RSVP, What the Fudge???

Did you know that the abbreviation R.S.V.P. is derived from the French phrase “répondez s’il vous plait”? This, in English terms means “request for responses”. Yes? No? I’ll confess and say I had no idea! I have been under the false impression that it literally meant “RESERVE PLACE”, which sort of-kind of makes sense since I have always seen marked chairs at events with those four letters.

It took me a while to finish reading Joyce Meyer’s book Change Your Words-Change Your Life. Let’s just say my interaction with the material wasn’t all that easy. Anyway, I did pick up a lot of lessons and things to think about like Meyer’s stern caution on the importance of keeping one’s word: “If you RSVP for a party, be sure you either go, or call and cancel your reservation if you cannot go. [They] are ordering food based on your commitment.

That’s if one RSVPs in the first place, Ms. Meyer! See, there is no such thing as RSVP-ing in African culture, and only the modern and upwardly mobile ascribe to such. In my culture, you don’t get invited to an event- you just show up and mingle.

However, this is not to suggest that we don’t get the occasional sparkly and frilly wedding invite with the magic letters and someone’s number at the bottom. We do! While I have no recollection of either of my folks formally declining or accepting any of them, I do know that some of the nicer invitations have enjoyed extended stays displayed on the wall-unit in the lounge.

How can we forget the little controversy that occurred over Bishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu almost not attending Tata Mandela’s funeral service? His foundation announced just the day before the service that Tutu would not attend as he was “not invited” but the confusion was later cleared and he was able to attend.

It was hardly surprising that something of that nature happened since the practice of inviting people to funerals is foreign to a lot of us. Despite this, everyone in my household concurred that without the strictly-by-invitation (or accreditation, if you will) measure in place, Mr Mandela’s funeral would have been a logistical mess.

rsvp

BUT numbers are a big thing in my culture. The number of people that show up at one’s event (especially funerals) is an indicator of the level of “morale support” given by others and, conversely, how much the deceased or their family gave of themselves to others.

It is for this very reason that if you don’t have numbers on your side…shame! When a member of our extended family passed on years ago, his grieving mother left us gobsmacked when she -even in mourning- almost gleefully quipped, “A le bone batho ba ba neng ba le ko lesong?!”(Did you see the number of people at the service?!) She saw that? Did it even matter? Phew!

With the new-age bunch of kids, there is a growing trend towards curbing the number of people attending a particular event by having the event on location. Let’s face it, if you have an event ko Kasi everyone will pitch!

So, this presents a definite shift from instances where the community is involved in the preparations to make way for events coordinators and small, intimate affairs. It also eliminates those cringe-worthy situations where only “VIPs” (whatever that means) hog the chairs and J.C le Roux’s in the marquees while the rest of the masses bake in the sun.

We still operate largely in a word of mouth realm and perhaps learning to RSVP (and honour the invite) is really the last thing on our to-do list. Let’s not forget that the First World people have yet to master it as well. This, clearly, might take a while. If you still think that RSVP-ing is useless, you might want to consider that it may just be your saving grace the next time you decide to turn up for an event at the last minute. Either that or contend with the embarrassment of not finding your name on the guestlist.

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How Much Is Too Much?

AbeSimpsonTooMuchInfo

Gone are those days. When one had to wait to visit someone’s house in order to see their personal photo’s stacked in albums decorated with elaborate magazine cut-outs; when one had to wait for the next big family gathering to get wind of all developments. Same goes for waiting until the new school term to hear hot gossip about break-ups, hook-ups; new beef and whatever else mattered. You could say life was more…organic then?

The by-line for telecommunications giant MTN’s latest advertising campaign simply states, “Do something worth sharing”. I’ll tell you why it didn’t take very long for me to be hooked. Much as sales are the overall gauge of an ad campaign’s success (I’m still a Vodacom loyalist nomakanjani), there are other factors at play that can determine this.

In “The Elements of a Good Advertising Campaign” Jill Tooley writes that “One of the most important elements of a good advertising campaign is creating brand awareness. [Hence] the goal is to embed the company’s name and logo into the subconscious so that people remember you and all that you offer”.

