This past weekend was an unplanned girlfriend’s weekend. It started on Thursday with a cooking date for my Grahamstown duo. They helped me pack banging outfits for my internship in Cape Town, they helped me keep calm about not knowing what to expect with this experience and the usual, we ranted about our relations with the opposite sex. The evening was also very celebratory with sparkling wine, celebrating a successful week rubbing shoulders with Trevor Manuel, Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Joaquim Chissano! I arrived in Joburg with the hopes of meeting with my latest crush at some point during the weekend. Instead I spent the day with a friend who was in desperate need of retail therapy and someone to listen to. Her boyfriend has had to leave South Africa as a matter of life and death. After the retail therapy another friend met up with us and we reflected on the 10 year friendship, moving from girl into woman with each other. Over supper we reflected on the throes of love, loss, loneliness, longing and the caution against loosing all inhibitions with the opposite sex of course! Friday ended with a birthday countdown with the birthday girl fully embracing being a grown ass, badass woman, and trying to edit her boss’s reference list for an article he wrote; don’t ask why we weren’t out dancing or something more exciting! But we stayed up till 1am trying to keep each other awake to get most of the work done (she probably did more work keeping me awake so she could stay awake)!
Day two was spent with another girlfriend, shopping for an outfit for yet another wedding she had been invited to with her boyfriend. We went from crazy Joburg town to Rosebank the Zone, looking for something that would make her look gorgeous! In the midst of choosing dresses and deciding against wearing high heels (yay for sensibility) we spoke about I what I think is a wonderful job at the Constitutional court, trying to understand the complex issues in our country. We shared our tensions about wanting to take the road less travelled and dare the world by going out to meet it in whatever form because we fear mediocrity on all levels. We laughed about how she had bought 4 dresses and that amount did not equal how much I had spent on one pair of shoes (my justification for this is that I will not buy another pair of black pumps for the next 4 years!). We laughed about how far we had come from sleepless nights in university which have been substituted for 3 hour sleep trying to get through proposals or reports instead. This date ended in a rush, trying to pick the right earings and losing a wallet in the car and trying to make sure that my friend doesn’t keep her boyfriend waiting. Again!
After this date I headed back into Joburg town to find another long lost girlfriend whom I have managed to keep in touch with despite her jaunts in America and Europe, conquering the world like the early explorers. Amidst taxi drama and trying to find a good Indian restaurant to satisfy our famished bodies we tried to make up for what seems to have been a lifetime since we saw each other. The obvious topic with us is our crazy families with the head of the pack being the point of contention, our beloved mothers. Apparently few black women can call their mothers their best friends regardless of the fact that we are growing women as we would like to see it. Our mothers will never forgive us for being able to think for ourselves, for no longer being dependent on them to change our nappies or buy our underwear.
When it comes to relationship with men/boys (I tend to conflate the two actually: in my mind boys can be men and men can be boys, but this doesn’t apply to women, there’s a huge distinction between being girl and a women), we are all in differing phases. One has a solid long term relationship of three years going through a new phase, another is facing the looming marriage question, another is trying to find her feet after a disappointment with a university relationship that left some wounds, and the other is simply flowing with the ebbs and flows of a new tenuous romance. And then there’s me, single and content but begging God to explain why this is the case, despite my foolish declarations to my latest crush!
What are men supposed to do with such women? We are young, daring, beautiful, lacking nothing, intellectuals, we are learning not to be scared, we are grappling with our mother’s lessons and desperately hoping not to repeat their mistakes. We desire to be wonderful, loved, gorgeous and to live with no regrets. We want to live a life of love, owning each mistake and attempting every limit that the world has put before us, daring that we can have it all (but maybe not at the same time). But the dreaded question, do the men in our lives understand these desires?
Do the men in our lives (whether in intimate relations or not) understand that to some extent, whether we like it or not, are products of our education and societies. At some point we have had to deal with the question of what it means to be a feminist and whether we want this kind of identity for ourselves. Some of us have burned our bras but decided we won’t drive men into the sea. We want to be women, but we don’t want to be bound up by anything, we want to be free, in a chid-like way almost, pining for the childhoods some of us never really had. We understand that we are loved hence we know we are sufficient as we are and refuse to settle for nothing but love.
The kind of love that doesn’t take or exploit, but restores and builds the person to become their best. Love that is kind, patient, that does not envy, is not boastful, that does not keep record of wrongs, that overcomes fear, love that reminds us that we are sufficient as we are, that says to the world we are here and we are destined for greatness.