Monday, March 10, 2014

but I am the hardest working person in the village...

The other day I was mooching around Facebook when found one of those funny vintage-styled cards that I normally find hilarious. Hang on, let me see if I can find it… Ah yes, there it is. Exhibit A.

It got me thinking about one of the lesser-known battles, one similar to the Battle of the Sexes but with a frilly twist. Ta daaa, I present to you … The Battle of the Dresses.

Basically, it’s a Cold War between SAHM’s and WOHM’s. You might not know what those are yet, but in a nutshell, it’s an ongoing competition about which is HARDER: being a StayAtHomeMom or being a WorkOutOfHomeMom. And yes, they are actual recognised acronyms - not made up by me this time. There’s another acronym,WAHM, which stands for WorkAtHomeMom but this is a separate category altogether, which irks the SAHM’s and WOHM’s because it mucks with their arguments.

This war has escalated to such a degree that there are forums and websites dedicated to SAHM’s and WOHM’s bitching and moaning about each other. 
I’m not really sure when this infighting started but I’m placing my bets on sometime after WW2 when women found that, after being in the workplace for the first time, they weren’t that eager to relinquish their paying jobs and go back to being housewives and mothers. They liked being self-sufficient, independent women. Note: this could be a clue.

Perhaps, back in the post WW2 era, the women who carried on working and the women who went back to being SAHM’s had some kind of mutual respect. Fast-forward to 2014 and this respect seems to have disappeared. If anything, the issue seems to be hotting up.

This “my-work-is-harder-than-yours” mentality has spawned a new phenomenon called Mommyjacking. This happens when WOHNOM (WorkOutOfHomeNon-Mom) declares – normally on some or other social media forum (erm, whole bunch of questions right there -- WTF!??!?!)  - how ‘hard’ their day has been, or they might boast of any recently endured “hardness”. Her/his statement is then mommy-jacked when a SAHM retorts with a counter hardness argument.  Here’s a little sample that was gleaned from…

WOHNOM: I love working and not getting paid.

Mommyjacker: Welcome to motherhood. lmao

Mmm. See what I mean? It’s really hard to tell who is worse. To be fair, it’s not only SAHM’s that Mommyjack. WOHM’s like to do it too (please refer to exhibit A postcard.)

Just as pendulums will swing, there is a counter-phenomenon to Mommyjacking that might in fact be even worse. I don’t think it has a name yet but perhaps we could call it Mommywanking.

Mommywanking occurs when mothers gush on social media about how much they luuuuurve being a mommy and how little [insert kids name here] is just the sweetest, most darling, gentlest, intelligentest, prettiest, talentedest, atom-splitter in the world. For some reason, this even more uncomfortable than Mommyjacking because everyone knows that everyone else isn’t going to agree, because everyone else has their own little darling that they think is nicer than the other little darling, right? Note again: Mommywaking isn’t exclusive to SAHM’s because WOHM’s do it too. No wonder WOHNOM’s hate moms, but more about that later.

You’d think that with at least Mommyjacking and Mommywanking in common the SAHM’s and WOHM’s would get along. But they don’t and the one-upmanship continues. I’m thinking of getting T-shirts made in support of either group. You know, like political parties do.

Whilst trying to get all of this hard, harder, hardest work into perspective, I was reminded of Chris Rock’s take on people who call their work “hard’. He was lambasted for saying at the 2012 Oscars that he hates it when actors say how ‘haaaard” it is doing voice-overs for animated films. He pointed out something along the lines of “you know what’s hard? Digging trenches. Now that’s hard work” (~ please imagine this in Chris Rock’s voice, it’ll just be funnier. If you don’t know what that sounds like, it’s the Zebra’s voice in Madagascar.)

What that basically means is that all the while that SAHM’s and WOHM’s are arguing about whose work is the harderestestest, trench diggers are scoffing behind their pick-axes because they know that THEIR work (along with perhaps miners and sex workers) is in fact the hardest.

