Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Mom Card

They say that there is no greater joy in life than bringing a child into this world. Some have even gone far enough to call it a gift, a miraculous life-altering event that every woman should experience at least once in her life, and one that cannot be understood or truly appreciated until you have a mini-me of your own.

Quite frankly, I can think of a million other ways of deriving joy and pleasure than nurturing a spawn of my own. The thought of sacrificing my spare time for play dates and swim meets doesn't sit well with someone who enjoys sleeping past 10am on a Saturday morning (at least for now anyway). The potty training, the screeching sound of twenty sugar hyped kids at Jimmy Jungle, sleepless nights from staying up with a snotty nosed, pink-eyed rugrat. That biological clock can tick as loudly as it wants to. I ain't budging. Call me shallow or hateful, but I quite like the smell of fabric softener on my cashmere sweater instead of the stench of lactose flavored spit up.

"Nothing is going to change. I promise you!" Famous last words used by any pregnant friend or friend with child in order to make themselves feel less guilty about the inevitable abandonment and demise of your friendship. Have you tried talking to someone with kids these days? It's either all about them, all about their child (which you really struggle to identify with) or like talking to someone with an attention deficit problem. Sure some kids are cute and have a certain charm of their own but any friend of friend with kids will tell you that the joy about being around these noisy, smelly critters is that you get to give them back at the end of the day. 

The sudden baby boom of 2015 got me thinking about relationships, particularly friendships that are unable to stand the test of time because of self-important, opinionated assholes that parenthood has the potential of turning some people into. It's easy to play the "you don't have kids so you couldn't understand" card, but at the end of the day, friendship is a two-way street. It survives on just as much mutual effort and compromise as any romantic relationship does. Yes, your life has become one big sacrifice after another, a choice you made, but does that necessarily make my life and its subsequent choices any less meaningful or important than yours? Are my accomplishments no longer important or recognized?

With great responsibility comes an even greater sense of power, not to mention, entitlement. Enter the Mom Card...

Working in an environment that's pro-family made me realize just how much a parent, especially a working mother, can get away with. While on the one hand, it might be considered a mild form of discrimination towards co-workers without kids, it's also an ingenious method of manipulation. Flexi-time, weekends at the company beach house, compassionate and paid-for maternity leave. What asshole is seriously going to say no to a sick kid? And what mother will honestly stand for it? While the mom card is highly effective in the work place and often used as collateral to get away with murder, just how acceptable is it when it comes to your social life?

Holly, Kendra and Bridget had been inseparable besties since their first year in pre-primary. They survived boys, puberty, heartbreaks, tampons, family travesties and all the other post-teen drama of the late to early 90's. Thick as thieves they were as they endured life one difficulty after the next confident that nothing and no one, not even a baby, could break these bonds of sisterhood.

Of the three, Holly was the least likely to have a baby but true to her spontaneous nature, she brought a little bundle of boy almost immediately after graduating from varsity. Being the true friends that they were, Bridget and Holly were supportive of this life choice and did everything they could to adjust to this stage in her life. They made regular visits and assisted with the baby shower, got elaborate gifts and made a pact that motherhood would never change the dynamic of their friendship.

"I'm not sure whether it was those frigid bitches from her family planning classes or those self-important housewives in Bishopscourt, but Holly had become a completely different person. It was like she had a lobotomy." According to Kendra, Holly had morphed into a super-paranoid, earth mom who refused to leave her child out of mind and out of sight. He was literally attached to her hip and sometimes, her tit for that matter. Whether kid appropriate or not, little Junior had become a regular addition to our circle of friends.

Every attempt at taking her away for some much needed "we" and "me" time got vetoed by some excuse or the other. "We tried to stage an intervention but that only aggravated the situation further. She got crazy defensive and thought we were attacking her. We have loads of other friends with kids who refuse to let motherhood affect their professional drive let alone define who they are as individuals. They also make the effort to support our life choices as well. Holly missed a number of important events in the past such as Kendra's 30th and Bridget's celebratory promotion weekend, each time throwing the mom card in our faces."

Are friends without kids fucked for life by the arrival of tiny pooping terrors? Just how much of an adjustment should friends make to cater for someone else's life choices when the actions and feelings aren't even reciprocated? Are babies and kids the death of friendship? 

