Just when you think you’re taking a breather from one excessively commercialised season another one rolls right up. With just enough time to briefly recover from your Christmas and New Year shopping expenses, Valentines day shows up. And this is one of the problems I have with becoming an adult. My brain is always calculating how every action or event corresponds to Naira, Dollars & Pounds.
It was this grown up business that led me to start thinking deeper into the costs that are associated with Valentines day. How did people afford the gifts they gave back when I was at University? Of course, I was as poor as a Church Mouse back in University, with an allowance of less than 5k per week. I had to write a list to justify this money.
It was actually #3,200 but I don’t want to look too pathetic to you guys.
Given that I was working within a constrained budget, there was really no room for anything that was outside the basics. Lunch at QSS, Indomie and Suya for dinner. My mother bought clothes at the time, so there was no reason to patronize Mr. Jeans. (UNILAG alumni, who lived in the Hostel, do y’all remember Mr. Jeans, the itinerant denim trader who trawled the halls with ‘fine fine jeans’)
In light of this limited allowance, you can imagine how I used to gape in awe, when girls came in with suitcases of gifts from their boyfriends, who had just gotten back from Jand. It was even worse during Valentines. At Moremi Hall, sitting at the Quadrangle was entertaining on Valentines day.
Shopping bags of different colours (predominantly, red) being hauled in by giggling girls. Sometimes the gifts were so big, they didn’t fit into bags -Like those life-sized teddy bears. (Have I told you guys how much I hate stuffed animals? Blame, Chucky!)
Anyway, Valentines day is supposed to be a two-way street of gifts, right? But the pressure to impress your partner with gifts isn’t so much on the woman. Cakes, a leather belt and a pack boxer shorts seem to be the staple gift idea for men. If you have extra, you may choose to do colognes or engraved towels. Gosh, these gift ideas are so tepid and unimaginative. Nigerian ladies, need to do better. Or so the memes tell us.
If you put the cost profile of exchanged gifts on a scale, you find that men spend more for Valentines day. Now, this is all nice and dandy for the working adult, but how do young students, living off pocket money from their parents, afford to give their lovers gifts? Was it just from pocket money and allowance?
So, I turned to my closest friends: how did y’all fund your romantic expenditure?
“Ah! Boys always found a way” – Adam* said.
“Found a way how?” I narrowed my eyes suspiciously. It’s this kind of ambiguous answer dodgy people give. I wasn’t buying it. Specifics, Buster!
He confirmed that pocket money from home was never enough to ‘floss’ with. So, he and his friends invested in a barbecue business. When money ran dry from there, they started selling liquor. They’d buy booze from traders at Idumota, and sell for a profit-to boys who wanted to have emergency parties on campus.
Another friend, Vee* said: “By fleecing my fellow students”
He then went on to elaborate.
“Any money I had in school that was surplus came from one of 3 sources: 1. Sneaking people in shows 2. Selling movies. 3. Selling shoes. I had a source at home. I always went with loads of shoes to sell. I had a source for new Hollywood films. So, I’d record them onto blank tapes, and sell.”
Alfino* said it was important to make the distinction of where the person was a student.
Uni where? In naija. Na budget love. Sacrificing a lot of things, and prioritising to impress the girl. Unless you be rich kid. For abroad. If you dey work nights/weekend while in school. Then it isn’t as hard.
Another friend, Idris* said:
“Uni in UK, we had grants, old style student loans, night jobs, hardship fund(which was basically a scam) And uni girlfriends in uk were not like naija babes, they didn’t expect iPhone and other ridiculous things”
These examples made me think about the resourceful nature of men – especially when it came to getting a girl they liked. Of course, there’s the issue of the boundaries of ethics in the execution of these business ideas. Girls excitedly receive these gifts without asking where the funding came from; besides, who thinks deeply of these things at that age? Although, some men don’t ever outgrow the dodgy source of income, and their women don’t look too closely. Keep the diamonds coming, man. [I wrote about being married to a fraudster here]
To be fair, men were not the only ones who had side hustles back in Uni to fund the red season of love. We had people who braided hair and sold make up – all to make money to buy hampers for their loved one. My friend Doyin, had a thriving linen business when we were at UniLag. She had tailors at Tejuoso market. She’d take orders from students, and skedaddle over to Yaba to buy fabric and have the items sewed. The business ended up being so much of a headache because… Naija tailors.
Whilst my peers were doing the Valentines hustle, I had to hustle to fund my feeding habits – Suya, Chicken & Chips, and Indomie from High Rise.
Don’t judge, I LOVE(D) food. I was slow on the street smarts, because I was too busy playing The Sims. I got on the trading bandwagon, in my final year, selling Woodin Fabrics. I’d hang the different fabrics on display on the top bunk in my room. Business was good for a while; but, the stress of waiting for people to pay ‘next week’ was just too much. Shout out to Nigerian traders who sell on credit. Y’all are the real MVPs.
Prior to the fabric seller phase, I was content with inflating book prices. Plus when you’re the first person to study Law in your immediate family, you can always invent book names for non-existent courses. For example: Jurisprudential Existence of Legal Luminaries of Nigeria – Part 1- 6. #2,500 each. I had to be careful not to over do it, though. My uncle was our Faculty Officer of Law at the time so I couldn’t risk being caught. By the time I got to Law School, kai kai… let me not tell you guys all the trade secrets. I just hope I’d be rich enough to afford whatever Lady Karma is planning to have my kids dish me.
As we approach Valentines day again, my heart goes out to people who can’t afford to meet the expectations of their partners. Sometimes, the heart is willing, but the wallet is weak. Like all other forms of societal pressure, it will pass. Embarrassment from not buying or receiving Valentines day present won’t kill you.
Look at me, I’m still standing.
Also, if you’re committing a crime to make a woman like you, you’re only doing yourself. Valentines will come and go.
Anyway, please share the ways you got money to fund romantic expenditures (and non-romantic, because my money was used to buy novels under the bridge at Ojuelegba. I didn’t kuku have a love interest at school).