28

I pray for the strength to keep choosing myself in the morning

I just turned 28.

I don’t ever actually feel older on my birthday or obsess about how much time I don’t have left do arrive wherever. But rather, I use the day (and many days that follow) as a period of reflection. To ask myself whether I would live the year that has gone by differently. I ask myself if I would have chosen differently and whenever the answer is yes, I ask myself why I didn’t do so in the first place. I don’t believe in lying to myself and whilst I appreciate the uselessness of the feeling of regret, I experience it often. I assume it is a consequence of living recklessly. Of fighting the urge to ‘do the right thing’ or ‘behave’. I have lived a large portion of my life conforming to rules and regulations put in place by people who no doubt had the best intentions for me. The truth is that, for the most part, those rules and regulations built a dissatisfied, suppressed woman who lived life counting regrets and colouring her imagination with all the things she could have been and done had she been allowed to break free of the shackles of ‘proper’ behaviour. This is not to say that the woman I am today cannot be attributed to those rules. I am the jewel of my parents’ ‘Parenting Awards’ and the unreasonable standard against which other people’s children are measured. More recently, I have become a standard many of these children shake their heads at and whisper ‘if only you knew who she really was‘ about.

A few years ago, I started loving without caution. Giving of myself without worrying too much about whether or not my heart could survive the end of all the love I wasn’t getting in return. Turns out my heart is strong enough to rebuild. To love and die over and over again. My heart has miraculously managed to survive all the lovers who ran through it with spears and guns and other women carried in their back pockets. I’m not saying the bleeding was fun, or even that it has stopped. I am sometimes reminded of the wars I lost by the scars that rear their heads when someone scratches a little too close to where the hurt took place. Some days, I have to change bandages and relive the trauma that caused the wounds. And on some days, the trauma is beautiful. Some days I wallow in the pain because the ecstasy that lined the pain brought such vivid joy and laughter that sitting in it, for even a moment, feels like what I imagine dancing at the foot of a rainbow in the middle of a storm does. Like all the winds are worth the glory of experiencing that miracle.

I also started writing a book. And because I fell in love somewhere along the way, writing the book has become a laborious endeavour. I often put pen to paper to recount the times I sat in basements weeping over love I would never have and am reminded that I now have a love I never imagined could belong to me. That the same person who got high off of imagining living single forever and chasing adventures alone is suddenly troubled by the thought of the limitations love has brought. Can I say this? Can I think this? Am I selfish for refusing to erase the many times love found me before this? I almost feel ungrateful when I sit in that dark place and talk to myself of the agony I want to share with girls like me. Girls who loved carelessly and then turned to ask the Universe why caution left their vocabulary so willingly. Girls who built personas that told the world they were invincible yet steadily felt their veins pump the evidence of their mortality on a daily basis.

I hope I finish the book.

More than that, I hope to accept myself as a person who can feel all the emotions I feel without guilt. I hope to write again without hesitation. I hope to share the things I need to let out without fear. Isn’t it funny? That love can be the biggest liberator but because of yin and yang, it can also tie down and hold back bits of you.

I just turned 28.

And I think this year is going to be one of great accomplishments. The things I want to do are many. The places I want to see are plenty. And it warms my heart that I get to enter another year with so much love in my life. From Fave Human,  to my new friends, to my old friends. Love from my blood family to my online family – some of which I may never meet. I also pray for the strength to keep choosing myself in the morning and choosing myself at night. For strength to refuse to regress to a place where the voices in my head weren’t just mine. I pray that I remain me, at the core. The me I want to be, to be seen as and remembered as. I feel hopeful, for another year of writing material, more money (please Jesus), deeper and stronger roots – unwavering in the face of uncertainty.

Me
28

Happy birthday Me.

Love,

The Empress xx

Of Love and Timetables

Love as and when love presents itself

Love has no rules

I remember being fifteen or so and borrowing a copy of True Love magazine from a friend at school and taking it home for a thorough reading, as well as to add my own dogears to the pages that showcased clothes and makeup I liked. I hid it behind my bed and hoped my ever busy mother would give my room a reprieve from its weekly poke and prod. I recall starting on an advice column where one question concerned the relationship mourning period. I can’t tell you the response that the asker was given because shortly after I began reading the column, my mother walked in on me quietly huddled in the corner of my room and took possession of my contraband reading material. Many Black-Mother-Questions followed.

