Thursday, 29 August 2013

My Big Black Afrikaans Wedding

Chocolate chili steak. Apricot and cumin confit. Prawn, coconut and mango relish pizza. The fusion revolution is all the rage at the moment with culinary creatives creeping out of the foodworks from every direction, each one eagerly competing and contemplating the next best combination. A sport to the discerning palette but for the rest of us, a cooked up marketing campaign of gastronomic proportions, and while most of us are easily sold on the concept of something new and different, there are certain tongues in our midst that refuse to budge or even indulge in anything other than traditional flavours.

No matter how Simunye our rainbow nation has become over the past twenty years, we cannot ignore the purist minority that lurks deep within the confines of the Boere, Coloured and African mentality. Umlungu, that horrible "K" word, Chlora's and Porra's. Don't kid yourself, racism is still very much alive in Mzansi only this time it's cleverly disguised as classism, like Brussel sprouts smothered in cheese sauce. Social integration and human decency has left us no choice but to interact with one another, even if it is against one's will and while this interaction is most likely limited to the work environment only, every now and again a romantic hybrid is formed that is guaranteed to shake things up.

Asking your future father-in-law for his daughter's hand in marriage is one thing, but when he's the pastor of a small town NG Kerk and you happen to be two shades lighter than the night, well it can be a helluva thing. While chocolate and vanilla usually make a pleasant mix, planning a wedding that incorporates two totally different cultures can be a complete and utter mess, especially when the majority of the family crest are still battling to come to terms with their children's life choices.

"Both Vuyo and I knew there was going to be a lot of challenges getting our families on board. We knew that coming from two totally different backgrounds we were not going to please everyone but we sure as hell tried our best." Emerentia aka Ems, whose Afrikaans accent was as thick as tar, had explained the difficulties surrounding her upcoming nuptials. Her father, who was never overtly racist, denied his blessing and refused to talk to his daughter for weeks before finally giving into his daughter and mother's pleas. Vuyo's mother, who was also a traditionalist in her own sense, was surprisingly and equally shaken, and somehow believed that Vuyo's choice would anger the ancestors bringing bad luck upon the entire Khumalo household.

Vuyo and Ems, who were clearly so deeply in love, were battling to understand why their parents, who had brought them up in a post-isolated South Africa that celebrated racial equality, could have such a bad reaction towards their celebration of love. Were they secretly racially narrow-minded or was it the fact that their respective customs and dreams for the way they had pictured their children's weddings was about to be compromised? Was the happiest day of their lives about to turn into a culture clash du jour, or could both families find common ground?

"I think the first thing that annoyed my father was the fact that Vuyo and I decided to pay for the wedding ourselves. My pa was not impressed and he did tell me, "dis nie hoe dit werk nie my kind! Jy is my enigste dogter en jou keuse is nie reg nie!" I figured this would be the only way for us to have the wedding of our dreams and not theirs. It had to be the perfect mix. His mother was not happy about the colour scheme as it was not traditionally purple and gold like the rest of his siblings' weddings although we did incorporate "jumping the broom" at the NG Kerk as well as traditional Xhosa songs sung by one of the township choirs into the ceremony."

While Ems's father frowned upon her choice of wedding dress which included sea shell sequins and hints of shweshwe fabric, both families agreed on one thing; the menu. It was like heritage day on steroids with a buffet full of traditional dishes such as pap, umngqusho, boerewors, lamb, sosaties, braaied chicken, bobotie, sout and pampoen tert. Who knew that butternut could be so more-ish. Even the music was a crowd-pleaser, a combination of sokkie treffers, kwaito and modern pop-rock classics. Apart from the speeches which were probably the most awkward part of the evening (I am almost certain Mrs. Khumalo's tears were tears of sadness and not joy) it had been the most beautiful, interesting wedding that Aiden and I had ever been to. The highlight; catching the bouquet of traditional pin-cushions and dancing to Mandoza's "Nkalakatha".    

Not everyone can stomach such an awesome cultural mash up but at the end of the day, when it comes to relationships, love is colour blind. It also happens to be culture blind. Roots are reminders of who we are and where we come from, and while it's necessary to keep family ties together, it shouldn't dominate the one day that's essentially yours. While it's important to honour your own heritage, it's also important to honour the family you are about to marry into. You just have to be creative and think outside the box with a bit of contemporary flavour. As for the rest of the hater's who can't seem to let go, oh well, you can always just sit them at the kids table or give them the Miley Cyrus foam finger.

