Iya repete

Nigerians, especially older ones, can be very tactless.

When I was in Nigeria last year, one of my grandmother’s neighbours started calling me orobo (slang for “fat person”). I decided not to take it personally, because I had expected someone to call me fat during the trip. I told myself that she’s an older woman who feels like she’s just stating a fact and isn’t trying to be rude. So when she’d greet me, saying something like “Orobo, how are you today?” I’d respond politely. But things only got more difficult to ignore: when she’d see me she’d call me orobo, then repeat it in a different way, saying “Orobo…iya repete (I think that means something like “blubbery woman”?)” and move on to mention a part of me that was big. It seemed the more agreeable I was, the longer her names for me grew, and the more she felt it was ok to comment on my size. I eventually got annoyed and told her that where I live, it’s considered rude to call people fat. I didn’t say it rudely; just matter of factly, and none of the adults in the room chastised me.

My grandma’s neighbour just laughed, which made me say “I’m serious! No one would call you fat to your face like that.” (imagine me saying this in very poor Yoruba). She got the message though and she actually apologized. Too bad I waited until the last few days of the trip before saying anything.

Although I eventually got annoyed with this lady, after the fact I started thinking along the lines of At least she’s saying it to my face; how many people are thinking the exact same thing but not saying it? Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is better. Obviously the best case scenario would be where we all see more than a person’s imperfections and instead focus on recognizing their good points.

If you haven’t read about my own great-aunt’s comments on my size, read it here.

17 thoughts on “Iya repete

  1. I think some cultures feel that it's ok to say certain things that we find offensive. Traditionally in Chinese culture, for example, all "more mature" women (55+) have traditionally been addressed as "Poh Poh" – maternal grandmother – by those who're about two generations younger, even if they're not the individual's grandmother (men that age, on the other hand, often get Bak Bak (which really means elder (paternal) uncle) and rarely Gung Gung (maternal grandfather). I've noticed that baby boomers are going against the grain – many won't answer to "Poh Poh" unless they ARE a kid's Poh Poh.

  2. i think its something they all say jor., Im a size 10 and since i came t5o naija everyone has been calling my orobo….imagine oh. I cdont take it to heart anymore

  3. It reminds me of an experience I had during youth service! The consultant always called me 'this one' in front of patients and my colleagues. My dad told me I caused it because the first time he called me that I should have corrected him. It was obvious he did not like me and he continued until I could take it no more and put an end to it. That was end of the name calling. Lesson learnt- people would continue to dish out what you accept without complaint. Being firm and polite stops prevents it.

    • Thanks Tomi…you're absolutely right. It's funny because the first time it happened I wasn't insulted at all; I never imagined it would continue. But yes, I should have firmly but politely said something after the first incidence. That's a lesson I've definitely learned!

  4. There are two sides to it. Those who will stop the name calling when they know you aren't finding it funny and those who will keep calling you names because they know u don't like it and they just want to make you uncomfortable. I like the last line >>> "Obviously the best case scenario would be where we all see more than a person’s imperfections and instead focus on recognizing their good points"

    • I think you're right. In this case though…I still can't figure out her motivation. I'd like to think she wasn't trying to make me uncomfortable. I don't think she was trying to hurt my feelings but then again it's like what did she think? That I'd tell her I prefer being called Orobo rather than my given name? Na wa! :)

      Hope you're doing well!

  5. No no no GNG, don't ever make excuses for other people, whether it was to your face or behind your back, whether shes 100 or 10 years old, what she said was impolite. I understand shes older than you and in our culture if you were to retaliate, you would be considered disrepectful but it doesn't give her or anyone else for that matter to call you such names and hurt your feelings. Next time you either address the name calling with her in a respectful but firm way or you ask your mum or another elder person to do so.
    If you were to be in an abusive relationship where your partner were hitting you is that how you would be making excuses for his behaviour? I think not! So it shouldn't be any different in this matter, abuse is abuse. Nigerians can be so abrupt, kai!

    • I hear you Niks…and honestly, I thought if I acknowledged that "Yes, I'm fat." she'd move on but this did not work out that way. Now I know that I have to stand up for myself from the first instance. I can say something like "Yes, I'm fat but my name is GNG and I prefer you use that name when addressing me. Thank you."

      How are your daughters and hubby doing? Hope they are all well!

      And God forbid: an abusive boyfriend would be tossed out after the first offense…I don't make excuses for such things…I see your point!

    • I guess if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger right?

      Oh wow…thanks for the nomination, Harry! I am grouped with some pretty amazing bloggers…what a fantastic community of bloggers we have!

  6. I remember walking through Balogun market with my Auntie and her daughter when I went to Nigeria some years back. My poor cousin who was about 10 at that time and a tad bid pudgy was taunted by all the market people. They kept calling her orobo and asking her mom what she was feeding her. I swear Nigerians can be so tactless sometimes.

  7. Hmmmm
    Interesting…..so so so so so so Nigerian!
    Its good you were able to correct her, cos its usually a challenge correctly elderly people in this part of the world.
    and I agree with Tomi.
    How are you doing?

    • You're right, Funke! I was afraid that my grandmother or mom might chastise me for the comments I made to the lady but thankfully they were both on my side but I think they didn't feel it was appropriate to speak up on my behalf.

      I'm doing fine my dear…hope you are too? We need to find a time to talk, just us girls :)

  8. First time visiting your blog and there's no doubt in my mind that I'll be visiting frequently. Your experience reminds me of mine. Unlike most of my classmates in secondary school, I was flat-chested during my stay in boarding house. However, I came to America and became good friends with the likes of Burger king, Chinese restaurants,and food crops grown with the aid of chemicals. Needless to say, I am pretty small but one of those ladies who grow in the chest area before anywhere else. I had one of my old secondary school classmates, a GUY at that come to me and say "Ha…what have you been eating? You are very busty". I was at a loss for words. Deep in my mind, I wanted to give him a dirty slap but I resisted. This is not my first experience with such remarks. Nigerians, especially those based back home are very tactless and don't know how to address people. They just open their mouth and let anything come out of it.

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