roxanawrites

Words are delicious.

Hi, my name is Roxana, and I’m a…


This is a confession. You’re going to judge me, but I’m okay with that. Now, before I tell you what it is, allow me to spare you any unnecessary angst by telling you what it isn’t. It’s not a skeleton in my closet that’s ready to be freed, it’s not me coming out of the closet, and it’s not about me being a closet Satanist, stripper, or suicide bomber. That said, the fact that we’re now on the topic of closets, makes the irony of this piece unavoidable.

I have a closet, and I know it well. It’s that pretty-but-functional piece of furniture in a corner of my bedroom. It’s storage space, a clothing cabin, and, most importantly, it’s a shove-everything-in-here-to-fool-people-into-thinking-you’re-a-neat-person device (especially useful when you’ve got unexpected guests).

So, as you can see, I’m aware of my closet’s use. But, should you ever happen to be standing in the doorway of my bedroom, you’ll also see that I don’t use it. At all. I may well be the only young lass I know that can always see the back of their wardrobe. This is not due to a lack of clothing. Don’t be silly, I’m a girl, I have more than enough clothes. It’s because, brace yourself now, I have a floordrobe.

There, I said it. (Cue exhalation of relief.)

I’m not a dirty girl, but I sure am a messy one. And I can’t seem to pack the habit in (pun intended). There’s only one instance when I try to calm the sea of fabric that spreads across my bedroom floor. It is when I read about and am reminded of how the state of your immediate environment is a reflection of your current state of mind.

Hmm. What would Freud say? I imagine quite a lot. But he’d be throwing pearls before swine because I’ve done my own floordrobe autopsy. Not literally. I mean I didn’t go all CSI on my bedroom floor (I don’t have Horatio’s fancy sunglasses or his knack for unintentional humour). But intellectually, I’ve wrestled my disposition for disarray black and blue.

It was a heartfelt analysis, and after hours and hours of purposeful pondering I came up with two hypotheses. They’re conflicting notions, and not altogether positive, but then again, most honest criticisms aren’t.

Basically, there’s one of two options: Either I just couldn’t care less, or, and this one’s slightly more ominous, I’m failing at life.

The thing is, when I come home after a day of careering it up I always have better things to do. And a multitude of things at that. ‘Pack clothes away’ never makes it onto my to-do list. The problem is, I’m so used to the explosion of clothing that is my bedroom floor that the only time I notice it is when I’m looking for a specific piece of garb. Chances are, if it isn’t in the washing machine, or on the clean washing pile, it’s on my floor.

I’m not bothered if this is all there is to my floordrobe misfortune. But every now and then, when I’m in a how-does-my-life-compare-to-everyone-else’s funk, I start to worry a little. “How do other people do it?” I think. Help or no help, most people I know can always see their bedroom floor. Why is it so hard for me to keep mine visible? Am I limited in my capacity to do life right? Is launching myself from the threshold of my bedroom door to the comfort of my bed, over the mountain range of material, as good as it’s going get for me? God, I hope not.

So, where to from here, then? I’m no longer in denial. I’m owning my problem, what’s next? If this was rehab I’m pretty sure I would be detoxing. But because this is the real world, I can’t go cold turkey on clothing and walk around naked. Besides, that won’t really cure me of my quandary.

I’m dreading saying it, but there is a solution, and it’s twofold. Step one: I need to acknowledge that I’m not four anymore. Step two: I should probably (definitely) accept that the definition of being grown up is doing things that you don’t want to do, just because they have to get done.

Dammit. I hate it when that’s the answer.

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I’m a Liar. You’re a Liar

I didn’t mean it but I said it anyway. A while ago I realised (quite to my horror) the insincerity of some of the words that left my mouth, clearly bypassing my brain along their way to a never-to-return liberty. And, as tends to happen when you focus your attention on a personal flaw, I spontaneously became ruefully aware of it in others. In short, I’m guilty of being a liar. And you are too.

