Changing your lens

images (1)It is with the confidence of someone sliding into a random’s DM that I’m just gonna slide right back and continue as though there hasn’t been a post for 17 months.

Shit happens. Shit is still happening, but I’ll eventually get to writing about that when I can put my thoughts into a cohesive order.

So today is national (in the USA) watermelon day. I know this completely random fact how? My branding site, Tailor Brands has this really cool feature which generates seasonal logos, except those, are not my seasons. Nonetheless, it’s pretty interesting what other countries and cultures celebrate. Added to the juxtaposition of the reality of current affairs with the seemingly inane. My motherland Zimbabwe is burning, our futures uncertain, and watermelons have that same day dedicated to them.

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Anyway, when I saw the logo, I did a double take because the immediate thing that came to mind was the Jim Crow Watermelon. It’s been so well documented, that I’m not even gonna go into it (or put a picture). If you don’t know about it and are remotely curious about Juneteenth and how a fruit moved from being a symbol of black self-efficacy and freedom to one of uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence, click here and here. Watermelon symbolism strikes a peculiar chord with me as a black person of African heritage and descent, who has always lived in Africa but is aware of American influences. It’s made me rather confused because racial symbolism generally transcends continents and cultures, but Jim Crow imagery, in particular, doesn’t strike as emotional a cord with me as other racist imagery. I personally don’t fancy watermelon (or papaya and its cousins) as a fruit, maybe that’s why.

doc-5.jpgSo I googled it and discovered that what was being celebrated was the Millennial Watermelon. You know the one – it’s in salads, gin and vodka infusions, and summer drinks. There’s actually a non-profit for watermelons or rather 1500 watermelon growers. Oh, and here’s a random watermelon trick that I want to try at some point in my lifetime called melon moulding. I saw it on Instagram a while back and was so fascinated by it. I can’t be blamed for my child-like wonder for the random and absurd. Heart-shaped watermelon (yay!).

As I continued to ponder at the back of my mind about the changing lens on the meaning of watermelon and the cord strikes with me, I randomly remembered the Beyoncé Watermelon. The one she was drinking. I’m for that kinda watermelon. In fact, cue the music…

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Witness Me

There are three things that I know for sure.

  1. Humans have no boundaries.
  2. Social media has created keyboard warriors.
  3. The combination of the two pisses me off.

When something of significance happens in someone’s life, and they want to speak about it, how is it that random Joe Soaps feel it appropriate to decide when it’s enough? What, because you are on my social media, suddenly you are my puppet master? Social media has made us so bold that individual boundaries have disappeared. Arguably, by posting things in a public forum people are inviting commentary of some sort. But would you walk up to me and say that to my face?

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As someone who has gone through some life changing experiences, it miffs me to no end to stumble across comments like “why are we still talking about this”, “if she is so happy then why is she still speaking about it”, “that happened last year, move on” etc. My question is why does it hurt you so much? Firstly, you opted into my social media, you can just as easily opt out. Second, and most importantly, talking about the events that shaped my life gives them no power over me. When you shine a light on something, guess what? It’s no longer in the dark, it’s not a secret, and there is no shame. Or do you want to whip out my stories at your discretion and lord over me with them? I’m sure that would suit you better…if only it was about you.

Most often with a life-changing event, they only become so with hindsight and introspection. When the events are happening and you are ‘during’ the experience, we are so consumed by our emotions – questioning why this is happening to you, why your life is being upended unceremoniously. It is with time and maturity that the significance of the events become clear. When, for the most part, you are in a better place can you genuinely look back thankful that you came out stronger at the other end, because no pressure, no diamond.

It is only by owning their truth that one can take back their power. If the courage of others makes you so uncomfortable that you would have them hide their truth when it’s inconvenient for you, what does that say about you? Think about it.

