Thursday, 30 January 2014

Marco Polo

We may not know this at the time but the games we play as children are secretly life-long lessons and guidelines used to endure the sobering realities of this brand new playground called adulthood. Hop-sctoch, Hide and Seek, Snakes and Ladders. Some are more underlying than others, and while the main purpose of play is to have fun, it also teaches us about competitiveness, outcomes and disappointments; endurance, expectations and goals; strategy, what it's like to be a team player and being sporting enough to take on any challenge, regardless of whether you win or lose.

Whilst summer vacationing with Charlotte at a holiday resort in Pinnacle Point, I was forced to face one of my biggest fears: families and the evil spawn they unleash upon the world. As if getting into a bikini at the height of the festive weight-gain season and stepping out into the harsh UV rays of the sweltering African sun without sunblock wasn't bad enough, I was forced to share the air with kamikaze midgets, dive bombers and walking, breathing brat dolls, some of whom seemed way too mature for their age. I'm sure the maternal gene was buried somewhere deep inside, but when the travel agent that booked your holiday uses the word "private" instead of "communal", I couldn't help but wrap myself in a red sarong and dose up on Urbanol infused with Sauvignon Blanc! 

As I observed these relentless terrors running amok and having the time of their uncomplicated, irresponsible lives, I found myself inspired by a game they'd been playing for the past hour and a half. It seemed like an aquatic version of on-on, requiring one person to find the other without the use of vision. While the name and nature of the game reminded me of a three way I once had in Little Italy, Marco-Polo reminded me of another game we humans like to play throughout our lives. It's called The Never Ending Search For Love...

Just like this charming little past time, Marco-Polo requires a minimum of two players, one more willing than the other to throw themselves blindly into the deep until they find that special someone to call "it". While some people find their perfect catch first time, others find it difficult to keep their head above the water. Drowned by thoughts of dying alone, they often latch onto the first person that screams "Polo", thinking they've won victoriously, when in actual fact, they've only lost to the pressures that come with being thirty-several and single.

"I'm not picky, bitch. I just refuse to settle for anything less than what I deserve." Charlotte was borderline 32 and the only remaining single amidst a closely-knit circle of friends. She's been set up, hung up, stood up, beat up and still manages to muster the strength and stamina to keep going for gold. To any other girl, the pressure of not having a boyfriend or potential fiancee would have sent her flying into the arms of the nearest available, semi-decent neanderthal, but fortunately for Charlotte, she had the composure of a self-medicated psych patient. She knew her time would come, and when it did, it would most likely strike like lightning.

"When you finally find someone to share the rest of your life with, you kind of have to be in it to win. It's the only kind of love worth having. Champion love. I see so many girls my age settling with guys that make them feel miserable and unfulfilled, just for the sake of having someone with a pulse." Are we perhaps giving up on the idea of the ideal man a little too soon? Is settling down with any old guy an irrational decision we make based on fear? Are we so petrified to lose out on love, that we'd rather end up crossing the finish line with someone that we aren't that passionate about? And what about those of us who never find "it"? Do we keep circling round pools of desperation until someone eventually screams "Polo" or should we just keep swimming?   

Life's all about fun and games when you're young, pretty and reckless, but when you start reaching a certain prime and the pressure to find a partner (any partner) starts taking its toll, it's probably best to grow the fuck up. Why settle just because society expects you to marry and procreate within a certain time frame and if you think about, do we ever really die alone? True, love is blinder than an old bat on crack and at most times exceptionally unreliable, but if you listen with your heart and hear with your soul, then holding out for that special one will probably be the best decision you ever make. 

When it comes to finding love in a sea of endless possibility...Marco? Polo? 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Indie Kate

When you've been travelling down this one-way street for more than thirty-one years, you start losing sight of the things that could have been and start focusing on the bigger picture. Letting go of regret becomes much easier and we soon realise that the detours we take along the way are all part of our final destination. Before you know it, you're comfortably cruising on autopilot, planning for tomorrow and making sure that every step and decision made contributes towards the security of one's future. An affordable house, a financially secure job, mental happiness and a decent dental plan, healthy relationships, joint bank accounts and of course, frequent flyer miles. Yes, the perks of reinvention and growing up are knowing that you finally have somewhere to go and the best part about it is knowing how you're going to get there.

Sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to find themselves in life and sometimes, we come across an individual so horribly lost that it would probably take a GPS to find them. I'm not talking about your typically misguided ruffian i.e. an addict trapped inside their own tragic spin cycle (although the comparison is frighteningly similar) but the handful of people that seem genuinely stuck on something that's clearly no longer viable. Whether it's a career aspiration that never took off (and never will) or whether it's a static romance that's steadily going nowhere, we need to know when to give up and move onto the next best thing. I'm all for free spirits and dreaming large but when plan A is about as relevant as the Venga Boys and hinders the other possibilities and opportunities that lie before you, isn't it time to readjust the cognitive workings of one's mind, and one's heart?
I found Kate about two years ago at my favourite local Woolies Food Store whilst doing a little last minute Christmas shopping for our annual staff party. Amidst the rush and madness of patrons pacing back and forth, skimming the aisles for last minute specials, I stumbled upon this frumpy, woman of colour by the name of Kate. I knew this because I make a habit of reading people's name tags.

Kate, who could not have been much older than 38, was not the prettiest or smallest of women working on the floor that day, but she certainly had something about her not to mention the most welcoming smile and childlike twinkle in her eye. "May I help you?" she asked as I put on my favourite damsel in dis'dress face. "Yes, hi, I need forty Lindt Chocolate Santa's please preferably in the box so that it's easier for me to carry to the car."
"Right away." Kate moved across to the adjacent aisle where one of her male colleagues stood unpacking biscuits onto the shelves and sent him on a search and rescue mission. "This shouldn't take too long, " she said with confidence before returning to her station. "Would you like to try our gammon?"

