Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A South African Horror Story

At some point in every relationship, a girl will eventually have to succumb to the horror movie genre. It's a guys ultimate form of revenge for inflicting all those Ryan-Gosling-Tatum-Channing-rom-com-chick-flicks that we were simply too busy to catch on girls night, and while most of us are happy to compromise, the rest of us would rather sit through a Brazilian wax ninety times over. As thrilling as they may be, I couldn't help but wonder why scary movies elicit such a negative response. Is it really because of all that gore or is it because they tap into a dark place where all of our hidden, most primal fears come to life?  

For Margot, her biggest fear has always been to live in a world without love and affection which is why she has never been short of a boyfriend. For as long as I’ve known her I have seen her survive one horrific relationship after the next, attracting a smorgasbord of freaks, creeps and blood-sucking monsters. Who could forget Jacques, the possessive, physically abusive psycho that used to lock her up in his apartment because he thought she was cheating on him? Or Herb the 30-something year old teenager who lived by the mantra “bro’s before ho’s”? And then there was Zachary, the much younger artist slash bartender who threatened to kill himself if Margot did not marry him. After so many suicide attempts you’d think he’d be dead by now.

I was starting to think that Margot had been cursed with some kind of bad relationship juju. Just as I was about to call in the priest, she met an amazing yet very simple guy called Wilson. Wilson was everything Margot was not. Quiet, shy, reserved. He was the perfect yin to her self-professed high maintenance yang and even though his intellect was somewhat lacking, he made up for it in ways that made Margot extremely happy. Public displays of affection; small tokens of love and appreciation. Why it seemed as though Margot had finally exorcised her relationship demons once and for all. Or had she?  

About a year into their relationship, things went from sweet dream to hideous nightmare. Both Margot and Wilson were guilty of cheating on each other but had decided to stay together with one of those "forgive and forget" agreements. The betrayal and bitterness of these events grew over the next year causing irrevocable damage to their relationship resulting in constant bickering and public spats that even earned them the title of “bitching couple”. Wilson’s lack of drive and ambition had also become a major problem. It was so exhausting that it was literally sucking the life out of Margot. “All he wants to do is smoke weed. We never talk about our problems. How can I have a relationship with someone who has the emotional depth of a five year old?” Wilson was drowning Margot and she was not about to go under. They were clearly no longer on the same page and even though Margot made every attempt to salvage their fragile relationship, things just didn’t work out.

I guess some relationships really are like horror movies. Predictable, shocking, the final fright. A thrilling sensation at first before the twist that always seems to complicate the storyline, not knowing who the bad guy is until you're being knifed in the back, running up the stairs when you should be running out the front door. The most striking similarity is how these relationships seem to tap into our subconscious, playing on our fears and insecurities until they leave a negative impression about love, life and the possibility of ever having a normal, healthy relationship. I suppose the question at the end of a long and draining relationship is who will survive and what will be left of them?    

When it comes to scary relationships, be afraid. Be very afraid.  

Thursday, 23 August 2012

So you think I should date?

Sometime in the sixties, Andy Warhol once said that "in the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes." While Mr. Warhol was probably laced on hallucinogenic drugs at the time, no-one could have predicted just how accurate he was. If there were ever an episode of MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, Andy Warhol would be kicking Nostradamus' butt right about now. Idols, The Voice, matter what your poison, reality TV is everyone's favourite guilty pleasure. It's come a long way since Big Brother graced our screens back in 2000 and even though the formats have changed, viewers are still essentially in control. Anyone can be famous these days and while some degree of talent is required for making a winning impression, the most crucial ingredient for success is how we captivate the adoration of the audience. 

A couple of weeks ago, Charlotte and I decided to ditch date night and proceeded north to review a local talent show hosted by a young entrepreneur she had recently met online. His name was Cal, a 28-year old producer and vocal coach who had just started his own music academy. Despite the obvious reason for being there, I was pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of talent hiding behind this so-called boerewors curtain. It's no secret...South Africa definitely has talent and even though Charlotte was smitten by Cal and Cal's biceps, she seemed to be waiting for some kind of validation from me, a thumbs up or tally of votes that would push him through to the next round of So You Think I Should Date? One thing's for sure, he had the sex-factor. 

