Relationships are always important to me. Never more so than now, having been through such a dark time, where I’ve so needed the support of my friends and family. And I have never leaned so heavily on my husband as I do now. He is a rock and such strength. What on earth did I do to deserve one such as him?
I’ve been reflecting on my history of relationships, and the journey that brought me to my husband. We have been married for nearly 27 years, and we’ve always enjoyed interesting, challenging and hugely fun times together. We laugh and we cry together, and we love each other’s company.
Our giddy newly-wed years soon morphed into reality, as they always do. Suddenly there was bad breath, the five o’clock shadow, mussy hair, grumpy moods and dramatic sulks and door-slamming. And that’s only me. But we came through all of that and began, as M Scott Peck describes it in The Road Less Travelled, “the real work of love”.
When I was about 10, at home in Zambia on holiday from boarding school in Zimbabwe, we went to a friend’s birthday party. I can still imitate my friend’s mother’s laugh – ask me, and I’ll show you! We played games and we swam and it was loads of fun. However, a boy kept following me around and commenting on everything I did.
I dived into the swimming pool and he said, “Wow, what style!” I hope his chat-up lines have improved since then. (At least he didn’t ask me if my dad was a thief. Why? “Because he must have stolen the stars and put them in your eyes.”)
Anyway, he just didn’t leave me alone. He hung on my every word – which wouldn’t have been many in those days – and he watched me and commented on everything I did. I’d never had such attention from anyone before. I quite liked it and I quite hated it. I was 10.
I don’t remember giving him my phone number, but he called me a few days later and asked if I could meet him in “town”. Dusty Mufulira didn’t have a hectically vibey CBD, so I wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind. And I was painfully shy. I said no.
He called back and asked if he and his friend could come and visit me at my house. I said yes and went into panic mode. Half an hour later, the two boys arrived at our gate, on their bicycles. I did what any 10-year old girl would do: I ran and hid under my bed.
My sister welcomed them at the gate and did what any older sister would do in such a situation: she told them I was hiding under my bed.
Not only did she tell them that, but she brought them into the bedroom, pretending not to notice me cowering under my bed. They spoke as if I wasn’t there, and my suitor told my sister – in a stage whisper – that it was a pity I wasn’t there, as he had some biltong* for me. They then left the room.
I loved biltong. And I was 10. So I ran out from my hiding place and went to find them in the lounge. I was so. disappointed to discover I had fallen for his decoy: he had no biltong.
Tempted as I was, I didn’t retreat to the safety of the floor under my bed, but stayed with them and began, kind of, to enjoy the overwhelming attention of a boy. And we did what youngsters of that age always did: we drew pictures and played Monopoly.
I think I saw him a few times more those holidays, and we maintained a short relationship-by-correspondence for a while when we went back to our respective boarding schools. After while there were months of silence, and I discovered he had moved his attentions elsewhere. I was unphased. His friend, however, continued to write to me and send me drawings for some time thereafter.
I was at an all-girls boarding school. When it came the time for our leavers’ dance at the end of my junior school career, the boys from our brother school (an all-boys boarding school nearby) were bussed in to keep us company. I can remember standing against the wall, all knock-kneed and awkward in my first long dress, waiting for – yet dreading – some boy to come and ask me to dance. Ballroom Blitz, Tie a Yellow Ribbon, You’re So Vain, Cum on Feel the Noize, Crocodile Rock and Shambala all blasted from the DJ’s turntable. I danced with a pimply-faced adolescent boy in Oxford bags, but I’ve no doubt our teachers watched and laughed at the gangly and self-conscious antics in the school hall that night.
And then I began my high school years. I have memories of cameo moments with boys: my first kiss (YUCK!); many school dances with boys I was glad to be there with, other boys I wasn’t so glad to be with but they had cool friends; leaving a school dance with a boy whose VW beetle wouldn’t start and I had to push start it in my long dress and everything; a partner at another school dance opening a bottle of champagne in my general direction and soaking the front of my dress.
I had boyfriends who hooted for me at my front gate, boys who drove past my house at midnight and hooted (prompting my Dad to ban them from our house) and boys who would call me from the security fence phone at their boarding school and speak to me for hours.
All of those brief, embarrassing and heart-breaking relationships have prepared me, I guess, for the best. I am married to the kindest, most wonderful man in the world and I’m blessed out of my socks.
Sunshine signing off for today.
*Biltong is dried, spiced meat. Kind of like beef jerky, but South African. And better 🙂