Wednesday, 28 March 2012

An affair to remember...

In this imperfect world, most things are easier said than done, and in a realm where actions speak louder than words, we often fall short on delivery. Forgive and forget, water under the bridge, let bygones be bygones….we are always encouraged to rise above the disappointments that life has to offer.

My relationship with Aiden had recently come under fire after I accused him of having an affair every day for the past two weeks. Where, why and with whom were completely irrelevant, and although I had no shred of evidence to justify my irrational paranoia, the memory of his previous indiscretion and the pain it caused me seemed to be reason enough.  I was overwhelmed with that panicky feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, the same intuitive hunch when you just know that something is not 100% right. Was I being paranoid or was this my instinct trying to warn me of something far more sinister? Had the past somehow managed to find its way back into my present?

Whilst sitting in my therapist’s waiting room, I started thinking about forgiveness and second chances. Choosing to forgive the one you love is easy but the concept of letting go and moving forward is much harder to practice than it is to preach.  Betrayal, deception, heartbreak...these are the building blocks for the emotional wall around our hearts, and once they are cemented by the fear and insecurity of past experiences, the wall can only get higher and stronger. We become just a little more jaded, a little more cynical and a lot more hopeless. Was Lee right? Can you really forgive someone if the memory of a past indiscretion is virtually impossible to erase? And once that trust is broken, can it ever be repaired? Can love exist without trust or are we just anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Those who choose to forgive and forget will often find themselves anxious, medicated or even a straight jacket away from being in a padded cell, but at the end of the day, it’s their choice. George Michael said it best so if someone has made the effort to mend the error of their ways, you got to have faith. Take it day by day and brick by brick until you eventually find yourself at peace with your decision. Whether he’s coming back from work later than usual, fraternizing with a work colleague or bruised by an unknown source, if he’s cheating on you, you will find out one way or another even if you are the last to know.

In matters of the heart, when it comes to forgiveness, how long does it take to forget?  

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Wine Harvest

One of the many privileges of living in Cape Town is that we live a mere forty minutes away from the countryside. Breathtaking panoramic views, landscapes that go on forever and heavenly vineyards, all just a quick drive away. Whether it's the Vrede and Lust of the Franschhoek Valley, the Steenbergs of Constantia or D'Aria of Durbanville Hills, a trip to the wine valley is one of the Cape's most celebrated pastimes.

Cruising down the N1 towards the Wellington Wine Harvest festival, I started thinking about wine tasting and its connection to dating. We travel far and wide from vineyard to vineyard, over Stellenbosch hill and valley, swirling about in search of that perfect blend to suit our palates. You’ll find that some prefer a strong blanc de blanc while others prefer a more defined, richer tannin. And just like dating, our tastes vary from classique, straight blends to bubblier, fruitier personalities, not to mention those with an acute affinity for the vintage stock. So why then, amidst the boundless selection available to us, are there still so many single hearts? Are we simply too spoilt for choice to commit to one brand?  Has quantity replaced quality or have all the premium brands just been taken?

I recall the time my friend Charlotte started dating Graham Beck. She had previously been in a two year relationship with Autumn Harvest so she embraced the change with an empty wine glass. She enjoyed long weekends in the valley, sumptuous dinners, with sparkling wine coming out of her a-hole. Beck was charming, clearly wooded and dry with just a hint of sparkle. As New Year approached, Charlotte thought she had sealed the deal and was eagerly anticipating an invitation to his vineyard for old year’s eve celebrations. Hours before the party Charlotte received a BB message from Beck inviting her to the ranch. He also casually let slip that he would be accompanied by the girl he had been seeing for the past 3 months. Charlotte’s cork popped harder than a pinyata at Cinco du Maio. WTF? To make matters even worse, her name was Chardonnay (true story). Drunk with disappointment, Charlotte now no longer trusts the premium blends and has downgraded to a selection of decent mid-range wines.

With so much variety on tap, it’s not always easy for us to find the perfect one. And even though we progress from Tassie’s to Thelema or from Crackling to Cabriere, we keep forgetting that both produce the same after-effect. It does however take more than a hangover to stop us from dating so we soldier on, searching for the best possible value that money can buy.

Capetonians....drunks or connoisseurs?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Warning Signs

As human beings it is in our nature to be cautious about everything we do in order to ensure the safety of our lives and the lives of the people we love. We heed the warnings of others and take preventative measures to avoid potentially hazardous scenarios without developing a severe case of erratic paranoia. And even with the aid of warning signs dictating what we should and should not do, what's good and what's not good for us, we still seem to stumble into compromising situations.

Warning signs are everywhere, from the electrical mechanisms on our car’s dashboard to the health warnings on our cigarette boxes. They remind us of how fragile we really are and how unpredictable the world can be, and even though most of them are staring us right in the face, we sometimes miss them. My recent smoking habit got me thinking about the dangers of dating and relationships. Just like smoking, falling in love can become highly addictive. The rush to your brain on those first few dates, the craving to see that person one more time, the smell they leave on your skin. The prospect of a new relationship can become so intoxicating that we forget to heed the basic warnings like taking it slow, getting to know someone before moving in, or wearing a condom. We throw caution to the wind and forget that relationships, like smoking, can also cause serious damage to our physical and mental well being. At least tobacco companies have the courtesy to shove it in our faces.  

