The poor whites

My mother is the kind of woman who adopts just about anything and anyone. She is selflessly generous if you find yourself in need and I had grown up with her voice in my head constantly saying “treat others how you would like to be treated”. So very early into our democracy, I was shocked to see her visibly react to a white beggar.  Gone was the warmth and care that was offered to almost all who crossed her path and in it’s place I saw a harshness I would not soon forget. Time and time again, I saw my mother give to those who came knocking on our door, even when money was tight, no one was ever turned away without a hot meal. So why did she display such apathy, in fact disgust when she saw a white beggar? Her explanation to me at the time was simple, she had no sympathy for a people from a minority that were given every opportunity during the apartheid and still ended up in that position. For my mother, the white beggar we saw had the world handed to him on a silver platter, while she had to fight and claw her way through life and he deserved no sympathy from her.

I think about that beggar sometimes, as I think of the many beggars I come across daily, people who, in the areas in which I travel, are either black or white. I think about the hollow desolation, the desperate hunger and the blithe disregard they experience. And I wonder how it is that race affects that hunger, that desolation. Does a white man, whose parents benefited from the apartheid feel less hungry than the black man who holds up a funny sign at the traffic light? Who is more deserving of the spare change or warm blanket I can offer? I do not know how to measure suffering.

I do not blame my mother for her remark, the apartheid regime served to shape her life and the choices she would make. I cannot blame my mother for her callous disregard for a minority that was so well served at the expense of most of South Africa’s people. But I also cannot agree with her short-sightedness in that moment, I cannot agree that we should be blind to someone’s plight because of their race. I also cannot blame white people who worry about their children getting jobs, who bemoan the fate of “their whites” standing at traffic lights in a country that they once run. I cannot blame people who see white beggars and believe that is a microcosm for South Africa. I cannot blame old white men who cling onto their positions of power for fear that they will be replaced by a “BEE candidate”. But I also cannot agree with them, I cannot agree with their short-sightedness. My beliefs are simple, I believe in equality, I believe that South Africa must attempt to right the wrongs of it’s past in order for the country as whole to progress. I believe that if we are able, we should help those we can. I also believe in meritocracy and that “transformation” in terms of BEE makes sense coupled with this concept. We do not have adequate black representation in corporate South Africa, consider black females and the numbers become even more dire. In our very young democracy, we live in a very unequal country. And if we are to tip the scales and see real transformation in our country, we are going to have to find a way around our short-sightedness.

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All things wild and wonderful in the Waterberg Mountains

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Oh the choices we must make!

Upon arriving at the Hanglip Mountain Lodge I am greeted by a giraffe, well actually the bum of a giraffe who is sipping from a small pond, it’s long legs splayed awkwardly, neck craned at an impossible angle. Immediately, I decide that the giraffe will be my friend, scratch that, best friend. I unimaginatively name said giraffe Giraffo. Giraffo does not take kindly to our intrusion to his pond drinking enjoyment and straightens his lean legs trotting off into the sunset leaving me heartbroken and eating his dust (literally). Never mind him, he’ll warm up to me. Giraffo should have given me an indication that this was going to be a weekend quite literally in the wild.

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Too scared to get into the water, Giraffo thought it best to strut is summer body outside the pool

Giraffo returned later that afternoon to munch on some of the higher branches of the trees shading the pool and upon seeing him I had the most inexplicable urge to hug him. He of course, still playing hard to get, fixed me with a stare that turned my legs wooden and reminded me that he was a wild animal and not an unusually large stuffed toy. We would spend the rest of the afternoon sipping wine on our balcony, watching the mountains steal the last light of the day. Nearby, wildebeest lazed about and upon the sunset, they rose in unison, barely thinking to dust themselves of the sand they had laid in and began to walk off to an unknown destination. The positioning of the lodge could not have been better thought through. Double doors to our thatched room opened to an impressive yet almost petite mountain range, preceded by two dams that served as watering holes, drawing in animals throughout the day. At breakfast, we would find hippos and warthogs and at lunch the elephants would come to visit. Before I went to bed that first night I left out some chips for Giraffo as a peace offering and a blatant attempt at bribery. The next morning, I found my chips gone and in its place settled the renewed hope for a giraffe-human friendship.