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The typical brush off ‘haters gonna hate’ does not cover it when my power has you outchea acting like demonic swine in contact with holy water. What’s wrong? Is my truth too much for you? Does my strength intimidate you? Did you think I would be so easily broken? That I would not rise? You’ve exposed yourself. Only the weak try to break and stifle others. If it bothers you to hear my truth, walk on by. You’re just hearing about it – I had to live through it. Not all messages are for you. Powerful stories give others courage and strength to rise, so excuse me as I continue to inspire others (who are not you) without getting tired of talking about it.

Witness me as I proceed with my total badassery

No approval required.

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No closure to be found there

Today is a tough day for my family. We’re saying goodbye to our father, brother, husband and uncle. These past few days leading up to the memorial and cremation had me reflecting on the nature of closure. With death as with separation of any kind, humans tend to seek assurance from the other. We want to ask questions, to gain understanding before we can move on with peace in our hearts. It’s almost pavlovian, considering the psychological definition of the term…

Closure or need for closure are psychological terms that describe an individual’s desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity.

 

When dealing with the living, our tendency is to want to converse about events, to get answers. Why me? Why this? How could you? Why didn’t you? More often than not, the responses you get are all sorts of horse manure, yet our minds and hearts are wired to want to grasp at anything and call it the truth no matter how much it hurts to internalise. Often, we immerse ourselves in dishonest feedback that sets us back, rather than introspecting and learning what we can from the experience before moving on. Funnily enough, the only person who can give you closure is yourself yet this knowledge does little to give you what you seek so desperately. But the isolation hurts, and so we seek out others and their words to help us unblur lines and muddy our reality.

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But what of the dead? Certainly, you can ask questions but you will likely get no answers. No last conversation, no sense of finality through a two-way dialogue. The nature of death, its suddenness and finality are so devastatingly conclusive. So here we are, drinks in hand lamenting and wishing. Wishing for one last word, one final opportunity. Yes, we lived each day like it was our last, but we did not know it would be our last together. Had we known, we would have never wanted the day to end. And now that the sun has set and we’ve had no choice but to wake up and face a new dawn that’s a little less bright, to walk the empty halls with hollow eyes putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward one step at a time. We have no answers and no real sense of closure. Can a hurt so deep ever really close? Time will numb the pain. The next dawn will be a little bit brighter.

Maybe.

Put some respek on my hair

What is it about black people’s hair? I’m not referring to our age-old obsession with ‘taming’ it, but rather the lack of boundaries when it comes to other peoples?

Without taking a seat at her table, Solange and many before her, have a point about hair and the general tendency of people to touch it. Hers is a narrative about hair and its link to racial microaggression masqueraded as a compliment whilst denying black women respect, which is valid. But at the basis of this, which is my point of departure are simply boundaries.

I do my hair at the gym. I consider it ‘me time’ and will spend anything between 2-3 hours in the locker room having the time of my life. I will sit in the steam room, wash, condition, sit in the steam room again, rinse then do chunky twist outs. When I do my hair at home, it takes all of 45 minutes but then again I don’t have a steam room to procrastinate in. I’ve been doing the gym-hair thing for years now, and there are just some things that keep happening that get me so annoyed at people. People walking around outchea without an inkling of boundary knowledge and respect, so let me help y’all. Here are six things you really ought to remember about hair and boundaries.

1.Hands off!

It’s not ok to just stick your hands in anyone’s hair to determine its density and length. It’s the less creepy equivalent of “grabbing them by the pussy”. Firstly, it’s not polite. Even if you ask, it’s still not ok (please note that asking in the midst of touching does not count). It’s a violation of personal space, period. Is it ok to walk around giving stranger’s boobs a quick squeeze to determine their buoyancy? So why do you want to do that with my hair?

2. This isn’t real life Barbie

I’m not a doll, so what is this random combing thing? Bunny does it, but she’s 6 and still plays with Barbie’s.  Unless I explicitly ask you to comb my hair, you do not have an invitation to comb my hair. “Please check if my parting is straight?” does not mean comb my hair. FYI, you cannot just root-to-tip comb natural hair. It is dense, it hurts and WILL put me in a state of shock. Don’t do it B. Stay in your lane.