“Where did you get this?

“What do you know about true love?

“I don’t tolerate this filth in my house”

et cetera.

Mother took possession of the magazine and I automatically forfeited the following week’s pocket money to the owner of the magazine. Also, people stopped lending me things. So, there’s that. I don’t know that I thought about that column again until some time in my early twenties when love and the rules of affection became the primary subjects of all my girltalk. As people, we are raised to consume information and apply it, regardless of its accuracy. Our backgrounds determine how we see and interpret the world. We therefore, have a varying understanding of love and what a healthy relationship looks like. The toxicity of women being raised to be the primary lovers and carers of others has coloured the love lives of women across the spectrum, and far too many of us share scarily similar stories about emotional abuse, or what we have come to describe as simple misfortune when it comes to affairs of the heart. Too many of us probably share the belief that jumping from one relationship (whether exclusive or not) to another is unwise and that the Pause Button must be pressed and held down for *insert arbitrary period of time* before we can entertain another suitor, or other suitors.

So, when is it socially acceptable to move on to another love(r)?

If you had asked me this question when I was twenty two and staring at the bottom of some bottle or glass, nursing another broken heart, I would have told you that I don’t know, but certainly more than a month. And the arbitrary selection of 30+ days would have been born of having heard women from all walks of life preach about respectability and the best means of avoiding the oh so horrendous slut shaming. I would continue to rebuff any advances from boys I liked simply because the rules said I needed to wait. Until I walked into a local pub a few weeks after the heartbreaking took place to find the heart-breaker firmly attached at the lips to a pretty (I mean stunning) girl with whom I had shared a cab a few times after a quiet night had taken a sudden turn and liquor had taken the steering wheel. (Goodness, the betrayal.)

It hit me then that men are not conditioned to pause after the end of any dalliance and that it is their right to satisfy any and all cravings related to sex and attraction, regardless of the time that has lapsed between the ending of one thing, and the sudden appearance of a new option. I’ll skip past the embarrassing shot taking and awkward gyration in between Foosball and pool tables in a poor attempt to remind him what he was missing out on.

*cringes for the ages*

Fast forward to today, 27 years old and a healthy number of notches on my bedpost, I can categorically state that the mourning period preached by all the people is unmitigated bullshit. The idea that everyone in the world’s love life is governed by an identical set of rules which were thumbsucked by goodness knows who is comical to me (now). With the myriad (I’m gesticulating fiercely in my head right now) of relationship dynamics which exist, it cannot simply be true that we ALL are reading from the same rule book. It’s implausible that Simone in Geneva and Khanyisile in Delaware and every other girl whose name is Jennifer, all wait *arbitrary time period* before entertaining the next one. It’s equally ridiculous that even if they do not, that they SHOULD.

Love and attraction are not living breathing entities which operate on a scheduled time table. The simple fact that infidelity is common on earth is testament to the fact that one can be attracted to more than one individual simultaneously. Affairs that exist parallel to marriages for lifetimes speak to the fact that one can love more than one person at the same time. Whether the above are socially acceptable or evidence of our morally bankrupt society is neither here nor there.  One can fall out of love with X today and meet his/her next soulmate by supper time, and it’s nobody’s business whether or not they pursue those feelings.

As an active member of the Twitterverse, I’m constantly crying a little inside at the “advice” doled out freely about how we need to heal ourselves before embracing love. How selfish it is to move onto a new love without closure and intense introspection and and and… Imagine how many of us would have missed out on the loves of their lives had we waited until we weren’t as broken or were a little less hurt by our immediate pasts. How many of us have been carried from the dark place by a little kindness and attention? How many of us have found healing in a new love?

Love as and when love presents itself.

Take it with both hands and ride the wave until it can no longer carry you.

The Empress.

 

Forgotten Summers

never more than this

Excited, she wrapped a dark brown sarong around her waist and paired it with a matching vest. 37 degrees outside meant it was impossible to wear much else. She yanked on her only thong – a pink lacey thing that cousin Nathi had smuggled her during the Christmas holidays. She had spent an hour wondering how she was supposed to wear it as it sat in between her but cheeks in the most rude manner. The thing rode up her buttcrack and annoyed her to no end, but the smut she and her dorm mates read under the duvets with the lights from the screens of their contraband cellphones after lights out told her that this is what men liked.

