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 ‘bosom’ 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.  Her husband, hard working and ambitious finally moved his family to an impressive looking ‘villa’ on the smart part of the Island.  It was Cynthia’s turn to host the old students’ meeting and she waited until most of us were around before she announced the family would soon be off on holidays, pointing to a new set of four suitcases she’d discreetly displayed in the lounge.

“A luggage set!” Yinka whooped, her voice dripping with envy.  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 renowned lace merchant called me on my mobile at work. Could I please drop by at hers 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.  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 a 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 one of a growing number of women who spend far more than they earn in a desperate attempt to emulate the lives of the celebrities they see every day 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 their salaries cannot keep up with their 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, I told her why I was at her place and repeated Yinka’s threat to let her husband know of her debts if she didn’t pay up immediately.  

That really threw her and she confessed she didn’t know where to get such money from since her husband never encouraged over-spending.  She’d tried to flog some of the expensive gold and household items she didn’t need but she still had a lot to sell.  I told her to advertise the goods on the notice boards of some of the social clubs she belonged to with her husband.  Reluctantly, I allowed her to use my address as a contact so that her husband wouldn’t suspect a thing.

In weeks we were able to flog off most of the items she had on offer – they were that good and some of them had appreciated in value.  Yinka 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 who was alarmed she was even owing, to help.  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 pay off her debts and the left-over would be used to give the children a treat in a neighbouring country.  When next I saw Cynthia, she was really contrite.

I felt relieved but ashamed I had to deprive the children of their holiday.  They’d looked forward to it for ages, I had to lie that we both had important meetings to attend and that next year’s will be better.  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,” concluded a relieved Cynthia.

It’s all down to good hygiene! (humour)

On being seated at a restaurant table, a gentleman becomes somewhat embarrassed when he knocks the spoon off with his elbow.  A nearby waiter calmly picks it up and produces another shiny spoon from his pocket, which he places on the table.  

Suitably impressed, the diner enquires.  “Do all waiters carry spare spoons on them?”  The waiter replies: “Indeed sir, it is in fact company policy, ever since our efficient expert determined that 17.8 per cent of our clients knock the spoon off the table.  By carrying a spare spoon on our person, we save our trips to the kitchen.”

After the gentleman has finished his meal and paid the bill, he wanders over to the same waiter and says to him, “You will, of course, forgive me, but do you know you have a piece of string hanging from your fly?”  “Indeed sir,” the waiter begins, “our efficient expert determined that we were spending too much time washing our hands after going to the toilet.  Thus, by attaching this piece of string to my penis, I avoid touching myself – I go, and then I return to work.  It saves a lot of time.”  “But how do you put it back in your trousers?” asked the curious diner.  “Well, sir, I can’t speak on behalf of my colleagues, but I just use the spoon.”

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