Short story: The Poor White

So,  today I felt a little rejected because I didn’t win the competition I entered.  I had great plans for the prize money… and also just now that I’ve done therapy… I know I’m just seeking some approval from certain people. (Different topic). Anyway,  here’s the story.

Input welcome.

The Poor White by Yvette Hess

That thud of school shoes kicking a soccer ball was so familiar to her now. With her head resting on her elbow, she peered through the car window, watching the boys play soccer. Their shouting and laughter upset her father every morning. “There are so many of them here in this school. These blacks, they just ruin everything. As ek my net…” He used the k-word again. But she tried to block it out. Their family was forced to move down to the Western Cape a few years ago. The Free State and its culture was all she knew, and it was that culture that her father so badly longed for.

She shut her eyes, tight. In her mind, all she could see was him. She opened her eyes and she saw the very same boy staring at her through the wired fence close to the entrance of the school. He smiled one of those ‘I love you’ smiles. Her father had barely stopped the car when Delia jumped out of the bakkie. So typical was her life and her family; Afrikaans, barefoot and bitter.

“Bye dad.”

She heard him blabber on about the new South Africa being a waste of time, but it didn’t matter.  She was at school, away from home, she was free.

She walked through the school gate towards her class. Bradley waited for the boer to drive off to make his way towards Delia. He ran up against her; he held her tight, kissed her cheeks and whispered, “Happy Anniversary, my love.”

She felt butterflies everywhere and it felt as if all the little hairs on the back of her neck set alight.  “Happy anniversary, my pumpkin!”

Their love was also typical but rather silly, real and innocent. Delia loved everything about him. Most of all she loved his cinnamon tan. It reminded her of the milk tart her mother used to bake on Sundays. She always put too much cinnamon on, but she figured it was to hide the burnt bits. Bradley was an 18 year old musician stuck in school. His voice melted even the coldest of hearts. He loved Delia’s long ash blond hair. He would sit for hours combing his fingers through it, mesmerised by the golden strands between the darker ones and those little curly ones that sat in her fringe. He thought them odd, but never questioned their roots. They would sit and stare at one another, admiring one another for hours after school. Often they would be quiet, just bewildered. They didn’t need words anyway.

The couple made their way to class. It was History for the first period with Mr Abrahams. They walked hand-in-hand until they reached the classroom entrance, where Bradley let go of her hand. They took their places at opposite ends of the class. It was in this class that Delia first noticed Bradley. He was always first to answer questions and enjoyed stirring up debates around the politics of the country. He was a free spirit with brains. Delia liked that too.

Kyle, the only other white person in class, had always thought it fitting that he should be with Delia. She wasn’t the prettiest in the class, but they were of the same kind, it just made sense. Kyle’s pimply pale skin made her nauseous. She hated that he was placed next to her. Being white made them easy targets: for torture and for praise. In South Africa and in this school in particular, everyone hated ‘the White Man’, but they were still better than everyone else. Blue eyes were always favoured over dark eyes. Dark was associated with dirty poverty. They were better than dirty poverty.

Since being beat up for two years in a row, Kyle decided that the saying “If you can’t beat them, join them,” would have to work for him. So he became coloured. To a foreigner, one would think he was just a light-skinned local coloured boy. He joined an amateur gang and was renowned for being one of the most ruthless boys in the school. His nickname “Witblits” did not only refer to his pale complexion, but warned against his punches and his charms. They were both fast as lightning. The girls did not just love him; they worshipped him. He felt he ought to give every admirer a chance and the girls didn’t seem to mind.

“Come now, sweet lips, I know you want a piece of dis.” Kyle rhymed in Delia’s ear. You would have thought he grew up in the Cape flats with his animated gestures and accent.

“I can also sing like that idiot you call lover.”

She slid her hand up his thigh. Kyle flashed red. She pinched him hard and whispered, “Call me that again and I’ll aim for your Little-blits!”

Bradley giggled at the far end of the class. She had spunk today, despite her soft eyes. She prised Noordhoek-blue eyes, exclusive like the beach and in the same breath, absolutely beautiful.

Mr Abrahams addressed the class, “Good morning class. Do you all know what today is?” He knew there wouldn’t be a response and so proceeded.

