Thursday, 23 February 2012

The 13 year itch...

A few nights ago, I met a girl called Kate who had been involved in a monogamous relationship for just over 13 years. She had recently done the the age of 33 she had decided to break off the relationship in order to "find herself". As we got progressively drunk, she opened up to me about the mixed reviews she had been receiving from her friends and family. While some chose to have no opinion at all, the majority had seemed to side with him making negative assumptions about her motives for breaking it off. Had she been having an affair or had she just lost the plot? And at 33?! Why would she compromise such stability for something so uncertain? And so the questions began…

Her story reminded me alot of my good friend Brenda who had also broken up with her boyfriend after being together with him for 4 years. The break-up caused quite a stir in our friendship circle and for a little while, there was an unfortunate divide. From the outside, they seemed to be the picture perfect couple who had it all...the perfect careers, the perfect house and the perfect relationship...what could possibly have been wrong that couldn't have been fixed?  The break-up came as such a shock that I soon found myself joining the bandwagon of judges dissecting the reasoning behind her untimely decision. Why did she do it? Was there someone else in the equation or was she just a commitment-phoebe going through a premature mid-life crisis?

For as long as I have known Brenda, she has never been single for too long. Every 2 years, like clockwork, she would get "the itch", trading in her current beau for the new love of her life. She had received a bit of a reputation in this regard so after breaking the curse it's no wonder we all thought that she had finally found her “happily ever after”. In retrospect, I could not understand why everyone was so disappointed. Surely the real disappointment was the fact that her friends had not given her the proper support? Instead of asking why, we should have been asking how or what we could do to ease the burden of a having just made a very tough decision.

Life rushes past at such a hectic pace that we forget to acknowledge the personal changes taking place in the lives of others. We can never fully understand their motivations until we walk a mile in their shoes, and even then our experiences may be completely different. I commend Brenda and Kate for their bravery. It takes a lot of courage to be that honest with yourself despite the critical responses you may receive from those closest to you. Stepping outside of one's comfort zone and leaping into the unknown is never easy especially when another individual is involved. The guilt of hurting someone we love is bad enough that we could really do without the extra judgement.

When it comes to supporting the our friends and the decisions they make, why do we always have an opinion? 

Friday, 17 February 2012

A high school reunion...

Long, long ago, before Gucci and Jenni Button ever existed in our twenty-several year old closets, there was an outfit so hideous that it came complete with matching bobby socks and monotone panties. From Monday to Friday between 8am and 3pm, this oppressive ensemble was worn with about as much pride as a prisoner who wore shackles, and just like chains keeping the convict at bay, we were also sentenced to a maximum period of uniformity in a correctional facility known as "High School".

A recent run-in with our former prom queen got me thinking about status and the way in which this value has been subliminally forced upon us in high school. Although it is difficult to understand at the time, high school is the ultimate dress rehearsal for life, a preview of the way in which we perceive and understand our ranking in social and economic terms. In high school, popularity and status was the ultimate goal and the sooner we came to terms with the pecking order, the better our chance of survival. There were the popular girls, the jocks they dated, the gangsters that petrified me, the hippies that were all about peace, the nerdy guys and their gadgets, the band geeks and their instruments, the art crowd that listened to Alanis and smelled like Gauloises Blondes...a network of segregated sub-cultures, a micro-society where indifference earned you a wedgie and conformity almost guaranteed an invitation to the Cool Kids Club. I couldn't help but wonder... how much have we really evolved?

I took a look around my current work environment and noticed a familiar trend dating back to the late 90's. They were all there...the bitchy popular girls that made you feel as though they were constantly talking about you, the popular boys beaming with status and rank, the gadget geeks with their i-Tabs running around playing God, the rebels smoking outside in the quad and a small minority group segregated purely because of the colour of their skin. Are modern day work environments the new high school? Is status still the ultimate goal in life, and if so is high school just a practice round? Do we need bullies and popular kids to motivate us to our full potential or should we just settle for the role we were destined to play?

