Hailey overheard the two young ladies’ heated exchange a few seats away from her in the hall.
“Tonya, you really need to loosen up!” Ngene scolded. “When was the last time you ran down a busy street?” She asked.
“Me, run down a busy street? Is you nuts?” Tonya was aghast.
“Yeah, you heard aright. You’re so pedantic, always concerned with acting within the realm of what is considered proper that you’re stifling your creative juices.”
“In other words, you want me to act like an irresponsible young lady in a bid to be spontaneous?”Tonya queried her friend. Ngene exhaled and looked in Hailey’s direction as if pleading for help. Hailey fluttered her fingers at the peanut-butter complexioned lady, who saw it as her cue to talk to her.
“Hello, Dear!” she greeted.
“Hi, my interesting exotic-coloured lady with the cornrows!” Hailey returned pleasantly. “I couldn’t help overhearing some of your exchange with your shy friend, if I may call her that. What exactly were both of you discussing?”
Tonya glared at the intruder for daring to call her shy. Undaunted, Hailey walked over to the two missies and sat beside them. “Now, I guess my exotic friend will fill me in on this mujit interessant exchange. Pardon my awful attempt at Spanish. My Peruvian friend teaches me a little of the language whenever we chat via Facebook.”
“No offense taken, Mademoiselle!” Ngene smiled at her. “I’m Ngene and this right here is Tonya.”
“Nice to meet both of you. I’m Hailey.”
“Yes, H-A-I-L-E-Y. It’s my self-chosen name for all those times I met too many people asking me if I had a foreign name. Mama didn’t give me a foreign name.”
“I see. You seem so free and lively, I think you’d be the right person to ask about the right words to tell Tonya.”
“Hmmm…Tonya, would you mind my answering your friend?” Hailey asked. Tonya shrugged dismissively.
“How do I begin? My friend is such a stiff lady, always concerned with her reputation. This preoccupation with acting respectably is stifling her.
In a word, she’s …” Ngene stopped midway, looking at Hailey to find her the right word, the mot justus.
“Pedantic?” Her listener asked. “Does it express exactly what you’re trying to say?”
“Sure does, thank you!”
“Now, I’m pedantic.” Tonya hissed. “Before I was stiff, what will the next label for my personality be?”
“No offense meant, ma’am. It’s just a word, and I don’t think you should take it as a slight.” Tonya’s unwelcome intruder said placatingly. Tonya looked away, embarassed.
“Where was I? Yeah, she’s the type of lady who feels the need to laugh softly in public, just because the Emily Teeny finishing school she attended told her that’s the best way to laugh.”
“Really?” Hailey was incredulous.
“Yeah. She even eats cake with a fork! Can you imagine that? When we’re among new friends, Tonya keeps to herself. It’s almost as if she can’t loosen up. How did this rapper, was it Drake, put it?” Ngene wondered aloud.
“Life ain’t no rehearsal, cameras always rollin’! I think it’s a spin-off from Shakespeare’s assertion that the world is a stage and we’re all actors.” Hailey murmured sagely.
“You know so much!” Ngene looked at her admiringly. “Now, tell me, what do you think is the way forward for my friend? I like her a great deal and I think it’s a shame to see her miss out on life.” Her listener nodded.
“Tonya, you might want to listen carefully to what I have to tell both of you.” She said as she patted Tonya’s arm lightly. Tonya closed her eyes for a second, opened them and gazed into Hailey’s eyes.
“I’m with you. Who knows, you may have something better to say than my high spirited friend.” The peanut butter-complexioned friend laughed easily as she threw her head back.
“I think what Ngene told me is a clear case of emotional inhibition! Not to bore you with the unnecessary details from psychology, but it means…” Tonya did not let her finish.
“So what are you now, a shrink?”
“As I was saying, it means a pattern of holding yourself back, being afraid to express anger, your wants, and joy spontaneously because of fear it may lead to shame, people disapproving of you, their rejecting you, and/or loss of control!”
“You couldn’t have said it better, wise one!” Ngene gazed at Hailey with wonder.
“As you’re not just a shrink but also psychic, can you tell me how I display such behaviour?”
“That’s easy. I overheard your friend asking you the last time you ran down a busy street. You asked her if she was crazy.”
“Who runs down a busy street? What if my future boss sees me running one day, won’t he conclude I’m unfit for the position?” Tonya retorted.
“It’s very unlikely he’d remember your face. Let me ask you: can you remember the face of the last person you saw running down a busy road?”
“Exactly my point! Because most people care little about such things. They are too wrapped up in their own affairs to be impressed by your using a fork to eat a slice of cake at a party!”
“Preach, Hailey! I tell her that being pedantic prevents you from thinking creatively. People don’t make inventions by being overly concerned with rules.” Ngene added.
“Look at Pablo Picasso. You’ve heard of him, haven’t you?” Both Ngene and Tonya nodded.
“The guy revolutionized the art world with cubism. Even his paintings shocked his closest artist friends, but today he’s celebrated. Do you think he’d have achieved that if he was so concerned with following the written and unwritten rules in art?” Hailey asked Tonya. Tonya bit her lip nervously.
“I thought not. Can I ask you whether anyone has ever disapproved of you or acted inappropriately towards you the few times you tried to loosen up?”
“None that I remember.”
“You might even observe that people would like you more when you act spontaneously.”
“I would, that’s for sure!” Ngene chuckled to herself.
“I’ll ask you to do something. can you do it?” Hailey asked.
“OK, I want you to give yourself a pep talk in social situations. Tell yourself to loosen up, let go, stop acting so cautiously and concerned with rules. Be on the lookout for those times you act spontaneously and no-one acted like what you did was socially inappropriate, or tried to take liberties with you.”
“Ha!” Tonya’s eyes widened with fear. “If I do that, I will lose control of myself and act contrary to my values.” She objected.
“No, you won’t. I want you to trust in your ability to act spontaneously without anyone responding negatively or your losing control.” Hailey assured her.
“Maybe her sense of self is not stable.” Ngene pointed out. “That probably explains her fear of acting contrary to her values. I never met a more controlled person than Tonya.”
“Maybe.” Hailey agreed. “So, Tonya, will you try out my new method for two weeks so that you can supply your mind with disconfirming evidence?”
“That’s my girl!”
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