A few weeks later I found myself on the set of another reality show a.k.a Master Chef - Maynard Manor. It was Liane's turn to cook for her housemates so she decided to stage a rehearsal dinner for her nearest and dearest, a sisterhood organisation referred to as "The Nod". While the main purpose of this exercise was to get feedback on Liane's culinary skills, a hidden agenda was brewing beneath the steaming pots of bunny-chow breyani. Liane, who had secretly been seeing an Afrikaans boy for the past month needed some approval from Paula, Simon and the rest of the peanut gallery in order to determine whether she liked him or not. Why is beyond me but still we reviewed him as we would any other contestant. Contenders, are you ready? Unfortunately,
the judges were not that impressed with his performance. He was extremely dull, uncommunicative and unable to keep up with our shenanigans. One comment about his accent and that was that. Goodbye, you are the weakest link.

It's shocking to think that someone's opinion can ultimately influence someone else's decision. Yes, there are times when a second opinion is necessary and welcome even but have we maybe grown a little too dependent on each other? Why do we always need some kind of approval? Are we that timid to accept the consequences of our own decisions out of fear at being judged? 

As I flipped the station over to my own relationship, I realized that The Aiden and Manni Show had taken a serious dip in ratings. After being thrown a particularly stressful storyline which included all the right trimmings for great TV drama, we were on the verge of being cancelled for good. Tears, conflicts, bickering. The final straw. I found myself at a relationship crossroad. Was I about to give up on three successful seasons in the hopes of getting my own cheap spin-off show or should I just man up and adapt to a less than perfect situation? I decided to call a friend. Having been through the same thing herself, she told me that no rational decision can ever be made based on emotions. She suggested I take some time out to figure this one out on my own.   

If we observe closely, there is more than enough drama in our own lives than any reality TV has to offer. Sometimes a second opinion is all it takes to get a clear perspective on any given situation and while fifteen minutes is plenty to make a lasting impression, the decision rests entirely in our own hands, not in those of the judges. We all know that Adam Lambert should have won season eight of American Idol which just goes to prove that audiences don't always have the right answers. There's a vast difference between getting a second opinion and allowing someone to dictate what could be right for you. Sometimes we just need a little time to figure out what's best for us without the help of voting lines. 

In matters of the heart, when there's a 50/50 chance of making the right or wrong decision, I couldn't help but asking the audience really the safest bet?  

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Word of Mouth

Every day, advertisers, marketers and PR companies are going above and below to find new and inventive ways of creating brand awareness for their latest must-have product. From Group-On deals and telesales calls to two for one blue light specials, it’s all about the appeal. No matter how big your budget or how wide your market, it can take years to build up a solid reputation and while massive global brands spare no expense on billboard campaigns and catchy radio jingles, nothing can ever come quite as close as the power of good old fashioned word of mouth.  

Last Friday night, Aiden and I were lured out of our comfort zones and into the blistering cold of Long Street for drinks with some friends at Neighbourhood. Chilli poppers, amazing service and double doses of alcoholic yumminess all for the price of one, why, happy hour couldn't get happier than this. Four long islands and two ginger mojito's later, the conversation went south somewhere below the line. Brenda had started advertising a recent article that she'd come across about ten innovative ways to improve your blow job technique. "Welcome to the Fela-Show starring your Penis!"     

As we discussed points A through J, the male company present concurred with at least six of the ten presented in the publication. The one that stood out like a sore knob was definitely BJ tip number two, a vocal warm up incorporating his golden globes. While most of the boys seemed to be humming a different tune, I was brave enough to admit that the experience, which in itself was far more comical and awkward than anything else, was definitely an epic fail. It was right there and then that Brenda decided to share bonus tip number eleven, the urban legend of blow job tips, a secret taboo guaranteed to make most men squeal with delight. 