“Today we as South Africans celebrate 20 years of democracy.”

He often wondered why he even bothered trying to inspire the group of ‘born-frees’ with their own national history. They all looked uninterested, except for one person of course, Bradley. Mr Abrahams wasn’t fond of the boy, and he didn’t like being challenged; especially in front of a class which was already a problem.

“I want input from every single one of you today.” The class giggled.

“Sir, but it’s also Delia and Bradley’s anniversary today.” Kyle said out loud.

He was ready to challenge Bradley. With his actions, he tainted the sanctity of their special day in an instant. The class roared with laughter. Delia sank into her seat, she was embarrassed and shocked. Over and over again she wondered how Kyle could have known. Bradley growled at Kyle, he had gone too far this time. Delia fiddled with her faded blue skirt, a donation from the school. She wore her second-hand clothes with pride, often to the amusement of the other school children. This was her final year of school, so it didn’t bother her anyway. She had other worries.
“Alright, settle down people.” Mr Abrahams said sternly.

Although he was a renowned believer in democracy and equality, he did not approve of their so-called union. To him, Delia deserved better, not even his son would be at her level. How could a school boy from “Ruyterwacht” be her equal?

“I just hope Bradley isn’t only in love with the tone of your skin and the texture of your hair, Miss Cronje. If he was, he’d be chasing something he never, ever would attain.”

His words pierced the both their hearts. Delia felt so ashamed of her freckled skin. Bradley felt her shame. To the world, she realised, he would never be good enough for her. She sat there plagued but perplexed by his remark. She never considered herself unattainable.

“Let’s continue.” Mr Abrahams went on with his class.

The rest of the day dragged on; the magic had left the air and only gloomy sadness lingered. Delia was in no mood to celebrate.

“I’m going home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The sadness carried through in her soft voice. Bradley tried to take her hand but she brushed him off.

“I know you’re upset, but I’ll still love you tomorrow,” he said.

With that, she walked off, carrying his words in her heart. He wanted to fix things- she deserved to be in a relationship where she didn’t need to feel shame, nor be ridiculed. He watched her walk off. In her troubled mind she thought of the many times she’d stood in line with him at the SASSA offices to get his grandmother’s government grant. There was poverty all around her, queues of tired, broken people waiting for money. But she was never embarrassed to be with him. Even in those times, surrounded by poverty and desperation- she never thought herself better than them. She loved laughing with his grandmother, “You bring sunshine to our family,” his grandmother would muse. Bradley walked off in the opposite direction, she not knowing he was determined to fix this mess.

“Delia! Delia!” The shouting woke her suddenly. “Delia!”

She jumped out of bed, still in her school clothes. She was too depressed to change earlier that day. She scrambled for her slippers.

“Ja Pa, ek kom!”

She switched on her bedside light to have a look under the bed. She grabbed them and put them on mid-flight. She hopped as she struggled to get them on. They were 3 sizes too small already. She ran to see what the fuss was all about.

Delia stood rooted to the floor. There, before her, towered her father, furious as hell. He wore his blue work overall, dirty from the day’s work. She could see he was shaking. He had reached boiling point. Bradley dangled by the collar of his shirt from Delia’s father’s right fist. His school shirt stretched and scrunched in the vice grip of Mr Cronje’s hand. He was scared, but mostly embarrassed, “Hy se, hy het jou lief.” Mr Cronje managed to utter through his clenched teeth.

“English, Pa.” Delia said softly.

Mr Cronje threw Bradley to the floor. She ran to his aid and kissed his cheek.

“I asked for his blessing. I didn’t want you to feel shame. It would kill you.”

She looked up at her father, ready to conquer him and the world.  “You!” she shouted at her father.

“I hate the blonde, straight hair. I hate this skin.” She pulled the skin from her arms. “I hate that I have to defend what I love because I hate who I am.” She paused.

She looked at him and sternly said, ”Ek haat my taal!”

Astounded he was. He never knew that she could be so fierce. His eyes grew wider.

“I hate you because you hate them!”

Bradley jumped in, “That’s enough Delia.”

Gently she lifted him up and they made their way to the front door. With her back towards him she said,

“Dad, look at your nails, they’re black. Your dirty overall, your job: Black. Dad we’re poor. Look at where we live.” She paused, “Our pride: we’re Black.”

