Growing up in apartheid South Africa in a working class neighbourhood in Africa was a daunting experience to say the very least. Africa is not for sissies: this is something that has to be experienced to truly understand, its kind of like growing up in a really vast bad neighbourhood. You can talk about it but people really don’t understand unless they lived next door to you. Africa is the university of the schools of hard knocks: a continent of such suffering, poverty, violence and a display of all the worst of humanity’s nature. There is no other place on earth that combines all these in one nasty-ass package. Kind of like Pandora’s box without a lid. It is beautiful continent being destroyed by humanity which is really apt considering it is where we, the vile, conniving apes that we are, sprang from. It is where all of humanity came from, it is Eden. Ok, apologies while I rein in on my venomous sermon!! Its just that I am no fan of the human race (the fact that we use the word humane as though it is a positive quality makes me want to hurl) (oops sorry got away from me again) ha ha ha.
So the point I was trying to make was that its a tough place (Australians and Croc Dundee like to sell themselves as hardboiled, phah I say!) and in order to tame and control such a place there are very rigid “norms” in place within the various societies, regardless of colour, race or nationality. Not much place for an emotional kid who loved dancing, art, Shakespeare and poetry. To say that I was bullied is kind of like saying that toast has crumbs; it really doesn’t describe the enormity of it! My primary school years (grade 1 to 7) were an absolute nightmare! And then I went to high school and boy that was were the real animals were: gangs, fights, being hung over a balcony by your ankles! I feared the worst!!
But in Africa there is one thing that is respected and that is might, power, strength, and in White Apartheid South Africa the one thing that epitomised that for all, especially the man on the street, was rugby, I kid you not!!! Yep, a sport!! and so much more to White South Africans. Afrikaans boys started playing it from birth I think, but we English (or soutpiele – so called by the dominant White Afrikaaner at the time because we English-speakers were said to have one foot in Africa and one in Europe while our penis’ hung in the sea therefore we were “salt penis'”) mostly only started playing it once we reached high school.
Its different now of course, but back then when you got to high school all grade 8’s were forced to participate in school rugby trials. The funny thing is this soft mommy’s boy (yes me) turned out to be a good rugby player and therefore I gained a measure of respect from the boys. The other thing is that playing a contact sport soon rids you of your fears of pain and abuse plus you suddenly belong!!! I loved rugby and I played the game with some success until the age of 36 and some fractured ribs.
The point I’m trying to make…I think… is that one can be a myriad of people. Do not pigeonhole yourself or allow other people to do it to you. Be yourself and in order to do that explore so that that you can discover yourself. Don’t limit yourself to one or two roles: be a dancer, an artist, a lifeguard, be the hero and the damsel in distress, be a farmer, tinker, tailor!! Hell, be Father Christmas!!! Ho ho ho ho ho!!