"I don't think people with kids realise just how much we bend over in order to get some time with our friend. They lose themselves in this new role, completely negating who they are in the process. We worry what this is doing to her mental and physical health, not to mention her relationship with her partner. There's even a rumour going round that she's thinking of having more? Bye-bye Holly."

"You're going to make a great parent someday." Translation. Start having kids now otherwise this friendship as you know it is officially over. Hats off to anyone having a child these days. Seriously, I applaud you for having such an altruistic take on life. Kudos to you, but just because some of us haven't jumped on the bandwagon of tots and terrors doesn't mean that you need to ice us out with the "we don't understand" card. We understand perfectly well. Perhaps you're the one who doesn't understand what it takes to be the supporting friend. You are after all the one getting all the support.  Maybe one day we'll catch up but until then, we are quite happy with our noiseless, selfish and meaningless existence.

When it comes to life long friendships, what came first? The bestie or the kid?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Trev in the C.T...

They say that death and taxes are the only two things in this world that are guaranteed to us in this lifetime. It doesn't matter how safe you play the game or how dangerously you live on the edge, we are born knowing that someday, you and I are going to eventually die. It's a terrifying notion to accept, one made only worse by the fact that we never quite know when our time is up. Whether you believe it to be part of God's greater plan or whether you simply believe in fate, there's no way of escaping the inevitable hinges of deaths door. But just because we are born with this unwanted promise doesn't make it any easier when we are faced with the loss of a loved one, especially when it happens so suddenly.

Every now and then, our city suffers a loss so great that it calls for mass mourning. Whether it's a structure that once stood tall and proud or a person that touched the lives of so many with his sincerity and spirit, the thought of something or someone being permanently gone is a paralyzing one. It makes you think about life and how important it is to be kind to yourself every day. To appreciate this gift and live every second with passion and vigor. What kind of footprint do we want to leave behind and how do we want to be remembered when we go?

As I logged onto the social news bulletin known as facebook, I was shocked to discover that the world had lost one of the most beautiful souls I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. Floods of "R.I.P." messages began pouring onto my feed, tributes and condolences to a man that I once fell head over heels in love with. I was consumed with disbelief and denial. It felt like only yesterday that we had been enjoying a glass of red (as everyone knows, his signature drink) with this precious being, catching up on the years that separated us and having a smoke and a laugh at the local pub down the road. It seemed so surreal, so sad and so sudden.

I was only 19 years old when I first met Trev at a complex in Sandown which I aptly dubbed Melrose Place. I can't even remember how we met but knowing Trev, it must have been through some amazing night of dancing and drinking red wine. Although I was partly obsessed with his room mate at the time, a man whose heart had already belonged to another, it was Trev who constantly made me smile. I remember his affinity for anything ABBA, and the first time he introduced me to the real queens of pop like Cher and Madonna (vintage only). He was essentially my late 90's and opened his heart to me with as much gusto as the next bottle of wine or pack of cigarettes.

I'll never forget the night I fell in love with him. Let's face it. It's hard not to. We had all gone out to the Bronx one Friday night and he had worn an all white outfit consisting of a white jacket and white trousers that he thought was the best thing since sliced bread. Fashion is fashion. Style is style, and Trev certainly had style. It was one of those nights where one of my many attempts of getting his room mate to fall in love with me had failed dismally, and so I took comfort in Trev's fun loving (and fun living) world.

We danced to Cher's "Believe" and drank copious amounts of red wine and Hunter's Dry. We both had little side satchels in the day, the ultimate accessory to surviving the clubs of the late 90's and early noughties. I remember how he would always have just a slight tinge of rouge around his lips and teeth when he'd had one too many. But he couldn't give two fucks. Even when some callous queen knocked over his drink sending it ricocheting across his angelic ensemble, Trev still remained cool, calm and collected. As we stood in a pool of Cabernet Savignon, all we could do was laugh.

I remember the perfect cure to the next day's hangover would be to watch back to back episodes of Patsy and Eddie's outlandish adventures in AbFab. I knew then and there that I'd found a friend of quality and not quantity. As the years went by and our encounters became less and less, seeing him was always like taking a holiday for the soul. His warm, wicked smile and amazing sense of humour was always welcomed. He was eternally optimistic about everything and probably the most consistent human being I had ever had the privilege to meet.