They had slowly progressed from stolen kisses behind houses after parties to similarly stolen caresses in corridors or outside each other’s gates. Family friends. Nobody would’ve suspected anything untoward was going on when the phone would ring and he would asked for her after politely thanking her father for the lift home earlier that day.   “Never more than this”, he would whisper, whilst lifting whatever t-shirt she was wearing that day.

She made short work of the one and a half kilometre walk to the dams and giggled as he sauntered up to her, gave her an aggressive kiss, circled her waist as he always did, and pressed her smaller body against his. She imagined one day she would enjoy the exchanges as much as she enjoyed the way his hands felt when they slid into her panties. She grimaced inwardly until the exchange was over. She’d gladly endure this to feel that pleasure. It was the height of summer in her second last year of secondary school  and sun rays were dancing in between the trees, dappling the undergrowth and the well-worn footpaths. Her pulse quickened as they approached ‘their bench’, forcing her to direct extra effort at answering his questions about her day.

The bench was a solitary one, placed there as if for sneaking lovers who had nowhere else to share their secrets. It was positioned in the most confusing manner, facing neither the water nor anything else worth staring at. The shrubs and trees that surrounded the space served as a private enclosure. He gently but emphatically pulled her onto his lap, straddling him, face to face. Her resolve to breathe easy failed. Dismally. If her dark skin could blush, she was sure she would be the colour of the slightly ripe tomatoes weighing down her mother’s plants in the garden. He tugged her head down and kissed her again. She counted in her head as she waited and like clockwork, 22 seconds later, his right hand snaked into the parting which opened over her left thigh and stroked that soft place. Gently at first, then with a strange urgency that he had never exhibited before. He didn’t even notice the pink underwear she had so deliberately donned to impress him. He tilted her back and reached into his tracksuit bottom’s waistband and pulled out his ‘friend’. She had never seen it before and almost fell off his lap at the reveal.

He must have sensed her fear and withdrawal and quickly rubbed her lower back and whispered the familiar “never more than this”.

When she felt the sharp pain she knew what had happened. The fog of confusion and pleasure immediately cleared and she jumped off his lap and battled with the tears and the knife of betrayal slowly twisting in her gut. Her heart. He mumbled what could have been words of remorse or comfort, but she heard nothing through the roaring in her ears. She pulled her underwear into place and as she raised her hand, saw the evidence of her trauma on her fingers. She wiped vigorously on the flimsy material which clothed her as he stood up and righted his trousers.

“You should go home.”

She did. He walked with her in silence until the entrance to the nature reserve and disappeared the way he came. The cars driving past were a blur. The barking dogs which yelped from behind high gates and walls did not register. Even the customary catcalls from the neighbourhood gardeners did not make her skin crawl the way they usually did. The tears had long stopped as she entered the house. The renovators were still busy so she could not shower for at least another hour. She changed panties and wrapped the soiled lace in newspaper and plastic, the way her mother had taught her to wrap her blood every month and deposited it in the outside bin.

As soon as the last visitor had left, she took a tepid shower and checked that she was clean a thousand times before shutting the water off. As she applied Vaseline to her skin, she looked into the mirror, perhaps expecting to see signs of what had happened to her. She saw nothing. Her forehead was still slightly round, made interesting only by her widow’s peak, the only thing her mother had passed on to her. Her black eyes, deeply set, still twinkled with the youth she had felt slip away on that bench. Her teeth were still evenly lined in her mouth and when she smiled, she was still the prettiest girl her father had ever seen.

She stepped into the kitchen and started helping usisi with supper. She played the old radio which sat in the corner next to the bread bin loudly, the way she always did and laughed when usisi cracked some joke about her grandmother’s antics. Like she always did. And the next day, she woke to make breakfast for her siblings, like she always did. She continued with her life that way the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Naming Names

Names are central to the identity of most people.

I feel like not enough people in the world understand the concept of nomenclature, particularly in African countries. Or, perhaps I mean, in my city. Or in my circle.

Let me start at the beginning.