Alongside this Battle of Hardness between SAHM’s and WOHM’s, an invisible enemy lurks. WOHNOM’s. WOHNOM detest WOHM’s. It’s true!  Just when the WOHM’s were happily smug in their belief that their life is the hardest, it turns out that WOHNOM’s hugely resent mothers who work, claiming that they get preference over non-moms. WOHNOM’s say that WOHM’s don’t pull their weight, meaning that the WOHNOM’s have to pick up all the slack.

This means WOHNOM’s believe that they the harderestestest working people in the world. But they obviously haven’t chatted to the trench diggers, miners and sex workers.

I tell you, all this just makes me long for the good old days when the enemy was just plain old men. Things were so much simpler then.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

26, 27, 28...


As an act of defiance against the start of term, the boys and I decided to treat school days (well, the afternoons at least) as if they were still holidays.  This meant going to the beach.

Because of my recent obsession with Instagram, I take my camera everywhere with me. And so it was, that whilst the boys were frolicking in the waves, I was bumbling along the shoreline looking for good photo ops.  After all, I’d bumped into Ninja just a few weeks before so who knows who’d pop up next.

As I mooched around the shallows, I spotted a guy a little way off. He had a camera phone pointed my way and said something to me that got drowned out by the noise of the waves. Thinking that he was asking me a question, I walked closer and said “pardon, I didn’t hear you”.

“I was just taking a photo of you”, he said.

I was immediately suspicious. Let’s just say that I’m not really the sort of beach person that other beach people take photos of. Although there was something slightly unsettling about his demeanor, I decided to let it slide, putting my suspicions down to my apartheid upbringing. I rationalized that despite his rather piercing eyes and penetrating gaze, his face was pleasant enough and when he smiled he revealed a cheery “Cape Flats smile”*.

Besides, I’d remembered reading somewhere that if you’re feeling unnerved by someone, the best tactic to disarm them is by being friendly. I gave it a whirl.

“A perfect day to be at the beach, eh?”  I say.

“Yaaas”, he answers in a broad Cape-coloured accent, “I just came here with my gurly. You know, instead of sitting at home yuss sitting aroun bored”.

I look around. No gurly.

“Great”, I say, “where is she then? Your gurly?”

“She’s visiting with some friends”, he replied “I dropped her off”.

“Ah, so you guys live around here”, I say.

“Nou”, he replies “I live in “Monrthehadfashdf”.

OK, so I didn’t hear exactly what he said but as I had never heard of it, I assumed it was farther afield than what my uptight whitey legs had ever taken me.

We exchanged small talk and then went our separate ways. Or so I thought.

Not long after our encounter, the fellow reappears in his swimming trunks. He enters the water. But not a little way off where his belongings are, rather right in front of me. Free country, I thought to myself, though at the same finding it a little odd considering the long stretch of available beach. I again rationalized that crime-wary South Africans are far too suspicious.

After a short swim, he gets out of the sea and starts walking towards me. It’s then that I catch sight of his tattoos.

Prison tattoos. Holey crab cakes, I think to myself.

Thinking quickly I say “Hey!” (as if we’re long lost friends). I was hoping the excitement in my voice would hide my mild panic.

“Great tattoos”, I say, whilst all the while thinking fecking hell, they’re not great tattoos. They’re not great tattoos at all because they’re gangster tattoos and they all mean something fiercely wicked and I know this thanks to “The Number” and “Ninja”.

Still, a meeting this up-close and personal with an ex-con was just too interesting to pass up.

He elaborates.

“I youzyouly doh like taking my shert aff becoz the people, they think bedly of me man”.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but on the whole, I was raised – as many South African’s are – to be polite to strangers and, wherever possible, make them feel welcome and at ease. Perhaps, with ex-cons, this isn’t a very good idea.

“No way!” I hear myself swoon, “I think they’re AWESOME”.

