Written by Xpressive JBoy

47 thoughts on “SUITS AND TIES

  1. What a nice piece. I knew the guy who got stabbed. I shed tears when I heard d news, at a point I had to brace myself cos where I was started getting crowdy..
    I keep quiet and murder ppl several times in my mind when I’m in a place they discuss such. These days I don’t take many ppl seriously (mostly straight homophobes) and I try not to laugh or make small talks with them much…Cos they ll throw you under the bus if they find out who u are..
    In a split second, ur loving colleague could turn into the grim reaper..
    As for me, I don’t clear my chats or fb mags cos I don’t have to.My phone is my private property and I don’t give it to no one.. If you’re the type that can’t say no to such requests, you can get one of these useful apps that locks msgs, bbm, even pics etc..
    It just makes me angry when ppl think gay ppl are among the problem in Nigeria..

    • Wonderful piece. Side note, while I feel Kerry Washington is an accomplished actress, the 3rd season of scandal was definitely the weakest, both in storyline and her performance, there is just something about the B6-13 storyline that i didn’t like. Scandal at its best is a show about a bad ass Washington DC fixer and the way she fixes the scandals of her high end clients, add the fact that she is having an affair with the president and you have a top notch drama, the whole B6-13 storyline just made it soapy, I cant criticize Kerry too much cuz she was pregnant during the filming of most of the episodes so I assume she wouldn’t have brought her A game. And Scandal did win an award, Joe Morton the actor that plays Olivia’s Father won for best guest actor in a drama.
      Sorry for the rant guys, its just when it comes to TV series I talk too much

      • Deola you absolutely said my mind about Scandal’s third season. The whole B6-13 storyline turned what used to be an original heart stopping political drams into a copycat of Jennifer Garner’s Alias. I was not impressed as I watched episode after episode of something that was starting to seem generic. They had better do better in season 4. And enough of that B6-13 nonsense!
        In other news, I love love love Modern Family! But I’m yet to see Veep.

  2. Slap him six ways till sunday! That expression had me in stitches!

    JBOY are you sure we don’t work in the same place? Cos the scenario you described is exactly what I have to deal with daily. We argued abt the Emmy’s too and my BDM wanted to die because Olivia Pope did not win, but the “fag shows” won.

    Infact yesterday we argued about me playing Elton John on my system, and just like you I keep mute most of the time while they spew hate!!!

      • My dear I love this Greatest Hits album of his I have! The wierd thing is that my mom made us all fall in love with Elton cos she used to play him on those turn tables we had back then, even though she stopped when he came out (but that’s matter for another day).

        Anyway I love the CD and one day my female colleague made a sarcastic remark and I reminded her that Elton had a hot husband, two great kids and more money than he can ever spend in 2 lifetimes; and that she….well she is single at 35, stuck in a job that she hates and would probably never afford a pair of Louboutins (which she loves) for years to come. So pray tell me who has a pathetic life between you two?

  3. I love, Iove, love your writing!

    Nigerians are loosening up; at least one can now happen upon gay-themed gossip and remarks at the workplace from time to time. I’ve sat through my fair share of some.

  4. D saddest tin to find out would be dat in d whole lot of those hating n spewing crap are deeply closetted G pple.
    A frend once said,who isn’t into ds stuff these days. Ds statemnt came frm d shock he got wen he discovered a toxic womaniser craved ass like his life depended on it
    I cn remember bk in uni days wen I sit n watch a classmate mk so much noise abt hw irritatin G guys r.I jst look @ him,shake my head and remember d night he came to my room,tot I was dead asleep n he got busy touching.I’m sure even a dead man would rise let alone conscious unsleeping me.bt he chose to believe I was sleeping.
    #mypoint-Hypocrisy rules and reigns. Dnt b deceived.

    • JBoy’s colleagues seem too gay-aware. Follow the scent of their gossip and it might lead you to more interesting discoveries in that office – if you know what I mean. I know Dennis will soon come and warn you against office thingzzz, but um… *walks away*

  5. Someone touches my phone and says, ‘Hey, what’s this pic?’ I say, ‘Yeah, a gay couple, they’re married.’ The person be like, ‘Why do you have this?’ And I smile my darling smile and say, ‘Why not?’ It pays to be unapologetic. Truth is, they’ll never catch me in a situation that will put me in trouble. Or maybe I’ve been lucky not to have met real haters, because all these people still remain my pals. And sometimes a conversation begins (I should probably open a gay church, since I know how to preach well). And so this is what I like about Jboy: his being unapologetic. He seems to say: ‘You can break my bones, but you can’t break my spirit. Period.’

  6. *dabs* *sniffs*

    Thanks beautiful minds for all your kind words, encouragements and counsels.

    @Pinkie, thanks for the timely publish of my entry, you’re a darling.