A year or so ago, I attended an event with a friend. This event is championed by black creatives in Cape Town and is an incredible space for sharing and learning from black excellence in a city where black creativity is known to be stifled or sidelined. I could tell so many anecdotal stories from the three hours I spent in this space, but the most relevant one for this discussion, was triggered mostly by my general extra-ness. In isiNdebele – my mother tongue, I suffer from a condition known as ‘amawala‘. I don’t think before I speak, I don’t know my place, and I am most likely going to be sent back to my parents after wreaking untold havoc in my marital home because I am generally ungovernable. Perhaps the word I am looking for is ‘impetuous’. I don’t know.

Towards the end of the session, the programme director asked for my name after a brief exchange (which won me a bottle of alcohol, so point one for amawala). My name is Rebecca. Nobody calls me that. I go mostly by Becky. I have answered to Becky since I was a child and only as I grew older, did I realise that there were people who had no idea that it was a nickname. So, when asked for my name, I answered, without a thought, ‘Becky’. I was unprepared for what followed.

There was a collective eye-roll from the room which was vocally expressed by the programme director when he laughed into the mic and said something along the lines of ‘your name is Bheki‘, and if I remember correctly, something that had connotations of ‘don’t be fancy’. My heart sunk a little and I went into defence mode and immediately explained, tripping over my own tongue – after the laughter had died down, that my name is Rebecca – ergo, Becky. But the damage was done and my spirit was annoyed.

Let me break it down.

By altering my name to vernacular phonetics, he was insinuating that I, as a black person, was somehow embarrassed or colonised, so much so, that I was not proud of the ethnic name I had been given by my parents. So, I altered it to ‘Becky’ to sound more ‘white’, for reasons ranging from identity politics to spinelessness. Who knows?  And this assumption is not unfounded. There are people all over the black (non-English) world who, because of factors such as where they went to school, have altered their names, to make them more palatable to the foreign tongue.

Samkelisiwe becomes ‘Sam’. Bajabule becomes ‘BJ’. Qhubekani becomes ‘Q’. Because the tongues which mould us, or influence the spaces in which we grow, cannot wrap themselves around the rich languages which name us. And that’s not OUR fault. But we can remedy it by REQUIRING them to learn how to. Because the same tongues which stutter at ‘Nomthandazo’ – a fairly easy name, can learn how to pronounce expensive French desserts after hearing them once. It’s disrespectful. It’s a constant micro-agression that we have to endure and it permeates every space we occupy. Think of work related emails. A person will sign off an email with their name and the reply will have the name misspelled.

ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS COPY AND PASTE.

It speaks to the disregard that is carried by certain races for the significance of getting names correct. CERTAIN names. The names of their childhood friends and classmates. The names of their teachers and coaches. The names of the women who helped raise them. The names of the neighbourhoods in which they grew up or the names of the streets along which they rode their bikes. The names of their favourite rugby players.

Then they applaud when a white person speaks a vernacular language fluently. Non-English speakers have been breaking their tongues and cracking their lips for centuries to pronounce words they do not know the meanings of. Where are our news headlines?

It’s even more incensing when you consider that, (at least in Zimbabwe, my home) the same people attended Ndebele (insert alternative compulsory language) classes from grade one to at least Form 2 (that’s grade 9 for the muggles). It means that those classes were so unimportant that the basic language lessons that could have equipped them with the tools needed to pronounce a name correctly, flew in one ear and out the other. Because, ‘when am I ever going to use isiNdebele’, right?

Back to my story. I was upset and annoyed because;

(a) If you do not know a person, whatever name they give you, is their name. You have no right or reason to question the name of a stranger. Get off your entitlement horse and say, okay. That’s her name. Deal with your misfiring braincells quietly. Don’t challenge me on my name. Don’t do it.

(b) The exchange required me, the affronted, to explain myself. To explain my name. Something I don’t know that many people have to do. It is also something I experienced for the first time when I moved to South Africa. I would meet a person and we would introduce ourselves. I would then be asked ‘don’t you have a black name?’ To which I would automatically respond ‘Nomthandazo’. It too, is my name so, I don’t mind being referred to that way. My problem is, why must it fall upon me to position myself favourably within what is clearly, YOUR bias? However validly (or perceived to be validly) founded, it’s not  my problem. What about the person who only has English  names? Must their identity now fall short of this acceptable blackness standard?

