Ugandans are lovely people. So much so that they aren’t aware of the thin line between asking a question in innocence and being downright rude. This is a typical scenario between two people.
Innocent Ugandan: Eh Emily, long time no see.
Emily (obviously): Yeah, I’ve been busy with work and stuff
Innocent Ugandan: Oh okay….But what is happening to you?
Emily: What do you mean?
Innocent Ugandan: You’re really getting fat
Emily: (visibly uncomfortable) Hmm….Yeah, maybe it’s peace of mind
Innocent Ugandan: Bambi its too much. Oba you’re also over eating? Do you even walk?.
Now, this could go on for a while until someone interrupts the conversation or Innocent Ugandan runs out of inappropriate things to say.
Unfortunately, this is not considered rude in Uganda.
I can’t count how many people have asked me whether I eat with a straight face. And it’s disappointing that they don’t get the sarcasm when I respond, “No, I survive on a strict diet of meditation and water.”
Where am I going with this?
The day before my first chemotherapy treatment I was a mess. I was supposed to have started a week earlier but couldn’t because my immune system wasn’t strong enough to handle the medication. I’d lost a lot of weight (shocker) after my diagnosis and surgery, mainly attributed to the worrying and stress, so on top of everything else my mind was fraught with worry about what the treatment would further do to my already frail frame. I remember I was at work, trying to get my affairs in order before I had to leave. I’d spent my lunch break at the hospital getting tests done and the doctor had already prepared me for the damage that I should gear up for. To be frank, I was scared.
And then, this girl I used to work with came by to the office and she’s like, (in typical innocent Ugandan mode) “Eh Linda, where have you been? It’s been a while! Naye, is it just me or have you lost weight. I think maybe you’ve stopped eating…..hehehe”
Dear reader, my mind went blank. I only had one thought – ‘It’ official, chemo is going to kill me!’ I remember she was smiling, and I was just looking at her. I felt suffocated, hot, constipated even, it’s hard to describe the instantaneous shift my body took. I finally understood what it felt like to get a panic attack. My fingers started trembling so I left my desk and walked to the ladies room. I broke down. I couldn’t even drive myself home that evening. It was the perfect scenario of ‘Great, just what I needed to hear!’ (PS: this is sarcasm)
My point is this. Let’s be careful about the comments we make to others. Sometimes we make them in jest and it’s all good. But other times you have no idea what demons people are dealing with. So the next time you want to make a snide remark about someone’s weight, hair, clothes or mood, ask yourself , “Will my ‘clever’ remark add value to this ones life or Am I just being a dick?” It’s usually the latter.