Family Matters: My Smartphone-Seeking, Money-Hungry Relatives Ain’t Too Proud To Beg–And I’m Sick Of It

October 20, 2015  |  

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You know what’s incredibly annoying?

When family members you’ve seen less than a handful of times contact you about buying them a pricey gadget or product that you can’t even afford to have in your possession at the moment. And yet, they assume you have two, or three, of everything collecting dust in your home.

This is something that I, as well as many of my colleagues, have had to deal with.

It’s that needy relative who lives in a place far off, maybe even in another country, and still expects you or your loved ones to provide them with things they need, but mostly, things they want. The cousin in Guyana who wants Jordans. The aunt in Barbados who wants an iPhone. The sister-in-law in Britain who wants you to buy everything she wrote down on a long list from Macy’s and bring it with you when you visit.

I’ve probably already mentioned to you that I’m Nigerian, and something a lot of Nigerians do when they travel back home is put aside things for their relatives. A bag full of new or gently-used clothes here and there. Toys for the kids. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. My father is going back home this week to help say goodbye to one of his childhood friends. Surprisingly, it’s not the bereaved family in need of money or items, but rather, his siblings who are making requests.

You think wealth inequality is bad here? It doesn’t compare to how things are back home. Rich Nigerians are extremely rich while impoverished ones struggle daily. Those in between struggle to find work and keep it, and that’s where some of my relatives find themselves. And I get that. But the things they often ask for feel over the top. A smartphone? A new car? Even my uncle, who has opened a few businesses back home, still expects my dad, retired, to give him a few thousand here and there. Once you start offering handouts, everybody wants something. But since leaving full-time work behind, my dad is nowhere near Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks.

I was worried about asking my father to contribute, if possible, to my wedding next year (God willing) as I assumed he needed to hold onto his funds as a retiree. I don’t want to drain their only source of income. But as it turns out, he’s giving a lot of those funds to able-bodied grown men and women. And that pisses me off.

But I’m not pissed with my dad. You see, I know firsthand the lightweight pressure put on folks to give up what you’ve got for a relative, so I can’t even imagine the heavyweight pressure my father deals with.

A few years ago, as I prepared to take the nearly eight-hour flight to Nigeria, one of my cousins, who was about 20 at the time, reached out to me. His message, via Facebook, started off sweet enough. He said hello and asked me how I was doing, and I assumed he was trying to catch up before seeing me for the first time in six years.

Psych!

He knew I had just graduated from college and was living on my own, so he was ready and willing to ask me for something. And not just anything: A Blackberry phone and a laptop.

“I don’t know if getting me a Blackberry or a laptop for my school would be too big a request. Please, cousin, I really do need it.”

I was taken aback. But considering that I wasn’t doing that well for myself straight out of school (and I only heard from him every once in a while),  I kept it real.

“Yeah, that’s a big request. Lol That stuff isn’t cheap, and I just got out of school so I can’t help you with that. Sorry”

Instead of accepting what I had to say, he got defensive.

“You can easily get a secondhand laptop there. If you can, please help me.”

When I told him that money, Blackberry phones and laptops don’t grow on trees and that I didn’t understand why he needed a Blackberry of all things for school, he admitted that he just wanted to have one for the picture quality. You know, to stunt on social media.

Womp. Womp. Womp.

I couldn’t help him, and, as it turned out, neither could my sister, whom he reached out to around the same time. Eventually, he let me know almost a year later that, of course, my father had given him the laptop he needed–when he informed me that he needed me to help him fix an issue with it.

It’s always something.

And I mean that. Whether it’s money, electronics, cars, clothes or a place for a friend, cousin or friend of a friend to stay when they’re in your area, my relatives and family friends ain’t too proud to beg. And while I have no problem helping out who I can and saying “no” to whomever I can’t, my father, on the other hand, feels obligated to provide. I realized this after, stressed and irritated by being called a “Yankee” by some of his siblings and being expected to dole out naira left and right, my father lost his composure during our first trip back home as a family 15 years ago. Exasperated in the wee hours of the morning as he prepared to bury his own father.

Giving is swell and all, but I worry that he’s going to be taken advantage of to the point that he will find himself in a financial hole. And instead of chipping in to help him out, my relatives will run to the next family member in order to get broke off.

Or worse, they’ll start calling my phone.

Can you relate? How do you deal with family members who almost always come at you with their hand out?

 

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