(c) Black people can have non-vernacular names, because nomenclature varies from region to region. For example, millions of Zimbabweans (and other nationalities) who were colonised by Britain, still give their children very English names. It’s not uncommon to find a black boy from the back of beyond whose name is Edward. Edward may not even speak English. Also, religious communities will name their very Ndebele daughters Rebecca. It isn’t uncommon. There are a plethora of nomenclature influences and just because they are unfamiliar to you, does not mean you can use your ignorance to chip at my identity.

I was also frustrated because his ignorance and arrogance centred  ME as the problem, when in actual fact, it was him. A room of educated black excellence didn’t even register that it was not abnormal for me not to have a ‘black’ first name. In South Africa. In 2018. In a room where I was not the only person with a non-‘black’ name.  It didn’t register that in the middle of a cosmopolitan city like Cape Town, there would be foreigners whose names would sound unfamiliar. I don’t know.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it (I assure you, I am not).  Perhaps the nuance of this encounter means that I should have laughed off the dig because it was made in jest. Perhaps (insert all the reasons touted when black women are angry for no reason). The irony of this entire exchange was that the programme director has a ‘black’ name but his nickname is ‘English’ although derived from the former. *sigh*

I have two beautiful names and I weigh them the same. Names are central to the identity of most people, myself included. To some, they are simply a means by which to differentiate. I challenge you to sit with each time you have mispronounced someone’s name, misspelled it, asked them if they had a nickname so they could accommodate the laziness of your tongue.

And change.

Be mindful.

The Empress.

Letter to the One who Came after Me

Strange envelopes delivered by even stranger hands

Hi.

I’m writing you this letter to let you know all the things that nobody told me about the heart you’ve stumbled upon.

He likes his filter coffee milky but not sweet. Here’s the catch, he’s embarrassed to say so because he doesn’t want to be made fun of by the barrister at the shop at the corner of Ninth and Main because he lowkey has a man crush on him and wouldn’t want him to think any less of his manliness. So, order for him. And order half and half. No sugar. Giggle to your heart’s content when he orders for himself and curses as he sips until it’s over. It’s how he lives his life – revelling in the pain.

He must learn.

He’s not a morning person. No matter what he says. Let him sleep in some days so he can recharge his bones and reset his soul. He never lets himself slow down and he’ll pretend to be mad that you silenced the alarm when he finally emerges just after noon with clear eyes and a slow smile that can only be attributed to a comfortable bed, or thorough loving, but secretly, everything in him is tingling, and rejuvenated.

Hand him the coffee.

When he comes in after a long day and starts venting, he’s not looking for solutions or participation. Stand there and listen with your eyes on his beautiful face. Let him strip off the weight of the day and hand it to you, word after word, for you to scatter across the floor and shatter into little pieces of frustration he didn’t know he was carrying. Feel every sigh and catch the heaviness that the world stealthily loaded into his system whilst he was busy. Listen also, for the things he doesn’t say. Those have been the straws that broke many a camel’s back.

Touch him. Often.

He is afraid of the darkness and leaves the lights on in every room. You’ll always know he’s at home by the blinding florescent globes that glow from the kitschy lamps he spends his money on after hours spent poring over webpages that promise personalisation and understated elegance. You may have to hide his credit card. The lights chase away a darkness he ordered before my time. We have a sad boy. Had. I had a sad boy.

Tell him you love him, when you do. Often.

Hearts like his exist to be responsible for themselves and are left unsure that they deserve love. Pour it out over him. Drench him with it. Never let a spot dry, even as you chase the sun. Take the love he wants to give but is hesitant to let slip from his closed fist. Pry it open and breathe it in. But. Defend yourself with everything you have, because this love will engulf you and suffocate you. It will hand you flowers and euphoria daily on silver plates and with warm bread on the side. It will let you fly without a parachute and you will be only too happy to spread your arms and follow where it takes you. Be vigilant, or you will wake up like me, a little disoriented and alone, but with the best aftertaste in your mouth – of fresh air and crushed berries. With vague memories of brilliant supernovas and a warmth that you will search for but never again find. It will be the best love you will ever fall into. Never stop swimming in it. Trust its motion, even when the waters feel troubled. Hang onto the rails when the storms come because the calm after that?

The stuff of poetry.

The Empress.

The House on the Hill

We all started off chameleon-ing through life

Do you know what living a double life is like? It’s like having an illicit affair with yourself. Your main piece is the you that the World sees. The perfectly curated personality held together by checks and balances learned from the generations that filtered and continue to filter their morals through your person.

