By Debbie Olujobi
A very long time ago, I discovered the game of double dutch; jumping rope. We would gather together in groups during the lunch break and get two long pieces of rope, one person would hold on to one end of each rope in either hand while another participant would hold the other two ends on the opposite end.
They would then swing or skip the ropes over head and feet of whoever was jumping in between the fast swinging ropes and take turns till someone stumbled or got tired. As a young child, I found the game exciting and it was fun to compete with my friends but I tried it as an adult and I almost had a cardiac event. I didn’t last for 5 minutes and I was panting, sweating and being laughed at by the youngsters I was trying to impress.
This week I was reading the newspapers and I saw quite a lot of adults jumping rope, like me they were unsuited for the sport and their efforts in my view was unnecessary and pathetic at best. Since we all must have seen the papers and missed the sight of overweight adults sweating and panting, I should explain that I meant jumping rope in the metaphoric sense.
Keeping up with the Jones’ is a term that refers to the need to impress the society, an individual or a social group by doing things to raise their opinions or elicit their envy or admiration, it’s a novel way of jumping rope. It always comes at great cost and more often than not serves no useful or viable purpose as those we seek to impress really don’t care much.
I had seen a huge newspaper and had walked away with the impression that someone must have just bundled 3 newspapers together to throw away. I saw a similar sight the next day and was about to yell in exasperation to the helps about letting papers be read before being disposed when I realised no one had touched it; it was the real size of the newspaper.
Curiosity certainly got the better of me and I sat down to attempt to read the giant or is it fat newspaper. To my surprise it was full of congratulatory adverts; some people had been awarded national honours and their family and friends were understandably taking pages in the dailies to congratulate them.
Its normal to see friends and families do such; some will even throw parties and send gifts to show how happy they are. This I understand and even expect but lately I have had to ask for some clarification about the nature and even design of some of those advertorials.
It makes sense that a picture of the celebrant or honouree be large and follow some superfluous prose but I cant understand why there needs to be a picture of the person doing the congratulations with a biography and maybe small advert about them to boot. It smirks of insecurity and a need to fit in with the jones'; almost like trying to jump rope with a group of girls that don’t know you or even like you.
I had actually asked my better half why people used half the space of a congratulatory advert to talk about themselves and put their pictures to boot and his explanation was what gave me the idea for today’s column. Apparently some of the people taking out the ads need to have their pictures there because those they are congratulating don’t necessarily know them that well or even at all.
So basically it’s a networking tool; to associate with those who are already successful or at least to be seen to be a part of the clique of those in the know. The explanation makes sense apparently as I am told those being congratulated actually take note or at least their secretaries do and I guess trying to keep up with the Jones’s can in a remote sense make one Jones!!
Back in the university we had a group of people we labeled as “I must belong”. They were those who spent their efforts, money and emotions on trying to penetrate and be accepted by the different cliques that existed. Initially we all wanted to be accepted and feel a sense of belonging and thats pretty natural but the ones I mean, never stopped.
Most of us would move away from groups that didn’t want us and form or find our own but some people will keep jumping the rope of conformity just to be accepted. They would be taunted and sometimes even humiliated but they trudged on and kept trying. My question to everyone is this. When do we get over wanting to be friends with the “happening(popular )kids”?
The adverts can be dismissed as social and even corporate networking but how about living a life thats a tad too expensive to impress others? How do you explain parents who put their children in private schools they can ill afford just to fit in with a social group? Buy clothes and jewellry on credit just to keep appearances? There is no end to the amount of pressure people subject themselves just to fit in and I believe it all to be unnecessary and desperate even.
I care deeply about my family and friends; I may even take out an advert to celebrate them and their achievements ( if my Ijebu instincts will allow me) but I feel no obligation to break the bank or even open my wallet to impress people who barely know me.
The honest truth is that we really cant afford to impress billionaires with money or geniuses with glib frivolities. The best we can do is be true to ourselves, live within our means and pass values and not possessions to our children. Jumping rope for a child is fun, for an adult its too tasking and physically exhausting..