BY WOLE OGUNTOKUN
YOU’RE probably wondering what kind of subject title this is, so, I’ll explain. It’s lifted wholesale from a Ricky Gervais acted and co-directed movie I watched on the plane as I left the country on Wednesday morning (By the time you’re reading this, I would have been back in Nigeria a few hours. I have a show to run)
So in the movie, Mr. Gervais lives in a country where nobody lies, they do not have the ability to. Waiters tell you they took a sip of your drink as they brought it down to you, your secretary tells you you’re a loser, women tell you they do not find you attractive the moment they meet you, or one woman tells another on sight, “I find you threatening”.
It’s a strange movie, one that stretches the mind that makes you think “What if?” What if we all were unable to lie? What if we were compelled to tell the truth to all we met, to all those who asked us to have relationships with them, to all those we were engaged or married to, what would we really say?
There are relationships based on pity, on fear, or on mutual convenience; there are people of indeterminate sexual preferences in relationships designed to please the judgmental eye of the world. But on a planet where we had to tell the truth, what would we really say if lying had not yet been discovered?
Man says to woman: “I really would like to have a relationship with you. I think you and I are a perfect match.”
The woman replies like Jennifer Garner did to Ricky Gervais in the movie, “I do not find you sexually attractive and do not think we are genetically compatible. You are fat and will give me chubby children with snub noses.”
In some ways, in all our minds, we all have these conditions, which we never really spell out. “We do not come from the same social background”, “Your father is a rustic farmer and would be a terrible in-law”, “your family would embarrass mine in public.”
Some of these excuses might appear shallow to a few people but we all have ours in varying degrees. One that The Whisperer was affected by in the past? If you shared genes with a strange person, that is you had a sibling who was garrulous, too loud, too offensive, too in-your-face, I would feel you were tainted in some way and would be unable to have a relationship with you.
Odd, but it affected many situations I was in then. In some way, I would feel you were tying me to someone I would rather not have wished to make personal acquaintance with.
IT has been three years since I began to write this column. Three years since I stood with Jumoke Verissimo and Ayo Arigbabu on a quiet Festac Town road at dusk and spoke with them of my desire to write a column on relationships with a different style, three years since the editor of The Guardian on Sunday, Jahman Anikulapo, joined that conversation being the man who had the final say and whose only fear then was that I would not be consistent in meeting deadlines because I was a busy man. I am glad for the opportunity I have had to reach many people, for the people who have written in to say the columns have been of help, have added perspective. I do not claim to be a Dr. Phil and have no desire to become one. The idea is to tell it like it is.
What would you tell your partner today (or a prospective partner) if you lacked the capacity to lie? Some of us should be called “ever-ready”. I have met people, both male and female, who could reel off lies the same way others switch channels on a television with a remote control. But what would you really say to your partner of two years if you lacked the capacity to tell a fib? Would you say “this has been the most beautiful experience of my life and I hope we have another fifty years of it” or would it be “Let me out of here this instant! I’m catching the midnight train to Georgia”
Ricky Gervais, in that movie, became the first man in the world who could tell a lie. I have told myself I am going to tell my truth as much as I can. Where it might cause unwarranted pain, I might hold my tongue but generally now, I won’t be restricting the “flaming sword”.
If I do not want your company, I shall tell you so (I lie in this matter. I have always told anyone whose company I did not want, of the exact nature of my thoughts. It appears cruel but it pays all the parties concerned in the long run)
The Whisperer has directed ‘The Ultimate Face-Off’ — The V Monologues versus The Tarzan Monologues” every Sunday for three weeks now and it has sold out show after show. Now I understand the true meaning of rave reviews. A columnist I hold in esteem wrote to say I had “arrived” as a director and a scriptwriter. That made me smile.
I ‘arrived’ a long while back; but he’s only just taking notice. Remember it’s my inability to lie since I saw the movie that makes me say this and not my legendary arrogance. I have learnt the truth of the lines in Rudyard Kipling’s poem, ‘If’. “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat both impostors just the same, then you will be a man, my son.”
In the monologues, which close at Terra Kulture this Sunday, at least for a while, I have triumphed mightily but I look at success now with the eye of a sceptic. The success of the Monologues is not what makes me who I am. I have always been this way; it just took some people a while to find out.
NEXT time you are having a heart to heart talk with your partner, remember to tell it like it is. Life is too short to be saddled with a situation you are in just for the convenience or because the world might look at you funny if you are alone for any length of time. It’s your life, live it like you know the true meaning of that phrase.