One of the great things about this bush weekend getaway is the solitude. Husband is emboldened by the wine and decides that he shall make friends with the couple we met upon arrival. He is convinced they are Portuguese and this seems to bring further proof that a friendship has been written in the stars. We are a giggly twosome, arms linked around one another when we arrive at dinner and before we sit down the waitress reminds us that we shall need an escort walking back to our room in the dark. That’s a bit dramatic, I hiccup to myself, I haven’t had that much wine. But it is not the wine they seek to protect us from, it is the predators lurking around looking for a juicy, fattened city person to sink their teeth into. “There are no fences here at Hanglip” the waitress reminds me, cutting short the stupid remark I was about to make about lions needing to eat dinner too. I nod gravely showing her that I get the point before the German Doctor man at the table next to us starts up a conversation. German Doctor man, as you may have guessed, is a doctor and he hails from Germany. He is one part of the family of four that are the only guests apart from us at the lodge. And just like that, Husband’s dream of making a Portuguese friend is dashed and to make matters worse, German Doctor man is infinitely boring, talking at length about his son’s school and later when he knows us better, his fluffy white dog. His wife does little apart from glare at him from time to time, her disdain palpable and his children are zombie like with their phones so close to their faces they seem to be inhaling them. Poor German Doctor man looks as though he needs a friend but Husband is far too self-absorbed to notice so he cuts him off and proclaims that we are off to bed.

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Mama Cheetah wonders which of the humans would make a good snack for her and her three cubs

The next day tough choices are to be made; stay in and be lazy or go for a game drive. No one said life was going to be easy. We are wooed by the game ranger over lunch and when he asks if he should pack us a bottle of wine to have at sunset I am sold (and I can’t help but wonder if I drink too much wine). I’ve never really liked game drives, a dislike born on the night we spent four long, uncomfortable hours at the Kruger National Park only to see a hyena that accidentally stumbled upon our path and a few bunnies. But, I was willing to give this one a go (bottle of wine notwithstanding). The name of our ranger escapes me but I wish I could recall it, because he deserves more than an honourable mention. He had such a passion and desire to show us all the animals he could, he tracked the lions all through the game reserve, managing to find them even when we had given up and all in all made that one of the best game drives I’ve ever experienced. I guess spotting both cheetah and lion cubs, a rhino with a calf, a herd of elephants and various buck as well zebra will do that to a person.

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Just a late afternoon stroll

There goes the neighbourhood

I am excited, maybe even beyond excited. I’m a child getting an ice cream excited, in fact I’m a child eating ice cream excited. A mixed-race couple has moved in next door! Now wait, before you think that I have never seen or been in the presence of a mixed-race couple, let me assure you that my ignorance has been safely packaged and packed away. This isn’t about the mixed-race couple per se, it’s about how my neighbours are going to react. I need to grab a popcorn and settle myself into a comfortable position with a good view to watch the interactions unfold.

The complex in which Husband and I, and the mad mutant dogs live is small, and not just in size. We’re 10 units strong and Husband and are the first people of colour to have lived here. I have to re-read that last sentence twice before moving on because I am not entirely sure how that is possible some twenty odd years into our democracy, it’s a bit of a bland view of the rainbow nation we’re meant to be. Even I feel like I’m exaggerating and this is my reality. It is my reality that many of my neighbours have had minimal interaction with people of other races and are in fact terribly ignorant of different cultures and beliefs. It is this truth that sometimes drives me to laughter and in other times infuriates me. Laughter for the times when I’m asked about curry and whether “Indian people feed their children chillies from birth” and fury for when someone’s ignorance becomes insulting. My mother parks outside our complex, inflaming residents, lighting our WhatsApp ablaze with “concerned” residents posting messages about a “suspicious person” waiting to be let in and the words I had previously swallowed turn into a lead ball at the pit of my stomach and I’m ready to start a war. It irks me how anyone of colour is automatically assumed to be a criminal, I cannot understand for the life of me how the naturally friendly, outgoing woman that my mother is could be thought of as a criminal. And of course, my neighbours only had to look at her to deem her “suspicious”, maybe she has criminal looking hair? I wonder how my neighbours feel about the transformation I’ve seen in our neighbourhood in the recent years, with more and more people of colour settling around us. I know at best, that even after 6 and half years, our neighbours tolerate us at best, so naturally, I cannot wait to see how my neighbours are going to react to the new couple. The reception has been warm so far and I am trying to invent and excuse to get us all together so I can see how well the boundaries of that warmth holds up. Also I can’t wait for the newbies to be subjected to the uncomfortable questions and inappropriate jokes. It is a gleeful, hands clenched kind of excitement waiting for life to unfold in a small complex called Adelaide!

How not to watch Stephen King’s IT

I have always loved reading Stephen King. In my “youth” I would scour the shelves of our local library eager to devour any King book that I hadn’t already been through. His knack for storytelling bewildered and enthralled me. So, I am a Stephen King fan, a huge one at that but all sense of loyalty faded when it came to watching the new adaptation of IT. As for most children of my generation, IT was the nightmare maker, the one who turned your blood cold and seemed to be waiting for you in every dark corner. So, it is hardly surprising that I did not jump at the opportunity to watch the movie. But I was coerced into it and I found myself making these critical mistakes…

I’m too lucid for this movie

Well I sure found the cure for that lucidity at the tail end of five tequilas. The tale of the tequilas (as most tales of tequila go) goes something like this, I’m not drinking that, That wasn’t so bad, We can’t drink in even numbers and finally the predictable Why the hell did I do that? As if watching the movie wasn’t enough of a bad idea, as if the first shot of tequila wasn’t enough of a bad idea. Bad ideas, it seems, are contagious.

