Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here.
This week’s #ZikokoWhatSheSaid subject is a 29-year-old Nigerian woman who lives with her parents but hasn’t left her house since February. She talks about discovering the reclusive lifestyle during COVID and connecting better with online friends than those around her.
Have you always preferred solitude?
Yes, I’ve been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Right now, I only have one real-life friend — my best friend from primary school. We’ve drifted apart, but she still visits once in a while. I think she thinks I’m depressed or something, because I don’t leave my house. She doesn’t know I’ve never been happier. I don’t really get along with people, so I don’t make friends.
Why don’t you get along with people?
I don’t get people, and they don’t get me. Everyone is too busy pretending. I used to go to parties, and after the first hour of pretending to enjoy the meaningless dancing, shouting, drinking and “vibing”, I’d just sit somewhere, wondering if I really had to do that again for another entire hour, or worse, till daybreak.
It felt like doing reps at the gym, and after you manage to power through ten burpees, the trainer says you have four more sets. Shoot me, please. I don’t enjoy talking or listening to people talk. Mention one thing about being outside or in other people’s spaces that’s truly enjoyable. I struggled for a long time to understand it.
What do you think triggered that feeling?
I’m not sure anything triggered it beyond me realising I don’t like doing this thing that seems natural to everyone else. It might seem like a disorder of some kind, but it’s not. It’s never affected my life in any meaningful way. I can go out and relate with people well. I just don’t enjoy it, so I’ve decided I don’t want to do it anymore, especially if it’s for no reason. Call it an extreme case of setting boundaries.
Do you know when you started feeling this way?
In university, at least ten years ago. Everyone is so bullied into extreme socialness at that stage, it quickly made me realise I preferred to stay in my hostel room. More than that, I’d encourage my roommates to go out and “enjoy” themselves. I loved it when the room was quiet and empty.
I could breathe, talk to myself, hear my inner dialogue clearer, write and doodle. I loved academics, so I’d focus on my term papers and projects. But honestly, right from primary school, I liked to keep to myself. I don’t have the same interests as most people in my environment, so what’s the point?
Tell me about your interests
Nothing special. I love to read fiction and historical nonfiction, listen to music, watch movies and TV shows, and play video games. What makes it hard for people to relate is I love dark, sad, often twisted things. It’s like darkness and tragedy are the only concepts I can absorb as entertainment.
Meanwhile, everyone’s pretentiously obsessed with light and cheer. When I explain what I like, a few people quickly respond with, “I like horror movies too”, but that’s not what I mean. Even horror gets cartoonish. I like realistic horror in the form of those “boring” drama films.
Now, I just enjoy my own company too much — being on my comfortable bed, in the dark, surrounded by things I actually love and enjoy, like my stuffed animals, gadgets and the internet.
When was the last time you left your comfortable bed?
I leave it all the time to go cook. Making my version of vegan and vegetarian recipes I see online is one of my favourite things to do. But if you’re asking when last I went outside, I’ve not stepped past my front door since my birthday in February .
I get all the external experience I need from the internet. It’s easier to find people who like what you like when you have the whole world to choose from. I have close friends I’ve never met outside forums, who live in other countries, continents even. We bond over things like K-pop, Japanese fiction and Egyptian art; things I find fascinating that no Nigerian seems to have the mental range for.
What about grocery shopping for all that cooking?
Going to the market is something I’ve never done. Before my parents retired, my mum always had a maid she’d send. As an adult, I’d always get my groceries at a supermarket. Now, I just order for the house through a grocery delivery app the friend I mentioned earlier shared with me. They bring everything fresh.
Do you live alone?
Nope. That would require finding a place, going for apartment visits and spending a large sum on a place that’ll probably be trash. I’ve heard horror stories about house-hunting in Lagos and rogue agents. No, thank you. I still live with my parents, who mostly leave me to my side of our four-bedroom flat. These days, my online friends know more about me than my family members.
They don’t pressure you out of worry?
Actually, my parents are the reason I left my house on my birthday. They forced me out for lunch at a restaurant close to the house. But I’m 29. There’s only so much they can do.
When do you think you’ll go out again?
Who knows? Not soon. I’ve always hated going out during the Christmas holidays — with the ridiculous traffic, transport fare hikes and sheer amount of people just crowding everywhere worth visiting. I don’t do well with crowds, so it’s not like I can attend one of those concerts they’re always hyping. Maybe my next birthday?
And before this year’s birthday, when was the last time you went out?
I honestly don’t remember. But since that COVID lockdown period, I only remember going out for the occasional doctor’s appointment and to the cinema to watch A Quiet Place II and Black Widow. The lockdown wasn’t just a blessing to help reduce the viral spread, it helped me discover a lifestyle that works. I feel so healthy just staying indoors and minding my business. I have online subscriptions for yoga and workouts to stay fit, and an enclosed backyard for all the sunlight and fresh air I need, in case you think I’m unhealthy.
What about work?
I work remotely for a Belgium-based company. It’s a full-time job as a technical content writer, so I earn in dollars, and I don’t have to go anywhere. I got the job all thanks to Zikoko, actually. I was inspired by one of your Naira Life stories in 2020. The person got a remote US job through LinkedIn, and I was battling a boss who wanted me to fully return to the office right after the government called off the lockdown in May. I optimised my LinkedIn profile, quit that job and got the current one in under three months.
Imagine them wanting me to risk my life for ₦200k a month. In fact, while I worked in that big office, I remember constantly faking smiles, jokes and laughter just to seem normal. It used to kill me inside. I’d wait for someone to notice the fakeness and ask what was wrong. No one ever did. Instead, people talked about how happy and charismatic I was.
What about romantic relationships?
You’re about to laugh because my boyfriend is in the UK, so it’s long distance.
Not to sound preachy, but once you stubbornly make up your mind on a lifestyle, things fall into place for it.
We met on IG in 2018 — I create content for fun, so I’m super active online — and started going out almost immediately. This was when I went out a bit more than I do now. But then, he relocated for school last year. I’m joining him for my own master’s with the May 2023 intake, so actually, I’ll probably leave my house next when I need to attend visa interviews and all that.
How do you feel about attending physical classes in the UK?
I can go out if I have to. I don’t have a mental disorder or anything. I just prefer not to. I’m sure I’ll adjust well to going out a lot more for a purpose I enjoy. A creative writing MFA has always been a dream of mine, so I’m beyond excited, actually. Just look forward to all the dark fiction I’ll put out in the next few years.