She took Bradley’s hand and led him out, leaving her father frozen and broken. Pausing one last time, “Isn’t this why my mother left? You drink and you hate.”

They stepped into the night. Mr Cronje stood defeated, left to cry for his beloved daughter.

He sobbed on the couch until midnight. Suddenly, he felt the warmth of his daughter’s embrace. She tenderly brushed her fingers through his short, thinning hair. He was still sweating from his violent spell of crying. “I have to tell you the truth,” he uttered between sobs. She sang an Old Afrikaans lullaby sweetly to him. She could not deal with anymore hurtful truths. “Tomorrow is another day” she sang to him. She continued to hum one of her favourite tunes. She stroked his fine, thinning hair, staring blankly, not hearing him say, “Jy is nie myne nie.”

She devised a plan to find out more about her mother. She wanted to chase the scent of milk tarts and sweet floral scent of perfume. She needed her mother: a sober, sweet taste of home.  It was a new day and as she said a silent prayer, she realised it was a new anniversary: one of new struggles, but one that harboured no shame.

A whole lot of official stuff

So, I’ve merged my two blogs into one, http://www.yvecorner.wordpress.com. I recently ‘came out’ of the bipolar closet and decided to blog under one name. It was frustrating and often tedious to duplicate stories, trying to remove my name and details for confidentiality. It became difficult to be myself, by withholding so much of me from the world. Bipolar disorder is part of me, it’s sometimes an enabler, and on many of occasions it’s been a destroyer. More often we only worry when the destroying part of the story is around. Believe me, I’m not blaming the disorder for my failures, I’m blaming my lack of knowledge and people in general for not understanding mental illness.

Anyway, that’s a post for another day.

The other official happening in my life is that I have enrolled with Writer’s College South Africa to do a course in Memoir writing. I know that my writing is enjoyed by many, so I believe it’s only fair that I improve on my skills- to give you, my readers the best version of me and this voice I’ve been given.

And finally, I decided to launch a Facebook page (here) where I’ll share posts published, but also share my other favourite bloggers’ insights, some resources about the disorder and where to seek help. Other bloggers are better than this than I am, I prefer just putting a face to bipolar.A sweet face. Maybe I will be able to get you to realize when you or someone you love needs help- and I’ll share ways on how to possibly help them.

My aim with my blog is to give you some sort of window into my life- maybe provide some insight into how the disorder influences the decisions I make, my lifestyle choices, why I complain (read ‘vent’) etc. I want you to see how normal I am- but also how exceptional my visions and talents are, to see that my darkest days are just as intense.

I am cursed with a gift and blessed with this curse.

Words, rhymes, feelings, colours, intensity and death.

All me.

P.S Remember not all bipolars are the same, but we do share similar traits.

Thanks for following!

Tweet me: @yvette_adams

F@#% YOU PSORIASIS!

Yes, I said Fuck you.

Excuse me as I vent. In my previous post I stated I was fat, in part due to my medication. What I didn’t mention, is that I’ve been suffering from worsening psoriasis for more than 7 months. Psoriasis that only infests on my scalp. Although I am thankful it hasn’t devoured any other part of my body, I feel like I’m victim of a penniless hate crime. Hate crime with my bold identity as victim.

I think the Psoriasis has worsened because of the increase in stress and alcohol intake over the past year and of course, the festive season. And yes okay, I haven’t been taking my pills as I should. I have a love/hate relationship with my tablets- I attempted suicide with pills, so the eerie feeling remains. Bearing non-compliance in mind, alcohol is often seen as a quick pick-me-up’er and so my binge-drinking has caused much cringing.

My sister in law noticed my flakes and before she threw out the dandruff card, I confessed to having psoriasis. I am on numerous occasions asked, ‘Het jy dan skilfers?’. That painfully translates from Afrikaans to, ‘Have you got dandruff?’, often I sense it’s embarrassing for them to ask the question. My sister-in-law smiled softly, in a sort of it’s-ok-don’t-worry look on her face. “Kim Kardashian has it. She used breast milk on her legs.”  YAY! Another suffering celeb I can relate to! (The first is Catherine zeta Jones.  Am I being sarcastic? I’m not sure, I’m dusting off these silver flakes off my shoulders after scratching profusely.