3. White people, this is for you – ask a friend, or ask google

Seriously. Then you won’t come across as racist and/or ignorant person by asking complete strangers what happens when you use a flat iron on an afro, how often you wash hair, if it’s ok to put oily products in it, how we know if it’s dirty… the list goes on and on.

4. My hair, my choice

I would like to think we’ve evolved as humans, but some still reckon it’s ok to dictate, or rather impose their hair choices on others. Chemically straightened, weaves, dreadlocks, braids or natural the choice remains yours. I can’t walk through town anymore on account of the many ‘helpful’ people accosting me every two steps (literally) brandishing a comb with an offer to make my hair ‘nice’. I woke up like this. I have a mirror. I know what I look like. I chose this. In the same way, I hate being told how to treat my hair. Everyone has opinions about how to manage hair, and I’m sure each one holds some merit. You do what works for you, and I’ll do what works for me. You may mean well, but leave me be already!

5. It’s rude to stare – again, white people this is for you

Can I just take a moment to lol at all those who think they can low-key stare from the corner of their eyes? I see you boo. Here’s the thing, when you apply heat onto an oily surface, it smokes up. My hair is not on fire; else I would not be standing there ever so calmly looking at my reflection in the mirror. I see the tendrils smoke, and I see you. Likewise, when my fro is all fluffed and in its glory, don’t be that person. It’s my hair, not a peacock crown. This can’t be the first afro you’ve seen. Walk on by.

6. I’m human, not a robot

“Hi, what do you put in your hair?”. Just like that. No preamble, no foreplay. Look, this hair is attached to someone. The same someone who you expect to respond to your question, so how about you engage with said someone before interrogating hair routines? Healthy hair does not grow itself. If you want a comprehensible response, you are more likely to get one if you engage me rather than just coming at me like I owe you answers.

7. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the goose

Guys, don’t just touch my stuff. Am I ruffling through your toiletry bag looking at what products you use on your face? Then why is it fine for you to just invite yourself into my hair bag? That’s just rude. And because you lack manners, I’ll answer only what you ask (and only that) as succinctly as possible. Just because I use it, doesn’t mean it will work for you. I know that, but you don’t. I’ve walked a 6-year hair journey and changed products along the way as my hair has grown and as seasons have changed. I also have products that I keep at home and some that I mix on my own. So, if you barge into my space uninvited, you get what you get.

Are you also with Solange on the hair thing? Let me know in the comments section

I wish I had delegated September, it was so exhausting!

Ever wish you could just opt out of something all together? I mean just delegate it completely? Copy and paste onto someone else’s life? If only it were that simple, I’d delegate September. Yes, the whole month.

September is the equivalent of silly season in my life. The sun is out and it’s warmer for the first time in months, which means that social calendars get filled very fast. I tend not to pass up an opportunity to socialise, because of cats, a parrot and the stench of animal piss. And here, I’m just talking about adult things like sundowners and evenings out without the winter annoyance of having to dress in so many layers that you have to balance your beverage consumption with the amount of time it’ll take to disrobe in the toilet cubicle.

September is busy enough with adulting, but for non-parents/ aspiring parents, what you don’t know about is conception season. Rewind 9 months… get it?

So basically everyone who conceived because ke December is birthing in September. I would know. Bunny is a September baby.

Aside from the frustration of trying to find clothes in the appropriate size (apparently 2010 had a lot of September girls if the racks at retailers are to be believed), September used to be easy until birthday parties started 3 years ago. Now, the whole month is a complete wash. Every weekend, sometimes twice a weekend there are parties. It’s hours of mostly forced social interaction with strangers for the benefit of your offspring. Every weekend.

