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.

 

Chronicles of Romance Vol. 13

Are we too young to be chasing forever?

*I wrote most of this at 7.13am after a night out. I don’t recall the year. I found it last night and tried to conjure up as much of that morning as I could. I scribbled the ending whilst searching for sleep*

Whenever I talk to men about my singlehood life – often in varied states of  inebriation at the back of badly lit clubs, sitting on overused couches which smell of cigarette smoke – there is a common theme which dominates these conversations. I am asked by one – who has indirect intimate knowledge of how I choose to navigate the minefield of chemistry between two people- only because I am currently navigating said minefield with his ‘home-boy since we were ten’ – “why won’t you date him?”.

In my head a switch goes off and the sudden high pitched scream that pierces the slightly muddled calm in my mind slowly lowers to background noise level. In my head I yell “IT REALLY IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!!”.  To his face, I say, very serenely, after taking an unnecessarily long sip of my beverage (in retrospect, I probably should have stopped drinking 2 hours prior, but I digress), “I don’t want to”.  I can almost see his braincells misfiring in an attempt to comprehend this simple statement of fact. I sip some more (again, should really noooot be drinking any more). He then asks me (rather audaciously because as already stated, it’s really none of his business)  “why?”.

In my head: I’m tired. My heart is tired. My body is tired. My heart has been riding an emotional roller-coaster (shoutout to Vivian Green) since I was 16 and I haven’t really listened to the bullhorns telling me to get off after each messy cycle. I just stay on when everyone else hops off and pray that there’s nothing left in my stomach to hurl out at the next ridiculous upside-down turn thingie.

Guess what? There’s always more.

It’s almost as if I’m a bottomless pit of emotions. At this point, they aren’t even my emotions anymore because “my” implies that they belong to me and that I exercise some sort of agency over them. Control.

I do not.

They happen to me. Violently. Completely. They overwhelm me and I can never seem to find the door through which I entered when I suddenly become (for however brief a moment) aware of just how far gone I am. But somehow,  I managed to disentangle myself from the last time, unbuckle my belt and run screaming for the turnstiles. I haven’t looked back since.

So, I’m not dating right now. I’m flirting with all the men. I smile at strangers at train stations. I stare too long at beautiful humans during my long commutes. I take tequila shots with long haired vactioners in dingy bars I normally wouldn’t frequent. I dance for a little longer than is appropriate with people whose names I have no intention of remembering in the morning. I kiss boys on steps and laugh when they ask for my number. I take down bartenders’ numbers on serviettes knowing full well I won’t be back. I buy energy drinks for bouncers and laugh at their lewd jokes in exchange for club entry. And when I’m done, I call your home-boy and do a different sort of dancing in the wee hours of the morning. No words. Just music.

He doesn’t need the words. All he wants is the music. And when the ride stops, he’s more than willing to help me off and wave at me from his car. It takes nothing from me but well practised sing-alongs and danceathons. I can still breathe. And see. I’m not trying to claw my way back to the surface and I’m never left shaking my head in an attempt to clear it of the dark tendrils of unrequited affection. I’m not left empty and tired of pulling the reigns of tired horses.

I don’t want to date. I’m worth gazillions more than the boys who proposition me are in possession of. Even together. Do you really think you want to run with me? I saw it in the eyes of those I tried with. The fear. Of being loved too much. Being seen and letting themselves see me. I mean really seen.

I’m a hurricane (irony of timing is not lost on me). I’m not a mild thunder storm in the middle of summer that passes after a bit of pomp and fan-fair. I’ll ruin you. And in the process, I’ll open up and let you ruin me and the cycle begins again.

Out Loud: I laugh coyly and bite on my straw (note, I’ve stopped drinking) in that well practised movie – pin – up – girl way and say, “we’re too young to be chasing forever. Besides, even if he wanted to date me, which I gather is the case, he hasn’t told me. I don’t want to be with a coward. A man who can trace the contours of a woman’s body for years but not whisper his feelings is a man I don’t want”.

The individual in question peeks through the door leading to the hideout at the back and winks. I wink back and point to my watch. He nods and I get up.

It’s time to dance.

 

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

 

 

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