Now before you stop reading in utter defiance of my claim, allow me a moment to say that it’s not our fault. Nope, not at all (well, at least not until we become aware of it), as it turns out it’s another strand of that vile societal DNA that winds its acerbic vine around our daily conduct.

As a society-bred syndrome this auto-response poppycock is so ingrained in us that nobody knows that everybody is doing it all the time.

“How are you?” One doesn’t need even a millisecond to formulate a response. “I’m great”, “I’m fine”, these auto-replies, in saying nothing, say just enough. You’ve answered the question but haven’t insisted on the involuntary attention of your audience for an extended period of time. Only an honest answer would do that. It would require explanation, context, and justification.

So we stick with what’s acceptable, and in so doing we’re mechanically stating that we’re fabulous, life’s a breeze and we’re floating along, giddy with bliss, just like we did yesterday, just like we’ll do tomorrow. Yuck. What a crock! Now I can understand how “I feel like killing myself” is a bit of a conversation slayer but what about “I’m feeling lonely today” – it’s honest, bearable, and it makes you human. When did being fallible become a faux pas?

And what about the horrendous “It’s so good to see you, I’ve missed you so much!” Truth be told, save a few special-to-you-but-estranged humans, had you not bumped into the person you would have never thought of them again. Let’s replace the excessive with a sincere “enjoy your evening” and move on with our lives.

This brings me to my favorite lie of them all. The fervent (if fake) “We should meet for coffee!” Ick! Why would you say that?

This is what goes through my brain: Really, chick? Rah-hair-lee? Do you not think that if we liked one another a lot, or at all, we would have A) Stayed friends since grade 5 or B) Made valiant & repeated efforts to contact one another since then? And, I mean, for goodness sake, you know you’re lying to yourself, and the insincerity of your statement is dripping off everyone of your loose vowels. One look at you, one look at me – not only are we on different sides of the fence, we don’t even share the same fence. You’re Five Roses and I’m Chai.

My brain says all that, and I say nothing. I fake an almost-smile and give a single nod. What I really want to say is, “No, fool. Knowing somebody from over a decade ago is not grounds for initiating an awkward chat in a change room nor is it a good reason to catch up over a begrudging cup of coffee. Besides, I know you don’t really mean it.”

Just because you know somebody doesn’t mean you two are a match. Chances are if you were, you’d be in each other’s lives already. Honestly, I think we’d save each other a ton of time if we didn’t pretend-ask every I-know-her we-should-bond out to coffee.

That all said, and with this rant reaching its completion the question remains “Is it wrong?”

I don’t think we can stop this autonomic process altogether. However, in being a little more conscious of our words and reactions, in thinking them through, we can curb our lying to the point where it at least hints at authenticity. We needn’t be rude or shocking, but toning down the excessive and unwarranted I’m-on-top-of-the-worlds (unless you really are) and you’re-phenomenals, would mean purer encounters. And this would be more than enough because, in truth, a world made wholly of unsullied sincerity would be a harsh one.

A Joburg Winter’s Tale

So we can’t go for picnics in the park anymore. Swimming has lost all appeal. And any form of outside living is less than exciting. Now what?

Happily, Joburg life doesn’t end when the days shorten. If you have the know-how, you’ll be fine. Here are a few tips to inspire you:

Get hairy

This one only really applies to the ladies (and effeminate men). Cold weather is an awesome invitation to do less. Less shaving, waxing, plucking and whatnot. You see, covering up means that nobody will know that you are harbouring three months worth of caveman hair growth under those classy navy tights. It is one less thing to do. And it’s great.

*Please note: people in relationships, and those looking to be in one soon, should, at all times, remain hair-free. Sorry about it.

Take a lover (and ignore previous pro-hairiness sentiments)

Winter means we need warmth, and cuddling a hot water bottle can only do so much. We want to be cuddled back. That’s just the way it is. And since there are few decent, stay-warm-and-still-have-fun options, it’s nice to have somebody to do nothing with.  Risking sounding like an infomercial: taking a lover is a cheap and easy way to keep warm, fit and have fun all winter through.