It’s October now, and I’m done for the year. I made it through mostly unscathed (no mention of that missing blog post) with a little help from my friends. Aside from the parties that we either divided between us or attended together, there was a superhero birthday party we threw for Bunny. Terrible weather notwithstanding, it was a boss party, if I may say so myself. We had a surprising turnout, and I only say this because we were expecting certain people, but others arrived unannounced with their entire families in tow (p.s. it does not count if you phone to RSVP on your way to the actual event). We shame ourselves and inconvenience others with such blatant disrespect and lack of consideration, but I’ll park my rant about people and their lack of understanding of the importance RSVPing for another time.

Throwing a birthday party is a tonne of effort, though. Years earlier, I had hoarded Disney Princess paraphernalia thinking that we would get much more bang for the buck on it, but alas those days came to a swift end when Bunny announced that she wanted a PJ Masks theme this year. PJ Masks is great, it makes superheroes out of ordinary boys and girls in their pyjamas. However, it is not quite on the market yet, so we had to DYI everything. To make our lives less chaotic, we broadened it to a superhero party / training boot camp. We rented an open air venue, an obstacle course because we are warriors, and did an insane amount of cutting, pinata prepping and out of the box thinking. Below is also a snapshot of the day. There is more inspiration to be found on my Pinterest page.


Self-congratulations for surviving September. I’m exhausted, though. I feel such a great sense of relief that the month is over, I could run through the hallways naked. Holiday anyone?
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Is conception season a thing for me only? Which months have you in a death grip and why? Leave a comment to let me know!

Don’t worry, you’ll be a great mother

Memories are nothing if not a constant reminder of past ignorance. I laugh at memories of debates I used to have when I was younger about when the best time to have kids is: when you’re young and can bounce back bodily and run after your kids; or when you’re older and well, you’re just older. Nearly 6 years in, I don’t actually think there is such a thing. The probability is that you were hoodwinked by the awesome two-some that are Mother Nature and hormones, sneaky little fucks! One minute, you’re minding your own business planning your life on an excel spreadsheet then next you have the urge to procreate. To top it off, offspring are cute enough to make you forget the one-two punch that the awesome twosome dealt you, so you do it all over again.

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Source: Google

 

We’ve come a long way, Bunny and I. This past weekend, I came across some photos of us when she was 11 months old, just a few days before I walked out of my marriage. It made me think about our journey as mother and daughter and the ever-changing balancing act. When I was pregnant, I had it in my mind that parenting as a couple would be as smooth as the Jamaican 4×100 meter relay team baton interchanges, but my experience in that relationship was to the contrary. If I think about it, I guess it was easier being single because then my focus was solely on mine and Bunny’s needs. Anything else was an unwelcome distraction. I had a lot going on at the time – divorce, full-time work, a Masters degree, relocating further from work. At 25, I was trying to climb the career ladder, and was working in an unforgiving environment, so everything was precision planning. Wake up, get ready, leave Bunny with her grandfather, sit in morning traffic, work a full consultant day, sit in evening traffic, cook dinner, bath and feed Bunny, feed myself, settle Bunny for bed, work on Masters assignments and thesis. Weekends were all work and Bunny. Reflecting on it, I don’t think I had a social life then – there was simply no time between all of that and the legal battle that was waging.

 

Now, 5 years after that photo was taken, I’m noticing that things are not any easier. I actually have more balls in the air than I did back in 2011. We’ve all seen those posts about how we all have glass balls in the air, where no one on their deathbed has ever wished they had worked more, and family is the only glass ball that can’t be fixed when it gets dropped (you know the one!). All of that is valid, but curses reality! Tough decisions have to be made on a daily basis on how to prioritise my time. Back in 2011, when I was trying so desperately to find some sort of formula for keeping all these balls in the air, I went the academic route and asked some of the successful women in the office what they did. “Outsource it”, they said. “It’ll be easier that way”, they told me. But my mama didn’t raise no slacker! I knew immediately that it was not how I wanted to raise Bunny, seeing me for dinner twice a week. I wanted to be present and accountable. Maybe not the best choice for career progression, but Bunny is really cute so that was a no-brainer.