Denira’s popcorn tastes like mutton breyani

Perhaps I have a certain skill at seasoning popcorn, some may even call it an art. But this one isn’t even about the popcorn, it’s more about the person saying it. Husband’s childhood friend, a brother if you will, a man who’s friendship with my husband I have loved, hated, respected and encouraged (not in that order) said this out loud at a particularly suspenseful part of the movie. There is so much wrong with it, least of all that he is a vegetarian from birth but it is hysterical. Before I know it, I’m laughing lunatic style while trying to get back my popcorn. Demonic clown: zero, Denira’s breyani popcorn: one hundred.

4DX

Maybe it’s just me, but I like my scary movies so that I can jump out of my seat as opposed to being tossed from side to side (also a dangerous combination with the tequila). I’ve never watched a 4DX movie before and apart from the commercials at the beginning, it’s really just not my thing. During the fight scene at the end, I was tossed around so much I could barely see IT get a walloping from the kids and the childhood version of me needed that justice! I do think the movie would have been scarier without the effects so perhaps I should be grateful instead.

Abandoned bathrooms

Having walked out of the cinema proclaiming that the movie wasn’t scary, I sure ate a piece of evil clown humble pie coming out of an abandoned public bathroom. What with my imagination being of the overactive variety, I tend to have nightmares, daymares and apparent bathroom-mares as well. As far as public bathrooms are concerned, this one was rather fancy but that didn’t stop me from washing and drying my hands at breakneck speed and backing out of the bathroom by refusing to turn my back to the semi closed bathroom stalls.

So here’s my recipe if you want to watch the movie, no tequila, no nut job friends or 4DX cinemas and for goodness sake take a friend to the bathroom with you!

Barefoot beers and a bromance

Our waitress walks towards us carrying a shoe. Well she’s actually holding the laces of a shoe and trying unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh. She stops at our table and says “If you drink this beer you will have to give me your shoe”. I glance at my semi consumed beer in it’s golden glory and wonder whether I’ve heard her correctly. As it turns out there is a beer on the menu that when ordered necessitates the “lending” of one of your shoes to the bar staff. Our waitress runs off to show me which beer this in on the menu and when she returns, the shoe she had been holding has been returned to its rightful owner. She looks sad without the shoe but there is hope in her eyes that perhaps I am willing to volunteer one of my shoes to fill the void. I look around, it’s a wonderful afternoon, the sun catches the sweat beading on glasses filled with liquid amber and happy people laugh around me. I think about how much I love a place that encourages being barefoot, imagine if as young girls we are sold the story about how all women should be barefoot, with a beer in hand at a bar instead of the boring old barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? I ask the waitress is I can skip the beer but still take my shoes off and she doesn’t seem impressed. She clearly thinks I’ve misunderstood the concept or lost the plot and she rushes off in the pretence of assisting another customer as I sip my beer with my both my feet shod.

 

Apart from getting to take off your shoes, lots of good things come from drinking beer. You’re all of a sudden funnier, sexier and more courageous. You’re a better dancer, you tend to develop an artistic eye and takes many “abstract” pictures.

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I call this one “Flowers in the beer bottle”

Normal things tend to make you happier (I can’t believe our names start with same letter) or sadder (I can’t find my panama’s) than they should. All sorts of people turn in your BEST FRIEND, an old friend, a new friend, a stranger with long hair, a stranger with a beard, the person who drinks the same beer as you, the options are endless. I love the usually stoic types that turn into hugging, loving hippies who go around listing people’s best characteristics and punctuating sentences with “I love you man”. Many a bromance has been catalysed by beer and seeing grown men confess their feelings to each other with reckless abandon is a beautiful thing to behold! Better yet is the hugging and loud kisses if you get to witness those.

But lots of stupid things also come from drinking beer – I’m not about to judge, I’ve been plenty stupid in my time. South Africa is a beer drinking nation and I’m not one to abdicate responsibility, but I think Mother Nature needs to take some of the blame for this. We do have the perfect beer drinking weather and we do tend to over-indulge as some sort of tribute to the weather gods. So, I will leave you with this rather ineffectual last message, if you are to drink (barefoot or not) and even if that drinking allows a bromance to blossom, please do not drink and drive. That’s not stupid, that’s unforgivable.