The thread that binds humans the whole world over – “what will They say?” The ones whose opinions ultimately don’t matter. The house of “They”. The mystical institution that sits on an unreachable hill overlooking the peasants, as though sent by God to make a list of those who fall short. As though God himself, being omnipotent, cannot see my transgressions and I somehow owe a double duty of upstandingness to both Him and the house on the hill.

The you the World sees is a measured adult. Discreet and even-tempered. Indignant in the face of fornication and gossip. The respectable person who never lets the bottle get away with her. Who snorts in derision at the suggestion of altering ones psyche with chemicals – regardless of the limited time of experimentation. Poised and self -contained. Humble, as all women should be.

For the longest time I never cheated on myself. The straight and narrow was my badge of honour. Having been taught that my lips, breasts, thighs and the magic that lies between them are the devil’s gift. That my body’s sole purpose is to tempt weak, delicate men into falling from the high horse of morality and as a result, it is my responsibility to cover the curves and dips, to never accentuate my features. Can you imagine living in fear of being the reason someone never makes it to the pearly gates? As though the lust of men is more damming than that of women. As though my eyes are blind to the beauty of the male form…

As soon as the shackles of the curators’ house were loosed, I began to dance with the forbidden. But only when I was far from the minions in the employ of They. I met the other me and I loved her. The reckless wanton who spent very little time debating the pros and cons of indulgence. Physical or mental. I opened my mind and it did not fall out. I also opened my heart. Those scars I bear – not often with pride – but always with my head held high.

This affair I have with the woman who rarely says no is my saving grace and the bane of the existence of They. They still look down their righteous noses in something akin to despair at the loss of a virtuous woman. And I dance. Provocatively. To every thumping beat and at every chance. And maybe one day she’ll pull me out completely from under the watchful eye of They, and I’ll not have to retreat when the sun comes up. And when I dance, it won’t be for my eyes only.

xx

The Empress

Writers Block

Do you talk about yourself without mentioning me?

The things I’m afraid to write are the things I want to write the most.

I want to pour out my soul and let strangers read every single word. Even those in brackets. Over and over. I want them to need to start the sentence from scratch a few times because they cannot believe that I feel exactly what they do. I want people to feel my emotions and talk about them over dinner because the things I put down resonated with them.

I don’t write distinctly profound things. If anything, what I write about is spectacularly normal. Almost mundane. Like brushing your teeth in the morning. Familiar.  We are all inundated with special. The need to be unique. Different. So much so, that we forget that there are more things that connect us than separate us. Like brushing our teeth in the morning. Familiar.

I have so  many stories I want to tell. Vividly. I don’t want to skip steps or omit facts. I don’t want to feel dishonest or incomplete in my writing. I want to describe the way the light hit the floor, the scent of the air, the texture of skin, every goose-bump. But here’s the thing… I am not an island. I exist because of and with other people. Their stories are intertwined with mine and every so often, the bits of me I want to share, involve someone else. I don’t mean involve in the sense that I could give them a different name and pretend they would be unrecognisable. I mean involve in the deepest sense. I connect with humans deeply. I don’t like to scratch the surface. Doing that makes me feel disingenuous. It also makes me seem invasive. Forward. Impatient. I’ve heard it all.

I’m learning to temper myself when necessary.

I struggle with passers by because I’m fascinated by the way people work. I want to know their stories. Where they come from. Why they are. When they will arrive. Do they like themselves? Regrets? I in turn, want to overshare. I want to leave a mark. A memory. Even a hazy one. The kind that requires you close your eyes for a second to focus. So you can remember that I speak too fast or laugh too loudly. That I told you too much about myself and the way  I didn’t care. That my accent is sometimes not uniform and that my hands are freckled. That my thoughts are sometimes all over the place. I want you to take a piece of me forward, so I will never be forgotten. But that also means, I don’t want to forget you. Or how you made me feel. That I loved your style and swagger. That your jersey made me wish I could knit. That your first name told a story.

I want to write all of it. But what if you don’t want people to know that you cry at night by yourself because the burdens you bear are too heavy for your back. What if you don’t want them to look too closely at the scars on your wrist, because they’ll know you tried to fly before your time. Perhaps you don’t want your future to know that I know what you look like in the mornings, just before the sun comes up. You most likely have no desire for the outside to see all the ugly you have inside.