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Source: Google

 

Our needs change constantly, so I have an annual general meeting with myself to check and amend decisions (it really is that formal). As she has grown, so have her needs. But what mattered in 2011 doesn’t necessarily matter as much now, e.g. I don’t have to bath her because she can do that herself. I did eventually take up some of the advice I was offered, and let others handle what I was comfortable relinquishing from my iron mommy fist. I hired a live-in nanny who ensures that both of us are clean, dressed and fed because let’s be honest, she’s my nanny too. I have a great support system nearby, which eases some of the logistical challenges I have working so far from home, like extra-curricular activities and afternoon school runs. I’ve designed a well-oiled machine that can work independently of me, and it has to for Bunny’s life to be uninterrupted. It sounds pretty awesome because it is. I have time for the gym, friends, a relationship, evening classes, work dinners etc.

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But, I have had to also put on my big girl panties because the Bunny assembly line has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I can accelerate my career again. If I have to travel, work late or work in remote destinations, life goes on. On the downside, the show does go on. That hits me where it hurts most because I’m mom. It’s one of the most important roles I will ever fulfill, and it’s a one-time right kind of gig. I experience the worst kind of working mom guilt because she is old enough to ask tough questions. “Where were you”? “Why can’t you ­­­­stay for show and tell like xxx’s mom”? It’s hard to hear “I missed you” and to explain to a 3/4/5-year-old why you have to work so hard. I’m that mom who gets texts from other moms reminding her not to forget something for school. It’s not an aspirational position. Whilst I do not ever want to be bake sale mom, I hate missing milestones and school events. It’s been a tough lesson in ego though, because what I know for sure is it’s not all about me.

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I have to constantly remind myself not to take things personally. My individual set of circumstances mean that I have to reconcile myself with the fact that I will not always be physically present. My heart does not break when she calls the nanny’s name when referring to me. Rather, I am thankful that we have such a competent and loving person looking after her. I can’t be mad when the offspring wants a bedtime story read by someone else. I hug and kiss her goodnight and appreciate the few moments of silence I can get before opening up my laptop. I try as hard as I can. I do the best that I can with what I have available. I don’t always get it right, but I am always trying. I am ambitious for both myself and Bunny which means I have to work extra hard. Because I work extra hard, it means that the little time that I get to spend with her is that much more special and it is not wasted on social media or mindless television.

 

It’s a constant shuffle. When she was younger, I prioritised bedtimes. I was there to tuck in and read stories every night. Now, it’s mornings. I am uncompromising and unapologetic about my school run. Everything waits until our morning routine is complete, then my day can run its course with my mind and heart settled. Trying to find a workable balance as a mom is like finding El Dorado – it’s a city of gold we’ve all heard of but no one has actually seen. I consider myself blessed to have all kinds of great mom’s in my circle, so when I say that balance is as elusive as the end of a rainbow I mean that for moms who are single, married, stay at home, part-time or full-time employed. What we can all agree on, despite our differing circumstances is that this is no cake walk.

 

I’ve made peace with the fact that the juggling act never gets easier, the hustle just changes. When she was a baby, I thought it was tough going. Looking back at it, I just laugh because right now, at this moment is the simplest it will ever be. There is so much more on my plate now and I sleep well at night knowing that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. We’re figuring it out as we go along. I’ve become a MOM (Master of Multitasking). I work hard and I play hard. I am a happy mom, disciplinarian mom, doctor mom, encyclopedia mom, taxi mom, chef mom, playmate mom, bed mate mom… I am also a sister, daughter, friend and lover. I am a manager and a warrior queen. I am a Superwoman!

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It was never a dress…

 

This post was originally posted on a well heeled woman blog as part of a working mum’s life series.

300 books in the trash: my rejection of patriarchal love

I’m a die hard romantic and have always been. If I think back to when I first started choosing my own books in the bookstore, I gravitated towards bubblegum reading. I loved sweet valley high; so much drama, so much romance. In my teenage years, I was a bit of a loner, so it wasn’t unusual to find me with my nose in a book. It got to the point where I moved to the advanced reading section reserved for seniors after 1 year of high school, and would typically go through a novel a day. I mostly lived in a fictional world, and it was nice.