I did want to try some gammon, and so we began making small talk while we waited for her colleague to return with my order. I soon found out that Kate was a single 43 year old mother of two that had been divorced from her deadbeat husband for nearly seven years. She was a Capricorn who had only recently started working. She had an affinity for romance novels and dreamt of writing her own book someday. I asked whether she had a real-life romance to base her novel on but she just blushed and laughed away shyly, as if I had suggested the impossible. She admitted that a big part of her had never fully recovered from her divorce and that she had felt lost and empty ever since, struggling to find purpose.

"It's much safer for me to bury myself in fiction than it is to create a brand new chapter. When you fall that hard, sometimes it's better to just lie there and do nothing." Here in the most unlikely of places and in such a short time, I was beginning to make a connection with a perfect stranger who was not only intelligent, opinionated and passionate but who also seemed to have given up on love, and life a little too prematurely. Of course it was natural for her to feel lost and meaningless, but was this dead end enough reason for her to give up completely? What was stopping Kate from steering her life towards a brand new direction? Was it better to stagnate in solace or should she be brave and look past yesterday's mistakes?

Some people really do have it all figured out and if I were them, I'd be thanking my lucky stars on the hour, every hour. For the rest of us struggling to find our purpose in life, it's okay to be a little lost from time to time but not for too long. No man or woman is an island so perhaps it's time that we allow ourselves to be found. Who knows what new experiences are waiting for us if we only have the heart and courage to rediscover.

When life throws you lemons and you're tired of drinking tequila, isn't it time for a little reinvention?


Thursday, 16 January 2014

Why Wait?

If there's one day that every girl dreams about, it’s the day she walks down that tastefully decorated church aisle towards a man whose hello was the end of her endings. Wrapped in white and quaffed to perfection; everybody worth their invitation knows that today is all about the bride. Period.

While the thought of marriage crosses my mind as frequently as Rebecca Black's Friday video, the vast majority of women out there have dreamed about their wedding day as early as they could say "I do", hoarding scrap book upon scrap book of samples from previous weddings in preparation for their very own. From colour schemes, dates and bridesmaid’s dresses to venues, menu’s and bonbonnieres. She’s got it all figured out from the guest list to the type of man she intends to marry. She's the type of girl who has it all by now, in fact, the only thing she doesn’t seem to have is the question she’s been dying to say“YES” to all her life.

Let's get real. Thirty-something year olds do not get into a relationship without the prospect or even the conversation of wanting to get married. Just like bond repayments and life policies, this is the time of our lives to get serious about things such as love and marriage, especially if you've been in a relationship for more than eighteen months. Some girls wait much longer than they actually should while other skitches are lucky enough to find a man who is far more enthusiastic about commitment than they are. These are the ones who usually find themselves married and pregnant within the first ten months of courtship. I mean, why wait, right? When you know, you know...

But what about those of us that don’t know? The ones who are happy and content with the way things are? Surely if something isn’t broke, then why the hell fix it? Isn’t marriage after all just a costly contract declaring ones love and commitment to one another in front of a room full of people we never see that often in the first place, or is it something much more than bands of gold and ceremonials? Is it more than just some childhood fantasy for certain women and if so, then why are they sticking around with men who are too afraid to take the next logical step in their relationship?   

There's definitely something in the water lately, what with two bridesmaid requests, three “Save the date” cards and two official wedding invitations. 2014 is clearly going to be a very expensive year, and while marriage was something I never really contemplated, I couldn’t help but wonder what it meant to friends like Rachel and Charlotte who always seemed to be the bridesmaids and never the bride. It was different for Charlotte who didn't seem too bothered about her single existence, but for Rachel, who had been in a relationship much longer than the recently fianceed couples, she could literally taste the bouquet.

Just like Brenda and Janna, Rachel was in her early thirties and committed to a man whom she loved and adored with all her heart. Those who know Rachel as well as I do know that she'd do anything for Ken and went to great lengths to keep him happy, from taking an active interest in his personal hobbies to putting up with his self-destructive commitment issues. She loved his flaws as much as she loved his strengths and was clearly in it for the long haul.

After nearly two and a half years of making a life together and several opportune moments where Ken could have popped the question, Rachel was beginning to wonder whether she'd missed the love boat. After years of dating loser upon loser, she had finally found a mentally stable prince and wanted to know where he stood on the topic of marriage. It wasn't as if he avoided the subject completely, he just seemed unsure, almost as if he was waiting for something better to come along.

Surely moving in together and planning for the future was a sign that he was ready to commit, so why was he delaying the inevitable? Was Ken suffering from a case of serious Peter Pan syndrome or was he just genuinely afraid of commitment? Should Rachel give him an ultimatum or would that just lead to unnecessary heartbreak? Was it time for Rachel to move onto greener pastures or should she stick it out, hoping that Ken will eventually come around?      

There are very few things in life that a woman is willing to wait for. A good cup of coffee...a great pair of jeans...a man who is able to give her multiple orgasms, but just how long should a woman wait for a marriage proposal? Twelve months? Eighteen months? Twenty-four months? Is there a certain window period before the prospect becomes null and void? Surely one could always go the unconventional route of gender-bending if they wanted it so bad or would that defeat the purpose? Do some women so desperately need the validation of having a man to love them so much that he'd be willing to give up everything for the ultimate commitment? 

When it comes to marriage proposals and when you know you won't get better than this, why the wait?