Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The brave lady in black

There's a type of phone call that we all regrettably have to face at some point in our lives. It's the kind of call that comes at 5am when you're fast asleep and least expecting it, and as you stumble through the darkness reaching for the light, the anxiety and tension builds up in your chest, so you hesitate for just a moment because you know that what lies on the other end of that phone is anything but good.

Mourning the loss of a loved one is never easy to deal with, especially when it comes so suddenly and at such a young age. As an outsider, one can never be sure what to say or do especially since you often have no clue what that person is going through. As Aiden drove me to Brenda's house that fateful Saturday morning, I grew uneasy and worried that I would fail Brenda as a friend by not having a game plan. I was completely unprepared for this but as we turned into her street, an overwhelming instinct set in immediately. I rushed over to the girl sitting on the sidewalk sobbing her eyes out and held her tightly with all my might. Moments later, Charlotte arrived and together we helped Brenda back inside the empty house. It was like the twilight zone...just an hour ago, they were dancing and laughing, throwing back shots and having a great time celebrating life, but that debaucherous scene came to a sudden end as the sobering reality of Brenda's brother's passing sank in. I couldn't believe it. This was the fourth death in Brenda's family over the span of five months. A part of me wanted to burn some sage to ward off this sinister cloud that had descended upon her family, but alas, I did not have a lighter. For the next two weeks, Brenda and her family took the hardest emotional ride yet. Denial, guilt, pain, anger, depression...all the usual suspects were back again but this time far more intense than anyone could have imagined. They'd lost a son and a brother and even though I tried to ease the pain by putting the "fun-" back in "funeral", my humorous efforts were all in vain. The helplessness of the situation was infuriating and even though 'being there' is supposedly all we're expected to do, I couldn't help but wonder... how does one provide comfort in a situation like this?  

The minister, who's name was as forgettable as his sermon, certainly thought he had the answer. What started off as traditional paraphrasing from the bible soon turned into a conversion class for the masses. This seemed to be a popular trend as this was the third funeral I had been to where remembering the deceased shifted focus onto a more forceful Christian agenda. "No one loved your son more than God did"? How in God's name were these supposed to be words of comfort? I was completely taken aback by and just as I was about to walk out the preacher called out a name I had not heard in years. There really is nothing like a funeral to bring a family back together, so I was delighted to see Michael's best friend Rose even under the tragic circumstances. Rose's grief showed from head to toe, from her tasteful yet fashionable ensemble to the agony written across her face and in her eyes. As she recited her eulogy, she restored faith and purpose to our gathering, delivering a speech so heartfelt that it could melt the coldest of hearts. Michael was her soul mate, her best friend and someone who had genuinely cared about the people in his life. Although he was a deeply tortured soul, Rose did not focus on his mistakes but on the impact he made on her life and everyone around him. He was a good friend, a son, and the brother she wished she had always had even though she already had a brother. As she recalled the good times, she painted a picture of a saint and not a so-called sinner whose relationship with God was seemingly more important than celebrating the life of a loved one. The eulogies that followed were equally sincere and that to me provided the comfort in question.

As Sonny and Swirl sang the concluding hymn of the service, I realised that no matter where you are or who you meet, death and taxes are the only guarantee in life. Everybody has some kind of an agenda and while some are bold enough to share their beliefs, no-one on this shit-hole planet can dictate how and what to feel especially when you've lost someone dear to you. I may not believe in heaven but I'm pretty sure that Michael, like the rest of us, was living in his own hell. Whatever the case, one thing was certain...he would be remembered well thanks to the brave and honest lady in black.

When it comes to comforting a friend in despair, how do we know if we're doing enough?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

I do?

Three years ago, Jay and Bee met at a downtown bar shadier than a pair of cheap sunglasses, and even though their relationship got off to a rocky start, Jay and Bee somehow made it through all the KK en kak. It took a little patience, a lot of love and just the right amount of understanding before Bee finally purchased the perfect pair of his and his platinum bands. After months of planning, Bee turned his proposal into a work of art (literally) executing a romantic proposal that would put any rom-com to shame, and while I could not be happier for the recently en-gay-ged couple (because there is no one in the world who deserves happiness as much as they do) I couldn't help but panic...was I next?  

"So when are you guys getting married?" It was as if I could actually see the words coming out of their mouths in slow motion, each one slapping me harder than the next. Speechless, I quickly used this opportunity to seize a delicious hors d' oeuvres that Tannie Marie had baked, and stuffed my face with as many of them as possible. My logic was that it would have been more rude to talk with a full mouth of half-masticated carbs than it would be to answer a question I try my hardest to avoid. When did I become so anti-institution? Was the concept of marriage really so frightening or had it never been a priority of mine? Was the convention of it all so unappealing? For better, for worse, til death do us part, in sickness and in wealth...there is one major flaw in this agreement; we are all imperfect humans bound to fuck up somewhere along the line. It's as though we are setting ourselves up for failure. What if a spouse had been cheating all his life and died after contracting a deadly disease from his whore? What if they lost all your collective savings (because they are entitled to half now) due to some gambling addiction? And then it hit me...I was scared of marriage because I was petrified of divorce.

