From Me to You

The growth of a child is measured in milestones. One moment the most she can do is use her sense of smell to sniff out where the titties are; the next she is able to see the outline of her mother’s face and ultimately, she is running all over the place.

March is a significant month for me as it marks two years since I entered the blog-o-sphere. It’s been an unparalleled joyride!

Like any two year-old, it’s work-in-progress with learning curves along the way.Sometimes, one is presented with those annoying and embarrassing behind the scenes glitches (like those ASCII codes and computer jargon) that ultimately pop up in all the wrong places.

That can be as embarrassing as realizing you have toilet paper sticking out of your undies and nobody told you!

Sometimes it can be the incessant case of the dreaded writer’s block, which I experienced in the latter part of 2013. I came short of pulling out my hair, drinking “return lost brain” muthi and pulling the zap sign before realizing that…it happens! Still, one has to keep rolling with the punches.

To date, one of my top posts remains Ke Motswana, Wena? And I’m starting to think the universe is hinting that I explore writing further in my mother tongue. I’ll think about it!

CallmeGomo’s milestones are not measured by the amount of traffic to the site but by individuals who take time to write in and tell me how some of the posts have changed their outlook on life. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to switch on people’s mental light bulbs.

The bulk of work still remains within each one of us to be the change that we want to see in the world.

How can I put into words how eternally grateful I am for ya’ll coming on this journey with me?? You make this truly worthwhile and keep me wanting to up my game.

Here’s to many more years of life, passion & happiness!

Love,

2
Gomo’


Conversations about Blood and Water…

Nelson-Mandela-41

The late Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”. The world watched with a mixture of shock and intrigue as the Mandela clan played out their squabbles in public months before his death. We were at a loss when the nonagenarian passed on; and witnessed through the media as the drama and tense relations between family members persisted.

Our fixation with that family grew increasingly as Tata’s last will and testament was publicly read, opening it up to scrutiny; the discourse naturally spilling into the social media sphere.

Drafting one’s last will and testament is probably the most sensible exercise any of us can undertake in our lifetime. But it remains one of those things that people neglect. It really is funny how a piece of legal documentation can be interpreted as a measure of how the deceased loved each one of those left behind as opposed to one that could be instrumental in averting possible conflict over assets.

That, of course, is an ideal situation. In reality, wills can be manipulated and contested by those with vested interest in the deceased’s estate, which can result in long drawn out legal battles. The contents may also be changed by the testator to reflect their emotional state in terms of their relationship with any of the beneficiaries. Who can forget the infamous family dispute over oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II’s $ 1.6 billion estate by his wife Anna Nicole Smith and son, E. Pierce Marshall?

Judging by the responses on social networks on half of Mandela’s estate being left to his surviving partner, his wife Graça Machel and sensationalist reporting on Winnie “getting nothing”- many weren’t happy. To exacerbate the situation, Machel’s children (and step-children) benefitted from Tata’s estate. One has to ask; what is wrong with that? Surely when they say sa gago ke sa me- Sa me  ke sa gago (What’s mine is yours) in reference to the institution of marriage, then it couldn’t have been done more pragmatically?

Writing on the Challenges of Step-families, Linda Schaefer states that, “the problems of a second [or third] marriage are more complicated, since more people, relationships, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs are involved.”

Look, let’s not sugar-coat anything- raising step-children is tricky. I recall a conversation with a good friend of mine who was raised by a single mother. He grew up having men who weren’t his father around him. One, in particular wanted to be “the man of the house” and what resulted was a tug-of-war in the home; an experience that has negatively affected how my friend relates to relationships and the prospects of raising someone else’s child.

For those presented with step-parenting, it can mean either having their attempts at affection thrown back in their faces or having to face entrenched expectations that the child will be mistreated anyway because of the absence of a biological bond. I find it rather peculiar that the same society that can decry constant threats to children’s livelihoods, including abuse of all kinds, is one that deems it okay –without reservation-for someone to exclude his spouse’s children (by default, his children) from his estate.