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My reading habits all but continued undisturbed into my adulthood. And then one day, I just got fed up. It was hardly surprising to me because my life had evolved, so it would stand to reason that my reading would too. What was unusual was the suddenness of the evolution. Literally, I was reading something and immediately got annoyed at the female protagonist. I started asking myself questions about her strength of character; why was she so weak, so needy, so dependent? Why did she need to be rescued?

 

The formula for romance novels is more or less the same. Girl meets boy, falls in love, is emotionally abused and broken down (all disguised as fighting for love or just plain miscommunication), lovers reunite, a few sweet nothings uttered, then happily ever after. I have over 300 Mills and Boons (or rather had), and countless other romantic novels, and have read each of these more than once. But by-God, what the hell is up with that formula? It got to the point where I was desperate to read something with a female protagonist who had more will-power than a leaf of wilted lettuce. Or at the very least, one who started and finished the story strong. In general, there is a lot of misleading stuff, she starts off as a boss bitch, then the minute she meets this guy all her power just evaporates. Poof, and she’s a hot mess begging to be reassembled by this man?!? Nowhere in this book does she actually remember that she was whole and fully capable before she met him. There was the one gem I loved reading in high school about a southern belle of great beauty who was kidnapped, raped (read seduced), kidnapped from her initial kidnapper and raped again (also read seduced), then was gratefully rekidnapped by her first kidnapper – then they fell in love and lived happily ever after. I’ll let that sink in…

 

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Source: Lovepanky

That novel was a mess but as a young and impressionable girl, I used to lap this up! I would curl up under my blankets all afternoon during the week, and all day during weekends consuming similar reading material. It’s no wonder my past relationships have been so messed up. If my model of romance was the epitome of unrequited love or being ignored, hurt, browbeaten into submission, abandoned, falsely accused, lied to/about or undermined, then it’s no wonder I couldn’t see the signs of catastrophic relationships early on.  I mean, think about it. If all you consume is garbage, then you wouldn’t know if you were being led into a dumpster because being surrounded by the stench of rot is an everyday standard of normal. The day I got fed up with the weak-ass females I was subconsciously programming my mind and modelling my relationship behaviour with, I decided to start throwing out each book the minute something seemed off kilter with the female protagonist. Nothing was different about the books, it was me who had changed. Or rather, the lens from which I was reading with had changed due to my own life experiences. As I grew into my own, I started questioning the actions of the women I was reading about. No longer did I find the journey thrilling. In fact, I was rather annoyed that someone could be a spectator in their own lives to the extent that a “billionaire” or “tycoon” or “sheikh” could literally hold you ‘captive’. I mean, really? I had had enough. It left me with very little to read, but I could no longer stand consuming literature that did not build, encourage or even just echo real life in the slightest.

 

Honestly though and underneath all of the annoyance, the main reason I had to throw out all my books is future-focussed. Bunny is learning to read, and whilst she may be a few years away from picking up my books with any kind of interest, time flies. If I postpone it, in the blink of an eye, she will be curled up on the couch reading one of the books off the shelf. It’s riveting reading material but because the romance novel model is so messed up, I cannot imagine that influencing Bunny’s worldview in that manner. I started reading at a very young age, and would read anything I could get my hands on. I do not want her to get her hands on this vitriol. I want her to read Jane Austin and Maya Angelou. I want her to read autobiographies of women who are pace setters and warriors in their own rights. I want her to read Mario Puzo and John Grisham. I want her to write her own story of struggle and victory without the subtle influence of written words that normalise abuse, even in the most subtle of forms. Left to her own devices, if she decides to consume romantic literature then she needs to buy it herself. That will not be my legacy.

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What legacy do you want to leave for your children, and how are you going about making it a reality? Let me know in the comments section.