Let me start off by saying that my best friend and I love each other very much, and we are not those friends that secretly talk crap about the other and are constantly undermining each other. Nope, we’re the type of friends that have zero boundaries, have seen each other at our best and our worst, and have no problem sharing a spoon as we down a pint of Ben and Jerry’s together. So why would I talk about how bitchy we are to each other?
It is not uncommon today to see close friends being playfully mean to each other. Sitting in any class, the lunchroom, or after school activities at school, you don’t have to try hard to hear a girl teasing her friend for her ex who didn’t (and still doesn’t) understand the importance of hygiene. Or a guy commenting that his friend is being a softie in his relationship. Even someone making a rude comment about someone’s weight or outfit, and then laughing as if it was playful.
My best friend and I also partake in this strange and somewhat concerning social standard. We make jokes about our embarrassing exes, our major fails, and the humiliating moments that you only tell your best friend. We make quips like this to each other because we’re comfortable together. I know everything about her, and tell her everything. Since we are so comfortable with each other and know that we have nothing but love for each other, we know that the comments aren’t actually meant to harm the other. In short, we both have snarky senses of humor and we trust the other enough to be sassy bitches towards them. However, these types of personal attacks and subtle jabs are mutual, and are okay because of the established trust between us.
We joke with each other about our flaws, but in reality would never be harsh about the other’s flaws, or harshly criticize them, and certainly never in public.
In today’s society, it’s become acceptable to put down the ones you love and publicly embarrass them, then say that it’s acceptable to do so because you love them.
Here is where we see the connection to Adichie’s Americanah, as the people Ifemelu surrounds herself with in America often harshly criticize her, which is deemed somewhat acceptable, although it just highlights how good Obinze is to and for Ifemelu, as he respects her much more than others have.
The prime example of this criticism and lack of respect is Blaine, and his circle of friends. They constantly undermined her and tried to change her to fit their mold. When she was attacked by others, Blaine rarely made a move to defend her.
Blaine critiqued Ifemelu and her blog constantly, saying that she should make it more academic and intelligent sounding, even though that would ruin the blog. He thought his input was more important than Ifemelu’s, the actual author.
When his friends would put down Ifemelu or tell her she was wrong, Blaine rarely tried to defend her, but instead allowed them to talk down to her. For example, Blaine’s sister frequently looked for ways to critique Ifemelu, her blog, and her ideas about America and people. Blaine did nothing.
Ifemelu was already in a difficult place, being in a country that, despite living there for awhile, she was not completely accustomed to. She was then with people who prided themselves on navigating America and its ways, people who were less than welcoming to ideas not identical to their own. These were not her close friends, people she had known a long time and trusted. Yet they still believed they were in the right to criticize her and put her down. And they certainly weren’t just being playful. They were being self righteous and condescending.
Aunty Uju also fell into the category of harsh criticism many times, as she told Ifemelu to get over things or detailed exactly what Ifemelu was doing wrong on multiple occasions. She often wanted Ifemelu to put aside her feelings and/or better judgement in order to gain something or for the sake of living comfortably in America.
While she certainly did this because she cared about Ifemelu and wanted her to have the best lifestyle possible in America (and possibly hoped to benefit from it herself) this hurt Ifemelu more than it helped. Aunty Uju’s advice only added to Ifemelu’s confusion and made it far more difficult for Ifemelu to discern between right and wrong, which already seemed incredibly blurred in America.
Curt also chastised Ifemelu on multiple occasions, again being someone who wanted her to fit his mold. For example, he scolded her for allowing a woman to touch her hair, saying that she was being pet like an animal, even though that is not how Ifemelu viewed it. He would get upset about little things and then, often rudely, point it out to Ifemelu and chide her. These critiques were not out of love or jest, but because he wanted her a certain way.
All these characters and their harsh critiques of Ifemelu only illuminated just how perfect she and Obinze are for each other, as shown by how he exclaimed that Ifemelu hadn’t changed at all and was still sassy and honest, which made him happy.
Obinze did not want to Ifemelu to change, and was happy to have the real her back when she returned to Nigeria. He fell in love with the real her, and did not want anything else (insert awwwwwwwh cue).
Obinze properly displays what true love is-where you accept your partner, and love them so strongly that you accept all of them and their flaws, and love them anyway.
Was that cliche enough? Well, I’ll end with this…