Dear Ms. Paper: I recently graduated from University of Lagos with a first-class degree in History. I completed my National Youth Service two months ago and landed a sweet consulting job right after. Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, my boyfriend proposed to me. I was in pure heaven until it came out in a casual conversation that Deji, who has lived all his life in Nigeria and is not illiterate, does not know who Achebe is. I reacted strongly, telling him it was, to put it mildly, bizarre that he’d never heard of Achebe. He said I was being an unreasonable snob, that he was a lab technician and not a literature professor. I’m half ashamed to say that I’ve been giving him the silent treatment for the past two days. I’m actually surprised that it bothers me this much. Am I totally crazy to feel this way? Would it be completely insane if I considered breaking up with him?
This is the moment where, for the sake of not breaking up a happy home, I’m supposed to tell you to be understanding. If you think there are gaps in his education, don’t panic. Stuff him full of information. I’m also supposed to tell you that it’s normal to be disappointed when you find out that your significant other is not the dazzling genius you imagined him to be.
But seeing I’m not your best friend, I’m under no obligation to lie to you. So, my dear, here is the truth.
The only grounds on which it is justifiable for a schooled Nigerian man not to know of Achebe is if he’s an alien from another planet. So unless you know for sure that Deji hails from planet Jupiter or some place like that, he’s a write-off.
What else has he not heard of? Bruce Lee, Moon landing, Mt Kilimanjaro? You should be thanking your stars that he revealed himself during a private conversation. What if he he’d showed his hand in respectable company? How would you have handled such a colossal embarrassment?
Look, except Deji has lived his entire life in my father’s village tucked away in an obscure part of Edo state where there’s still neither electricity nor mobile phones nor NIPOST and where girls go about half naked like they did in 19th century Umuofia, there is no excuse for not knowing who Chinua Achebe is.
You’re not being snobbish for asking that a grown man who claims to be educated know his A-B-Cs.
So I say run!
#DearMsPaper is a fictional agony-aunt series that parodies readers, critics, and writers in the African literary scene.
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