I’m bitter.

I wish they warned me about this potential crap on my head. I am aware that we can opt for change in a treatment programme to alleviate, but what the hell? We just came right with this set of pills! The ones that make me fat, remember.

*scratch scratch*

I’m upsetting myself. But I’m upset for obvious reasons, this condition is unsightly. That and, below the surface, I’m still trying to figure who I am as an Yvette, a bipolar. Redefining my identity, my limitations and goals. This skin condition messes with one of the most important parts of me I was proud to show the world. My hair, my afro. I used to say, my hair is an ‘extension of my personality’. I would look really dodgy during my depressed days and people still used to make comments on awesome my hair is and what I do with it. So now, I need to cover it, or when I don’t cover it, people stare at the flakes or at my pink sore skin, hardly able to look into my eyes. It hurts. It’s embarrassing and I feel ugly.

*Sigh scratch*

There are numerous types of ointments, shampoos, pills etc for the condition. I’m currently using two different types of shampoo and two ointments. The issue with that is that I need to use them everyday, wash my hair everyday, have the shampoo sit in my scalp for 15min before I lather etc, every single day. WHAT A PAIN WHEN YOU HAVE 3 KIDS AND YOU’RE TAKING SEROQUEL EVERY DAY THAT MAKES YOU SO SLEEPY!!!!!

*sniff*

All these side-effects are depressing me. And that isn’t a joke.

This is difficult. I’m continuously presented with challenges, it never ends. Sometimes I feel like, God or the Universe is trying to strip me of everything I know and start strong, alive new, fresh. Strip me of pride. Strip me till there is only wisdom and bone to carry it all.

If that’s the plan, I want new hair. The type that when I get out of a pool it stays down. And I want to wear a bikini.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

———–> Mrs H

[New Post]: Wishful Thinking

I’ve been blogging in my mind. I’ve been writing ‘my book’ in my mind. I’ve been surviving life, mostly in my mind. I think this is a good thing- because my mind is not always a wonderland.

I thought it would be easy to blog a few posts, ‘quickies’ as I termed them, but not once did I find the time for a quickie. Okay, I lie, I’ve had lots of quickie time, but not once did a surge of energy, a waterfall of words and time to blog a quickie, (nevermind blogging fourplay of intros and conclusions) merge in to one published mini splat of words. Ulgh.

But I have so much to tell!

My dad always used to say, if you want to get up early, you will. Surely then if I REALLY want to write, I would, right?
I’d write a book.
I’d write a song.

Then why why why can’t I find the time to write, if what my dad said is true, that is?

For the past couple of months I’ve been battling from not being able to sleep to headaches, psoriasis, stress, my own body issues (duh), severe back ache. Been popping several pills to alleviate some of the above. Last week, I woke up and couldn’t open my eyes, and my mouth was frozen shut. I tried hard to open my mouth to tell my husband I could hear him. The torment passed after a few minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder what’s happening to me. It’s scary when your body starts to crumble.

Alexander (16months old) and Gabriel (5months old) have this new gimmick where they cry at the same time. They cry for and because of one another. It’s enough to drive anyone mad or more mad. Then there’s Cayden whose been misbehaving in class. His teacher is at her wit’s end, but she understands it must be crazy at home and all he wants is my attention.

Mine. My attention. Attention I can’t even give myself.

What was I thinking? Me? A stay at home mom? Do all stay at home moms feel trampled on? Like this is way, way more challenging that a job. I was in consulting in the IT audit arena. There were deadlines, politics and drama, but nothing and nothing as intense as this! But you know what, I still this- being-at-home-gig better than work. Well sort of. This gig is rewarding, just not financially rewarding.

Maybe it was wishful thinking to resign. But I’m still tired-eyes, I mean, starry eyed. This is the biggest leap of (true) faith i’ve had to make yet. Guess that’s what comes with the package of parenting, take leaps of faith. Praying that what you’re doing would benefit your children. Even if that means sacrificing your career for a few years.

I’m still a woman, a writer, a (student)leader, a visionary, a change-maker, an entrepreneur, a VOICE. I’m all of that, wrapped up in a MOM box.

Tied with a bow of course!