Charlotte nearly choked on her bacon popper the moment Brenda began to explain the concept of stinky pinky. "You take a bit of lube without him knowing and you put it on your finger. As you're busy giving him head, caress his balls with the palm of your hand. Keep stroking his penis. Then, when he is least expecting it, you sneak attack your finger into his asshole while jerking down. The trick is to keep sucking, sticking and jerking down at the same time. Suck. Stick. Jerk. Bam! Cum in sixty seconds. Kids. Do not try this at home." Cheque please. 

A day later over at the international house party of fun, I could not seem to escape the subject of oral fixation. The topic had diverted to cunni-linguistics, a language that so many men seem to flunk. "It's the holy grail of oral sex." According to Charlotte, no matter how many "how to" articles you happen to read, a lot of guys just keep doing it wrong. "They can fix cars and electrical gadgets but God forbid you give them a vagina. If only it came with an instruction manual." If only. Penny, a sweet Afrikaans girl who'd once dated a mutual friend of a friend, seemed to agree.  At first she seemed to be rather private about her sexual relations, that is until the gluwein kicked in. "If he kisses badly on the lips then it's almost certain that he has no clue what to do with your clitoris. I know some uitgerekte girls out there like it rough but I am not one of them. A vagina is like a flower; gentle, soft. It's not a buffet. You don't just eat it. It's like Cremora. It's not inside it's on top."

My lecturer once told me that if you look deeper into the advertising slogans of popular brands, nine out of ten times they'll usually point to sex. Whether it's subliminal or sprawled across a two page spread of a glossy magazine, we need to open up in order to find our happy place. Great sex and successful advertising work best the minute you get people talking about it. The more you talk about it the more you know and the more you know the better the chance you have of finding a service that works for both you and your partner.

When it comes to sexual satisfaction, I couldn't help but wonder, is communication, in fact, key?  

Thursday, 9 August 2012

What women want

From a very young age, we are challenged with certain obstacles and situations that parents, teachers and life throw at us and while some of us are smart enough to figure them out on our first attempt, others can spend a lifetime struggling to get it right. Shape boxes, mathematics, crosswords and multiple choice array of problem solving riddles designed to strengthen and stimulate the logical, more practical side of the human brain. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how many apples Mary would have if John had two more than Sarah, I was starting to believe that it might take a rocket scientist to deconstruct the complex emotions that make up a woman's mind.  

I am willing to bet almost anything that not even Einstein himself could present a theory that would answer the million dollar question lingering on so many male minds....what the hell do modern day women really want? The answer that so many men seem to settle on is what do women want today? Are we really that indecisive about what we want? Surely the number one prize was still unconditional love and adoration but these days a chocolate covered penis that ejaculates hundred dollar bills seems to top that. Sureya's facebook comment was not helping my argument against a 26 year old cousin of a friend that I found myself being interrogated by over dinner last Friday night. "Girls my age don't want to date guys like me. They're only after older guys with money." Was Michael right? Had financial security replaced romance as the number one priority? What happened to sistas doing it for themselves?  

For Claire, a 28 year old starry-eyed English major, this was definitely not the case. I imagine Claire to be the type of girl Kate Winslet would play in one of those Shakespearean adaptations and even though I had only spoken to her a few times over lunch, I could tell that she was a hopeful romantic. She told me about her great love affair in Europe and how she knew that he was the one. The one? Were people still buying into that? She barely had time to finish her story when she received a call from an international number. Young Claire was being summoned by the very same gentleman caller she had just told me about. It turned out that Prince Charming had bought her a two week return ticket to Berlin just so that he could "see her smile again". As I felt my stomach begin to churn, I thought this was either the most expensive booty-call I had ever heard of or perhaps Claire was one of the lucky few to bag herself a real-life knight in shining armor.

"I don't think women know what they really want." After a lifetime of relationships, Brenda was ready to admit what most women struggle to come to terms with. Brenda had been in a relationship for four years with the one guy we all thought she was going to marry. After accumulating her own small fortune from a number of successful business ventures, she decided to buy a house with her then life partner. A week after the bond had been approved she dumped him in order to explore her options. Some say that this was the biggest mistake of her life but for the first time ever, Brenda realised what she really wanted. A little fun for now and eventually an equal, someone that didn't need mothering, a man that would challenge her mentally and one who wasn't threatened by her fabulous success.

