Thursday, 26 September 2013

The Red Door

At some point in everyone's life, usually around the age of 30, we start asking ourselves the big questions: Am I happy? Is that all there is? and probably the biggest one of all; what have I done with my life? Some call it "taking stock of one's life" while others see it as a delayed existential crisis. Reflection can be a bitch at the best of times and when she comes, she doesn't go away easily, making us wonder whether all we have in life is as good as it's going to get. We're so easily entangled within the confines of comfort that we eventually stop dreaming and start settling for what we have instead of what we could have. Like some big red door, we are closed to the idea of greatness which is actually a lot closer than we think - if only we had the balls to start taking more risks.

No matter how much sunshine or prozac you have running through your veins, the truth is that most of us are pessimists. We're constantly questioning ourselves and our own ability to achieve the impossible, too afraid to take the necessary chances that might actually lead us to success. Instead of seeing the risk as an opportunity, we see it as catastrophic, over-estimating the likelihood of things going South and under-estimating our ability to overcome the challenge. How often do we dwell in self-doubt or fear instead of just believing in our own potential? While the fear the of the unknown and fear of failure are understandably paralyzing, it really can't compare to the greatest fear of all...regret.

As I found myself going through my very long list of regrets, wondering about my own courageous thoughts, I found myself reading an email from a dear friend who had just announced her separation from her fiance. This shocker of a press release was sent to a number of family members and close friends, outlining the seemingly mutual reasons for the relationship's dissolution. There was nothing mean or sordid about the declaration, and even though it read optimistically, I couldn't help but wonder about the consequences of taking such a huge risk at this stage in their relationship.

Surely after nearly sixteen years of being together and knowing each other inside out, people would find a way of making things work. Were they just another example of your typical "times are tough, time to give up" kind of couple or had their relationship become nothing more than a relationship of convenience? Properties, memories, two and fur-legged children. Surely the admin of breaking up with someone after such a long period was enough to frighten them back into conciliation not to mention the rigmarole of dating again which now seemed so foreign to both parties. Was taking a risk the right choice and if it was, what about the guarantee? 

"Choice and risk is like gambling. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and sometimes you lose it all. Either way you have to play your best hand but also know when to quit." Some DMC and a bottle of wine later, we found ourselves talking about the road less travelled and the hardships that come with letting go of the familiar. "There's definitely something in the water at the moment. Everyone seems to be breaking up." While their decision was definitely not the latest trend in relationship couture, I could tell that through her questions and doubts, she had resolved in taking the risk of being happy.

"It's surreal to think that the life you had grown so accustomed to is no longer there, in fact, it's heart wrenching. I'm busy trying to keep my mind motivated by other things and through that process I am slowly but surely getting clarity. I guess when you've exhausted all your options, and you're still not happy nor even remotely content, it's time to see the relationship as another lesson learned. No matter how hard the decision, you need to break through the barriers of the unknown and fear and starting living instead of existing."

It takes a lot of guts and courage to walk away from a comfort zone, whether it's a troubled relationship or a job that causes you mild to severe panic attacks. We can never really know what's best for us until we put ourselves out there and jump into the line of fire. Even then, there's no guarantee that we won't get burnt. Failure is a part of the journey to success, which is why we should face and embrace it instead of cowering beneath it. Look out towards that new open door instead of looking back at the one that should have closed a long time ago.   

When it comes to making tough decisions, is the most critical risk not taking any risk at all? 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The House Husband

Somewhere along the line of evolutionary events, women were allowed to hang up their aprons and venture out into the big bad world of business. She no longer had to classify herself as a domestic drone whose sole purpose was to put food on the table or make sure her husband's holy socks had been darned while watching her favourite day-time soapie. Don't get me wrong; managing daily chores and raising kids (and in most cases, their husbands too) is no easy feat, but in today's post-patriarchal society, career women are dedicated to being the absolute best in their field which also makes them a threat to macho-misogynists who still believe that a woman's place should be in the kitchen or bedroom only.

While some men have yet to acknowledge this prolific paradigm, there are others, just over 200 000 in fact, who are more than happy to embrace this shift in traditional gender roles, so much so that a new breed of man has emerged out of this perceived emasculation. I can hear the tightening of testicles now. A house husband?! Preposterous! It certainly has a nice ring to it, especially to a successful career woman whose dream of having it all includes a home, a hound and a handful of children, but what does it mean for traditional relationships or general gender equality? Is it just one of those growing trends that society will eventually have to accept or are there actual advantages to having a man who trades in his laptop for a dish cloth?

Meeting a real-life house husband was both awkward and exhilarating, awkward in the sense of its novelty and rarity and fascinating for the fact that somewhere out there, a man (and a woman for that matter) was one hundred percent fine with his wife being the sole breadwinner. Most of my friends would cringe at such a notion as they are either hellbent on finding their perfect equal or stuck on the notion that a man should be main provider, the hunter and certainly not the gatherer. To meet a couple as tenacious as Denny and Thomas was like watching every "porn for women" campaign spring to life.

