A month after my father died, my partner, Thierry, and I were with my mom, back home in Bloemfontein. I was about to move to Cape Town to live here with him. One day, we were sitting together with my mom and my partner stepped outside for a smoke.
The minute he stepped out of the room, the atmosphere changed. My mother’s tone of voice changed. Her facial expression changed and the conversation changed.
In the beginning, she said our relationship wouldn’t work, but as soon as Thierry stepped out of the room that day, she had this one-on-one conversation with me.
She said: “Now you’re going to be staying with Thierry in a far-away place I have never seen. And when you stay with someone, you need to respect that person; you two need to take care of each other; love and protect each other. You need to persevere.”
She never said it in so many words, but that was basically what she was saying.
In fact, the Sesotho word she kept using was “hlompho”, which means respect. In our culture, you don’t use that word lightly.
You would normally use it when you are having a very serious conversation with someone. In our culture, it’s as though that word itself has dignity. It is not just used for the sake of a sentence. My mother used that word to get across to me the kind of relationship I should have with my partner. There must be respect and dignity.
The minute I heard that — “o hlomphe Thierry” — it was as though …
I was shocked because I didn’t expect that from her. But at the same time, I heard her very clearly. It was loud and clear what she was saying to me. — Thabang Mashego, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian