Thursday, 27 February 2014

Straight Talk

It's a little known fact that we fear the things we don't understand most, whether it's something mentally taxing such as ergonomics or something that requires more physical effort. While plunging into the deepest, darkest caverns of the unknown can be extremely liberating it can also be treacherous, especially when the uncertainty that leaches onto it conjures up such negative sentiments. Instead of exploring the various vehicles of expression we tend to retreat in the safety of suppression at the slightest shudder of discomfort. And why wouldn't we? As if acknowledging these awkward feelings and emotions wasn't challenging enough, enduring the constant ridicule and shame associated with it is enough to warrant the cowardice of so many closeted cases.

If discrimination were a celebrity, homosexuality would be Jennifer Lawrence right now and Paris Hilton ten years ago. The hatred towards gay, lesbian and transgender communities is in full swing, from the infringement of basic human rights in Russia to the nonsensical and barbaric acts of torture in Uganda and Nigeria. Why isn't really the most disturbing question of them all, but how. How is it possible for human beings to be so cruel and inhumane especially in nations that once suffered and continue to suffer the same kind of social injustices? Somewhere out there, Alanis Morissette is strumming an acoustic guitar and singing "isn't it ironic, don't you think?" Just when you think we've taken two steps forward, here we go taking ten steps back.

Faggot. Queer. Homo. Dyke. Whoever said that words could never harm clearly chose the righteous path of heterosexuality, and while that may have been their choice to make, why should citizens of the rainbow nation be scrutinized for making theirs? Religious right wingers and patriotic preservationists can argue all they want about God creating Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve but at the end of the day, the biggest message in that little black book is quite clear; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Surely that means treating one another with the same amount dignity and respect as the next person irrespective of their sexual preference? You don't see homosexual's dragging straights out onto the street and forcing them to have intercourse, do you? Is finding similarity in difference such a daunting thought to fathom? Since when did love become such a heinous crime? Does the world require a higher level of education on the matter or are some people just unwilling to accept that maybe, just maybe, we are not as different from one another as we think?

"So how do you guys have sex?" "I think my friend may be gay, do you know him?" "But how do you know you're gay if you haven't tried it?" These are just some of the questions that Ray and Rob have to endure on a regular basis by inquisitive ignoramuses who are too afraid of googling a decent gay porn site. Ray, a 42 year old IT specialist, and Rob, a 38 year old civil engineer were very much like your average couple. They'd gotten married the minute it became legal, had bought a number of properties that their hard-working lifestyles could afford and had hopes of retiring on a small farm in the middle of the Karoo. 

Contrary to popular belief, they did not spend their weekends cruising for three-ways and cocaine, swinging off disco balls to rave music and mincing to disco divas such as ABBA, Cher and Madonna. Like most mature hetero's who've parted ways with nights of over-indulgence and non-stop partying, those days were merely a phase best left in the 90's. They were far more excited about the next chapter of their lives; fatherhood. After a painful process of trying to find a surrogate, they decided to give adoption a try and were weeks away from being the legal guardians of a beautiful Haitian girl, called Tallulah. 

"Of course it's going to be hard especially in this day and age. Ray's parents still don't talk to him because of his "life choices". It's the same as if a boere-meisie with an NG Kerk background decided to fall in love with a Muslim. We're always going to deal with taunts and judgement, whether it comes from friends and family or even the rest of the world."  Is this the kind of world they want to bring their child up in? A place where hatred and prejudice still reign supreme?

"Ray was against the whole idea at first. He did not want to become a parent because he did not want his child to go through the same ridicule he went through. Imagine being the only child in school with two daddies. If you think the kids of our generation were bad, you should hear some of the things they say and do now, and with Youtube and public humiliation., it's beyond vindictive. The world always needs someone to hate. Today it's the gay's, tomorrow the Jews, next week the Arabs. We're the perfect target. I know how scared he is about this decision but at the end of the day my child will be no different to the child born unto a hetero couple. If anything she'll know more about love and respect than any child could ever dream of and my only wish is for her to pass that knowledge onto her own children. That's all."

Why is my son gay? Why does she like girls? Why is the sun hot? Who the fuck still cares! If we all want the same thing at the end of the day, what difference does it make? Whether you're gay or straight, no-one has the right to undermine your life choices or make you feel any less human for loving someone that doesn't fit into a conventional mould. Sticks and stones can definitely break a bone or two but people are using bricks and fire to hurt the ones that represent their own insecurities and ignorance. If they could only look deep enough into the mirrors of their soul, they'd be able to see that part of you is actually the best part of them.