The uniform may have changed but the goal remains the same. Ironically, the geek that used to get bog-washed on a daily basis is now the CEO of a multi-million rand company. The popular boys went off to marry their high school sweethearts who went from size 0 to 18 as quickly as they chose to be stay-at-home moms while their husbands were off cheating on them with boys or suffering from erectile dysfunction. Eventually the only status worth updating is on their facebook profiles. I couldn't help but wonder, when it comes to status, is being too cool for school really that important? 

Thursday, 9 February 2012


It's that time of year again where no matter how hard you try, there's a strong possibility of you buying into the hype of Valentine's Day. Everywhere we go, we are faced with constant reminders urging us to buy our significant other a token of affection that symbolizes our undying love for them. It could be anything from a heart-shaped trinket or bunch of long stemmed red roses, to a romantic weekend getaway or a box of candy-coated goodness. Whatever the case, Valentine's Day finds a way of creeping up on you before you've even had a chance to put away the tinsel.

Cadbury, Hallmark and American Swiss are the cunning masterminds behind the nonsensical extortion that takes place on February 14th. While they rake in billions in revenue, Cupid is on a rampage of mass consumerism barely giving us enough time to recuperate and replenish our credit card accounts from the Christmas rush.

The quest for the perfect Valentine's gift for that someone special begins on the battlefields of shopping centers and street corner florists, often ending up with reservations for two at some lavish 5-star eatery. I couldn't help but wonder whether all the excess had finally overshadowed the innocent intention of Valentine's Day? Has the value and simplicity of the single red rose completely lost its meaning amidst the countless price tags, receipts and extra expenses? Since when did love come at such a cost?

Major corporations have mastered the art of capitalizing on human desires by creating immaterial holidays that celebrate them. The "Be Mine" teddy bear and "Forever Yours" greeting card are marvelous marketing tools that play on the human need to be loved. Without these gimmicks, we automatically feel meaningless and unworthy. I sympathize with all the singletons out there who have to endure the scrutiny of this insipid holiday. The supposed humiliation of not having "any one special" in their lives must be agonizing especially when they play witness to the many couples who are measuring their love against mass-produced products, readily available and packaged for their convenience. Do we really want to live in a world where "I love you" is replaced with "I want that" and appreciation becomes lost in transaction?

When it comes to Valentine's Day, why do we keep buying into it?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Secrecy Bull...

We often forget how fortunate we are to be living in a democratic society like South Africa. For years, our forefathers fought long and hard for our basic human rights such as equality, the freedom of speech and the rule of the people. So when our constitutional rights came under fire on Black Tuesday last year and were threatened by new legislation destined to be passed by the very same powers meant to serve and protect our best interests, a legislation that limits the very essence of democracy, one surely has to question the moral integrity of our nation's leaders?

The Secrecy Bill got me thinking about relationships and the secrets we keep from each other. A few years ago I found myself in a very awkward position when my best friend's boyfriend...let's call him David...asked me about a particular indiscretion he had suspected his girlfriend of having. Iman was notorious for her indiscretions at the time and while the information was considered "classified", the people who knew about the affair had chosen to turn a blind eye. I on the other hand felt compelled to tell David the truth about Iman having been in his shoes oh too many times before. To me it felt like "the right thing to do" and that it was his human right to know the truth. The good news is that David and Iman are still together after several acts of reconciliation. The bad news is that Iman and I were never the same again and nearly lost 15 years of friendship. I was sentenced to 365 days without friendship privileges and still find myself paying for my mistake. I did not understand. Did blowing the whistle on something as morally repugnant as infidelity give them the right to prosecute me the way they did? Since when did telling the truth become a crime? Were there limitations to freedom of speech or are there instances where we just need to look the other way and shut the fuck up?

If this is the direction that democracy is headed then I need to stock up on more black outfits. The truth is that we are all guilty of keeping secrets and no matter how big or how small, the art of secrecy involves a certain degree of lying which affects our moral conduct. Fallout is inevitable so unless you are able to come clean and accept responsibility for your actions, your relationship is doomed. Sadly, most of us find it easier to live a lie and will go to great lengths to protect our own skin. It is, after all, only illegal if you get caught.

In a society where majority rules, I couldn't help but wonder, was there a Secrecy Bill for relationships on the way?