Archive | September 2013

Hand Shaking

When you’re at university, after a non ending process of trying to meet a series of deadlines and working under pressure inducing constraints, you can by all means decide how you want to greet people. Through all those preferred methods, handshakes are the least used by South African students. Hugs are the new crossover maneuver of the previously ‘hello and hand wave’ gesture.

The corporate world however is a whole new ball game. In this place, people extend their hands everywhere you go. Whether it is to open or seal a deal, a simple greeting or an act of kindness. The hand gripping encounter is probably the first gesture after eye contact. This is their lingo.

I’m fairly new to the corporate/real world. I’m trying to learn as much as I can and adapting pretty quickly. I’m not a health freak nor am I picky (okay maybe I’m lying). But it cannot be further from the truth that I’m not fond of a variety of things and neither am I easily impressed.

The handshake is the least of my favourite gestures. I do not like the idea of locking my hands with somebody else’s hands who’ve been everywhere except in the presence of tap water and soap. As a result, a series of flashbacks play in my head before the handshake. This one of…let’s call him Pete suddenly comes into mind.

FADE IN:

After suffocating his entirety for the sake of fitness and avoiding a premature heart attack on a machine called the treadmill, Pete placed his index finger on one of the buttons on the machine, and the thing’s speed lowered to a halt. He looked around as if hoping to find something or maybe land his eyes on somebody familiar. I guess he remembered the importance of all the signs that sit on each wall at the gym, reminding each member to bring a towel and a bottle of water with them. Nonetheless, Pete had no towel nor a water bottle. With his broad shoulders held high as one whose just got an employee of the month certificate, headed for the men’s restroom.

As he emerged from the ablution you could tell that he tried to wipe out the sweat running its own marathon on his face with those cheap single ply, white flecks releasing toilet papers. He took fast, brisk, uneven steps, with a few unnecessary glances on his runners. His journey reach its destination at the weights section where he picked up two adjustable dumbbells weighing 12lb each, and began working out his sculpted masculine arms. After counting from one to ten for more than enough, he threw the damn heaviness of the weights down.

I watched him bemused. His well kept body which had huge, well trimmed rock like muscles emerging from his calf and arms bewildered me. The gait and jolliness he walked in was unseen before by my eyes. As I sat on the table after my workout, pretending to be interested in one of those healthy lifestyle magazines. I wondered what his next move would be.

I read a sentence on the magazine and looked up in Pete’s direction. O holly Mary mother of Jesus! Pete was doing the deed. Starring at himself. Sitting on his haunches. An adventure seemingly enjoyable or maybe necessary to the doer but yet so gross to the spectator. Sometimes it is inevitable but most of the time it is an induced action. He toyed. Pleasured his being and cared not about his vicinity, a public place. I really didn’t want to look, but you know the eye (sigh).

He fiddled. Not the kind of fiddling you do when you’re agitated and sometimes nervous, but the one where the index finger takes a deep inspection journey inside the nostril. And to increase the excitement of this journey, he was squating close to one of those ‘you’ve lost weight’ lying bastards called mirrors at the gym.

I guess he figured his finger had done enough expert work. He drew the finger out and in slow motion, rubbed his hands together as one whose very cold. After a good minute, he stood up. Straightened himself and walked. His steps were drawing closer and closer to where I sat. I felt goose bumps, the kind you feel when walking outside at night and hear slow moving steps behind you. I wanted to run to the ladies but I felt stuck, so I had only one choice; to bury myself on a magazine as if the article I was reading was anything short of world class facts on belly flattening.

He took a seat on a table DIRECTLY opposite me. My eyes longed to peep at him but my mind posed a question, what if he’s looking at you too? Dang! I needed to do something, fast. He beat me to it. He stood up, came straight to my table and flipped through magazines that sat on the table. I looked at him. He looked at me. Eyes locked. He smiled. An awkward smile. He extended his hand, as if to receive my hand so they could grasp and do the up and down movement like blood relatives before the inventions of hugs.

I looked at his thick, short fingers. My mind replayed the inspection process. I don’t do handshakes. I explained. He folded his hand to form a fist. I succumbed. He told me a name I can’t remember today. The meet and greet was done. He went back to the magazines and picked out one with two big, gym slaves gentlemen on the cover and went back to his seat. As he sat, the plastic chair made crackling noise. I looked into the magazine. My mind replayed the classic index finger investigator scenario. The magazine in my hands suddenly felt dirty. I put it down and stood. Recollected my self. Took my belongings and walked out of the gym.

FADE TO BLACK

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In My Forefathers House

Before a verse in one of the kwaito songs which became fairly popular, they were widely known as the ‘peaches’. The smooth, soft-yellowish, immensely likable peaches. These African darlings were the preference to a number of African gentlemen. And by the sight of interweb mentions, it seems the yellow-boned are also a majority’s favourite.

When the popularity of the word yellow-bone (don’t worry my English conscious beings, I’ll dissect this frog for you’ll…later) landed on our black streets, we expressed our delights, as per usual, on social media platforms and once again Twitter took the texter’s choice award.