When it comes to cross-cultural relationships, are modern day infusions necessarily to everyone's taste?

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Obsession. It comes in so many shapes and forms; from the sensual scent of Calvin Klein's vintage designer note to the fanatic fixation on tweenage boy bands such as Emblem 3 and One Erection; from shoes and the insatiable thirst for money, fame and power to the compulsive habit of updating one's social networking status on the minute every minute. Hashtag, annoying. One might consider this uncontrollable craze as addiction's little sister, and while OCD may provide comic relief at the best of times, the domination of one's thoughts and feelings by some persistent, and in most cases, impractical idea - like having Ryan Gosling's babies - is no laughing matter, especially when the object of one's obsession happens to be another human being.

If the latest viral sensation is anything to go by, it just goes to show how fucked up (and entertaining) crazy love can make a person, and while Neil Hilborn's inspirational love profusion is actually legitimised by his own obsessive compulsive disorder, I couldn't help but wonder just how many of us suffer from the same or worse kind of anxiety disorder when it comes to love and relationships.

You see it happening to single ladies all the time; they meet a guy who has the potential of being Mr. Right and automatically start obsessing over him. His hair, his physique, his financial history. Thanks to social vehicles such as facestalk and Linked In, you don't have to be the CIA to attain a fairly decent amount of  background information. All it takes is one flirtation to trigger all those hidden hopes and fascinations about the future you've been planning all your life. An affectionate kiss on the cheek, a couple of nights out on the town, the ambiguous gesture of holding hands. Are we officially going steady or is this relationship actually all in your head? While it's perfectly normal to think about someone you fancy a million times a day, at what point does it stop being a crush and start being cray-cray? 

It happened in the summer of late 2004 when Hannah, a young master's student, had fallen in love with her handsome business lecturer. Mr. Domingo was a successful stockbroker with several medium-sized businesses across the country. He also happened to be happily married with two young children, a drop-top and a white picket fence in the suburbs. Although Hannah maintained exceptional grades through sheer diligence and extra credit, she had failed to tell the difference between friendly conversation and sexual subtleties. While his philosophy on current business trends was certainly stimulating, Hannah's professor had become her number one subject.

Her school-girl fantasy had escalated the night she asked Mr. Domingo to tutor her over a long weekend that conveniently tied in with Mrs. Domingo's rotary trip to East London. Although Mr. Domingo had regarded their extra lessons as nothing more than educational, Hannah had a more ominous proposal in mind. By this time, Hannah had done enough research to know his favourite meal which she cooked for him as a sign of her gratitude, and his favourite wine, a french Bordeaux from the Stellenbosch hills. After some wining and dining, the predictable student-teacher line had been crossed and all hell had broken loose.  

It was your text book affair that happened once, but in this case, once too many. Hannah had become totally obsessed with Mr. Domingo whose rejection after their fling had only fueled her mania even more. She started stalking him at social events, flirting with business associates, rocking up at his children's school only so that she could catch a glimpse of the woman she thought had been keeping them apart. She would call his wife a number of times and hang up when she answered. Her behaviour was out of control and Mr. Domingo had soon found out that he was not the first teacher Hannah had Lolita'd. She had done this once before with her former accounting teacher who had subsequently fled the country due to her age at the time.  

Consumed with guilt Mr. Domingo confessed his costly affair to his wife who immediately filed for divorce and sole custody over the kids. His little venture lost him his teaching position at the University and caused quite a scandal in his professional life. Hannah, being the love-obsessed fatal attractor that she was, saw this as a sign that they could finally be together, but the only form she got served was a restraining order. "She's probably worshiping some heart-framed shrine of me as we speak or scribbling I heart Mr. Domingo scrawls across her skull-studded notebook. Crazy bitch."

Love in its most obsessive state can be altogether flattering, but it can definitely bring out the bunny-boiler in us. Obsessing over an ex, someone you've just met or even an encounter that was pretty much doomed from the word go is not worth losing your head or reputation over no matter how involuntary the urge may be, may be, may be. If the symptoms of your disease starts posing a threat to others as well as yourself, then perhaps it's time to practice a little restraint and get some schedule seven meds.