What does this reveal about the “soul” of our society? Sometimes, it seems we merely take three steps forward and five steps backwards. We decry all these injustices and far-reaching consequences of children not being brought up in a loving and sheltered environment. Yet it is clear that we are the very monster we detest; we are comfortable with that.

The perpetuation of the unspoken perception that step- or adopted children are second-class individuals who should be grateful that they even get an ounce of affection at all is tragic. “There are men [and women] making a valuable contribution to the lives of children in South Africa, even when they are not their biological children”, writes Izzy Rawlins.

As in his living years, one continues to draw lessons from Tata, even in mortality. Doing the juggling act of re-asserting one’s love for his biological children against assuring step-children of their place in the family can’t be an easy feat- for anyone. I reckon that a lot of us missed the lesson there-which is more of a question than a set of ready-made answers: How much of yourself are you willing to give to others without expecting anything in return?


Pieces of Loyalty

It is nearly impossible lately to walk into a store and not get harassed to get a loyalty card. Before you can blink, the store assistant has asked if you have a “cash-card”; shoved one in your hand (plus application form) and loaded your purchase points faster than you can say “ambush”.
Hey, no worries, you’ll be able to redeem ten per cent of your money once you’ve popped in ever so frequently, hey? Of course none other than my purse can tell this ridiculous tale of having to carry more plastic than cash; I’ve just about run out of space to keep the darn things!
That is, largely, how the universe functions. It returns to you what you give out. It’s a place where loyalty (misplaced or otherwise) is intricately linked to trust and is continuously rewarded.
After knocking off from work one late Friday afternoon, I got off the first of two taxis I had to catch to get home -around half-past five. I instinctively panicked at first glance of the unusually long, snaking queue right along my boarding spot- with only one taxi parked there. Oh God, no! I thought. As it would occur the queue comprised of “month-enders”, people who only embark on these trips at the end of the month because they got paid
Without much choice, I willed myself to join the queue right at the back and wait my turn. Within a few minutes, the queue marshal –a man I normally greeted and briefly chatted with daily- brazenlymade a beeline straight in my direction and pulled me out of the queue. I now stood right at the front, anxiously aware of the jeers and disapproval that might follow. I had my regular status on the taxi to thank for that. With hindsight, I realise my resistance was much too naïve: Come to think of it, don’t we all want (and expect) our loyalty to ‘pay off’ somehow?Hell yeah!

Employees want salary increments for their hard work and perceived loyalty to employers. The latter, on the other hand ensure that their companies and interests are protected through recruiting and retaining loyal staff who share a common goal. We want (and keep) individuals who exhibit loyalty as friends, partners and spouses. One can say, therefore, that the currency of trust is loyalty.
The principle of reciprocity modelled by retailers and brands is the same one that exists in personal relationships. Yet this is probably a simplistic and no-fuss level of loyalty because at no point will one find themselves in a conflict of interest situation. This means that an individual can simply choose not to spend their money where loyalty rewards are offered (however attractive they may be) and go elsewhere. It doesn’t mean they can’t return to the former if they wish to.
It isn’t that simple in personal relationships: Try cheating on your partner and see where you’ll land up! Writing on the Personal Strength of Loyalty, Dennis E. Coates Ph.D. says that, “Loyalty decisions are hard to make [because] “the problem is, most people have many loyalties, including loyalty to oneself. And loyalties can sometimes conflict with each other”. Indeed, finding middle ground in personal relationships can be challenging. In order for some people to be in sync it usually takes some compromise on one or both parties. Loyalty is essential for building and sustaining relations, hence its absence can have dire consequences.
I believe that loyalty to certain things is sometimes an involuntary process; something that is inevitably established through familiarity. Loyalty to others can emanate from a genuine sense of commonality or it can simply be driven by people knowing very well what it is that they stand to benefit; purely selfish. Some measure loyalty according to how many “yes” men they have surrounded themselves with. Others simply value people who challenge them as much as they remain loyal.
The relationship with the self –and therefore loyalty to oneself-<a name="is said to be “the most profound […] we will ever have” by Shirley MacLaine. In the end, the level of loyalty that a person exhibits to others is determined by- and starts with his own set of values and beliefs.


