Authors: Luvvie Ajayi
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One day, I was minding everyone's business, scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I saw a picture of someone's dead grandma being prepared for burial. I gasped and then immediately got mad.
Who does that?
Why would you upload a snapshot of your deceased relative? What are you trying to prove? Because I'm pretty sure we didn't need to see receipts showing that she really died. We believe you. You didn't need any more people. Furthermore, why would you post a picture of her body before it's casket-sharp? Her wig wasn't even on yet. People are so disrespectful. I promise you this: if I die and someone posts a picture of my body before my lipstick is on and I'm looking amazing (for the state I'm in), I will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Ghost Luvvie would be turning on random faucets in their houses in the middle of the night. Anytime they ate popcorn, I'd hide all the floss so they'd have to live with that stuff stuck between their teeth. I am super petty.
Anyway, at times like this, when someone obviously lacks sense, you ask yourself, “Did some of us not get a limited-edition handbook with instructions on how not to suck? Was there a boot camp on decency that some people simply missed the sign-up for?” Why are people terrible? In a world where we are more connected to each other than ever, with endless access to information at our fingertips, too many of us seem to have missed the message on how to behave. Babies and grandmothers alike have Instagram pagesâI've seen a five-year-old's Instagram, where he posted about naptime and coloring inside the lines. The Dalai Lama, the pope, and the president of the United States use Twitter to pass on messages to the masses. We are living in a new world, and there are now new rules. Information travels faster than ever, instantly exposing who is the emperor without clothes.
Clearly, we need a playbook, a guide to help people get a bit of common sense and some behavior as they navigate today's hyperobsessions with pop culture, social-media sharing, and outright navel-gazing.
If Oprah and Deepak came up today, in a world where more people die in botched selfie attempts than in shark attacks, this might be the book they'd recommend. This book is what Millennial Iyanla Vanzant would give you before you get to the point where you have to go sit on her couch for fixing.
“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” Prolific writer Toni Morrison once said that. And so I have.
Here is where I dole out shade, side-eye, and basic-but-necessary advice for the needyâthe logic-deficient who consistently come up short in this new world order of 140-character opinions, Facebook beefs, Instagram groupies, and pop-cultural idolization, i.e., the wasteland, where common sense has tragically become the rarest flower in the thought garden.
I'm Judging You
changes the game and snatches wigs one page at a time. It is a guide to getting some act-right online and in real life. All the shade that resides in my spirit, all the side-eye I've dispensed across my vast network, has led me here.
Life doesn't usually come with a manual, and we're all just going through it as best as we know how. We're hoping that when we follow the drinking gourd to our Lord and show up at Saint Peter's gate he doesn't turn us away for being terrible people who don't deserve nice things, like heaven's promises. I imagine heaven to be a place where I can afford any shoes I want, I can drink all the pink lemonade I can stand, and the pasta and shrimp are eternally endless. Also, roaches and rodents do not exist there because they are clearly Satan's minions and they belong in the burning basement of hell forever and ever. Amen.
But I digress.
Humans are flawed beings. Some flaws are mere wrinkles, some are cracks, and some are the Grand Canyon. This book will address everything from the quirks that earn my shallower-than-a-Snapple-cap gripes to the really problematic things people do that leave the world worse than we found it and inspire my wrath
from side-eyeing our beauty, hygiene, relationship, friendship, and everyday decisions to calling out oppression and inequality, phobia-driven social systems, and people's views on race, religion, and being different; to frowning at the endlessly wrong ways we're using digital platforms in our business and personal relationships; and finally, to wig-snatching the glorification of megalomania and the lowest-common-denominator pandering of social media and reality TV.
But who am I kidding? The truth is this book is an amazing excuse for me to judge folks. It's a permanent scowl in book formâa gift that'll sizzle on the shelves of the Library of Congress for generations to come.
I would like to take this time to acknowledge, praise, and lift up those judges who've come before me. The ones whose side-eye could break your spirit and whose words could cut you down to your socks. Shout-out to professional judges (Judy and Mathis) and to unofficial ones
like shady babies everywhere who give no dambs
about your feelings
and to Sophia Petrillo (my favorite Golden Girl). Also, shout-out to your grandmother and other old people in your life who say what they feel and dare you to check them. They all exist to ensure that we behave better, and for them I give thanks. Finally, a shout-out to my Nigerian mom, who taught me such insults as “classless wonder” and “useless nonentity.” I am (shady) because they are.