When it comes same sex relationships, is sexual discrimination the new black?   

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Client Service

When you find yourself working in a white-collar sweat shop or any kind of service orientated industry, the lines between business and pleasure can often be blurry. It's no longer just about making the sale anymore; it's about actively nurturing and maintaining the relationships that come with it. Sometimes it requires the occasional round of golf or that five-star schmooze-cruise on a rented yacht followed by complimentary shots of tequila and lap dances by Mavericks' finest. Spa treatments, boozy sushi lunches and complimentary giveaways are just some other tools used to gain momentum in the race to senior approval. Having the understanding that business relations relies heavily on keeping your client happy is crucial to the path of success, even if it means entertaining throughout non-billable working hours.

It comes as no surprise that in order to get ahead in business, one needs to make certain concessions and sacrifices that sometimes compromise our values and moral integrity. When you're young, motivated and mounting the corporate stepper of success, a die-hard approach and willingness to go above and beyond the client's needs will get you much further than your competitor ever dreamed of. It also manages to get the shareholder's attention. Suddenly, you've got game and no one is really questioning why or how you got it. All they care about are the six-figure accounts that keeps coming in making their pockets fatter.

So how does one become "the one to keep an eye on"? Is it all about the hard yards, long hours and ethical ethos that keep you in the running or is it one's ability to tap into their client's personal interests? And what if those interests are clearly unsavoury and slightly inappropriate? Can sex be construed as a weapon of choice in the professional arena or does it completely violate the professional code of business conduct? It's always been easier for boys to dazzle their clients with their toys, but for an ambitious businesswoman up against some stiff competition, why shouldn't she tap into all of her god-given resources? All work and no play make Jack a dull boy but does it necessarily make Jackie a slut? When hard work and research fail to pay off in a male-dominated society, should we fall back on charms and good old fashioned hair flips?

"The service industry is no better than one big prostitution ring. Where there's a client in need, there's a pimp to send in some whore willing enough to bend over and take it." Anna Banana, a 31 year old TV producer at a local ad agency, had discovered that the key to her success meant taking one for the team from time to time and understanding that the client always comes first, no matter how inappropriate the proposition. She was tired of missing out on career opportunities to male juniors that worked half as hard in twice the time all because she didn't have a dick or a platinum membership to Teazer's, Durbanville.

While the moral integrity of mixing business with pleasure at this kind of level seems indecent and what sexual harassment cases are made of, I couldn't help but wonder just how effective Anna's techniques were. "I'm not saying you have to have sex with every single client that walks through the office door, but just allude to the fact that sex might be on offer. Make yourself available in every way. There's nothing wrong with using one's sexual prowess to get ahead in your career. Sex is just another form of power that needs to be exerted for some kind of satisfactory gain."

"I was 26 years old when I went on my first client dinner with a Brit. The senior VP's had made all the arrangements at his favourite restaurant and told me to throw on some make up and dazzle. I went in there not knowing that I had broken the first rule of schmoozing which is never to talk shop in a leisurely setting. I could see that I was losing him so I immediately stopped babbling about business and ordered another bottle of his favourite Grenache and quite literally let my hair down. Now that got his attention."

"We spoke about his interest in cars and the stock market, fine wine and Europe and I felt myself finally making a personal connection with him. It started feeling less of a business transaction and more of a date."

"We continued our bonding session with a little bit of dancing and more alcohol in the form of J├Ąger bombs. The next thing I knew we were back at the hotel in his suite fucking like animals. The sex was great but extremely surreal. I was so mortified about the whole experience that I casually slipped away in a walk of shame thinking, 'shit Anna, you blew it!' and I literally did. Later that afternoon, blood shot and spun out, my boss came over and shook my hand. "Good work, Anna. We landed the account.". He knew my name. Seconds later I received a text message saying, "thanks for the great time you crazy bird. I look forward to doing business with you :)"

There's a reason it's called an "Old Boy's Club" and just like the great Lily Allen once said, "it's hard out here for a bitch." You've gotta do what you gotta do to survive. While most women wouldn't dream of crossing the line of professional misconduct, using one's sexual allure in the realm of business can prove to be very effective. Whether it's as innocent as alluding to the idea of sex or going the whole nine yards is entirely up to you. At the end of the day we're all getting screwed or giving some form of head in order to get ahead.

