In a grin and bear it society where one is reluctant to share that a job interview didn’t go well or that they are childless or single, I find it amazing that we love spilling out the gory details of our lives to the general public on radio.
In the frenzied hustle that is Lagos life, people waste away their mortal days in the standstills of traffic as they journey from one potential business opportunity to the other. Thus, the radio has become a therapist, doctor, dear friend and even a family member to the average city dweller. We try to keep up appearances in the presence of our visible family and friends; but on radio, we abandon discretion and exhibit a weird – and amusing – openness.
The radio knows all about that nasty divorce and the terrible affair. It knows that you are not sure if your girlfriend’s pregnancy is yours. You tell it about those horrid stepchildren that hate you. You cry to it asking for prayers for your only child that has terminal cancer. Trying to seem calm and brave, though the frustration and defeated tone of your voice is unmistakable, you confess to it that your wife hits you or that you haven’t had a job in two years. Absolutely anything that would normally cause embarrassment and shame elsewhere is welcomed and shared with trust on air.
One evening, I listened to a caller describe in detail how her husband’s sisters kicked her out of the house. She recalled how they had given her hell until she got home from work one night to find her bags packed and the two women ready to get rid of her. All the while, the husband didn’t do much to stop them. You wouldn’t hear her say any of this to friends and colleagues, but to the whole city – no problem.
The charm of radio is that the caller is not seen so there is no shame or risk of losing face – reminiscent of Roman Catholic confession. If you’re fantastically paranoid, you could always take the extra precaution of putting on an accent to make sure your voice isn’t recognised.
Both presenters and listeners offer possible solutions for a caller’s troubles. Their comments can be rather questionable so one wonders how people fare with the advice they receive. Then again, it’s less about counsel and more about finally opening up and telling someone your plights.
We restrain ourselves so much from expressing our worries and pains that we often find ourselves in desperate need of an emotional outlet. That’s why we break into spontaneous fights that have no concrete cause; why so many people go to church just to dance and cry; and why we love the radio.