“I like your shoes! Where did you buy them and how much?”
“I looove your hair! You have to give me your hairdresser’s number – how much does she charge?”
“Those curtains … I want them! Where did you have them made and how much did it cost you?”
We women ask each other such questions all the time, whether we know each other or not. In fact, just a month ago, a friend stopped a woman, a perfect stranger going about her business in town, to ask where she had bought the jacket she was wearing.
“Hi,” she casually said, “I’ve been looking for a jacket like that all over — where did you buy yours?”
The woman did not even look nonplussed, which told me she had either asked or been asked such a question. She patiently gave my friend directions to the mall she had bought the jacket and, just in case she missed it, she even gave her the number of the woman who had sold it to her.
When it comes to clothes, shoes and other accessories, as well as hair, we take it as a compliment when someone asks where we bought the item, or where we had our hair made. Heck, the other day, I even went as far as taking a colleague downtown to buy a pair of shoes similar to the ones I was wearing.
That said, there are some things whose cost you should just never ask because it goes against social decorum and frankly, at least according to me, because it is none of your business.
Think about it, you are sitting with a group of people, some of whom you just met. You are discussing the spiralling cost of rent in Kenya when suddenly one of them turns to you and asks, “How much is your rent?”
Now imagine eight pairs of eyes staring at you expectantly, waiting to hear how much you pay your landlord. Or how much you cough monthly for mortgage. Another scenario. You and your former high school classmates are swapping stories about how difficult it is to do without a house-help when one of them asks you how much you pay yours.
Or worse still, you bump into a friend you haven’t seen for a couple of years and, as you catch up, you tell her where you work, only for her to slyly ask, “Do they pay well?” Now, if there was ever a difficult question, it is this one. You therefore give an evasive answer, “Is money ever enough?” If she is the kind that is shameless, or lacks social decorum, she will insist, and say, “Roughly how much?” If you have ever been put through this, you will then say, “It depends …” and then abruptly change the topic or pretend to be in a hurry.
I don’t know about you, but such prying questions offend me, because I believe there are some things that should remain sacred — a secret between you and your employer, or a secret between you and your employee.
There is also the fact that some of these people ask these questions so that they can put you down. For instance, should you make the mistake of revealing how much your rent is, the interrogator will exclaim, “You pay 20K (Sh20,000) for that tiny house? It does not even have a balcony! Imagine I pay 11K (Sh11,000) for mine yet the toilet is separate from the bathroom.”
I really get put off by people who like to compare and contrast their lifestyles with others, the intention to make it seem like they have a better deal.
The ones who ask how much you pay your househelp will exclaim, “Hiyo yote! Heh, uko na pesa ...” (That much? You have lots of money to waste.) They will then go on to “boast” how they have never paid a house-help more than Sh4,000 a month, yet they stay for two years or more.
And then there are others who will visit you, pinpoint something, for instance a dining table, and ask how much it cost. When you tell them, they declare that you were ripped off, and go on to inform you that they have a bigger one, yet it cost half what you forked out.
Please, next time we meet, don’t ask how much I earn or how much my TV cost because I won’t tell you.