Denny and Thomas had been married for fifteen years before they agreed to bring a baby into the world. Denny was a well-respected executive producer at a film studio and Tom was a sought-after assistant director. They met on the set of a low budget rom-com and have been happily married ever since. Tom had always known about Denny's ambition and fully supported her decisions and career objectives. She was hesitant about being a mother because she knew her career would always come first. They also knew that despite their financial well-being, neither of them wanted a stranger to raise their child which meant that certain sacrifices had to be made.

The choice was obvious. Thomas knew that taking Denny's job away from her, which paid twice as much as his would have made her unbearably miserable so he decided to become a stay-at-home-dad / husband. Of course they had the occasional char once a week like most normal people do but over time, he became a walking, talking Mr. Muscle. His duties included caring for their son, (bathing, feedings, play dates and nap time) managing the household duties such as cooking, cleaning, shopping and ironing as well as doing all the manly work such as gardening, repairs and the occasional DIY.

"But aren't you embarrassed to be with someone beneath you?" some tactless tart mumbled under her breath. "Why? Have you seen my husband?" Years of running around on set certainly had it's advantages. You could see through his Country Road tank top, Tom was ripped. He was a very attractive man who was ageing well and still managed to look after himself despite the demands of his new-found, albeit, unconventional profession.

"I know a lot of the time people think that it's un-sexy to have a man-bitch running around doing the tasks of a mother and housewife. He gets a lot of flack about it from his peers and family, and at the beginning it was tough but we spoke about it at length. We always agreed that if he needed help, we would make a plan but he has managed perfectly well so far." Was Tom every girl's wet dream or was Denny over-selling it? "To be honest, I have never been more attracted to him than I am now. Not only does my son have a parent he can constantly rely on but I have the best support system without feeling an ounce of guilt. A man that's completely on board with my selfish needs, a hot daddy that knows how to make a countertop sparkle and a quiche lorraine rise? Who's getting wood now?"              

I'm sure the Cro-Magnon man is busy rolling around in his cave somewhere, beating himself with a club grunting "what went wrong?" It's no wonder they're on the verge of extinction. This is a woman's world after all, and while the concept of house husband may not be to everybody's fancy, it certainly sounds like it has it's perks. Like most things in life it all boils down to personal choice. Are we woman enough to wear the pants without bruising his masculinity, or is he man enough to put on rubber gloves without resentment? 

When it comes to modern day relationships, I couldn't help but wonder, are house husbands the future?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Romantically challenged

There's no other feeling quite like falling in love. Whether it's chemistry or crazy pheromones, a new romance is like a neuro-toxic rush to the brain, a passion fix designed to make you feel completely and utterly happy. The eager anticipation between dates, conversations that last for days, spontaneous sex, candlelit dinners, holding hands, walks on the beach, the simplicity and thoughtfulness behind a tiny scrawl left on the kitchen counter. Sigh...those frivolous euphoric moments are truly amazing and come so naturally at first, but sadly without the proper maintenance, is not built to last a lifetime.

Any couple worth their his and hers bathrobes will tell you that romantic relationships are hard freaking work. They require time, creativity and copious amounts of personal investment. For some, being in a relationship is as easy as one, two, three, but for others well, let's just call them the romantically-challenged. The effort of loving someone and trying to make a good thing work is simply not worth the anguish, which is why more and more people are taking the single road less traveled. While the joys of having someone special to share the rest of your life with seems like the ultimate grand supreme, living a life of uncompromised and uncomplicated existence is not too shabby for a consolation prize.    

I used to think of these people as selfish imbeciles incapable of being intimate with anyone else but themselves, but now I kind of envy them. The freedom to avoid and not give a damn about another human being's emotional dilemma and personal journey seems like such a breath of fresh air to someone who has been in a relationship for nearly four years. It makes you wonder just how relationship veterans managed to hit the silver and golden anniversaries let alone the ten year milestone. True, times have definitely changed, but for the certain die hard couples who refuse to give into this generation's need to quit at the first sign of weakness, how do we relight a flame that has long since fizzled?            

They say that when the going gets tough, you should always go back to basics, and just like the great Maria Von Trapp once sang, "let's start from the very beginning." If only it took a spoonful of sugar to make the bitter taste of boredom disappear then perhaps a couple like Aiden and Sarah could actually stand a chance of making it to the finish line. For months now, their relationship had hit a series of lows, the lowest point being the comfortable rut they seemed to be stuck in. The routine of every day life had become so taxing on their relationship that the couple barely spoke to one another, and when they did, they were often words of frustration.  

