SOMETHING ABOUT ROSEMARY (A Suits And Ties Episode)

SOMETHING ABOUT ROSEMARY (A Suits And Ties Episode)

Previously on Suits & Ties:

“Wait first, Rosemary,” I said, cutting her off. “How do you know all these things? Can you explain how you became knowledgeable of the different marriage scenarios involving gay men and straight women? I really want to understand how you were able to intelligently categorize these scenarios. I’m waiting. I’m just waiting for your answer.” My words were dripping with unasked questions and proffered answers.

“It’s not like that,” Rosemary snapped, catching on. “These are the things that happen.”

“Well, where did you hear of them happening?” I was relentless. “Tell us please, Rosemary, because I’m sure there’s a story.”

***

And it turns out that there is a story.

Rosemary – as I’ve often said in episodes past – is the Know-It-All of my department at work. And in a work environment that teems with homophobic people, she used to be very vocal about her prejudice against gay people; whether it be the denigration of Ricky Martin because of his sexuality or the caustic awareness of gay men marrying heterosexual women, she always seemed to know enough about LGBT issues to have a negative opinion about.

And I disliked her for this.

I also began to wonder if perhaps, her knowledge of queer issues were a result of her personal experiences. In other words, I wondered if perhaps Rosemary was a deeply closeted gay woman with internalized homophobia.

It wasn’t just about the prejudiced things she said.

It was also about the fact that she often talked about a boyfriend no one would ever get to meet; a boyfriend who never lived in Lagos. She was either dating someone in Benin or Abuja – far enough to let us know that he would never be present at any office functions where partners are expected to attend.

Rosemary also often talked about her cousin – a young woman who she loved to tell us has no time for men. Whenever conversations about how men are scum comes up in the office, she’d sometimes center this cousin in her contributions to the conversation, talking about how she was too strong-willed to tolerate men and always turned down their advances whenever she was out in public.

Then, the evening came when we had an office socializing event, where staff members were encouraged to come along with a plus one. I attended the function with a friend. Some of my colleagues came with their spouses or people they were dating; some others came with other family members, like my HOD, Missy (another character I’ve talked about in past episodes of this series) who came with her daughter.

Rosemary came with her cousin. This would be the first time anyone at work would finally get to meet the lady Rosemary had often talked about – and she was a very beautiful woman. Cocoa-skinned, with almond-shaped, thickly-lashed eyes, she dimpled attractively whenever she smiled that smile that revealed her dazzling white teeth. She had a slim, slightly-curvaceous build and exuded an undeniable elegance that ensured she’d never enter a room and go unnoticed. This was a woman who was so attractive, I found myself drawn to her with the kind of intensity that had me doubting my homosexuality. Rosemary and her cousin (let’s call her Tasha) had similar features, enough to make it so they could pass for sisters. However, if they were born in the same family, then Tasha inherited all the good genes.

And Rosemary was right about her. Predictably, many of the guys at the party flocked to her, wanting to chat her up, to shoot their shot, but she was very obviously dismissive of them, to the point that she came off as hostile. She didn’t seem remotely interested in entertaining any male attention. There was something about her that was so resentful of men that, when I observed how close and almost clingy she was with Rosemary, I began to have questions.

Could they be more than cousins? Lovers perhaps? Could they be using a kinship to mask the true nature of their relationship? And even if they were cousins, since when had that ever stopped the gays? Sex with cousins is basically a lifestyle in the queer community.

When we returned to work on the following Monday, Missy was the one who brought up the topic of Rosemary’s cousin. She didn’t do it directly – oh no. The way Missy works whenever she wants to address a bit of office gossip is: she will bring up a tangential topic, usually relating to herself, and then, when she’s had the attention of the whole office – or at least enough of us, including the person who the gossip is about – then she’ll move in for the kill.

On this day, she started by talking about how she ended up coming to the party with her daughter. Her husband is apparently the anti-social geek type who only comes alive whenever he’s writing codes or developing software. He never socializes – at least, not at regular social events – and would have to be cajoled for him to go out with his wife to even family functions. When she reminded him of the office party earlier that day, he’d looked at her like she was crazy and then picked up his laptop and disappeared from the house, leaving Missy no choice but to take her daughter along with her.

“And then, all of you,” Missy was saying, “I was just seeing all of you coming with your people. Obinna, even you went and carried a woman that is taller than you to the party. You didn’t fear God. People won’t be doing their size. They won’t know how to stop doing ojukokoro.”

As some in the office laughed at her joke, Rosemary said, “Well, most guys who are on the small side tend to like going for big girls.”

That was the opening Missy was looking for, and she pounced. “You sef, why didn’t you come with your own man?”

Rosemary looked at her. “Haba, I already said that my boyfriend is not in town.”