-me-

[New Post: Old Fave Poems: My Africanisms]

my Africanisms by Yvette Adams

Who are you to judge and define my Africanness?

My skin ranges in colour- light as day and dark as the night.

The texture of my hair has its own agenda- from bone straight to a curl that is so tight.

My heritage, so rich and full of colour.

Yet, so much shame to call you Africa, ‘my mother’.

For you see, mother, my brothers and sisters of this land do not see me as sibling.

Rather, I am to them a stranger, a nobody who cannot offer a thing.

If only, they could see that my soul bleeds to compensate for lack of my blackness and being judged on my whiteness.

 Do not forget me in your struggle, because my brother- it is our struggle.

 My identity calls for a revolution- but respect my history, my pain, my struggle to be seen, by you brother-as a proud African.

[New Poem]: Fallen Star

This star inside has name
But it is not mine.
The star inside me
Makes me feel free, elated and powerful and then suddenly, sad and bleak and deadly.

The star disappears and I all I have to hold is darkness, fears, sadness and worry.
So much worry.

Before my eyes – life crumbles, into nothing- promises broken, lies live on to try to breathe new life into
The hope that this star that hops along.

This star that controls every part of me-
Takes all of me- becomes all of me.
But still-
This star that is not me.

Who is this star if not me?
Who is this star that owns my smile as I cry all the while?

Who is this star that grips my hands tight, stopping me from living openly and with free will and no will to fight?

Maybe the fallen star has become all that I am
And all that I was:
Once bright
Once strong,
Once smart.
All the while strange to the world and all alone.

[New Poem]: I am the Hood

There’s no edge,
No cliff from where I can leap
Because I am free
You, my brother, took that jump for me.

Ancient history
Tells no lies- we are the future
My Hood, you cannot die.
You cannot die,
The San, the Khoi lay there,
Bleeding from their eyes.

They fought, they lived,
They ruled,
They led you, poor fool!
Your heritage yearns for more-
More than the ignorance of
Dying for your hood.

I’m the hood,
I’m the hood-rotten with worry
and pained of old laws passed.
I’m the hood- empowered with new life
Birth’d.
With new life lived!
With eyes bright, brown
And forgotten hurt.
The Khoi, the San
The forefathers-
A catharsis will us not part.

The holiday trip that changed my perspective- oh wait, it didn’t

After a long break from the internet (I almost died), and naturally blogging, I have come back, revived and inspired to conquer. Well, most times when one returns from holiday trips, we are often left more tired than before we left, right?

This time it was different. I did so much thinking and introspection and of course, observing people and their behaviour. My blog post will focus on the race back-lash I experienced in the Vaal Triangle*.

*(The Vaal Triangle is a triangular area of land formed by VereenigingVanderbijlpark and Sasolburg – together they comprise a substantial urban complex in South AfricaMeyerton, just north of Vereeniging, is also generally included in the complex, and residents of Sharpeville, Boipatong, Bophelong, the greater Sebokeng area (including EvatonOrange Farm, etc), HeidelbergZamdela, andPotchefstroom also generally tend to consider themselves to live in the Vaal Triangle. The area straddles the Vaal River and is a major industrial region, which is home to former Iron and Steel Corporation Iscor, now ArcelorMittal South Africa and Sasol, the steel and oil-from-coal processing facilities. ) Taken from Wikipedia, of course.

Although I was born in Cape Town many, many years ago, I was bred in the Vaal, as we call it. We moved to Sasolburg in 1993. Yes, that was before 1994. It was rough, for a 7 year-old trying to find  herself in a situation where you had to change to fit in, to be accepted. I blogged a bit about that experience in “She speaks funny”. With my trip to JHB and the Vaal, I decided to go to the primary school, and visit the area I grew up in, Vaalpark. This is the area that laid the foundation for my dry, dry sense of humour.

Now, there wasn’t much to begin with in Vaalpark, but after leaving primary school in 1998, you would think, or expect things to change a little. Nope, nothing. Nothing changed, not even the mentality of the residents. I say this, trying to stand on some neutral ground. I know people of all races in that area, but we are well aware how ‘stiff’ things can get in that place. The racial tension is so real, you can chew on it, like good quality biltong.