Between Cerebos & Celibacy

A recent conversation with a girlfriend of mine left me feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, as they say. Naturally, conversations around sex and sexuality aren’t very comfortable if one is venturing into unfamiliar territory. These only have a tendency of coming out if one is sufficiently inebriated or in the company of people they know well, and decorum established around this subject.

Anyway, my friend made a disclosure that left me with more questions than answers. I still don’t know what’s worse; revealing that one has been celibate for a couple o’ years and risking those awkward “what’s wrong with you?” moments or that you want some (like yesterday)and getting an equal reaction? She bemoaned being judged by people and, as per her observation, that even the slightest mood swing on a girl is blamed on her “dry” season. However, she reckons she can go past the ten year mark and I say, “Give that girl a Bell’s!”

Well, I certainly can’t say the same about yours truly…I need Jesus!

Sexual frustration is defined as, “the frustration caused by a discrepancy between one’s desired and achieved levels of sexual activity or what is referred to as involuntary celibacy”. In this corner of the earth it is affectionately code named letswai/cerebos, that is, salt. What we know is that, like anything linked to the thought process, sexual frustration is the manifestation of that- acknowledging it only serves as validation in the physical.

In his book “Woman Thou Art Loosed”, Pastor TD Jakes writes,  “It is sad to realise our society has become so promiscuous that many have mistaken the thrill of a weekend fling for a knitting together of two thirsty hearts at the oasis of a loving commitment”. Indeed we have become so hyper-sexualized and sex so easily accessible that the lines are increasingly becoming blurred. The mere thought of being a ‘victim’ of a tap-that-a$$-and-run situation and rampant sexual innuendos in many an inbox are enough to just make one close shop…err, I DID mention this would be a bit tricky, neh? Therefore, abstinence is arguably the best option under the circumstances.

But (and that’s a big BUT) abstinence does not mean that one is immune to getting “giddy” now and then. My friend admits that she’s had to keep herself heavily occupied with other things to avoid her thoughts drifting towards that direction. And it can become an enormous monkey on one’s back if permitted, can’t it? So, judging from the conversation I’d say she has effectively avoided experiencing sexual frustration. I haven’t… gulp!

It is fairly easy these days for singletons to hook up on a Friends-With-Benefits (FWB) basis to ward off otherwise lonely, cold nights.That is the rationale. Sometimes the rabbit does the job. Sometimes none of these works; not when what you’re looking for is more than a physical experience.I reckon that it’s easier to deal with sexual frustration when you’re not in a commitment because there aren’t inherent expectations.

According to Dr Karen Ruskin, “longing for sexual intimacy left unfulfilled in quantity and quality is a challenge and a taboo topic for many”. Oddly enough we still live in a world where the man is perceived as the one who always wants it and the woman (with disinterest) always ready to pop out a stack of headache pills from the bedside table. It is such a dangerous presumption that many men have their bubbles burst when they actually realise they’ve been cheated on. Le  rona rea e batla, hawu!

I truly envy my friend. With all the pressures of this world, it takes considerable will-power, conviction and strength of character to be abstinent. As I navigate the salty path of involuntary celibacy kicking and screaming and hollering I seek comfort in Bai Ling’s words: “Sex is like a bridge; if you don’t have a good partner, you better have a good hand”.

‘Couldn’t have said it better if I tried! ;-)


Public Speaking for Dummies

“A good orator is pointed and impassioned”- Mark Twain

gulp!

gulp!

I’m not sure if anyone remembers the speech President Jacob Zuma gave on the Obamas’ first official state visit to the country? I’ll gladly refresh your memory, it’s the speech that prompted comedian Trevor Noah to joke, “When Zuma doesn’t use a script, you can see how he gets the ladies. He’s so much smoother. #NkandlaNova”

Indeed, Zuma delivered a rare, impassioned and seemingly unscripted speech. We were all impressed. Perhaps the President realized that he had no choice but to up his ante or risk being upstaged in his own yard by his US counterpart.

Barack Obama’s intrigue does not only lie in the fact that he is a tall, good-looking man who is the first Black president of the United States. It also lies in his impeccable oratory skills. Just the other day, I was cleaning the living room with the TV switched to the news as usual. As soon as Obama’s State of the Union Address came on, everything I had been doing no longer seemed that important.