These things elicited emotions from me. I was there when you cried. I cried too. I found you on the floor and helped stem the blood. I was affected too. I lay in that moment too, morning breath, head wrap  and all. I showed you my ugly.

I want to talk about myself but can I ever do that without talking about you too?

Do you talk about yourself without mentioning me?

I’m making my concentrating face right now. And reaching for a pen and my notebook. To write in full, things the world may never see. It is catharsis.

The Empress

 

 

Diaries of a day drinker

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Happy New Year everybody! Yes, it’s early. The reason for this is that I spend every new year’s eve in church. I don’t know what I will do with myself the one year I don’t make it to Africa (read Zimbabwe) for the holidays. If this ever happens, please can someone strap a whistle and my address to my person? I can guarantee that I will be comatose by the time I am required to make my way home.

As I write this I am sipping on vodka and coke. I’m usually a wine drinker however, Africa makes it unreasonable for my pocket to sustain my preference of  the red stuff and they don’t have my nice bottles. So I buy vodka and lace everything with it.My Mazoe (I cannot explain this to you. You must experience it), my coke, my tea.. There isn’t much to do at my house over the holidays. Our helper is away so I am the helper. I use the strong stuff as both motivation and reward (I’m a good master). Also, I have a curfew here. You know, the usual African girl child curfew that stipulates that any youth that possesses a vagina must be within the gates of the homestead by 6pm or sunset (whichever occurs first). The vodka helps pass the time.

The vodka (bless the Russians) is also an amazing thought stimulant. This year has been a roller coaster for me and because I am such a lovely individual,  I shall share what few pearls of wisdom I have gathered. In truth, these are truths my mother should have shared with me but we’re black and we don’t believe we should share important things with our children until they are married. (except ‘stay in school, don’t have sex and booze is bad’)

A few months ago I fell for a boy whilst I was busy minding my own business. I swear I wasn’t looking. (ain’t that always the way) The boy expressed his desire to chill but was crystal clear about his commitment issues but I fell anyway (because I’m a girl and if you pay me enough attention I will plan our wedding). Chile, when a man says he doesn’t want a relationship or is a fuckboy or likes dressing up in his grandmother’s pantihose, BELIEVE HIM. DO NOT FOR A SECOND think that because he’s hitched himself to your particular brand of female that you can change any of that. And even if you do fall please #thuglife your way through the mess. Play the Backstreet Boys at home whilst you guzzle the wine but be Beyonce pretending to be single when you leave the house in your 5  inch heels.

The trouble with blurred lines and uncertainty in romantic situations is ambiguity. Are we a thing or not? Does he really not mind that I’m a raging alcoholic who hates the gym? Did he enjoy my cooking or was that a ploy to make sure I put out? Where in defined relationships there is security and you can ask these questions and trip when he gives the wrong answer (yes, there is always a right answer), in blurred lines situations, you don’t ever know where the boundary lies.

Know yourself enough to know whether this is a person with whom you can handle uncertainty or one that needs to know that you are high maintenance woman who likes holding hands in public. And then be honest with both yourself and him about what you want. If it doesn’t work out, you can always visit your mother and clean her house for two weeks whilst perpetually tipsy.

*pours more vodka and adjusts the fan*

Another thing women are never told enough is that we don’t come with ‘sell by’ dates. Be single. Be married. Be divorced. Be a mother. I am surrounded by women in each of these situations who haven’t hit thirty and FYI, they are currently QUEENING. SLAYING. Living the heck out of their lives. My plus one is almost always a woman I love. And I refuse to apologise for being 25 and slaving away to prepare my future (whether there is a fabulous man pouring my wine and letting me help him take his empire to dizzying heights or not). Love yourself so hard that the absence of a partner is not a vacuum, but more room for your wine.

Always carry condoms. Having been raised in a Christian home, sex and condoms are taboo subjects unless euphemisms are being used to describe how cousin Thandi’s belly got big. Thandi most likely got pregnant because her person didn’t have condom and was surprised when she accused him of hiding her period. Men don’t get pregnant and can walk away when you do. Buy the damn things and stay ready. Do not be sold dreams about team skin-to-skin or team pull-out. Do not allow your aunts to tell you that carrying condoms makes you a penis hungry slut. The world is already on team men-run-the-world, they don’t have to run your womb too.

