Sunday, 8 December 2013

Devious Maids

Whoever said modern day working girls couldn't have it all clearly hadn't discovered the role and relevance of full-time household professionals - nannies, chars, butlers, garden boys and maids. There are literally dozens of domestic drones available at our service, each one willing to perform the hideous tasks that we are either too busy or too privileged to do ourselves. They cook, they clean, they live in to care for children that aren't even theirs. They literally perpetuate the myth that our shit doesn't stink, and while the main purpose of their existence is to serve and cover up the stains of human indiscretion, just how much filth are these women willing to sweep under the rug of picket-fence living?

It's absurd to think that someone like the help could actually pose a physical threat to our relationship, especially in a country like South Africa where Grace, Beauty and Patience are names rather than actual attributes. Don't get me wrong - African women who find themselves in the cleaning profession are just as beautiful as the next and know how to look good both in and outside a uniform. It's the silent supremacist attitude and white guilt towards the previously disadvantaged that make the likelihood of coveting the help about as slim as shady, and while most South African housemaids fall short of his typical "dirty-maid" fantasy, we cannot overlook the alternative sways of seduction a housemaid might use to enslave the imagination of the misogynist mind.

Being an honourary African and everyone's favorite umlungu had granted me exclusive access into a very special club called "Ndiyaku Xelela", a pride of hard working African women employed by the wealthy, white residents of  upper and lower Constantia. For forty-five minutes every day, Vivienne, Monza, Thandeka and Precious took a much needed lunch break to gossip about their husbands, lokshini living and the dirty secrets of their pambene madams.        

"Hai, chomiwam! What she is doing is wrong and when she gets caught, yoh, yoh, yoh! There is going to be some seriaaas fire!" Today's topic of conversation was Innocentia and her apparent lack thereof. Innocentia was the newest kid on the block, a seemingly vindictive 28-year old Brandy look-a-like who started working for the Smith family in Constantia earlier this year. "These young girls know nothing wena! They come with their braids and their make-up and short skirts but they have no respect for the boss or their jobs, Tikonathi (my affectionate nickname), and that one, she is going to lose her life!"

"Xelela!" I said as Vivienne delved into the juicy details of Innocentia's affair with Oubaas Mr. Smith, an Afro-centric middle-aged man who worked as a CFO at an international export company. He did not come from money like his wife, Mrs. Smith, a snooty heiress who spent her days hosting charities and boozy lunches for the girls at book club; Mitzy, Linda and Trish.

Just like the NX Club, one of their favourite pastimes was discussing servitude and the difficulties of finding good help, a topic that Mrs. Smith revelled in for she had found the perfect Innocentia, a cleaning powerhouse that also happened to be most attractive maid on the block. While her silver was always gleaming and her floors always waxed to perfection, Mrs. Smith was blissfully unaware of the other knobs Innocentia had been polishing, including her husband's.  

"It gives us a bad name Tikonathi! How do you think they look at the rest of us? We all want nice things, but not at the expense of another woman's heartbreak, no matter how much of an injakazi she really is. This is the worst kind of stealing anyone can do. We're all women at the end of the day regardless of our profession and skin colour."

While having an affair with the maid was nowhere near as cliched (or as popular) as diddling the secretary, they certainly shared the same appeal? If you think about it, a woman that services a man in any way, shape or form is the kind of woman you swore you'd never be. Submissive, obedient, attentive. Men who find themselves in a position of power enjoy a woman who knows "her place" in life and who rarely questions a man's decisions. Innocentia is the 50's housewife dream. She cooks her master three meals a day without complaint, makes the house he paid for sparkle like the top of the ABSA building, nurses his spawn who are already bathed, fed and ready for bed so that he can relax and enjoy the whiskey she poured and the foot rub she is so willing to cater for. One has to wonder why this sort of behaviour isn't happening more often?

Affairs, filthy habits, squandering money on useless garden furniture. It's amazing how much the other woman knows about us and yet we know absolutely nothing about them. Their morals, desires, ambitions. Are they stealing money and jewellery or is it something far more valuable? What's behind the apron and the feather duster? Is she really just another hard working, under-appreciated gem who's trying to make a living out of the life she was born into or is she just a stereotypical snake in the Garden of Eve-l?

When it comes to dirty laundry, why is good help so terribly hard to find?

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