Irrelevant as the address was, one couldn’t help but be drawn to the man; he certainly has a “Woza woza” effect about him. Obama could talk me into smoking ten bags of marijuana in one sitting and I’d still think he makes sense! Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “speech is power; speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel” certainly ring true.

podium

And so we always look on in admiration as people make public speaking seem like a piece o’ cake. I gave my first speech when I was about thirteen years old in front of fellow learners, their parents (and mine) and all my teachers. I had stood on that podium many times before as a member of the debate society, yet each time always felt like it was the first.

Each time, my stomach rumbled from anxiety, demanding a retreat to the loo. I still remember how daunting it is to stand before so many pairs of eyes. Stage fright is indeed one hell of a motherf*&@er!

However it was always the sight of my teacher, Missus Mmolutsi that eased my angst. She would sit strategically in one corner, silently urging me on to watch the tone of my voice and not look down at my notes for too long. She’d silently remind me to let my eyes travel around the room in order to connect with my audience and to avoid fidgeting with my hands.

With the SONA (State of the Nation) season on the way, it unfortunately feels like a bit of an anti-climax situation. Besides the dull state of affairs in our midst, we are so used to being dished up uninspiring, mundane technical speeches. Of course there is the occasional chuckle and naughty innuendo from our charming Number One, but the rest is like attempting to make a call on your mobile while standing in the middle of the Kalahari.

Can there be anything worse than having someone address you and getting sense that -just like you- they are hearing the speech for the first time? Yikes!Mr. President, Baba, we want to hear you in those speeches and not your faceless speech writer asseblief!

In this corner of the earth people generally love hearing the sound of their own voices. They will not stop talking until a good one-half of the room is snoozing or shifting their feet under tables to indicate their frustration.

Many people find public speaking intimidating; it is one of those things that some are born with while others need to labour on a bit more. Therefore, being comfortable in that space ultimately comes with practice. I reckon the best speeches are well researched, prepared; short and to the point.

As Ira Hayes puts it, “no one ever complains about a speech being too short”.

For tips on fine-tuning your public speaking skills see:


Shades of Black…

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There exists a hierarchy in society. At the top sits the White man who is perceived as a model of all that is superior and good. For many years, the so-called Coloured communities saw themselves as being inferior to Whites but superior to Africans.

Owing to the conditions of the Apartheid system, many Black people who could pull it off assumed coloured identities to gain access to social liberties that they would otherwise not be able to. The latter distinguishes himself superior to others in his group based on physical, ethnic and (interestingly) on skin complexion. The ones with the darkest complexion sit at the very bottom of this hierarchy.

At least, that is what is highlighted in “Dark Girls”. I recently sat down to watch this eye-opening American documentary about the deep-seated biases against dark skinned Black, as well as Asian women. It opened my eyes to the reality of many women whose pigmentation renders them less favourable candidates in labour markets, relationships; reproduction and to the somewhat deeply entrenched perception that they an attitude problem.

I have been regularly been mistaken for a Coloured person until I spoke my mother tongue, (un)fortunately the absence of a Cape Malay accent betrayed me. One of those occasions was when, as a child, I was shopping with my mother. A Coloured lady approached us and uttered something to me in Afrikaans. I just stared back blankly. I take no pride or pleasure in being what they call a yellow bone. As Steven Biko once wrote, Being black is not a matter of pigmentation, being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”.

light-skinned-vs-dark-black-women

We are so deep in it, and our self-image so severely distorted that bridal parties sing silly songs like, “Tswa’ng tswa’ng tswa’ng le boneng, ngwana o tshwana le leColoured” (Come out and see, the girl looks like (a) coloured).

When Nomasonto aka “Mshoza”Mnisi started bleaching her skin and announced plans to do further work on her nose so she could look White, some of us were really shocked. It was hard to fathom how in this day and age –when we enjoy so many liberties- someone could possibly hate herself so much! Of course it was simpler to dismiss it as a typical tendency of someone who had just discovered money and had no better use for it. If only it were that cut and dried.