I had frank conversations about the culture in the Vaal, about gay and lesbian rights and attitudes towards homosexuals and of course race issues. The most interesting, for me, were the race talks. I was thinking about a metaphor to describe the kind of talks we had, as it wasn’t really just sugar coated. It was more like this super sour sweet coated with a thin layer of, again, good quality sugar. The truth was and still is that I was ‘coloured’ and not white. Even though I could ‘pass for white’, as my Afrikaans was learnt in the Vaal and I was somewhat accepted in that community (Ok, let’s leave out my hair issues and the shape of my nose), I wasn’t. The truth isn’t bitter, it’s sour. But some people like sour stuff, so it’s cool.

Frank talks happened around the fire, with some meat and of course, brandy and Coke. Listening to the view of others, I tried to understand how do they, as some like to call white people, “our oppressors”, live with the forced guilt and then the shame and pride of the Afrikaner nation’s history? I had to try to listen so hard, as in, not get defensive when statements like, “for a coloured girl, you are cool” were uttered. I could have gotten upset, but I understand that this would be the wrong reaction. Funnily, in the Vaal, being a minority, being constantly reminded that I was coloured, actually gave me some sort of identity. A pretty junk one, but an identity, a label that I could walk around with. When we moved to Cape Town, and I was amongst “my people”, I didn’t know who I was. There was no one to remind me. My label was removed and I had to do some work to discover my roots.

I do not wonder when the mentality will change there. We don’t have time to wait, or cause wars and unnecessary blood shed. I wonder about how we could maybe learn to understand the way people think, behave and interpret their history. We need to understand that we all speak with pain, or shame. Our DNA is tainted with the effects of Apartheid, directly or indirectly. So, we need to understand this in any conversation or debate. This pain and shame informs our way of thinking and thus, if not understood correctly perpetuates the ideas and assumptions we have of one another. This, undoubtedly, has a huge impact on how we can move forward. We can move forward though.

My perspective on the issues race in South Africa has not changed, it has actually become more complex trying to develop some sort of solution for it.

I could say, and probably should say, that “I have white Afrikaans friends who are really cool”, but I cringe as the words appear on the screen. It’s like I had the impulse to mention it, but at the same time, I felt like I was bragging, subsequently feeling guilty about it. I like that I can be honest with those I speak to about these issues. As a student leader at UCT, talking about the race issues I found to be quite different, in comparison to my chats in the Vaal. Here, in Cape Town, we speak of the Black Child (blanket term for the previously disadvantaged) and the rights owed to them etc. We speak of the years they are owed. But there are conversations I don’t think happen enough, without politics, without censorship. This all within reason of course. The talks centered around race are not real, they are often orchestrated. That’s the look and feel I get from it anyway. Not that it is fake, per se, it is just not real enough. We rob ourselves of genuine healing then. I’m not saying we should sit around a fire and sip on Brandy and Coke (not that bad of an idea), but we need to re-think our attitudes towards understanding one another. Just because someone identifies you as ‘coloured’, and labels you openly, doesn’t mean they do not respect you. In the same breath, of speaking with pain and shame, we listen with those emotions too.

We are so complicated.

It’s possible that we are still living in “The Struggle”, just a different kind of struggle. One where we all are trying to, still, come to terms with the past, without dwelling on it, but also giving it the recognition it, errr, so rightly deserves. It’s a complex little situation we find ourselves in. I don’t have answers, well not really cool ones, but I do have perspective and it helps me decide how to move forward, positively.

 

“Not Black enough, Not White enough.”

No, that wasn’t my ending, it’s the title of a book- by Prof. Mohammed Adhikari.

 

– That coloured chick who used to be blonde and had blue contacts-

Miss Y

@yvette_adams

 

 

At the same time, however, I found that honesty, that sour sweet is a tad much to handle.

The good, the bad and the Curly

This is the story about my hair. No, I’m not trying to be conceited. Firstly, I’m going to explain its errrr, ‘origin’ and secondly, I end with a lovely tag line at the end of the post. So watch out for that.