The dissolution of a marital union is one of the most difficult things for anyone to go through especially if the ceremony lasts longer than the marriage. *Flashback shimmer* It was the summer of 2008 and my dear, young friend Tina had just met the most amazing guy. Within the first month of dating they had moved in together, two months later they were married and five months after that they were divorced. She knew the marriage was over after experiencing an uncomfortable itch in her lower pubic region which was later diagnosed as crabs...not the hors d' oeuvres kind. We called it her microwave marriage and even though she bounced back in no time, the failure of not making it work left a lasting dent on her confidence. She went through a very dark phase before finding the light in husband number two. Was this one experience enough reason to justify my irrational fears or was it merely an excuse to prolong the inevitable day of reckoning? Was this merely an extension of my general fear of failure or was I somewhat of a commitment-phoebe? My friend Trace has been together with her fiance for eight years and has no intention of getting married. Is this abnormal social behavior or maybe, just maybe, there is a small percentage of human beings who are simply not interested? 

I believe that if it ain't fixed, don't break it. My parents have been married for nearly fifty years and are still going strong. Perhaps their fairytale marriage set the unrealistic bar that so many couples are too afraid to drink from. Perhaps it was because they came from a generation where fixing the problem was much easier than walking away from it. Perhaps as we grow older the things that society regard as essential basic needs are no longer valid. Whatever the case, people, the only vow I'm taking is one of silence especially when it comes to the topic of marriage.  

When it comes to that binding union, I couldn't help but wonder, what if I never do?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Drama Drama Drama...

When you go from being a total whore with no self esteem to being in a relationship for more than two years, you need to find alternative ways of getting your kicks. Don't get me wrong, life on the right side of the picket fence is far from tedious. It even comes with its own melodrama from time to time. Still there is nothing more satisfying than engaging in a delicious drama or two, especially when the real life drama is being played out right in front of you. I couldn't help but wonder, who the fuck needs TV?

It had been a while since I hooked up with my gal pal Susan, so when she called me up for some casual coffee and salacious gossip, I jumped at the opportunity. The thing you need to know about Susan is that she is unlike your typical 26 year old. She's smart, stable and sexy and gets hard just talking about the Aston Martin she plans on owning one day, and even though she seems to have it all together, like so many of us, she has the uncanny ability of getting caught up in unnecessary relationship drama. As she lit up her fourth cigarette in the space of twenty minutes, I was pleased to hear that she had finally broken up with her psychotic, bipolar, closeted loser ex, Daniel. Finally she could move onto someone more worthy of her time and just as I thought things were looking up, she started telling me about Shane, Daniel's 30 year old  house mate and friend with whom she had been cavorting with for the past 5 months. Enter Shane's insecure girlfriend and POW! Lights. Camera. Action!

"Men are like monkeys.'" she said. "They won't let go of one branch until they've got a firm hold on another." I could tell that Susan knew what she had to do and that no good could come out of her current situation and even though I advised her to walk away, she didn't. I won't lie, the voyeur in me was eager to see how this mini-series would unfold. Would Shane leave his girlfriend? Would the crazy ex find out and try to sabotage their affair? What if we flashed forward to five years from now? Would we find Shane cheating on Susan with Daniel? So many scandalous potential storylines were unraveling, each leading up to that final cliffhanger. The ratings were in. I was hooked. The suspense was killing me. What were the creators of this cleverly-crafted show planning next? I had to know...

SPOILER ALERT: Susan and Shane get caught outside Daniel's house doing the funky monkey. Daniel loses it and kicks Shane out of the house. Bonita, the clingy barely legal year-old, feels betrayed, losing her ability to trust another man again, possibly "ending her life". Susan, wrought with guilt, takes Shane under her wing where they live happily ever after...until the day Susan finds condoms in his wallet. Everybody knows she's on the pill. Life can be full of dramatic twists and turns, but here's the catch:  you are your own scriptwriter, and while some plots are purely coincidental, others are painfully predictable. While some of us choose to avoid the drama in our own lives, it's extremely entertaining to witness the days of somebody else's life, especially when the viewer is living vicariously through the lives of the characters they've come to know and love.

When it comes to relationship drama, who calls the shots? 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Faithless...

I recently came under attack by a coven of Jehovah's Witnesses hovering outside my house. For those of you who have had the same misfortune, it can be somewhat traumatic. As I opened the gates to leave for my own secular salvation (a.k.a Virgin Active Canala Walk), these relentless vultures honed in for the kill. "Are your parents home?" hissed the high priestess. "No, and I am in a hurry," I replied shortly. "Well, let me leave you with one thought then," she continued as she opened up her black book. Before she had the chance to recite another utterance, the words exploded out my mouth like a canon "I do not believe in God!"