My friend Miranda had starting seeing Mr. Perfect. He was wealthy, successful and charming with an SLK Mercedez and beautiful house in Fresnaye to boot. She had fallen head over heels for him in such a short time and in no time she was picking out curtain samples. They wined and dined, had amazing sex and before we knew it, they were engaged. We were all flabbergasted? One fateful day Mr. Perfect came home and offered her a line of ketamine. Thinking this was a one-time experience, she tried it out even though she knew it was bad for her. His little habit became a more and more regular occurrence and it was not long before Miranda realized that Mr. Perfect was actually a functional drug addict. How the hell did she miss this? Miranda knew it was over the moment she was serving cocktails to a room full of drug dealers who she assumed were old varsity friends. Needless to say her relationship with Mr Perfect dissolved as quickly as a Dispirin. Miranda has never quite recovered from this and is paying huge amounts of money in therapy in order to sort out her ever-growing trust issues. Is this the price we pay for not knowing any better? Are the smoke and mirrors of new relationships simply too thick for us to see through people’s bullshit? Do we really need visible warning signs in life to help us along the way?   

The world would be a much better place if we walked around with signs above our heads. WARNING: This guy is a douchebag! or CAUTION: She’s emotionally unavailable! or DANGER: Asshole ahead! Think about all the time, money and energy we would save, and in a less than perfect world we need all the help we can get. In life, warning signs are not always in black and white so we need to be extra vigilant about the people we allow into our lives. Listen to warnings, take your vitamins and for God’s sake wear sunscreen.   

In a world full of dangerous liaisons and cruel intentions, when it comes to relationships, why is it so hard to see the signs?

Friday, 9 March 2012

Growing pains

There is a theory that has been around for centuries, a scientific hypothesis in which human beings such as you and I were developed from primates after years and years of physical, mental and psychological metamorphosis. And while many have criticized the theory of evolution for its absurdity - because the appearance of Adam and Eve out of thin air makes much more sense - one thing cannot be denied...we are almost always constantly changing.

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, change happens whether we like it or not. It starts right at the beginning, from infancy growing inside our mother's womb to puberty and adolescence, those awkward teen years where flat chests develop flotation devices and choir boy vocals transition from sopranos to Barry-tones. And while we may not have control over the physical stages of our development, we do have some say over the way we adjust our mindsets. The power to change circumstance is an amazing feeling and once you realise that change lies entirely in your own hands, anything is possible. Further education, a new career path, entrepreneurship...everything is possible with the right attitude and the right tools.

While some people embrace the winds of change with open arms, others prefer to stagnate and wallow within the breeze of their comfort zones. They say change is as good as holiday but what happens when it brings out the worst in our relationships? What happens when our personal goals and the things we do to achieve them start affecting the relationship we have with our significant other? My personal evolution got me thinking about ambition and how it was starting to affect my relationship with Aidan. Every second of my spare time is dedicated to changing my career in order to fulfill my own personal goals, and with the big 30 just a year away, my time to make an impact was running out. Surely the ones who love us the most will encourage and motivate us towards a happier self? Why in so many cases are we meant to feel guilty about wanting more out of life? Is being selfish in this instance really such a bad thing or is it actually necessary in order to succeed? 

Relationships are tricky but beautiful things. The shift from "I" to "we" happens so quickly that before you know it, you lose yourself completely and forget about the things that were once important to you. Priorities get put on the back burn and you end up resenting your partner for his or her stunted growth. Unless you have the understanding and patience of a saint or are fortunate enough to be in a relationship where growth is mutual and inspiring, things may not work out in the end. Once that fire is ignited within yourself, again nothing can stand in your way.
I couldn’t help but wonder, when it comes to relationships, why is evolution such a difficult concept to grasp?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Baby Boomers...

When you have been in a serious relationship for a while, there is a topic of conversation that is bound to come up. Whether you are straight, gay or Thai, it's the ultimate decision that measures your compatibility and strength as a couple, one that pushes commitment to an entirely new level. And while I personally find the degree of selflessness and patience involved difficult to fathom, the world you know changes forever the moment pillow talk becomes baby talk.

If it weren't for Biology, I would probably have believed in immaculate conception for the rest of my life. The fact that people choose to have kids in this day and age is as ludicrous to me as the idea of a 15 year old giving birth in a barn. The romanticized notion of creating a living being out of love is wonderful in theory but also heavy with fine print which so many people forget to acknowledge. It involves late nights, rotation feedings, the ear-piercing screeches, the nappy changes, spit-up all over everything, temperatures that constantly rise above 37 degrees, not to mention the strain and impact it has on your own relationship. All that sleep deprivation and hormonal ranting cannot be good for one's sanity let alone one’s health. If you ever hear a friend with children saying "having a baby has changed my life..." know that these are the changes that they are talking about.

And then there are the social changes. I recently attended a farewell barbecue for some friends of mine who were moving to Johannesburg. As if that was not tragic enough, I found myself caught in a whirlpool of motherhood. One by one, the mobile car seats and 4 x 4 perambulators came strolling in with pint-sized bundles of joy. Conversations about jaundice and breast blankets, feeding times and teething necklaces circled the crowd while I sipped quietly on my glass of Moet Chandon. Did I miss the book club meeting for What to expect when they're expecting or had they merely been upgraded into a social realm I had no understanding of? Was a baby the golden ticket into this magical world of play dates and musical story books? What about the couples who have no desire to breed? Will we never understand until we have a baby of our own or are we just selfish pricks with unfulfilling lives?

I can think of a far worse fate, like the thousands of unwanted babies in the world thanks to someone’s lack of sensibility or responsibility. While I am sure my selfish phase will pass one day, I understand the lifelong commitment that it takes to be a parent. Make sure that it's what you both want and make sure that you are both prepared financially, mentally and physically for the forthcoming attractions. While procreation is a beautiful experience it is also a very permanent one without an exchange policy, so be sensible and think it through. When it comes to parenthood, do we really know what to expect when we’re expecting?