When it comes to obsession, at what point does compulsion become crippling?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Perfect Timing

The kinds of relationships that last the longest are usually those that are not romantic in nature. Throughout a lifetime, an individual can form a number of special bonds that are both human and mechanically meaningful. Whether it's that awesome attachment to your favourite electronic device or a 30-year affair with the Mother of all Cities, ya'll know that shit is deep. So when it comes to terminating a relationship that is no longer beneficial and when the burden of being the bearer of bad news happens to fall on you, one has to ask the inevitable question...when is the best time to tell your significant other that you've been considering a trade in?   

My relationship with Tata the Carrie-mobile had just reached its seven-year milestone and like most relationships, we had gotten off to a bumpy start. I had bought her after crashing Britney, my coral blue first love into the cliffs of Camps Bay Drive after a night of pure and stupid debauchery. I was devastated, traumatized even, and compared my new-found purchase with the same scorn that one adopts towards an arranged marriage. For months I hated her, but after a series of scenic road trips and four car pile ups, idling hands and dents of passion framed into the panel work of both roof and bonnet, I had somehow grown to love her.

Her latest timing issue got me thinking about relationships and their own untimely breakdowns. No matter how many diagnostics and services a relationship goes through, there are many instances where certain sparks no longer seem to fire and the effort of maintaining that vehicle of love is way more admin than you care to take on. As if destroying one's perception of a relationship wasn't heavy enough, along comes timing which is almost always less than perfect. With life and daily work stresses consuming every minute of our lives, tragic events and our own demons to battle, when is the best time to schedule a break up? Is it a Monday morning? Sunday brunch? A month before Christmas? Twenty working days before his birthday? Is there some kind of formula we should adhere to or is there ever really a "good time" to crush someone's heart?

Jody and Michael had been together for just over two years when Jody decided that it was time to call it quits. Jody was a junior PR exec at the time and although Michael had blamed her career objectives for the demise of their relationship, Jody had actually been unhappy for quite some time. Sexually, emotionally. The boy was just not doing it for her anymore. Although she should have told him earlier, she never quite had the heart to hurt someone as wonderful as Michael. Once she had run out of excuses and delays to relay her uncomfortable decision, she eventually mustered up the courage to invite him over and have one of those awkward, adult, serious talks.

"I decided that the best place to shatter one's world is somewhere familiar and comfortable for them. Unless you're looking for some kind of dramatic effect, it's probably best to avoid public venues. Rejection is hard enough without having to humiliate them publicly. Do you really want to be remembered as the chick who broke his heart over a McFlurry? Location, location, location." Just two weeks after their anniversary and about a month before Jody's birthday, she decided to rip the band aid off with a "get-it-over-and-done-with" kind of attitude. 

She avoided the statistically popular Monday morning and opted for a Wednesday evening to commit the heinous love crime. She sat Michael down over a cup of tea and began to firmly yet sensitively explain the reasons why she could no longer see a future together. "Things change. People change and not everyone gets that. No matter how amicable or good your intentions are, there's no easy way to soften the blow especially when they don't see it coming. If you are not happy, you have to make a hard decision, commit to it and go with the consequences." Was breaking up with somebody really as pragmatic as Jody had made it out to be or was timing a break up sort of like Nike? You just got to do it. 

"The longer you wait, the more painful the break up. What good does avoiding the inevitable do? It's never an easy discussion especially with so many sensitivities, doubts and emotions running high. Things are bound to get ugly no matter how kind or thoughtful your delivery may be. You can use every cliche in the book and I promise you it won't help. It's not you it's me. We've simply grown apart. I'm sure you are going to find someone that can give you what you deserve. At the end of the day, you're going to be the asshole that hurt somebody else. You hope that in time they'll see that your decision was for the best but until they reach that maturity point, prepare yourself for some seriously negative PR."

Timing. It's a tricky bitch to figure out especially when someone you still care for is getting steamrollered in the process. Whether you're a desperate soul trying to make an exit out of a floundering relationship or just an electrician trying to figure out some dodgy wiring, you'll soon notice that some things are simply not worth salvaging. When the circuits of a relationship start coming loose and the check engine light keeps flashing right in front of you, perhaps its time to move the hell on. Consult as many "How to" and "When to" advice columns as possible, but please bare in mind that not everybody reacts the same. Feelings are bound to get hurt in the thick of it but remember that knowing what you want is just as important as knowing what you don't want.