He looks slightly bashful but takes all this encouragement as a sign to sit down alongside me. No wait, not alongside, but RIGHT NEXT to me. We could practically pick each other’s noses.

“I love tattoos”, I gush (I mean I do but WTF?!?!?) “What do yours mean?”

“I wuss in a geng”, he says shyly.

“Ah”, I say, trying to sound philosophical, “which one?”, all the while hoping he says the 26’s because rather a swindler than the other two.

“Da 27’s” he says.

“Ah, so your tattoos probably mean something”, I say and mumble something about having read Johnny Steinberg’s book.

He looks sheepish and replies “I got them a long time ago. Sometimes a tattoos, they can mean someting. Like if I’m in prisson and I get my gurly’s name tattoo’d on my chess, it means someting. But sometimes, they can mean nutting.”

As he looks away both he and I know that his tattoos don’t mean nothing.

I’m suddenly so curious. I can’t help myself asking.

“You were in prison?” I say, feigning surprise. “Where? In Pollsmoor?”

“Yaaas”, he answers “I was in prison but not at Pollsmoor”.

‘Ah”, I say, trying to sound light and conversational, as though he were recounting his yearly travels. I stop short of saying well nice to meet you. you’re the first ex-prisoner I’ve ever met, because I feel it’s important for him to think that I mix with ex-cons all the time and that’s why I’m so wys*.

“Where were you then?”

“I moved from place to place” he says.

Cryptic silence.

“Um, why do they move prisoners?” I hear myself say, all the while presuming it’s because of some kind of shanking or equally wicked activity.

“Well”, he says, “I wuss in prisin for eight yeears and I got tieyid of the fighting and violence and killing and I aksed them to move me away from the gengs”.

My mind is reeling at the words “eight years”** but I interject with an old, lame tactic I hope everyone uses and that isn’t unique to my lame-ass.

I relate to this dear, wretched man. You know, to make him feel like I understand him entirely.

“I hear you”, I say, “eventually all the violence, killing and fighting just gets too much.”

WTF?!?!?!? For crying in a bucket, relating to your girlfriend when she’s had an argy-bargy with her bloke is one thing, but for hamcheesesakes, did I really think this guy was going to believe I had ANY idea what true violence was? I think of showing him my tattoos just to prove to him that deep down we’re all the same but then imagine him inwardly scoffing at my timid little snowflake ink.

I realised something else alarming. When you’re polite to someone, its really tricky to suddenly be rude. Like say if you were getting a bit nervy and wanted to walk away.

What I sincerely wanted to say to Mr PrisonTattoos is “well this has been a smashing conversation, but I’d like you to leave now and go home so that when my kids come ashore you’re long gone.”

But I don’t say that. We carry on talking and, to my horror, my kids come towards us.

Adding to my horror, I hear myself (who, for the love of God has taken over my mouth?!?!) say to my sons, a la Tannie-en-Oom-styl*** “say hello to the nice gentleman” when what I really wanted to say was “Run! Run for your lives!”

This surely takes the proverbial cake. As much as my fantasies of a Pygmalion-type scenario playing out are entrenched, surely one HAS to draw the line at protecting one’s kids?

In desperation, I fabricate another fantasy.

“Guys, we have to leave right now. Dad will be home shortly and we’re going out”. I think of adding “To Rio. Forever”, but think better of it because then MrPrisonTattoos might think we’re loaded and try to shank us for some money.

Equally fantastically, for once the boys don’t ask a million questions about where we’re going? And why we had to leave the beach so soon? And why dad would be home so early? I suspect they could smell my fear.

Between the look of MrPrisonTattoos and my fear, TFTF and MrPP asked a million questions on the drive between the beach and home (did I mention we took a 26km detour via Scarborough? You know, incase this wicked man was following us …on foot.)

For the next 48 hours I fielded a million questions from the boys regarding prisons, prisoners and gangs, causing me to Google things like ‘prison tattoos - meaning’, ‘number gangs’ and ‘what to say when you meet an ex-gangster.