  7. First of all, Scandal was not having its best season and that translated to Kerry Washington not being at her best. Julia Marguiles deserved her Oscar for the good wife.
    Secondly, tell your colleagues that the “straight” scandal they love so much actually got gay characters and the writer, shonda rhimes LOVES to have a multicultural, non Sex discriminating cast. They in doubt? Then tell them to Google why Isaiah Washington was booted out of Grey’s Anatomy.
    Its funny how “smart” people ain’t really so smart. Oh well, homophobes have never been known to be the smart ones.

  8. wow brilliant write up
    Good lord! Who says gays arent talented….
    For some of us, the writers experience is our everyday living. Hanging out wit people who would burn u at the stake if they had the slightest knowledge who u really r.

  9. wow. why is there so much hate emanating from one single place? hate is often always a symptom of unhappiness, and frustration. People who are spiteful are often the most unhappy. So I must ask…are the working conditions stressful? Are you guys well paid and well fed? Do u have a particularly annoying boss or several of them? I work in a financial institution. The job is stressful with long hours and at the moment it is in an unconventional phase. But everyone at work is all smiles and happy. Every day I look forward to going to work; in the event that gay issues do arise; the usual homophobic slurs do come but yet I comfortably take a liberal pro-gay stance without fear of retaliation. in fact everyone knows me as the gay human rights activitist, , something I am proud of. My conclusion you are working with frustrated bitter unhappy people and I’d rather be gay than bitter!

  10. What a lovely lovely lovely piece..smacked lips..enjoyed every bit!!! Kudos and I know pinky you had something to do with how excellent this piece was served!!!

    • Yeah. He had a whole lot to do with the piece…from motivating me to write, after a long while, to the timely publish of it. He remains the Pink that cannot be mistaken to be purple…our Big Auntie.

      • Okay! You are paying too much compliments that it is now bordering on flirtation! I have got my eyes on you two!!! Cc @PinkPanther

    • DennyDear, fret not…she’s been ma sista for over 19yrs now…so, be rest assured that I’m very much available for us to mingle *winks*

  11. Great job Jboy. I love the quotes. Hating is the most sincere form of love/flattery

    One day, I decided to permanently sign out off my alternate twitter account. Besides the fact that the RTs n Favs notification were always making my phone act up, I was always careless with it. Anyone cud pick it up, innocently scroll thru the notifications n see really weird twitter handles. Passwording the damn thing was too much hassle cos everyone always wanted to view the funny pics I use for DPs, kids always wanted to play games…and right now my damned phone is whistle clean.
    I have to ‘borrow’ a friends phone to watch the porn I recommended.

    To buttress Chizzie’s point, I think in the bid to enjoy a large customer base, there is a degree of tolerance n awareness within financial institutions. My former colleagues always speculated, n knew someone who behaved like me…and would offhandedly make remarks about wanting to hook me up with someone they knew who liked boys but never homophobic statements. I had my fair share of enemies among staff, but I think that was always personal rather than generic.

  12. Hahhahahahahhahaha!!!!! This tea is too sweet too good. I always meet those ‘unconsciously homophobic’ pple but one thing that is clear about them is that some of them have some hidden gay stories n tendencies.
    My colleague, lanre by name is openly homophobic but the day he spent the weekend in my house he couldn’t let me sleep. It was sex all through and on monday he pretended nothing happened. Lolz! Yea but I cut him off instantly n he never taunt me again.

  13. True … The hate is getting hotter everyday … I’m learning to keep mute everytime a gay discussion starts in school or at home or anywhere … I wonder what they are scared of ….
    And about the phone privacy thing …I don’t give any of my device to anyone..if I must give it to you,I must be over your head watching you ..the moment you are trying to go astray ..I simply give a valid excuse and collect my phone back ….
    And some weeks back I stumbled on some Instagram id,this guy was cute and so muscular and he’s Nigerian …I didn’t care to read his profile,I was just admiring and wishing he was mine ..lol (I have a boo now,so that won’t happen again) ..until I saw his profile which said “NOTE:- if you are gay,stay the hell away from me” mtchheeew … I just got sick,you know that feeling you get when you finally see a food you craving for and just lose your appetite upon seeing it… And the only thing that came to my mouth was “Mtcheeew, what a waste of sexiness” …. Homophobia,Racsim,Tribalism,Politics and Religion are all issues that cause hate in the world and make it an unbearable place to live in for the next generations ..

    • If you are gay, stay the hell away from me.
      Lol. Yea hot straight anti-gay guys always feel compelled to issue that warning on the social media. Can you blame them? They’re anti gay and still have to endure the lustful pursuit of our horny brethren. Lol

  14. But people, conversations about homosexuality in the work-place was almost unheard of a few years ago. Do you think it’s a good thing that people have started talking about sexuality so openly, or would their homophobia be better left unsaid? Personally I think open conversation is an opportunity to put some education into their ignorant medula oblangatas.
    Thumbs up to all those who’ve had the courage to speak up against homophobia in hostile spaces.

    Great piece J-Boy! Very relevant.

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