When it comes to client service, I couldn't help but wonder...just how far are we willing to bend over?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Very First Valentine

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? No. Is it a plane? Hell no. It's Cupid bitch...that winged little freak whose aim is about as straight as Ryan Lewis and Macklemore's performance at the Grammys. She's back to taunt us with her nonsensical fuckeries and seems to be even more drunk on love than ever before. Our universal mascot of romance stops at nothing to remind us that a life without love is no life at all. As if we really needed the reminder, what with all the recent marriage proposals, random hook-ups and "in-a-relationship" statuses. There's no doubt about it: love has made a graceful comeback and it's putting the Cadbury-endorsed eunuch back in business.  

V-Day! V-Day! V-Day! It has to be the most atrocious display of cult consumerism known to man; a pseudo-holiday that has singles seeing red and couples seeking therapy due to the mixed signals their partners keep giving off during this time of year. "We don't have to do anything this year, my love" = "You better be taking me to Pot Luck fuckhead!"; "I really don't want anything babe = I can't believe you didn't get me anything, asshole!";"Everyday with you is Valentine's Day = I deserve diamonds!" Let's face it - it was bound to lose its meaning someday, along with all the other bullshit holidays that have conveniently lost their way in transaction. As if heart-shaped missives and entertainment bills that break the bank actually reflect one's feelings towards their significant other. I mean how superficial can we get?

It's almost refreshing to see more and more smart shoppers catching onto to the whole charade by avoiding the ridiculous tradition altogether. For me, if my significant other brought home a sushi platter number 4 with extra soy sauce and the latest episode of Walking Dead, I would literally give him sex for months. Instead of splurging an obscene amount of money on expensive gifts and lavish eateries, cost-cutting couples are starting to realise that Valentine's Day is more about spending time with your lover and celebrating the person they are and not the product they buy.

Perhaps the only exception is the virgin Valentine. You know, that vulnerable little girl sitting at the back of homeroom eating her feelings and secretly longing for someone to pass her a secret love note, fragrant and sweetly sealed with a kiss. The nerd who finally gained the confidence to ask the popular girl out on a date only to be shot down in a puddle of public ridicule. The young woman who blossomed in life and became aware of her inner-beauty, which transcended outwardly to the point of finally attracting someone worth all that love?

Now that Miranda had officially made it into Club 1402 (an exclusive place where giant teddies, clouds of haze and long-stem roses were part of day-to-day realities), she was never letting go. At the tender age of thirty-four, Mir was in love and about to experience her very first Valentine's Day. At last, it was her turn to be pampered with flowers, chocolates and musical greeting cards - not the kind that go on discount the very next day. She could drink red wine and listen to Endless Love underneath the stars while enjoying a picnic that her "boyfriend" (OMG!!! #Excited) had thoughtfully arranged without her knowledge. She could hold hands and take long walks on the beach with someone other than her poodles, Fido and Frenchie.

"I know it sounds corny but I am freaking out about what to get him. I just want it to be special, you know, because he is special and he makes me feel special." Yip, this is what singles and couples in long-term relationships have to endure every Valentine's Day when a single friend suddenly finds a lover. We do it because we genuinely care and also, because once upon a time, this was us. 

As I heard Miranda gush about her V-Day plans, I couldn't help but wonder whether couples in long-term relationships have disregarded the value of Valentine's Day or whether they were just over the hype. When did it lose its simplicity? Did it take someone who had never experienced the joys of receiving a rose to remind us about the true meaning of Hurricane Cupid? Have we forgotten how to appreciate that special person in our lives for all the happiness they bring to it or should we use this opportunity to reaffirm our love and devotion? Do we still see ourselves through the eyes of someone else, realising just how special we actually are? Bet that candlelit dinner by air balloon looks pretty silly right now...

While St. Valentine and his chubby little sidekick get a lot of flack for perpetuating the myth that love should be expressed through material means, it's also a reminder to celebrate the person you love. It's perfectly normal for first-timers to go overboard with dramatic bouquets, sexy lingerie and "I heart you forever" hallmark cards, because we were there once too. While the novelty of such things may have worn off, to the virgin valentine embarking on her maiden voyage, it's pretty freaking awesome! If you've never had a Valentine in your life, then by all means embellish. You know you've waited all your life for this moment, so go ahead...be in love.

When it comes to Valentine's Day, could the cynics and haters for once in their lives, please shut the hell up?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lemon, Lemon, Lemon

If you ever feel like truly testing your luck in life, why not take a drive downtown to one of our country's very own sin cities. Montecassino, Grand West, Emperor's Palace. A metropolis of entertainment, bright lights, high rollers and Sunday buffets. A dazzling place where one's destiny can change at the spin of a wheel; where handsome croupiers know how to play their cards right and a good bluff could save your ass when the chips are down. Of course, the gaming industry is nowhere near as glamorous as Las Vegas. You can bet your bottom Man-dollah that you won't find patrons in designer couture or suave tuxedos like Casino Royale. You're more likely to come across a bunch of old maids and addicts sitting around slot machines in sweats and sneakers, sipping on Savannah Lights and chain-smoking until their luck has run out. It's a pensioner's paradise.   