But apparently you don’t say anything to an ex-gangster. Because there’s no such thing.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

the tao of pooch (thank you Benjamin Hoff)

Ah, the 2013 roundup. Highlights include passing my exams (halleloooyaah!), mastering a back flip on the trampoline (that’s a lie – I did master the fantasy of it though), learning how to eat humble pie with chopsticks and (namedrop-namedrop) bumping into Die Antwoord on the beach (they’re a lot nicer in real life than what they seem... but that’s a story for another day). 

Mmm, what else… ah yes, joining Instagram. Consequently it comes as no shocker that ‘selfie’ was the Word of 2013. When I first signed up I was truly alarmed at the amount of selfies there are out there. Seriously, it’s an epidemic of sorts. And slightly weird, especially if you’re scantily clad. What I also can’t believe is how many photos there are of dogs on Instagram. And what can I say, scoffing be damned, I’ve actually become one of them.

A couple of months ago we bought – much to the mirth of our friends – not one, but two Jack Russell puppies. From the get-go I have been rather smitten with them (seriously, who doesn’t love a puppy?) My romance with them was fueled only more by their constant presence at my side whilst I studied for my exams. It was somehow calming to look at them sleeping peacefully and think to myself “Mmm, one day when I’m a dog and I won’t have to write exams EVER AGAIN”. 

Recently, whilst watching them play in the golden light of early evening (think ‘Hallmark card image with soft edge editing’), I decided (with the aid of insight that only strong whiskey can provide) that there must surely exist such a thing as ‘Dog Philosophy’. So far, here is what I’ve learnt from our little ankle biters…

1. Always start the day with a nap, followed by a quick pee, a short burst of energy and then another nap.

2. Growl, fight and bare your fangs, but when you’re done, shake it off, walk away and act as if nothing ever happened.

3. Take a nap.

4. Feel free to run about wildly but allow yourself plenty of short breaks to smell the … well, just to smell anything, really.

5. Be sure to take a nap when you return from your wild running.

6. Explore the world to your heart’s content, but always have a bowl of clean water and nice home with a soft bed that you can come home to.

7. Because you’ll want to take a nap.

8. Use your ‘cute face’ to its full advantage.  Folk are bound to help you when you make an effort.

9. Happiness lies in taking plenty of naps.

10. When at first you come across a stranger, act brave and show your swagger. Then, when you get to know them better, show them your soft side and be really nice.

11. And then take a nap.

12. Beware of old dogs. They’re often sore which makes them cranky and being cranky makes them sore. Best to sniff them politely and then move on swiftly.

13. Suggest they take a long nap.

14. Beware of very young dogs.  They can be nippy and yappy and if you spend too much time with them you will end up chasing your tail.

15. Insist on a nap.

16. Be grateful for the food you have but never give up hope that something more exciting may appear. (See point 8 re: “cute face”).

17. Nap.

18. If someone fences you in, push the boundaries or dig around it.

19. But if you can do neither, take a nap.

20. Never stop being curious. It may lead you to a snake in the grass but it may also lead to who knows what kind of exciting things.

21. Nap again.

22. Greet the people you love as if you haven’t seen them in years, even if you only saw them 5 minutes ago. It just makes them feel nice. 

23. Nap with them.

24. If you are made to wear a leash, pull against it with all your might so at least you have the lead. 

25. Nap a while.

26. When someone opens a door for you, take the gap. You never know if it will open up again.

27. On your return, take a nap.

28. Take all the pee breaks you can get. You never know when it will no longer be your choice to keep it in or let it out (see point 12 re: ‘old dogs’).

29. Nap in between pee breaks.

30. Finally – and I wish I knew who original author of these wise words was  – ‘treat every problem as your dog would: if you can’t eat it or hump it, piss on it and walk away”.

31. And then, most certainly, take a nap.