"It does not matter what he does at this point. I think I'm the one who's romantically handicapped. We've forgotten the three most important things in our relationship; affection, attention and appreciation. We haven't had sex in months because we're either too angry at each other or too tired. We tried date night for a while but I kind of gave up on that. We just never followed through. I don't understand. He used to sweep me off my feet and make me feel special, but now I can barely remember the reasons why we fell in love in the first place."

It was a hardcore moment of truth for Sarah, a realization that their relationship was in serious trouble. Could their relationship be salvaged with a simple intimacy intervention or were they perhaps beyond romantic repair? "I've got a box full of memories from the early days including the first rose he had ever bought me. No one had ever bought me a rose before. This one time, he bought me a box of Quality Street chocolates on our 6 month anniversary which he had individually unwrapped and slipped in tiny notes of every date we had had ever had before re-wrapping them again. It was possibly the sweetest thing any guy had ever done for me. Where did all that magic go and why can't I feel it anymore?"

When your partner starts feeling like a room mate or friend with occasional benefits, it's time to get that old feeling back. Try and rediscover the reasons you fell in love with them in the first place even if it's evolved into something new. The whole process of getting your love groove back takes time. Touch, share, communicate, reconnect, compliment, appreciate. The small gestures in life are often those with the largest impact and may be the only thing capable of saving a relationship that has potential to go the distance. 

When it comes to long-term relationships, when did romance become so challenging?  

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Altered-Ego

The road to self-discovery in every woman's life can be both liberating as well as laborious. Mother, friend, wife, career girl. We're constantly changing and juggling from one persona into the next in the hopes of finally finding our true selves along the way. It takes a lot of skins to finally get there, and while the world is generally divvied up between good and bad, saints and sinners, the yin and the yang, at what point do both dualities co-exist? Is it possible, if at all realistic, to remain consistent throughout the trials and tribulations or are most of us just cleverly disguised behind a deeper, darker secret identity?

It only took a few whirls for Lynda Carter to transform into Wonder Woman, and even though her mission was to serve and protect the good of mankind, the same cannot be said about the many alter-ego's that non-fictional characters such as you and I adopt after a little hooch is added into the equation. While alcohol may impair one's judgement in most situations, it also happens to be one of the most powerful truth serums next to sodium pentothal, and just like the Gummi Bears, it usually takes a few little gulps before we're bouncing here, there and pretty much everywhere.

A reputation that took a lifetime to build can only take an instant to destroy. How many times have we woken up from a serious bender only to ask ourselves the same question that's on everybody's lips; who the hell was that last night? Suppressing one's thoughts, emotions and even one's true identity is easy to accomplish in the sobering light of day, but without a telephone booth or magical cape to hide behind, the harsh reality is that we all live a double life under the influence, which poses an even bigger question; are we really who we think and say we are or are we all just hiding behind a mask?

Miranda's 31st birthday saw four of the original Avengers reunite under one lavishly decorated Camps Bay villa which served as the official headquarters for the weekends debauchery. It was the perfect opportunity to let go and surrender to all the pressures and expectations that the awesome foursome had experienced over the past couple of months, from motherhood and matrimony to high pressured promotions and a recent parting of ways.

What started out with pretty coloured cocktails along the sunset strip ended up with several Jagerbombs, each one detonating a potent blend of drunken alter-ego's. From the North, Naughty Nina, whose super-powers allowed her the confidence and ability to flirt and rub up against anyone and anything that stood still long enough, had ended up in one of the bedrooms with a mystery man that not even she could remember. From the South, Sloppy Sarah, who had already lost her cell phone and credit card earlier that evening, continued to lose her dignity by throwing up vodka jelly all over what used to be a very expensive, and very white, carpet. Goodbye deposit and then some.

The night would not be complete without a performance from Emo Emma whose fear of being in another failed relationship had consumed her to the point of turning into the Hulk. Exit Emma and enter Angry Annie, whose public blow out with her boyfriend was so uncomfortable, that a perfect stranger had ushered her into a taxi and back to the East side where she belonged. And poor Hefty Hannah. No morsel is ever safe when she's been boozing. Instead of turning into a pumpkin, she ate one and everything else in sight. Those countless hours in the gym and week long diet programme don't mean a thing when Um-nom-nom is on the prowl.  

The cameo appearance of one's second self can be altogether frightening even if it is temporary and fuelled by body shots or mind-altering substances. While many of us believe them to be a far cry from our true and normal selves, it does make you wonder about certain truths that are buried deep inside the subconscious. Sasha Fierce, Roman Zolanski, Tannie Evita. Is the sole purpose of an alter-ego purely for entertainment or does it maybe offer an alternative reflection of our personality and to our soul?   

When it comes to drunken altered egos, is it Jekyll that we secretly Hyde from?