We all fear the unknown and the point of no return to some extent, whether it's the finality and permanence that comes with death or the fear of leaving this earth with a unexceptional impression. We all want to leave a part of us behind, a legacy that's memorable and a life that was lived with love. Well my dear friend Trev who left this earth far too quickly too soon was a shining example of what legends are made of. It shows by the number of people whose lives and hearts he touched, and who are all so deeply saddened by this loss. His memory lives on with every bottle of red I open, with every AdFab rerun I'm bound to watch, but most of all, through every ABBA song I have yet to dance to. Thank you for the music friend. You will be missed.     

When it comes to life and living it to the fullest, why do the good ones always have to go first?    

This blog is dedicated to and in loving memory of one of the very first men I ever loved. My condolences to you and your family during this difficult and heartbreaking time. Trevor, may you find peace in the heavens above dancing to ABBA and being absolutely fabulous. They sure are the lucky ones now.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Shame on me

Someone wise once told me that in order to succeed in life, we need to embrace our failures and see them as stepping stones towards a greater understanding of our true character. The mistakes we make along the way and the way we pick ourselves up defines us as human beings. It's all about trial and error. The way we learn is essentially the way we are going to live, and the reality in life is that some people are better students than others. While some people are just naturally gifted at getting things right the first time around, others require a more cautious, steadier approach. Step by step, fall by fall until we finally master the challenge at hand.  

But then you get those who never learn, the ones who find themselves stuck in a cycle of their own circumstance. Poor unfortunate souls who believe that life is one big revolving door, spinning round and round in circles with no break on the other side. Instead of learning from their mistakes and taking responsibility in a healthy, mature manner, they bang head to wall over and over again until finally concussing themselves into a coma of their own wallowing pity and self-despair. We've all been there at some point, and while most of us manage to pull ourselves up and out, there are those who fail to acknowledge the consequences of their own shitty choices and situations.   

Being thirty something and single for the first time in five years got me thinking about failed relationships and the things we do to avoid the inevitable feelings of pain, loss and failure. There's the name and shame game in which we blame our former lover for everything that's gone wrong in our lives including the wonderful relationship that you once shared. Let's face it...someone's always got to be the bad guy no matter how amicable the relationship ends. While that kind of behaviour may be tolerable when you're sweet and twenty, it sure as hell ain't cute and nothing short of fucked up when you're supposed to be a mature adult dealing with your own personal issues.

Another personal favorite is avoidance. The classic art of jumping from one relationship to the next thinking that it'll miraculously heal the wounds of your broken heart without taking the time to reflect on what just happened. The ones who sleep better at night convincing themselves that they're in love again when in actual fact they're petrified of facing the reality of loss. Is it possible that we avoid reflection because of the horrifying truths and imagery that might stare back at us? Nobody really wants to admit defeat or take responsibility for failure. Everybody loves a winner, but are we really winning if we fail to acknowledge the fact that the problem could actually be you? 

There's nothing like a little time alone to reflect on the ghosts of relationships passed. Big, Steven, Jay and now Aiden. Each ex uniquely different from the next physically, mentally and emotionally. Each one evoked a different kind of love and subsequently, a different kind of pain when they eventually ended. The only common thread amongst these three men (besides a dick between their legs) was a failed relationship with me and the set of standards and expectations they could never achieve. Had I set each of these relationships up for failure without even knowing it? Had my incessant need to control and mold things into my own delusional reality of relationships ruined the joy and spontaneity of being in love? Was it really me all along? 

Looking back, I played the blame game exceptionally well. It was after all the human thing to do. It was easier to blame Big because of his womanizing ways and commitment phobia, or Steven because he just disappeared off the face of the planet, came back and then disappeared all over again. I really dodged a bullet with Jay, the compulsive liar with a drinking problem who wanted me to relocate to Rustenburg. Had these men scarred me so badly that the only way I felt I could heal was to jump into the next best thing? Emotionally damaged men who needed the power of my love to heal instead of actually healing myself? Would I continue to follow the same patterns and make the same mistakes now that I'd had this daunting yet refreshing epiphany? Or would I finally see it as a lesson learned?

If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, your lungs are going to turn black. If you eat a big mac meal for lunch everyday, you're going to get morbidly obese. If you keep pushing someone you supposedly love into being something that suits your ideals and not theirs, you're going to lose them forever. Instead of accepting the fact that we are all human beings bound to make mistakes along the way, we will never truly progress and succeed in love. 