When it comes to the mechanics of any relationship, when is the best time to break apart?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


A few weeks ago I was put on a plane and shipped off to my favorite rival city to facilitate a commercial for a well-known international beauty product. Naturally, I accepted the challenge, only this time I wouldn't be leaving without my conditioner and Zam-buk. The TVC in question was part of a local Woman's Day campaign and focused on issues around body image; the parts we love and the bits we wish we could effortlessly reconstruct. Black, white and cappuccino-flavoured lovelies from all over Jozi lined up to share their perspective on beauty. One hundred and fifty-seven vox pops of natural beauties later, we found ourselves at Tasha's (pronounced Teshas; like Ke$ha), a restaurant for the modern day coo-girl to enjoy early breaky's and boozy lunches without judgement or prejudice.

As the crew and I scanned the shopping center for our next possible interviewee, I realised that our current location was unlikely to present the client's desired demographic. We seemed to have landed in Silicone Valley, where the previously fresh-faced talent had been replaced with pinched expressions of permanent astonishment and joker smiles a mile and a half wide trying hard to muster some kind of emotion while enjoying conversation, no-carb lunches and low-cal Sauvignon blanc. The Hyde Parkian prawn sitting directly across from base camp had so much Botulism injected into her face that you could literally perform the Ice capades on her five-head. And those lips? Let's just say that in the event of a water landing, no yellow flotation device would be required.

As women get older and as more emphasis is placed on appearance, the age old question of whether or not to have plastic surgery begins to creep up more frequently. Should we? Shouldn't we? Is ageing gracefully "like, so five years ago"? We're always competing against youth in some way or another, whether it's over a man's love and attention or a job that favours the vibrancy of a 12-year old bubble-head, and while there may be several benefits and reasons for one to want to alter their physical appearance, I couldn't help but wonder why it had become so acceptable. Has society finally vetoed the notion of loving oneself just the way we are or are there perhaps greater, more psychological motives behind these extreme makeovers? Breast enlargements, collagen, tummy tucks. Can a few trips to Dr. 90210 really boost more than just one's visage?

The story of SpongeBob Square Boobs is a tragic one that started off on the vicious playground of a certain Southern Suburbian high school. Roberta had always known that she was different from the other girls and the evil bitches that she confronted on a daily basis made damned sure she knew it. Oros, Dumbo, Brace-Face. These were just a few names that her horrid peers would taunt her with every time she walked down the hall. She was not pale nor skinny like the other girls, nor was she bright-eyed and fair headed. On the plus side, she thought that being slightly plump would guarantee an early development in the breast department, but no, not our Roberta. She struggled with a training bra well into her twenties and was the kind of girl who was never once asked to dance, not even from the band geeks. If this were a fairy tale, Roberta would have been cast as the Ugly Duckling that no-one gave a shit about.

One day, she fell into a handsome amount of inheritance and decided that it was time to become the swan she was born to be. Sure, she could have put her money into trusts and properties, but putting an end to her self-hatred had seemed a much wiser investment at the time. Her bad genetics and unfortunate appearance had taken a serious toll on her confidence and so she embarked on a complete overhaul a'la Demi Moore. What started off as a simple breast enlargement led to a nose job, an eye lift, cheek implants, several face lifts, liposuction and every possible surgery humanly possible. She had literally become a quilt. 

The new and improved Roberta could have easily been mistaken for Jocelyn Wildenstein's younger sister, only far less scarier. Her severe alterations had made her somewhat symmetrical which is how she got the nickname, SpongeBob Square Boobs. What was supposed to have given her a lift in self-esteem had turned into an ugly obsession with imperfection, one that was fueled by cruelty and one that would lead to her untimely suicide at the tender age of 42. Were her drastic transformations and surgical enhancements a cry for help, a coping mechanism for deeper psychological issues or had the desire to be noticed and attractive finally taken precedence? Despite her radical and expensive makeover, Roberta had died a very lonely, insecure woman incapable of loving herself the way she was. 

While the benefits of plastic surgery have proven to boost one's overall confidence, it can also take a toll on one's mental health. A simple nip-tuck here and there may seem appealing later on in life but make sure that you're in a good mental and emotional state to deal with the consequences. Don't go to the first quack that says he can change your life for half the price just because society expects you to. Do the research in order to avoid regrets. We all know what happened to Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey after her little nose job. While she may have made the occasional TV movie now and then, I think it's safe to say that she is no longer having the time of her life.

When it comes to cosmetic surgery, just how fantastic is life in plastic?