Finally, dear black girl, scrub your knees. With a stone. Our mothers have always taken pride in our dirty knees because it means we can polish the life out of wooden tiles and future husband will appreciate this. Mandela did not die so you cant wear a mini-skirt and be proud of your knees. Shine that floor and exfoliate like you are being paid for it.

Much love and hopes for mini-skirt summers

The Empress

 

 

 

 

Happy growing up

Stop wearing shoes that hurt your pinky toe

I’m 25. Recently 25. I feel 38. I feel 38 because of the mountains of animal excrement I’ve had to shovel through in my quarter century. And I don’t even have the biceps to show for all my shovelling. So cheque please. But before I exit the building, here are some nuggets of wisdom.

1. Every year that you celebrate shouldn’t be celebrated if you are just reliving the same mistakes, not growing, slapping band aids on gaping, self-inflicted wounds.

2. If the man you are seeing won’t step up and be the man you need (fuckboy) then respect yourself enough to walk away. Because let’s face it, clocking mileage on your genitalia for an undeserving individual (fuckboy) will only make you feel older and tired and used. But don’t take my word for it, ask Madonna. Don’t ask J Lo though. She’s in her 40s and looks like she baths in the tears of babies.

3. If you hate your job, stop whining about it and start looking for a new one. I’m not saying quit this one unless you’ve been saving (nobody tell you about saving until you want to quit your job, so look into that too). Your friends and family don’t want to hear about your unhappy work life everyday -save that for your work husband. (Mine is in her 30s and a veritable sensei).

4. Stop wearing shoes that hurt your pinky toe. When your are old and grey, all you will have are your feet and liver. And if you consume as much wine as I do, you may very well just have your feet.

5. Be nice to your mother. She was once 25 going on 38. She knows things. It’s like a secret society that knows how to stitch, make a mean pot of oxtail and stay sane in the eye of the hurricane that is womanhood. She also probably knows the power of emotional blackmail.

6. Stay legit with Jesus. And not just for the bad times. Imagine how you would explain things that you don’t understand without Him. All the inexplicable tears and miraculous blessings. There’s a serenity in knowing you aren’t in control.

7. Number 6 also doesn’t mean don’t try be in control-because let’s face it, out twenties are riddled with holes in the plot and miscalculations with dire consequences. Let’s keep our shit together ladies.

Last but not least. Stop looking for advice on the internets. The internets are bad. The internets are filled with crazy women with access to computers and wine. And half the time they post under the influence-don’t let the time stamp fool you. Day drinking is very adult.

Love and pretty pinkies.

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Honesty washed down with a bottle of red

They preach honesty

They preach honesty. They talk about its virtue and its healing qualities. They forget to tell you about the disconnect between honesty and those that are unprepared for it. Or the dangers of telling truths to psychopaths on the down low. You know, those girls that will call your mother and tell her how much she loves you and all along your mother thought you liked boys. Yes.

Have you ever told a truth to a drunkard or to a liar? Those are easy truths. They are facts of which both of you are aware (varying degrees granted). If a drunk does not know he’s drunk, he’s a liar. If a liar is blind to his fibs then he is off his meds. Like god from Nurse Jackie. You know, the crazy guy who yells insults at everyone except the English lady? Side note – Nurse Jackie is an expert liar and a great example of how BAD honesty is. Coming back to my point, the hard truths are the kind that drive a sober man to a bottle.

Like telling someone you love them and they aren’t ready to hear it? -or even more cringe worthy, they aren’t ready to love you. The salvation in the former is that X may come around one day. With the latter, you are highly likely to fall into a box labelled “here lie the remains of hearts suffering from unrequited love”. Don’t worry though, it’s happy hour every hour in that box, and you shan’t be short of company. The only trouble is that your sad story will never be the saddest or most embarrassing so buck up and guzzle away.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t go around telling people you love them or that you think about them all the time. If, however, you insist on doing such silly things, carry a bottle of wine with you. I recommend already ingested-it hurts less when you hear the crickets. If you hear the crickets at all over the thoughts of more wine that the tipsy voices in your head will inspire. That way when your advances are batted away with the skill of a test cricketer in his prime, guess what? Yup, you can have more wine.

It’s quarter to weekend though so let’s not have a bottle today.

The Empress

Xx

 

 

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