Eat more

I know of only one person who finds eating to be a chore. The rest of us delight in it. Thick coats hide spare tyres and love handles better than Madonna hides her age. And boots not only balance out robust thighs nicely, but they also mean that cankles are, for at least three months, non-existent. Score! So eat. Eat well. Eat hard. And worry about your shape never. Life’s flipping short yo.

*It is important to make the connection here between taking a lover and eating more. The more active you are. The more you get to eat. Bonus!

Drink even more than you eat

I, personally, cannot attest to this, but apparently the ‘drink to keep warm’ adage has a lot of merit. Ever noticed how, on a winter’s night out, only the sober folk notice the cold? Alcohol helps. Pick your poison, grease those joints well, and winter will go by in a (warm) blur of cocktails, beer and shots. (Alternatively, be friends with your liver and sip Horlicks while reading a good book under a thick blanket. – This option is not just for pansies.)

Be entertained

Look around. People are strange. Take, for example, engineer students. There is always one that will arrive, winter’s day in, and winter’s day out, in a pair of tired, these-were-once-a-vibrant-colour, too-tight shorts. Pale, veiny, limbs tempting frost bite every step of the way. Yikes.

And then there are those girls who choose looking hot over being hot. They prance around in single degree temperatures with their legs barer than Nataniel’s head and their skirts shorter than Hitler’s temper. They’re amazing. I’m almost impressed.

And that’s that

See, Joburg can be fun in the winter too. And it’s cheap fun. So keep warm, keep happy, and cultivate your sense of humour. It will keep you going until the sun’s rays are strong enough to call us outside again.

Jozi Hearts Us

Most of us have a love-hate-love-love relationship with Johannesburg. For the most part, things evolve in a predictable and entirely doable manner. It begins with meeting, mating and perhaps a puff of Mary Jane in high school, differentiation and drug dabbling in the tertiary years and then, rather unfortunately, reconciliation and responsibility-taking for the latter as we inhabit our mid-to-late twenties.

The wonderful thing about our city is that amid the high-speed rush that is growing up in a flux of intense passion-pain experiences, Joburg provides us with ubiquitous incidents that allow for a certain sense of security.

Here’s a list of the top seven experiences Joburg uses to provide us with a (sometimes disguised) sense of belonging and stability.

1. OMG, my car is still here

There is something superior about that overwhelming sense of relief one feels when walking out of a bar/restaurant/shop and seeing your car still parked, windows intact, where you left it. *This experience cannot be put into words, it has to be felt.

2. Cardinal points

If you dare drive further than 10km from your house it is as if you have teleported to some dodgy, overseas destination. You know people are speaking English but you cannot understand them, they dress funny, listen to bad music and their goal in life is to own a Tuscan Villa cluster in Lonehill. Vom.

3. You are always beautiful

Whether you’re dressed to the nines, still in last night’s clothes, or in your pajamas, sick as a dog, and on the way to the doc, you will be hard pressed to find a robot to stop at where you won’t be recognised as Miss South Africa or Mama Africa (although I’m not so sure about the latter, I thought it was reserved for Miriam). I do realise we all own the same title and that it would still be bestowed upon me if I was a troll but it’s kinda nice in that I-know-you’re-talking-crap-but-I-like-it-so-do-continue way.

4. Nobody is a stranger

You have at least one mutual friend (sometimes even a family member) in common with everybody that you come into contact with. It is pretty rad, if you don’t think about it to deeply, and allow it to just mean that you have a piece, however tiny, of common ground to kick-off a conversation from. If you are a thinker though, you will quickly realise that this also means that most of us have shared spit, among other things. Eew.

5. Ever present encouragement to do better

There is always somebody that’s cooler than you. Somebody that makes you make yourself dress better, improve your taste in music and try form your own, educated opinions on current matters, be they politics, music, woman or one night stands. It is cool to have your own opinion, and most people (the intelligent ones – the only ones who matter really) are always keen on hearing it.

