Connect with us


Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Thumb Suckers Anonymous

Avatar photo



It’s that time of the month when I’m walking on sunshine. For lowly salary earners like me, by the 25th of the month, there’s a certain confidence that comes with knowing there is money in your account. It comes out in the tone of your voice, and oozes through every step you take. It’s there in the gaze you give the gala trader in traffic. Blessed are the employers who pay salaries as and when due… for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

So with this spring in my step, I went for a birthday party which I’d been invited for. As we entered the party hall, I noticed the ‘Naija party in diaspora’ staples- High tower head gears, lace from 1997 and face paint that would give any carnival across the world a run for their money. I felt my exuberance drop a notch. To make matters worse, ten minutes into our arrival at the party, we were promptly told to get up and help with the food service. Between gazing at the women with facial kaleidoscopes, and wondering how I fell into this GuestMaid trap, I started plotting our strategic exit from the party. So much for travelling over three hours to honour a friend.

On my way home, I spent the time trying to build characters out of my co-passengers. Lonely middle aged man. Probably divorced. Single mom, with 5 year old son. Teenager aspiring to be in a rock band. The list went on, till I spotted this grown woman, her head thrown back, with her left thumb in her mouth. I looked again, just to be sure my vision was clear.

The lady couldn’t have been younger than 25 years old, and there she was, blissfully sucking her thumb. She must have caught my gaze a couple of times; because shortly after, she held a magazine up in her right hand, rested her left elbow against the window and continued her business. Aww, it was cute. I mean, sucking your thumb is one of those things you get into and then everybody tries to get you to stop before you get too old.

As a Nigerian child, when you suck your thumb, parents try all sorts of things to get you to stop – rubbing tiger pepper on the thumb, or even bitter leaf. If you’re a staunch thumb sucker, you’ll work your way around all the tricks and you’ll carry on. When I was younger, I sucked my tongue like no man’s business. I would curl my tongue, and just continue sucking. It was a sweet feeling. Armed with one of my favourite accessories for sucking, my pillow – I’d curl up and just zone out. I had special types of pillows to aid my ‘quirk’. The flat ones were not good enough. It had to be those soft fluffy ones with seed like things in them. Although, I don’t quite remember when I stopped sucking, I know that one day I just realized that I don’t anymore. My siblings still tease me about it, and there are pictures which show me with an indentation in my lower lip.

I tried to think of a term to describe things like sucking of tongue, or thumb – or even nail biting and belly button pressing. Are they bad habits? Or just quirks one tries to quickly get rid of before one grows into adulthood? I remember my cousin, Jibola used to suck till after secondary school. He’d roll up the edge of his bed sheet or duvet and use the tip of the fabric to keep grazing against his skin till he is transported to the next dimension. I used to join the wagon of laughing at him sha… at least my own sucking was not outwardly displayed.

There are a few other quirks that need exploring – like rubbing of the belly button. Belly Button rubbers swear by the sweetness of this quirk. I know someone who gets into delightful frenzy when he’s cleaning his ears with cotton buds. According to him, there’s no greater feeling.

This is a NO judgement zone! You know this is a safe space, so please share some of your personal quirks here. And share the ones you find most amusing as well. Also, share some of your experiences with trying to prohibit some of these quirks. I know a nail biter who constantly fixes her nails just to stop herself from biting. Oh, and do you think that we’re socially conditioned to believe these things are wrong or do they have an actual adverse effect? Like in the case of thumb sucking, it’s been said that it scatters one’s dentition.

Let’s have fun this morning! Smile and be happy. Remember, your joy shouldn’t be people-dependent. Love yourself – all of you.

My name is Atoke and I was a tongue sucker!

Peace, love & cupcakes. :p

Photo Credit:

Atoke – Writer | Lover | Noisemaker. Twitter – @atoke_

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


Star Features