The impact of my tone sent this bothersome brood straight back to the Chrysler Voyagers from which they emerged, and even though I tried to shake it off, this evangelistic encounter troubled me for days. I was infuriated by their so-called superiority and sales-like approach to something as private as religion, but more so because I was forced to question the truth behind the words that had flown out of my mouth so callously. Had I finally joined the flock of faithless followers or was I simply intolerant of hypocritical religious dogma? Religion is something you're born into and like so many, I was indoctrinated to believe what others wanted me to believe. Anyone that questioned it would burn eternally in the fires of hell and curiosity would guarantee a trip to a dark room with a strange man and a handful of summoned Marys...quite ironic I think. But what happens when you ask and you don't receive? What happens when you've made the effort to help yourself and God doesn't even have the courtesy to RSVP? Should we hold onto our faith or continue to waste our precious time on something so intangible. And then it hit me: was love the new religion and if so when did I lose so much faith?

Concepts like love and religion are one and the same; ideas forced upon us by people who think they know better and who usually want something, and just like religion they comprise of rules and guidelines that are supposed to help us make sense of the world. But what happens when it all stops making sense? What happens when these expectations are not met with the same amount of commitment and devotion? Had I stumbled upon a new religion of the faithless? Tired of countless disappointments, I abandoned the notion of white knights and tall horses a long time ago, and even though I was in a committed relationship, I followed my head and not my heart. Some people call it cynical but my somewhat sceptical outlook has helped me deal with the many inconsistencies that love has brought into my life, and just like that Jehovah's Witness, I wanted to preach the good word to anyone that would listen.

Bradley was the perfect example: he was one of those genuinely nice guys whose life would be so much easier if he were just gay. He was hopelessly hung up on a girl he met six months ago who now wanted nothing to do with him. To complicate matters, he was having trouble deciphering the mixed messages she kept sending him. Just like that Jehovah, I wanted to convert and save him from the eternal torture of heartbreak by helping him see the light but despite my words of wisdom and advice to move on and up, he was adamant to make things work with Barbara. As I listened to him ramble on, I couldn't help but pity and admire him at the same time. Why was he so hellbent on making it work? Was he infatuated or was he really in love? Why did he continue to worship something that didn't even acknowledge his bleeding heart? Was this the thing they call faith?

I call it stupidity. The truth is we all want to believe in something because the idea of nothing is far too unbearable to accept. We forget that sometimes love works out but sometimes you have to find companionship in loneliness. Trust me there are far worse fates in life. As for religion, she is not a cock so please don't force your ideology down someone else's throat even if they do give you the time of day. Always keep an open mind even if you don't agree with what is being said.

When it comes to love, why should we convert?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Hangover...

When you're 28 going on 30, something chemical happens that no scientist could possibly explain. Your body starts slowing down and you can no longer recover the way you used to. You've heard the urban legends and you may even have a friend or two who's already been through this cataclysmic phase, but not once do you ever stop to think that it could happen to you. And just as you're about to take that 3rd and final shot of caramel vodka at some club you know you're too old to be in, it hits you...I was going through a quarter life crisis. 

Forget what they tell you, time does not fly, it soars like the motherfucking Concorde and just as you think you're about to touch down on solid ground, life throws up the unexpected. It happens once you've reached a certain point of've just started paying towards a retirement annuity plan, the car is finally paid off, you can actually consider upgrading your medical aid scheme and you have finally made peace with the government for taking your money, in fact, you've found a way to make SARS actually work for you.

That bursting sense of pride and accomplishment can quickly dissipate the moment you find yourself in the presence of real life 20-something year old's. Everything I had built up suddenly seemed meaningless in comparison to the care-free lives of these fabulous creatures. Life is as sinfully ignorant as it is blissfully careless and almost everything has some kind of sexual innuendo. Refusing to party on a school night is the ultimate sin and refusing to down a drink only makes you seem like a sad old relic. I couldn't help but wonder...had the burden of responsibility successfully suppressed my inner 20 year old? Could 30 year old's have just as much fun or are we just desperate sods trying to hold onto something that's slipping? 

I was determined to prove that I still had it so I put on my tightest jeans, zipped up my leather boots and sprayed on so much cologne that I could have been Parisian. Gina and I had been planning a night out with the girls for about a month which in itself was something a 20 year would never do. Strike one. Fortunately it was Mary's 30th birthday, so the sense of occasion made it seem slightly less desperate. Since there's nothing more uncool than waiting in line, Gina and I had made the necessary guest list arrangements.

The only line worth waiting for is a line of blow. The evening started with a couple of Mimosa's at Beluga before peeling back a couple of Prestwich Island's at Trinidad. It was ten sharp but the club was empty. Fail two. Our eagerness led us straight into the lounge of Ivory Green, where we were met with bubbly and a table. No 20 year old could have pulled that off. We were joined by Slater and her brother Mike and before you knew it we were drinking shots and partying like it was 1999. 

The last thing I remember was blacking out on a gold Ottoman inside the club somewhere, half way into a conversation with someone. The next morning I had a girl's name and number in my pocket, a hangover from hell and the insipid taste of chocolate vodka lurking in the depths of my breath. Still drunk and reeking of alcohol, I was rehydrated and treated to a McFeast Deluxe meal which still did nothing to appease my headache. It  felt like Dumbo had been performing Swan Lake inside my head. It took an entire day to recover and even then I am not sure how many brain cells were still missing in action.One thing was for certain though...epic fail.

As we grow older and accept the changes that come with it, I couldn't help but wonder, was PAYE the new hangover?