My lip gloss smells like whores

Denira’s friend: “Put some lipstick on and we’ll take a picture”

Denira (takes out lip gloss): “All I have is this whore lip gloss”

Denira’s other friend: “Oooh, what does it smell like?”

Denira (applying the lip gloss): “Whores”

I’m still trying to figure out what whores smell like. But if you’re interested, my lip gloss did smell like cherries. While I recall that mildly inebriated post book club discussion with a smile, it got me thinking about using the word whore, or more to the point, calling other women whores. And let’s for a minute also include gangster rap tool version of “hoe” in this as well. If you’re interested, here’s what http://onlineslangdictionary.com defines as a “hoe”.

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Never since Joseph Hoe invent the gardening implement has it received such worldwide attention

The last one “Your daddy is a hoe” reads poetically to me, it talks of useful father, a father who is not afraid to get his hands dirty, but I digress.

I guess I have no issue with the word if you associate no real meaning to it. Like my whore lip gloss, it was not distilled from whore essence and wearing it did not provide me with a strong desire to solicit sex for money. But I suppose my issue comes in when we call women who we deem to be promiscuous, who have many male friends, who dress sexily, a whore. It’s the callous judgement behind that word that frustrates me, it’s the supposed shamefulness of female sexuality that piques me. We are all sexual beings and what a woman does in her bedroom (or on the kitchen counter or at the back row of the movie theatre) does not necessarily make her a whore. Apologies to all the legit whores who are just trying to make a living, that is your title, you should wear it with pride, the rest of us fakes don’t do the word justice.

It irks me that we teach young girls that it’s shameful to have more than one partner. Be safe, always respect yourself and always be with someone who respects you- isn’t that a better message? And as adults, we constantly do this to other women. Women sexier than we are, prettier than we are, women who get promoted instead of us, are too readily labelled a whore. Just let that women even laugh in the direction of a man and our suspicions are confirmed! “Did you see her laughing with him?” whispered so conspiratorially that she may have well been on her knees before him instead.

With this level of judgement, I wonder is there a law, or a rule maybe, regarding how many men you can be intimate with before you are classified as a “whore”? Maybe you should be able to count your past lovers on the fingers of one hand? But what if you have small hands (size does matter)? And does a thumb count as a finger? These rules come with all sorts of unforeseen consequences and complications so I wonder if it would be best to rather save the judgement for someone more qualified (if you are so inclined, perhaps god- any god will do).

Maybe baby, maybe last night’s pizza

It seems to me that if you are woman of a certain age, some questions are almost unavoidable. It amuses/frustrates/annoys me how even strangers are often of the belief that details of my person life should be available for their consumption. The usual question that I’ve been fielding for the last couple of years is the one regarding children and to a large extent I just want to respond in one of the following ways:

  1. Blinking my eyes really slowly multiple times
  2. Screaming “MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS”
  3. Patting my belly fondly and saying “I do have a baby, a pizza baby”

I really don’t think that the occupancy status of my womb is anyone’s business apart from my own. I’m not sure if I’ve always thought that I would never have children but I do remember blind panic settling in in my late twenties. I guess I had always assumed that one day I would wake up with this unquestionable, ineluctable desire to bear a child. This is how my mother told me she felt, that one day the urge to have a child would be so strong that I would be consumed by it. So, I waited for that day. The constant questions after I got married, the random strangers talking about my biological clock as if it was information that was owed to them did not make the situation any easier and the thought that I should just “get it over and done with” terrified me beyond belief. You see, I had this stupid notion in my head. I had the notion that in order to have kids, you had to actually want them. You had to know that you wanted to bring a child into this world. That you weren’t doing it for your family or for the sake of the invisible expiry date on your womb. But according to most people, that’s me being a complete lunatic.

Now, I’m not writing this to lay criticism at the feet of those who have had babies because they felt pressure, biological or otherwise, I’m just saying that I do not want to live my life that way. Chalk it down to my daddy issues or problems with authority but I hate being told what to do. Yes, I know if every woman in the world decided not to bring a life into this world our species would not continue, but little old me making that decision hardly seems like an end of the world type catastrophe. The fact is, I have no desire to carry a child and should I one day want a family, then I know first hand that there are many orphaned and abandoned children who will need the home that I can provide. I’ve been told I am unnatural (and you can be sure I responded with bared teeth and a snarl), I’ve been told that my husband will leave me (thank goodness there are random strangers concerned about the state of my marriage) and I’ve been told that I will be prayed for. That last one is hysterical, I imagine impotent pleas to a higher power willing away the efficacy of my birth control pills. Please don’t pray for me, pray for the women who want children, who ache to be mothers and cannot. Pray for the children who have no one, pray that someone will fill the void in their lives.