“No boyfriend you have is ever in town,” Missy said. “It’s like you like to have long-distance relationship with men. That’s why you decided to come with your babe.”

Rosemary let out a laugh. It was a self-conscious laugh, one that betrayed an unease that only someone like me would recognise. I found myself suddenly becoming more interested in the gist at this point.

“I don’t understand,” Rosemary said with a forced smile. “How is Tasha my babe? She’s my cousin na.”

“Eh, you said so,” Missy said with her all-too-familiar snarky tone. “We heard it when you said so. But what we then saw that night at the party… Hmmm. I was just holding my daughter close to me, because the lesbian vibes the two of you were giving off could have been contagious.”

I was astonished. So I wasn’t the only one who noticed how close Rosemary and her date were at the party.

“How?!” Rosemary burst out at Missy, her face horror-stricken. “What nonsense lesbian vibes?”

Missy turned dramatically to the rest of the room. “Was it just me or did you people notice the way the two of them were all over each other at the party? They were so close, it looked like one was relying on the lungs of the other to breathe. And don’t get me started on how Tasha was just flinging guys away like they were mosquitoes.”

Rosemary was looking very uncomfortable now. To be under this kind of spotlight was something she was very clearly not used to, and her face was betraying her expressions of outrage, dismay and horror.

This prompted me to do something uncharacteristic.

“But, Missy, about that,” I interjected, “a girl not entertaining the advances of a guy doesn’t automatically mean she’s a lesbian na. Some girls aren’t just cool with guys approaching them in a social setting that they’re unfamiliar with. Tasha didn’t know anyone at the party, and maybe the only way she could manage her discomfort was by being by herself and the only other person she knew in the room: Rosemary.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was speaking up in defense of Rosemary, this woman whose biases had made sure we often stayed adversarial in all the years we’d worked together. Even as I was talking, I caught her staring at me like she couldn’t believe I wasn’t piling on her along with Missy.

“It’s true sha,” Missy conceded with a nod. “It’s very possible she was not comfortable. Or maybe” – she swept a playfully scornful glance over the men in the room – “maybe, all of una no reach her level. Because that girl just be like premium quality.”

Ah, so Missy had noticed that too.

I enthusiastically agreed with her. “Oh, so you saw what I saw. The babe fine, no be small. See skin, see dentition! Everywhere, she was just exuding class. Rosemary, abeg you woh-woh! Because this your cousin surpass you for fine.”

She laughed; this time, it was a more genuine sound. “I won’t argue with you there. Even my brothers are all beautiful.”

“Ah, mogbe!” I exclaimed, dramatically placing a hand on my chest. “The fine reach your brothers too? Please, may I know them?”

(I just want to point out here that I am not out to my colleagues. However, I believe I live in a glass closet at work, where I have fought hard for the freedom to express myself beyond certain boundaries, and yet leaving them – my coworkers – wondering among themselves if I’m truly gay or just trolling them).

Rosemary laughed again. The homophobic woman I’d always known would have roundly told me off for insinuating homosexuality that close to her. But this woman instead gave me a look, one of softness, as though acknowledging that I’d had her back.

In the following days, the dynamics of my relationship with Rosemary began to change. She started unconsciously warming up to me, coming to me for work things she didn’t need me for before and I started becoming resourceful to her. Even our colleagues noticed and remarked their surprise on how we were becoming friends. But I didn’t want to be her friend; I was still too wary over her history of homophobia.

One day, I saw her squinting at her computer screen. I asked her why she was doing that, and she said that her vision was becoming really bad. As someone who’d been there, I advised her to go for an eye checkup. She talked about her aversion to eye-glasses, and I said they didn’t all have to look like grandma glasses.

“There are some really trendy frames you can get that’ll look cool, like an accessory when you wear them,” I said. “I’ll recommend my eye doctor. She’s young and has a really good eye about what her patients want. I can ask her to come around, if you want. Her patient care is oftentimes mobile, and she can conduct the eye test as well.”

“Oh, I’ll like that very much.”

“Me too o,” Missy piped up from her work station. “Ever since I had my last baby, I’ve been feeling like my vision has shifted, and I want a current prescription to fix it.”

Another colleague also expressed his interest in getting his eye prescription taken care of. So I called my eye doctor, Miranda. I made her acquaintance through Delle years ago. I’d been hanging out with Delle and the boyfriends, Kennedy and Kai, at Ikeja City Mall on a public holiday. Delle mentioned that he was expecting his doctor-friend to bring his contact lens prescription. She soon showed up, and turned out to be a lesbian. As a person with eyesight issues, I talked to her regarding my situation and she seemed to be very good at what she does. Given that she’s also a member of my community, I transferred my business from my former doctor to her. It was a rewarding decision, because after the tests she conducted on me, she was able to get me a perfect prescription that didn’t leave me with any side effects from using my lens.

