I almost slipped off the treadmill at my local gym last week when I spotted a woman sashaying in, wearing very brightly coloured tights that resembled pyjamas. But it was not the appalling gym gear that caused my near accident. I did a double take when I realised that her face was liberally smeared with a white paste resembling a face mask.
But of course, as every black person would know, this was not face mask but probably calamine lotion or ummemezi, as we say in isiXhosa. The paste had now started drying and had caked on her face. What on earth was she doing out in public, in the ‘burbs, nogal, with calamine lotion on her face? After I’d regained my composure on the treadmill and managed to stifle my chuckles I kept stealing glances at her and watching how other people would react to this peculiar sight.
It was clear I was not the only one who was stupefied. One unfortunate chap received a very loud greeting from Sister Calamine — the look of unbridled astonishment on his face was priceless. I was so unnerved by that point that I stopped the treadmill to avoid cracking my skull wide open and creating an even bigger spectacle.
It’s bad enough that many women are now wearing doekson their heads at gym. This, I’m told, is to keep our chemically straightened hair or weaves in check so that the moisture from sweating doesn’t ruin the do. Now, I know it’s your hair and you bought it, girls, but surely a bandanna would suffice? Come now, ladies!
As women, we are the first to have a pity party over the dire state of our love lives, but are we adequately interrogating our own idiosyncrasies to see where we may be failing ourselves? I think not. So, I’ve been doing some introspection and determine what it is in our own behaviour and tendencies that could possibly be driving potential suitors away.
A male friend recently took me and three girlfriends out to lunch. Everyone spent ages poring over the menu and I was growing impatient because I had already made my choice. Fifteen minutes later we still hadn’t ordered. I grabbed the wine list and asked the girls around the table whether my suggested tipple was suitable, hailed the waiter and ordered.
As I put down the menu, I caught a glimpse of sheepish dismay and boyish disappointment on my male friend’s face. It stung me so badly. How could I be so insensitive, so improper and imprudent! As single women we’ve been self sufficient and alone for so long and are so used to doing everything for ourselves we forget what the etiquette in such a situation would be. He has invited us to lunch — surely he would want to make his mark and order the wine? I was deeply embarrassed.
We often claim that we want men to take care of us, shower us with attention and take charge, but we don’t know how to let them. Our upward mobility, fantastic careers and financial independence — while all hard-won — have made us rather bolshy. I’m not suggesting we should downplay our success and independence, but perhaps we need to be more mindful of the fact that men are trying to figure out the rules of engagement as much as we are.
Our other failure is that in our eagerness to get married we show freneticism, which scares men away. I know we are all guilty of this. Someone needs just to flash us a smile and ask us out on a date and we are already designing our wedding dress and putting in that call to Gavin Rajah to start taking our measurements.
My good friend Sipho, who is now happily married, once told me the most amusing story during our regular catch-up lunch sessions at Tasha’s in Atholl. He said men have become paranoid about the language they use around their girlfriends. For example, in conversation men have become wary of using the isiXhosa word for broom, umtshayelo. The prefix of this word is the same as that of the isi-Xhosa word for wedding and marriage — Umtshato. So the moment a man even utters the letters — u-m-t-s-h-a — Sipho says our ears prick up and we lick our lips in anticipation, when all the poor guy wants to say is ”Ndifuna umtsha-yelo” (I’m looking for the broom).
Ladies, let’s allow ourselves time to enjoy these relationships first instead of putting pressure on ourselves and men to make a lifetime commitment that they may not even be ready for. I know the clock is ticking and we can’t wait to don our beautiful designer wedding gowns, but no amount of scheming on our side is going to make it happen any sooner.
So, as Oprah says: ”Be more splendid, more extraordinary, use every moment to fill yourself up” and, as the saying goes, when the bride is ready, the groom will appear.