While blowing away one's hard-earned cash on something as frivolous as a slot machine may seem like fun and a good night out, I couldn't help but wonder about love and its relation to gambling. Every day, we place our hearts on the table, betting against each other in a war of wits for the grandest prize of all: to be loved. It doesn't matter how high the stakes are. When fate throws us one relationship after the next, we're going to keep playing until we finally hit the cosmic jackpot. It's the ultimate gamble for the ultimate prize, and sometimes, not everybody wins. Personality, attractiveness, charm and grace. While winning the game requires a certain amount of skill and expertise, having the right cards at the right time can definitely work in one's favour. 

But what about those of us who struggle to accept the crappy hand they've been given? The unfortunate few that are so miserably unlucky in life and in love? Do they shoot the dealer in a friendly game of Russian Roulette or do they just keep spinning until they win? Do they ever win? Surely everybody deserves love in it's purest form so why are there so many losers out there? Is life one big game of craps for them or will they eventually score? Is it all about patience and perseverance or does it boil down to single strokes of luck that only few possess? 

Frederika Van Rooyen wasn't lucky or looking for love when she found it. In fact, Fiddy (a name that only her nearest and dearest adopted) seldom gave love the time of day because of her hectic work schedule as an aspiring partner at one of the city's leading law firms. The universe may have dealt her brains, ambition and intellect in abundance, but what she really lacked and secretly longed for was personality, confidence and self-appreciation. I'm not going to lie; Fiddy is what you call a five in the looks department no matter how hard she tried. Never in a million years would you place your bets on her being so lucky in love. 

One day, a multimillion-heir from Amsterdam walked into her office in search of someone who could bring down a crooked accountant who had been swindling him out of his family fortune for years. His name was Hans and he was rather hans-ome. There was a quirkiness about him that only Europeans possess which Fiddy found refreshing and interestingly appealing. All of sudden those high school butterflies started flitting around in her stomach. She thought, "it couldn't be, not after all these years of tragic misfortunes and rotten luck?"

Because Fiddy was a genius at what she did, she won the case hands down and made both the client and the law firm a shit load of money. In the process, she made herself junior partner. She was slightly relieved when the whole case was over. It meant that she could get her head out of the clouds and back into reality.

The very next day, she received the most exquisite bouquet of long stemmed roses, yellow, her favourite, with a card from Hans asking her to join him for dinner at 8pm at one of the city's most opulent eateries - you know, the kind that needs a minimum of 4 weeks notice to get a reservation. She thought long and hard about this and decided that it would be rude to pass up this opportunity. It was probably nothing more than a thank you for all the long hours and hard work she had put into the case.

It was Friday night, so she expected the diner to be chock-a-block full of the city's trendy elite. As if she wasn't anxious enough, but when she arrived, there was not a soul in sight. "Welcome, Ms. Van Rooyen. May I take our coat?" purred the Maitre'd. Did Fiddy fall down the rabbit hole? She hesitated for a while as she considered that she might be the victim of some cruel hoax, but there sitting on the far end of the restaurant at a candle-lit table overlooking the mother city, was Hans. Had he bought out the entire restaurant for this one night? WTF?!

"Good evening, Frederika. You look spectacular!"

It was the beginning of a remarkable friendship-turned-romance, a slow but instant win after so many losing streaks. Yes, Hans could probably afford a tiny island with pet tigers and a private landing strip, but behind all that worldly wealth was warmth and personality. He was courteous, kind and an absolute gentleman. Fiddy had no idea what to expect out of this sudden twist of fate. At first, she thought he was some kind of sick Christian Grey-like character with too much money and a bizarre fetish for women that weren't 36-24-36's, but after a while, she realised that she actually scored a soul mate who loved her just the way she was, for her perfections and her imperfections. Isn't that life's biggest prize at the end of the night?

No one really understands the ins and outs of that twisted bitch called Lady Luck. She doth giveth and can thus taketh as often and as freely as she wants, and sometimes her generosity is far more favourable to some than it is to others. Whether it's written in the stars or just pure dumb luck, the only way to win is if we keep rolling the dice until we eventually hit the big time. Just like the many casino's in the world, love can be found everywhere, in different states and in different places. Isn't it time we placed out bets?  
  
When it comes to life's greatest gamble - lemon, lemon, lemon?