When it comes to understanding our own flaws and weaknesses, I couldn't help but wonder, when will we ever learn?

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Daddy Issues

Once upon a time in a prehistoric mindset, before gender equality existed and sisters were doing it for themselves, a man was referred to as 'hunter'. Strong, powerful, virile man-beasts whose sole purpose was to provide, breed and protect the supposedly weaker and lesser sex. It was a victorious time for men, a time where the size of his loin cloth was measured against his primal prowess and the ability to make fire. He was without a doubt the King of the cave, the ultimate object of desire, a god amongst the gatherers, a Cro magnon cutie whose brutality commanded the attention of their female counterpart. How times have changed...

Flash forward to the present where modern-day men are no longer required to act like apes in order to get a female to notice them. Those who managed to hop on board the evolution express will soon realise that a modern day gal is more likely to choose her mate based on intelligence, EQ and the ability to make her feel loved and wanted. Raw brawn and muscle, although extremely easy on the eyes, are no longer the same ideals we hold as our prehistoric predecessors once had, especially when it comes to procreation and starting a family.

It's no secret that bringing a child into the world can take a serious toll on one's relationship. Something inside a woman changes not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically. In this Oedipal twist of events, a man can suddenly become obsolete, no matter how supportive or caring he may be during and after the gestation period. It's almost as if she becomes the hunter, ready to protect and strike at any threat that comes in between her and her child. The world suddenly revolves around this tiny little bean growing inside your belly leaving little to no time for the man that helped you create this special gift, and while women certainly do carry the bigger share of the burden, I couldn't help but wonder...where does it leave the man?

It's a very rare occasion that you hear a man's honest perspective on fatherhood and the challenges he faces both personally and collectively. Not only is his life about to change forever, particularly from a time and financial point of view, but also from a priority perspective. His needs no longer take precedence, and while a woman finds this much easier to accept for some biological reason unknown to man, the pressure to provide all types of support for the next eighteen years can easily send a man into an early mid-life crisis.

Whilst having my usual double skinny latte at the local Vida, I locked eyes with a tall handsome stranger staring at me from across the room. He had a boyish smile that lit up his muscular visage and he could not have been older than 37. He'd noticed me glancing over at him for quite some time until he finally swaggered on up towards me. He was confident in his approach and introduced himself as Doc Martin.

We developed a friendship over the next few weeks in which I would vent to him about my tragic relationship woes in exchange for an inside look at the life of a married man struggling to deal with the pressures of being a dad and the effects it had on his relationship.

"It's no wonder so many men in my situation cheat on their spouses. Their ego needs the validation. They become so subordinate and forgotten to this new love in her life, so secondary and unimportant. I know this sounds selfish but men also need to hear how attractive and important they are from time to time. Women expect it constantly and we tell them what they want to hear even when they're 10 kilos overweight and bloated from pregnancy. We embellish because it makes them feel special and loved. It's such a double standard, one that can seriously damage the intimacy in your sex life not to mention ruin an already fragile ego." 

Who'da thunk? Do men secretly feel insecure and threatened by the relationship between a mother and child? Was Doc Martin simply acting like a little boy bitch looking for tea and sympathy to entertain his pity-party for one or was there something seriously unspoken about the neglect men feel in this type of situation? Were daddy's issues the real deal or were they just an excuse to justify the behaviour that comes with your typical mid-life crisis? Has the need for a more emotionally in tune man threatened the traditional traits of masculinity or are some men just as sensitive as women?

"If you ever want to put your relationship to the test, have a kid. They zap every, single, little bit of energy out of you. There's no time for anything else other than the routine you have in place, especially when you both work for a living. Don't get me wrong, I love the little fucker but I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and just go back to a time where I did not have to feel guilty for wanting some quality me time. Your life becomes consumed by this unstoppable force and all your needs and goals get put on the back burn because you just don't have the time for anything else."

Not making enough time for yourself as well as your partner is a common relationship mistake that most of us make, and a sure fire way to end even the strongest of unions. We are all individuals who have needs and in order to make a partnership work, we need to respect, acknowledge and support those needs, especially when you decide to add one to the equation. Regardless of gender or sex, both man and woman will be challenged in ways they never thought possible. It's finding the strength to work together during these trying times that will keep the fire that you both started burning. 

When it comes to defending the caveman, is it absolutely necessary to put daddy in the corner?