Most of you who know me, know that I have this ‘sick’ (funky) afro on good hair days. I rock it. No lies. I just found myself pondering about what other people thought about my ‘fro whilst sitting on the train today. I got onto the train, ‘fro and all, and sat opposite a ‘so-called’ coloured lady, mid 40’s. Let’s not give away her age- I’ll rephrase and say she was from the previous generation. I took my seat, smiled and received this awkward smile from her. She looked at me and then glanced up (at my hair) and had this expression that said “shame”. Oh, I hate that expression. Her smile even turned bitter- like my hair left a bad taste in her mouth. I wanted to offer her a sip of water, but I didn’t have any on me. Her facial expression had me wondering… Do people see the ‘fro, my ‘fro, as rebellion or defiance or what? I’m sure there is much confusion as to why I don’t ‘blow’ my hair straight. Even my family members have given up. I kid you not.

Where it all started and why I cannot recall. I think it was an accident. Maybe I was in a hurry to go somewhere and just did the wash and conditioner vibe and people complimented me and I enjoyed the compliments. I remember having a blonde ‘fro once. I felt sexy. Those were the days. Anyway.

Before this accident happened, I recall having my mother do my hair. The traditional ‘coloured’ practice of washing you hair once a week, setting it with ‘rollers’ and sitting under a hairdryer stand for 1  hour. Yassis. I hated those days. Firstly because it took forever- the whole process of bending over the bath to wash hair, sitting on the floor to roll in my hair. Sigh, mother dear  had to pull tight lock that roller in. I always complained about the pain and statements like, “You must get it straight, from the root.” and  “You must suffer for beauty Yvette” were thrown at me, like a Frisbee. I never liked playing with a Frisbee. It doesn’t make sense.

I also hated Saturdays when the rugby was on. She would pull my hair from side to side, depending which side the Bokke (Springbokke) we playing. I was praying silently, “Please Lord, let the referee not be unfair. I’m going to lose my hair!”. After that, was that dreaded hairdryer stand. An hour and sometime extra 30minutes. I came out hot and flushed. Not in a sexy way. And then, swirl the hair. (Brushing the hair in a circle against the head and twisting the sock-end of pantihose around it). Klomp effort. For What? Craziness. So, as soon as I was allowed some sort of opinion…ahem…. I stated that I liked the curly look- after the previously mentioned accident.

So, I rocked the afro. In my rebellious phase. Yes, I had one of those. But it stuck. What I didn’t realize that I wasn’t doing it for the attention anymore. It was about me. I loved the curl. I loved the way it was different every day- and each curl was an individual little piece of me. My hair very quickly became a representation of me. My hair embodied my personality. It was all-over-the-place, funky and sometimes dry (referring to my sense of humour). Plus- super bonus- with minmum effort -a mere wash, conditioner and blow dry- I was looking and feeling fabulous.

Reasons why I should keep my hair as is:

  • It’s very ‘now’ <— current fashion.
  • If God wanted me to have straight hair, He would’ve organized that from birth.
  • It seriously looks good with any outfit, especially with a flower on the side.
  • I can store stationery in it for exam purposes
  • We no longer have ‘pencil’ tests, so I don’t have to worry about failing that test
  • It’s me
My curls are just meant to be. I remember going for an interview recently and wanted to look, decent. So I thought, okay, conform to society rules and blow you hair straight. Just as I was about to blow my hair, the electricity went out. I’m not even joking. “Thank you Murphy” and I rocked my ‘fro. I felt confident, empowered and myself.
My hair is an extension of who I am. I love the curls and my ‘fro because it’s part of my ‘package’. I look at those students (generalization- mostly cool humanities students) on campus (UCT), with ‘odd’ looks and I don’t judge. It’s not about being rebellious or going against authority, it’s about expression. Expressing who you are. My hair doesn’t have to be straight to be accepted. It doesn’t hamper my abilities and it doesn’t mean I smoke weed (yes, I get that too).

So yeah, just be you. From root to tip.

Miss Y

P.S Check out: ‘Hair Politics’ by Zimitri Erasmus (2000). She has actually done quite a bit of research and work (many more publications) on the subject of hair politics and so-called coloured identities etc- so it’s more ra-ra than my ‘lived experience’.

Google her. Here is her profile : http://www.soc.uct.ac.za/erasmus.html.

Below are pictures of Erykah Badu and Contro ‘Versey (who recently passed away).

 

Erykah Badu

Contro 'Versey- She lives on Soulja SiSTAR!