Aunty Uju’s request that Ifemelu convince Dike to wear the shirt highlights the difference between Aunty Uju and Ifemelu’s philosophies on self-expression. In Nigeria, Aunty Uju’s advice was often that Ifemelu should hide her true self, emphasizing the importance of appearing agreeable for the sake of getting ahead. Aunty Uju’s fears about Dike’s clothing are similar to the concerns around Ifemelu’s behavior because Aunty Uju is attempting to keep Dike from getting into trouble. However, when presented with the same task Aunty Uju once had, Ifemelu encourages Dike to temporarily compromise instead of completely hiding his self-expression. She points out that no one important to him will see him wear the uncool shirt, which means that he will temporarily soothe Aunty Uju’s anxieties without portraying a false persona to the people who matter to him. In addition, Ifemelu offers to get Aunty Uju on his side about the shirt, fighting back against the adult wisdom of not standing out. Whereas Aunty Uju’s philosophy relies on hiding of one’s self-expression for protection, Ifemelu is practical, and finds a way for Dike to express his personality with minimal consequences.
Aunty Uju leaves Bartholomew because of his inability to provide her with a comfortable life by either American or Nigerian standards. Because she dated Bartholomew in part to recreate her relationship with The General, she expected Bartholomew to take care of her financially and behave as a father to Dike. Instead, Bartholomew takes ownership of Aunty Uju’s money and refuses to allow her any control over it. Although The General also withheld Aunty Uju’s money, she found this arrangement acceptable because he offered her luxuries and privileges. In America, Aunty Uju has created her own opportunities without Bartholomew’s help, and yet Bartholomew wants to reap all the benefits simply because he is her husband. Furthermore, he fails at being an American businessman because he is unwilling to acknowledge the structural racism faced by people who are considered black in America, choosing to giving up rather than move to a city with more opportunities for black people. Aunty Uju decides that she cannot put herself aside for someone who gives nothing in return, demonstrating new growth and confidence.
Ifemelu is angry at Kayode for mentioning Obinze because he reminds her that she is dissatisfied with Curt. While she associates her relationship with Obinze with honesty and truth, throughout the last few chapters, Ifemelu has associated Curt with performance. She notes he has a deep insecurity that leads him to constantly curry favor with everyone, from Aunty Uju to the woman he may have had an emotional affair with. Curt’s false charm has a hunger about it that requires constant reassurance, as opposed to Obinze’s honesty and sureness that allowed for disagreement between them. After seeing Kayode, Ifemelu can barely pay attention to Curt because she is so distracted with thoughts of Obinze. Curt’s surprising anger at the end of Chapter 22 foreshadows the end of their relationship, both because of the instability of his goodwill and the way he realizes that his “sweetness” cannot fully charm Ifemelu when compared to the specter of Obinze. While he doesn’t explicitly know about Obinze, his shouting that he wants to be the love of Ifemelu’s life suggests that he suspects the existence of a man like Obinze in her past.