A Step Back In Time

A love letter from Napolean Bonaparte to his love Joséphine de Beauharnais:


I wake filled with thoughts of you. Your portrait and the intoxicating evening which we spent yesterday have left my senses in turmoil.

Sweet incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart!

Yielding to the profound feelings which overwhelm me, I draw from your lips, from your heart a love which consumes me with fire?

Until then, mio dolce amor, a thousand kisses; but give me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.


Now, I know Valentine’s has passed its sell-by date for this year therefore cheapskates amongst us will have to wait next year to buy fake roses, illustrious mugs and other frivolous novelties. Imagine that; a freakin’ coffee mug in the middle of summer?! Well, that’s just life.

Anyway that’s beside the point. The past week or so has been an interesting one, especially because it gave me a bit of faith that chivalry (and I’m not referring to the wholesale hogwash we have to endure on February 14th) hasn’t kicked the bucket- just yet.

So I recently witnessed an acquaintance receive a stunning bunch of red roses on a crisp Monday morning. We’ll just keep guessing why because these days we are told that nothing’s for mahala (free) but at least two things can be ruled out. It wasn’t Valentine’s and it wasn’t her birthday. So, there is at least one guy out there in the universe who knows his thing. The brother deserves a Bell’s!

As it would occur, I hadn’t the faintest idea the following day would have a surprise in store for moi. Yes. A neatly folded love letter pushed under my door awaited me as I arrived from the office: The kind of letter that would put the likes of monsieur Bonaparte to shame. Hand-written. Check. Cheesy poem. Check. I solemnly swear my intention is not to make fun of anybody, least of all the guy who wrote that (long) note.


I reckon it’s a special thing to be the recipient of a hand-written, properly thought-out letter in this day and age. I suppose the most probable reason it ended up under my door is because someone didn’t have my digits, otherwise I could have easily received a text to this effect: “I DIG U” –or something similar- in my inbox.

All that cheesy stuff left me rather red in the face. The sort of admiration that drives people to leave notes in strategic places can be sweet but a little…unsettling. It did take me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane when letter writing was still in style. That was way back when one would write the same letter over and over again, ensuring the penmanship was faultless. Perhaps you would sprinkle a little cheap body spray there for added effect, to enhance daydreaming.

It brought back memories of mother scolding me in primary school after she had found a letter from a boy in my dress pocket. Even of a time when another boy, in middle school got his cousin to write me sweet nothings inside a Sanlam card. So priceless.

Susan Tardanico writes that, “as human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication”. More importantly, Tardanico emphasizes that with all the powerful social technologies at our disposal, we are more connected –and potentially more disconnected- than ever before.

And so my response to my new found admirer was a simple, “writing is not old-fashioned”. In fact, it is a breath of fresh air from the hybrid texting that we have comfortably adopted into every sphere of life. Hand-writing is one of those things we take for granted when it could easily tell a story about an individual. It can reveal if they are clumsy, hasty or careful, thoughtful and neat. The only thing we are able to tell is whether someone is lazy or not, determined by whether they’ll type “Um cumn ta C U” or “I am coming to see you”. Then again, we care very little about anything these days!




Vat en Sit- ‘Way to Go?


One of the lessons shared by veteran actor Jerry Mofokeng and wife Claudine on marriage recently is that, in order for the institution of marriage to weather the storms, two parties need to be friends. Reminiscent of Mpharanyane’s  “Nka nako ho mo tseba” (take time to know her), they made it clear that getting to know one another is an integral part of that process.

Now, I don’t know how folks way back in the day did their thing with the absence of mobile phones, social media and all. While long, elaborate and imaginative letters bridged the gap between lovers; the most probable assumption is that older generations didn’t get to really know one another until they were married.

The contrast would be stark if one had to compare a typical 27 year-old like me, even 40 year-olds’ state of mind in present day to individuals of the same age 60 years ago. Our priorities are completely different.  Sometimes one has to admit that the current generation behave in a manner that suggests that they might live forever. However, that isn’t another suggestion that we must then pursue unfulfilling lives plagued by scores of kids or general frustration or being black-mailed into making a home with someone we don’t have affection for. We have all the liberties that past generations could only dream of.

One of the liberties that we have grabbed and ran with is that of co-habitation or in common terms, vat en sit. They say good relationships are “built upon knowing and enjoying each other on social, recreational, spiritual, intellectual and communicative levels”. Yes, and of course the sexual levels! For some people, cohabiting is a necessary litmus test on how to proceed with a relationship.

Obviously this is at odds with older generations who find the rationale of demo’ marriages disrespectful because the absence of a formal agreement between two families to unite two people means that, in the legal sense, there is no leg to stand on. Again, what parent wants to have a constant “returned soldier” on their door-step because she simply isn’t cutting it?

It begs the question; how long does it take to really get to know someone? I hear the going rate is two years, which is when some people will start contemplating marriage. Then again, we all probably know people who have cohabited for five, ten, and fifteen…donkey years! What the hell does that mean? They are comfortable or complacent? God forbid, they are still getting to know each other!

The truth is that women who go into a vat en sit situation often than not aspire to marriage. Whether men aspire to same is the million rand question. Armed with tunnel vision into the happily-ever- after with the stop nonsense and 2.5 kids, many soon learn that there are no guarantees in life. They soon realize that rather than becoming a catalyst for marriage, cohabitation puts it all in slow motion.

Take it from someone who in her early twenties dabbled in a bit of shacking up. I became so engrossed with cleaning up after a varsity sweetheart; gaily doing his laundry, cooking his meals and dishing out good nookie. The reality of the relationship collapsing hit home very hard. When we recently gathered to celebrate the shot-gun nuptials of my 57 year-old uncle; a bona fide hard-core bachelor for ever, another opportunity to assess cohabitation presented itself.

He did not marry his long-time live-in partner whom he had been with for thirteen years. He did not marry the woman that enjoyed a close relationship with the family or the one who dutifully attended family gatherings and was at his hospital bedside on his sick occasions. No. He married someone he introduced at Christmas a few months before. I rest my case.

Isn’t it so easy to take such things for granted?