Written by Bunmi Sofola
We all have at least one friend like Cynthia. The type of friend you’ve had for years but who could still drive you mad. The last time I called at her place, her ‘bossom’ friend Yinka was around. More of a scrounge, she always agreed to whatever Cynthia said, forever grateful for her cast-offs. We’ve all known each other since secondary school and whilst we’ve all had our stints at marriage, Cynthia’s marriage is one of the few still standing – naturally.
Most of us pretended we didn’t notice. “Why would she need four suitcases to travel,” one of us whispered with venom, “is she into smuggling?” “Life is not fair,” Yinka groaned. “I couldn’t afford new mattresses for my last two’s bunk bed and had to be grateful for my younger sister’s hand-me-downs. It’s so unfair that my children are not sleeping comfortably when only one person has so much money to burn.” It was a relief to notice she could be resentful of her ‘benefactor’ . The rest of the meeting was spent being shown around the magnificent house by Cynthia, bragging on how much each item of furniture cost and how envious her husband’s colleagues were, forgetting hard work usually paid!
As she laid out the afternoon lunch with a few bottles of champagne of course, I wondered how she managed to spend so much. Her contributions to the old students coffers weren’t that impressive, yet she lived a celebrity life style. As a legal officer in the ministry, her income is predictable, yet it’s plain to see that her penchant for designer clothes, regular visits to exclusive beauty salons and socialising in expensive circles must be costing her a packet. We all assumed her dripping rich husband must be picking up her extravagant tabs. It was, therefore, a mild surprise to me when another friend who is a lace merchant called me on phone to see her on my way home – she needed a favour urgently. She’s another lavish entertainer with no trace of pride in her. So I agreed to see her.
We’d scarcely dug into some small ‘chops’ she had on offer, when she brought in this official looking ledger, opening one of the pages. She showed me Cynthia’s name and I gawped at how much she was supposed to be owing – Millions of Naira. How on earth could she owe money running into millions just by buying lace materials? “You know I sell other expensive items,” she reminded me. “Like gold, head-ties and household items. She used to be a good customer, and I let her take things on credit. But in the last few years, she was heavily into social climbing. I am one of the outlets for most of the fabrics used at these parties, and I often allowed her to buy them on credit. Unfortunately, she’s failed to pay anything over the past ten months. She used to answer my calls, but has refused to acknowledge them lately. I’ve sent her threatening texts and I want you to have a word with her for me, or else I’d go to her husband.”
I wasn’t really keen on the idea. I wasn’t party to their business deals, so why should I be the debt collector? But I owed Jane a favour. She’d used her muscles with one of her customers to get my niece a good job, so I had no choice. Besides, wouldn’t it be worth it to watch Cynthia’s reaction when the secret of her extravagant life was revealed?
Unfortunately, Cynthia is not alone – she’s just one of the many women who spend far more than their legit income in a desperate attempt to emulate the lives of the celebrities they see in newspapers and on TV. It’s no longer enough to keep up with the Joneses. Instead, they want to live like their favourite celebrities when it’s obvious that they’ve not worked to earn that can of lifestyles.
I fixed an appointment with Cynthia, wondering how on earth I would broach the subject when she started bragging again! Shoving a gift-set of Prada products in my face, she said I could have the perfumed body lotion. All she wanted was the eau de parfum but hubby got her the set. I wasn’t impressed.
In weeks we were able to sell off most of the items she had on offer – they were that good and some of them had appreciated in value. Jane got a chunk of her money back and I almost felt sorry for Cynthia – but not that sorry. I didn’t see why most of us should struggle through life trying to manage our finances honestly, while she lived in luxury on credit! With a decent amount left to pay, she approached her husband to help, he was even alarmed she was even owing. To teach her a lesson, he told her that the holiday for which she had paraded her set of designer luggage was off – instead, the money would be used to payoff her debts… When next I saw Cynthia, she was really contrite.
She told me, I’ve really learnt my lesson though, I don’t know why I felt I needed all those things to keep up with a celebrity lifestyle. Whenever I added up the amount I have spent on designer clothes and aso-ebi, I cringed. I’m glad it’s all behind me now. My peace of mind is worth more than the occasional buzz material things gave me,” Cynthia finally admitted.