Self-image has been distorted in the context of the Black community for centuries and the baton passed on from generation to generation. The popularity of skin-lightening products soared among Black South African women in the 1970s and 1980s* and many of those who coveted lighter shades now have “Dichubaba” (dark blemishes brought on by the dangerous combination of mercury and hydroquinone) to prove it. It remains true that what is on the outside reflects what’s inside and the price paid for a low self-image a hefty one.

According to enca.com, Nigeria tops the list for skin-lightening products, with “nearly 8 out of 10 Nigerian women bleach[ing] their skin.” It is also reported that regardless of how rich a Nigerian woman may be, if she is dark skinned, she is as good as a pauper. In South Africa, you can buy cheap skin-lightening products off a street vendor for less than R15.

On the flip side of the coin, the criminalization, virtual alienation and statutory harassment experienced by dark complexioned men is another bone of contention. It has escalated to a point where the perception is that anyone who is dark skinned can’t be South African. It’s worse if one is using public transport.Just a few weeks ago, the son of former Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni was pulled out of a taxi because of his dark pigmentation and requested to produce a passport.

In a similar incident, my sister and I were travelling to varsity a few years ago from home when our taxi was stopped by police just outside Harties. Seated behind us were two men (Zimbabwean nationals)who sat quietly during the trip. I still remember the sinking feeling as the two were loaded into the police van, as timid as sheep going to the slaughterhouse.

There is a definite mental shift that needs to occur. It will have to happen at every level of this social hierarchy through the rejection of entrenched ideas that one human being possesses superiority over the other for whatever reason. Consequently, superficial and shallow masks put on by those with an inferiority complex will be dismantled.

 

 


The Role Model Debate

There are those who believe in role models. Then there are those who believe that each individual has the innate ability to harness his own power to succeed and to live a fulfilling life. Will-power is thought to be an important element of this.

I think inspiration can come from all sorts of places. If we all believed in the notion of external motivation not being all that significant, then people in the professions of development, professional and life coaching as well as motivational speaking would surely be out of business!

Steve MacCaulay of the Cranfield School of Management in the UK says that a role model is, “someone who serves as an example, whose behaviour is emulated by other people, and consistently leads by example”. He continues to state that though a role model is NOT a model of perfection, they are held to high standards and therefore need to heighten their awareness of being contradictory.

So, it can be decisively argued that being a role model is not a choice- not if people hold you to some esteem and value your contribution to society. I reckon that’s why it is just too much pressure for some people who would, for instance, deliver a sermon then curl up and smoke a joint afterwards or sing a gospel song one minute and impregnate young girls the next. It’s a tough world, ain’t it?

When I was growing up (especially in primary school), I always had a ready-made answer when quizzed about role-models. Naturally, that person was my mother; a virtuous and strong woman, the first person who would later teach me how to write a speech and ignite my writing love affair in general.

It evolved from there to include people like Ms Winfrey and Bonginkosi “Zola” Dlamini, whose power to influence; humility and general concern for society struck me. His endeavours remain relevant although his self-inflicted fall from grace was a disappointment, to say the least.

Ontlametse Phalatse

Ontlametse Phalatse

I have a different outlook on life today because of a 14-year-old girl named Ontlametse Phalatse. Hers is truly a testament of how enduring the human spirit can be under challenging circumstances. The optimistic manner in which Phalatse has embraced life despite her Progeria makes some of the things we cry about seem fickle and she leaves one with very little choice but to let that positive energy rub-off.

Sometimes we are guilty of putting those we look up to on a pedestal. We create expectations around them which ultimately force us to deal with a lot of burst bubbles, so to speak. Perhaps one way of managing expectations is to be cognisant of the fact that human beings are perfectly imperfect.

Certainly, the most profound relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves. Yet no man can do it all by himself; even the most successful individuals had someone else pushing them up, rooting for them, lending a helping hand and cracking a door of opportunity open for them.

In some way an inward-centric approach to life appears conceited and reveals a lack of desire to learn from others. Role models are a vital part of our existence: There to provide inspiration, guidance, learning and a scope to challenge ourselves BUT definitely not there so we can live our lives through them.


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