(In case y’all didn’t already notice, this is me shamelessly plugging her on here. In case anyone reading this is in Lagos and needs a good eye fix, contact me through Pink Panther and I’ll link you to her services. She however is now based in Abuja).

Anyway, I called Miranda, and on an arranged date, she came over to my workplace. She did the tests on them and days later, she got prescriptions for them. The three of them were impressed, with Missy constantly raving about Miranda’s expertise. I was pleased by the good reviews.

Rosemary went on to engage Miranda personally, not needing to go through me anymore. She had other concerns about her eye problems, and Miranda was only too pleased to have more regular business.

Then Miranda called me one day and asked, “Is your coworker, Rosemary, a lesbian?”

I started chuckling. “I don’t know. She claims to be straight. Why do you ask?”

“I don’t believe she’s straight,” she said. “I’m getting a very queer vibe from her. She’s either lesbian or bi. I’m usually very professional with my clients, otherwise, I would have employed some tactics to uncover her queerness, which I’m positive is there.”

This coming from a lesbian confirmed my suspicions about Rosemary’s sexual orientation. I couldn’t rely on my gaydar, but if her fellow woman was having a feeling about her the way I have a feeling about the actor, Wale Ojo, then it was safe to say that Rosemary is queer.

It didn’t help that she soon began to gush about Miranda.

“That your eye doctor is so trendy,” she said one day in the office. “I like her entire swag.”

Arching my brows, I looked at her. “What swag?”

“You know, everything about her style,” she said. “Her locs, her piercings, and the fact she wears anklets. Her style in general is something I like.”

“Well, you have piercings in your ears too,” I pointed out. “Sure, not as much as Miranda’s, but you have more than the average woman. And you probably don’t wear anklets because of work. I’m just saying that her style could be your style.” As I said this, I stared pointedly at her.

She looked back at me, but whether she got my drift stayed concealed behind her blank expression.

She didn’t have to say anything though; she simply started doing it.

In the following days, she stopped wearing wigs and started growing out her natural hair. As time went on, she locked her hair and then tinted it a fuchsia-pink colour. She got extra piercings in her ears, and on Thursdays and Fridays, she wore anklets to work.

The Rosemary I was now encountering was wearing herself a lot more confidently. And the change was affecting other things about her too. I couldn’t remember the last time she got on the bandwagon with my other homophobic colleagues to dump on gay people, and when the US elections became all the world could talk about, she shocked some people in the office when she voiced her support for Joe Biden.

As I watch her these days, I can’t help but recall Miranda’s words to me about her: “We see it all the time: people who react to their awareness of their queerness by being loathing of that identity. But no matter; the time will come and she’ll be ready to live her true identity.”

Written by JBoy

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  1. Bloom
    March 28, 12:45 Reply

    I love how you came to her rescue despite her hateful history. Classy and kind. The kind of humanity I always implore people to embrace.

  2. Someone's Someone
    March 28, 13:48 Reply

    I want to take a minute to give a standing ovation to this piece of very eloquent writing. It was so well beautifully done. I hope you’re a writer, career-wise?

    I love the story especially as it’s become cliche to see that people who bash homosexuality so blatantly, are always the closeted ones. Despite her change in behavior, I’d still be wary of her nonetheless.

  3. T-man
    March 28, 15:21 Reply

    Isn’t this one lovely read?

    And oh, I’d love to change my glasses soon. My present one is redundant and ineffective. Will get your contact from PP when I’m ready.

  4. Delle
    March 28, 16:44 Reply

    This story gladdened my heart in ways I didn’t think was possible.

    Impressive writing too.

    💓💓💓

  5. Fred
    March 28, 22:20 Reply

    Missy was acquitted savage o. I bolt front IH peeps but this story reveals a silver lining to the gloomy cloud.
    I hope we can help break that unnecessary BS

  6. _Xii
    August 13, 19:52 Reply

    I laughed so hard, my chest hurt.
    I used to be a “Rosemary”, so I can relate, so I’m grateful, for the likes of Jboy, for their patience, compassion and generosity.
    It wouldn’t have been easy otherwise, for me, as I embarked on the journey of reclaiming this authentic part of my life, which I was taught to reject, loath, discard, a part of me, required by upbringing to be ashamed of.
    I try not to dwell on my history of IH as I am instead learning to reflect and see this aspect of my life as a necessary lesson, as if to prove to starkly that: no one is perfect / knows it all.
    Im humbled by my ongoing enlightenment and will remain deeply grateful for the understanding, support, advice and education the queer community has shown virtually and physically.

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