You see, long before we labeled our own blackness, there was only one kind of black…Black. As you can obviously understand, this was neither sufficient nor satisfactory to my fellow countrymen/women. Out of that almost negligible yet invariable lack, existed the bonds which intertwine curiosity and inquisitiveness, the perfect ingredient to a thrilling series of adventure.

As a result, today I’m glad to notify you that we have different shades of black and they all have different categories. So next time you find yourself in Africa, or for precision’s sake let me say in South Africa, you need to know a few very minor but highly important things.

South Africa, at the moment, is home to five specific shades of black. We have the two previously pure black but now Indian and Coloured blacks. Then we have the black-African blacks, this is divided into three categories. The dark-skinned blacks (also known as the black baby-jellies). Secondly, we have the vanilla-blacks (these would be known to white folks as the Albinos) and lastly, I really wish I had a drum-roll and a Johann Sebastian Bach prelude playing in the background for this one, the yellow-bones (these would be the subject of discussion here and everywhere).

The yellow-bone’s are at the peak of their existence. As it is with one who is at the peak of their career, they are the talk of the
twittersphere. And to no surprise, their fashionableness has kicked the ‘dark beauty’ and the ‘black is beautiful’ phrases right where is appropriate to render them irrelevant.

However, this whole phenomenon has only been true for ladies of this skin tone. Gentlemen on the other hand, if they by any chance happen to be in possession of this yellow-bone(ness), are most likely to be referred by the derogatory ‘f’ word often expressed towards gay people. On Twitter they are captioned with the hashtag ‘keeps losing’ text code.

I need to mention that long ago, before I learnt how not to shut my mouth, they said ‘black is beautiful’ and I’m not yet certain as to whether my native South Africans have decoded the underlying vision that moulded and brought forth this cultural notion.

Anyway, to accommodate our progression, we have a new, more relevant expression; I’m yellow and it gives me pride. This yellow denotes, in particular the lighter shaded kids of Africa, those whose skin colour resembles the shining sun at exactly midday in the African skies. It is a very favourable yellow even amongst the ladies whose skin tone screams ‘I am an African’ from afar. Hence the havoc in my forefathers house.

The longing for the soft, smooth yellow-bone skin tone has been in existence long before we could discover that nursing, teaching and social work are not the only disciplines available post standard ten. Our fore-mothers had their homemade traditional skin lightening mixtures which till this day continue to serve their purpose at utmost best in some parts of my land.

‘Yellowness’ is proving to be grade A prestige in my land for it is associated with the desirable amount of beauty; beauty which grants a lady adequate attention needed to make her feel lovely inside. That is why African women, for the longest time, have wanted (and still desire) a skin tone of this sort.

This is where the adventures of ‘chasing’ come into our black lives. ‘Chasing’, mind you it is not English but could be thought of as a simile to skin bleaching, except this method is likely to be the works of some cheap chemicals that guarantee the user a damaged skin, in the long run.

Chasing is also an exhausting process, it requires you to never for a moment neglect it, otherwise, darker days shall be all over you like an annoying mosquito in the summer nights of the moist KZN land. And to make it worse, you’ll be more darker than when you first started the process ‘yok-chaser’

Now the thing is, I’m dark and as if that is not enough, I battled the fight against resistant skin acne. So everywhere I went, as a teenager, I would find a stranger prescribing me some form of medication or ritual I needed to perform to overcome a seemingly endless war. As a result, I’ve swallowed pills which refused to go down the esophagus and tried ninety percent of the skin products on the market.

I really thought the prescription process was over, to my despair, I’ve recently been prescribed a skin lightening cream mixture which is to brighten my skin’s tone and make me look ‘beautiful’. I was flummoxed. I wasn’t sure whether to chuckle or burst out in tears. I was however very concerned.

My people are overly obsessed with running after the fair skin tone, in a world where the colour of your skin is ought not to define your beauty nor your altitude. I mean it could be, to a certain degree, understandable that my foremothers envied a skin colour of this sort. However, we are not bounded by those laws anymore.

Henceforth, why do we invest so much time in depreciating the things we have through processes which endanger our lives? Why do we constantly seek contentedness on catalysts that can completely rearrange (usually for the worst) our normal living conditions?

I’m well aware of the black stereotype that if your skin tone is darker, by default, you’re ugly. I learnt that as a kid. My own black people told me so through the nursery rhymes they sang as they delicately held me in their warm loving hands. It is deteriorating that when you’re a kid and dark skinned, ‘umubi’ [you’re ugly] is amongst the first words you learn to utter.

As a toddler, I knew black wasn’t beautiful or adequate. Somehow I feel as though I’m still stuck in the era where your skin tone is questioned by your own people. Your own people oppress you for the way you were created. They inflict words in your vocabulary that make you question the purpose of your appearance.

Moving forward, as you stare unto a mirror which presents to you your yellow-bone(ness) that is globally worthy of embrace, remember that really dark skin toned child who sits besides you, longing for you to instill in them confidence that will not be penetrated by the spiteful phrases of societal beliefs. It is a plea, make them feel as beautiful as you do.