I like to think of myself as ahead of my time because I'm already cranky and ornery, and I'm working toward getting a lawn just so I can chase people off it. I'm futuristic that way. Some people will say, “Only God can judge me.” I'm here to say, “Well, until He gives His final judgment, here's some of mine.”
We are all annoying and do assholish things every single day. Just think of the people who are sitting at the back of the plane, and the moment the flight lands they jump up. Ma'am, you are in seat 35G. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? There are 173 people in front of you, and they also cannot wait to get off. What are you about to do from your window seat in the back row? Will you magically appear in the front of the plane? No. Please have a seat, because your turn to deplane ain't coming for like ten good minutes.
Oh, people. We're the worst
There are some people who fall short in the “being thoughtful” department. They aren't being malicious, but they certainly tap-dance on people's last nerves with their shenanigans. These are the people who are perpetually late, take advantage of their friends in various ways, and children. We know them and love them and we keep them in our lives, but we sometimes wish that they would get their shit together.
There are two types of people in this world: people who can be on time and Nigerians. I am in the latter group, and I confess to my inability to arrive anywhere punctually. I am pretty sure I'll be late to my own funeral, doing a running jump into my casket like the inconsiderate jerk I am, right before the pastor tells everyone how awesome I was and the choir sings a rousing rendition of “I Luh God.” Please tell everyone that the dress code is all red everything, and check with my best friend to see if you're on the list of people who aren't invited, because leave it up to me to be petty from the Great Beyond. If I didn't mess with you while I was here, I surely don't need to see your feet at my highly exclusive homegoing.
It really is terrible to be perpetually tardy for the party, and I am judging everyone who is, especially myself. I am the worst, like a stale Twizzler you find at the bottom of that purse you haven't carried in six months. When you take it out and try to chew it and it gets stuck in your teeth, you wonder how things have fallen so far apart. You really should have let it be, you greedy summagoat.
Some stereotypes are actual factuals, and the one about Nigerians not being on time for anything is one I won't even debate. You might be thinking, “Hey, that's not fair. You should not attribute certain behavior to an entire group of people!” You're right. I shouldn't. But I'm going to, because this is my book and I do what I want. Find me someone who is Nigerian who is always on time for things that aren't work-related and I will find you a Tyrese quote that makes perfect sense. They might exist, but they sure are rare.
Just beware. If you're hosting an event and you invite Nigerians, don't be surprised when we show up as everyone else is leaving. We'll stroll in three hours after the start time wondering why the lights are up. We'll be upset that no one got to see our cute outfits and you have no food leftâyou have some nerve not saving any for us. We even spent thirty minutes looking for that errant lid for the Tupperware we brought. Ugh. Selfish.
If you want us to be on time for anything, we have to be tricked into it. Baby shower at 5:00 p.m.? Print special invitations for your Nigerian friends that say, “Shower starts promptly at 3:00 p.m.” We'll probably get there around 5:45. Similarly, if a Nigerian event is slated to begin at a certain time, don't expect it to begin for at least two hours afterwards. If you show up at the time it is supposed to start, you will walk in and see the host in pajamas and the interior designers still setting up. You might be invited to help finish unfolding the chairs and putting the plates on the tables. Make yourself useful, bro.
True story: I once went to a Nigerian wedding that was supposed to start at noon. My family members and I showed up at 2:00 p.m. (because we cannot be helped), thinking we would have missed the church ceremony and be on time for the reception (hell yes, cake!). Well, imagine our surprise when we walked into the church and everyone was sitting there waiting and no one was at the altar yet. Long story short, the wedding did not start until 3:30.
It's a vicious cycle of tardiness. Since you know that
will be late for a Naija event, even if you were planning to be on time, you don't want to be the only person there. So you sit at home on your couch fully dressed and opt to go late so you won't be the first person to arrive. And when you show up three hours late and you're one of only five people there, you remind yourself to arrive even later next time.