I think Forrest Gump got it wrong. Life is not like a box of chocolates, woman are. We're all different and not knowing what to expect only adds to the mystery, and sometimes frustration, of what being a woman is all about. Combine that with those crazy monthly hormones and all you get is a regular girl trying to figure things out in her own time. We need time to process all the choices presented before us and why shouldn't we? For the first time in history woman have options other than mother and housewife and if Goldilocks taught us anything, it was never to settle for anything other than just right.

When it comes to cracking the biggest mind fuck of all time, is it a) good sex b) romance c) money or d) all of the above?

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Elephant shoes...

A few weeks ago I received a random email from a man called Mr. F, a perceptive divorcee in his early thirties with an eager fascination for sociology and general human behaviour. A year after his divorce, he started seeing  a girl who was obsessed with her womanising, verbally abusive ex-boyfriend. Hopeful that she would see the hero right in front of her, he gave her the benefit of the doubt thinking that she would eventually come around. For months, she yo-yo'ed back and forth between the good and the bad until the situation finally got ugly. Realising that he was fighting a lost cause, Mr. F ended the relationship amicably and permanently with the belief that all women preferred to be perpetually unhappy.

As I skimmed through the rest of what I thought was fan mail, I couldn't help but wonder whether the divorce had left Mr. F slightly embittered. Upon first glance, his generalisations came across resentful but after carefully considering his letter again, I recognised that he was onto a much bigger problem. Like so many men and women, Mr. F was finding it difficult to understand why certain women, great women in fact, choose to settle for something less than what they are actually worth. Self-esteem or daddy issues are an easy explanation, but perhaps there was something more disturbing about women in harmful relationships. Were they secretly addicted to the art of humiliation or just biding their time until something better comes along? And when it does come along, will they take it? We've all heard about the more serious horror stories that unfold behind closed doors, so why do they stay? What could possibly warrant any kind of emotional, physical or psychological abuse?   

For Rachel, a 31 year old waitress at Stones, all she ever wanted was to love and be loved, so after a series of rocky relationships which included drug addicts, alcoholics, emotionally abusive bastards and a guy who disappeared off the face of the earth after saying he was going to the garage for smokes only to be found in prison three months later, we were all thrilled for her to have finally found her Ken doll. Plastic? Maybe a little, but in comparison to all her previous relationships, Ken was a catch. Stable, successful, anatomically correct and the most charming man that Rachel had ever met.  In fact, he was exactly the type of man she would eventually like to marry.

About a month and a half into their relationship, Rachel was smitten and finally told Ken that she loved him. I remember how disappointed she was when he didn't say it back at once. "I gave him my heart and all he could say was "elephant shoes"". Perhaps a month and a half was too soon for a man like Ken to reciprocate but after nearly two years of constant devotion, unconditional affection and finding small ways to make Ken feel like the only man in the world, you'd think something had to give. The worst part was that they'd break up on and off all the time, and when they did, Ken would suddenly develop a heart until he had Rachel believing that she was suddenly L' Oreal. Was Rachel in denial or did she honestly believe that Mr. Freeze would eventually thaw out?

After countless interventions at tribal council, Rachel refused to vote him off the island, and while some members of her circle were more verbal about this particular situation, others thought it best to keep quiet and let her make her own decisions despite the unfavorable and potentially hazardous outcome. Was Rachel the kind of girl that Mr. F was talking about? How could someone with so much love to give and whose heart was bigger than the ocean settle for someone who barely acknowledges her existence?

Sometimes we play victim to our choices because we believe there is no way out. It's difficult to sympathise with a friend in this particular situation because you can never know what's going through their mind until you've walked a mile in their shoes. Perhaps a long period of being subjected to demeaning behavior results in clinging onto whatever comes your way or maybe, just maybe, it's because somewhere down the line someone forgot to tell her that she deserved heaven?

When it comes to destructive relationships, do we deserve better?