Controlling emotions is a fine heart

“Managing your emotions pays off in the long run.” I saw these words ­liberally splashed across either side of the entrance to Cape Town ­International Airport when I was there earlier this week.

To my pleasant surprise, they are part of Nedbank’s latest advertising campaign. I saved them on my cellphone because I wanted to remember them. I am not niggardly minded, especially in terms of my emotions. This means I do not have a strategy for their management, especially in the pale and often entropic matters of the heart, also known as romantic ­relationships.

Earlier this year a friend and I submitted a 30-page proposal to the SABC for a documentary about the extraordinary number of black women in Johannesburg who are beautiful, intelligent, career savvy, independent and confident in all areas of their lives, yet single. Few admit just how lonely they are. They do a good job of managing their emotions. I doubt it is only about keeping up appearances—the dating scene in Jo’burg is as appealing as an ­abortion. Despite this, the excitement of a first or second date gives credence to the notion that, unlike the mind, emotions are exasperatingly impossible to manage.

Recently, I spent more than an hour helping a friend of mine (in her late 30s) to get ready for a third date with a man she really likes. She has been celibate for four years because of a traumatic experience she went through in her last relationship. 

Despite her trepidation, we enjoyed fussing with her outfit, her hair and make-up, analysing the man’s text messages and whether she would seem slutty if she brought condoms along on the date, just in case. She left in a daze of hope.

Ironically, an hour before that another friend, who is 41, had just admitted to me how unhappy she was in her relationship of 14 years. Her last words before we parted were: “If I could find a young, twentysomething man to have sex with tomorrow, I would. I wouldn’t want him to call the next day. I wouldn’t want him to ask me ‘what’s for dinner’. I would just want to see him twice a week for one thing and one thing only.’’ For the past two years, she has done a good job of managing what appeared to be an enviable relationship with her man and children.

Having seen the beginning and the end of the love journey, the middle is an interesting but precarious place to be, conjuring up the deepest of fears and the highest of hopes that, in the long run, we will find a patch of green grass to settle on.

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela

Milisuthando Bongela is the Mail & Guardian's arts and culture editor. She is a multi award-winning writer, blogger and collaborator. She has experience in the arts having worked in fashion, music, art and film as well as a decade-long career in consulting, entrepreneurship, blogging and cultural activism. She is also directing a documentary about hair and black identity, a film she calls the report card on the rainbow nation project. Read more from Milisuthando Bongela


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