Personally, the by-line itself compelled me to think about the border-less society that we live in, especially within the context of social media. It reminded me of early experiences when social media was just taking off. Yes, I reckon I was in-between relationships for a while, as my Facebook relationship statuses would prove. As if on auto-cue, congratulations or pity parties came and went.

Sometimes it would be rants about family, being under-sexed or cheated on, and even about being bored (those are the worst). With hindsight, I can’t help but wonder why. Experience has been a great teacher as these are things that I now avoid. It also helps to remember that silence is golden.

Question is: How many times have you over-shared aspects about your life, or even those of others’? Here’s a scenario of a conversation that took place on an Instant Messaging platform not so long ago. Gugu* sends me a picture of Clara*’s child- mind you, even in the absence of social media, Gugu’s reputation as a gossip-monger is unprecedented.

Firstly, we had no idea about Clara’s pregnancy (maybe don’t even care) and I wondered how she would react to having pictures of her “newborn” copied and pasted for anyone who cares to see. Hardly seconds later, Gugu sent a text profusely apologizing for over-zealously sending the photo since discovering she had been on the receiving end of a prank pulled by Clara’s first-born. As it would occur, the latter is still pregnant. I rest my case!

These may be minor things at face value but consider briefly more serious ramifications of this tendency. Wasn’t it those texts between suspended COSATU secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi and his subordinate that left him with egg on his face? What about rape videos?

Do we still remember the brutal gang-rape of a Soweto teenager about two years ago? What of school gang attacks? High ranking individuals caught in compromising situations? How about US PR executive Justine Sacco’s tasteless joke about AIDS and Africa? All it takes is a single click of a button and a receptive audience for these to go viral.

So, what is worth sharing? If it adds value to you and those around you and does not over-step the bounds of morality, why not?

(*names changed to protect my arse)

I Am Not My Hair…

Resolutions are the name of the game. At the beginning of each year we make them; to make good on them or break ‘em. After three wonderful years of wearing my hair in dreadlocks, I have decided to part ways with it. I have always been a gung-ho kind of person where hair is concerned, so getting the chop at least once a year never was problem.

But what I experienced while contemplating the transition has been a mixture of denial, internal conflict and bizarre dreams of having suspicious blonde tresses on my head. Is this where I’m heading? I wondered. I knew the day I professed how good my hair still looked and how fabulously “versatile” it is, that I would take it all off the next. Funny how I’m the last person I listen to sometimes!

from this...
from this…

What I experienced was similar to the end of a love-affair and being caught up in nostalgic rapture to prolong the inevitable. Let’s not forget the receding hairline (traction alopecia nightmares), the heat at the back of the neck in summer (but good for winter, yeah?), high maintenance, the build-up… need I say more?

I was facing another dilemma: To sell or not to sell? With January financial blues looming, the thought of selling the locks for a couple of thousand crossed my mind several times and seemed very attractive. Dreadlocks are fast becoming hot property this side, to the extent where poor souls are increasingly targeted by lazy sods looking to make a quick buck through hair-jacking. But I wanted to keep my hair!

So began the painstakingly long process of combing each lock out (took me a week). I was still to face my sister -giving me funny, disapproving looks each time she got a chance. I didn’t know this was a polygamous situation! This has certainly been a “unique” situation where just about everyone has discouraged the change, to the point where I have virtually felt imprisoned by my hair.

...to kinky fabulousity!
…to kinky fabulousity!

When the last one dropped, I felt a new found freedom- like taking a well-needed breath of fresh air. Change couldn’t have come at a better time. I was reminded that, in the midst of what the world tells you or even what they say about you, what truly matters is what you say to yourself. If we become too fixated on the physical (and the past), there is a good chance we stand to lose out on who we truly are (and living life fully in the present).

No hairstyle can determine who I am and therefore, who I’m not. It is a frivolous yardstick that some use to determine someone’s level of political and social awareness; of sexual liberation, who knows what other things a person’s hair can say about them!

For me, that’s one less resolution to worry about…on to the next one!