6. Perfect balance

Truth be told, Joburg isn’t the easiest city to try and make it in. Sometimes our efforts are in vain and we become as disillusioned with life as politicians are with people who tell the truth. But the wonderful thing is that in the very moment we are buying our ticket to down-and-out-ville somebody is busy remembering why life is wonderful and they are generally just the pick me up one needs.

7. The shock-factor has been reversed

Pink hair, piercings and a plethora of tattoos wont really get you a second look (unless you go to Lonehill – but why would you do that?). Dare step out in a faded tracksuit and boring hairstyle and everyone will wonder. People want to know that you’re having fun and the deduction that if you dress boring then your life must be boring is quickly and irreversibly made (old folks shopping at PnP are exempt, of course).

Jozi Yogis

A Johannesburg yoga class isn’t like any other yoga class. There is a very specific combination of people that come together on a weekly basis. They’re all doing the same thing, but for very different reasons.

Let me break it down for you:

The Sandton poplap – she read in Cosmo that yoga was cool and that Madonna does it. The outfits she wears are worth more than the yoga school itself and she struggles to smile and look like she is having peaceful fun because of all the bovine juice in her face. No wrinkles, but no happiness either. She tries her best to do the locust and cobra poses but she will never rest flat enough on her stomach to succeed at them for fear that a boob may burst.

The 20-something fake-blonde (not to be confused with the above) – she just broke up with her jock boyfriend and has become a ‘seeker’ (but only until the next douchebag asks her out). She’s a perfect ten and is always the best-looking person in the class. Her hair is neat, she’s tanned with manicured nails and oiled limbs. She’s frowned upon because nobody in the class has reached the necessary level of spirituality to be able to ignore her and focus on their own practice. Not her fault.

The rugby oke – he’s just lost. That’s all I have to say. [Surely you can’t expect to be able to do full twists when you have thighs that touch (a lot) when you’re just standing comfortably?]

The 90-year-old Jewish lady (who farts) – she lives just around the corner so it is pure convenience that gets her onto the mat. She breathes loudly, talks to herself throughout the class and has more gas than someone on the cabbage soup diet (which she unashamedly releases every second posture). She is about as flexible as a piece of slate and should she ever realise that yoga stems from Hinduism she will never return.

The pseudo-spiritual fat woman – This redheaded spectacle greets everybody with a bow and a ‘namaste’ (not that she knows what it means). She floats (read: waddles) around in her colourful gowns, arms and ankles over bejeweled with cheap beads and costume jewelry. She is always carrying the latest offering from Eckhart Tolle (spine uncracked, she doesn’t actually read it). She does the first five poses and then flops onto her mat, exhausted (or dead). Her practice will never progress.

The super-serious stick-thin devotee – he meditates while waiting for the class to start. You’re convinced he’s up at 5am every morning doing sun salutations next to his bed (of nails). He’s kinda hot so you wish he wasn’t quite so spiritual. He seems inaccessible which adds to his appeal. His practice needs some work but isn’t bad and everybody just wants to feed him a square meal. And then, in a dark corner of The Bohemian one Friday night you spot him, drink in one hand, ciggie in the other, and you have a smooch – all ideas of him being a possible ‘enlightened soul’ quickly disparaged.

And then there’s me – I don’t know what my category is. I love yoga. But I go through phases where I’m really dedicated and then other times where I prefer to stuff cheesecake in my face and watch 500 Days of Summer alone, in a dark room, for the 67th time. I hate to say it, but there is a little bit of all the above in me (except for rugby dude). Sometimes I read Cosmo. Sometimes I’m the pretty one. Sometimes I get really into things and like sitting quietly before class. I’m just praying that I don’t turn into the colourful, robust lady and change my name to Verity. Here’s hoping.

Between a Rock and a Wet Place

I fell in love recently. For the first time, in fact. It was on my summer holiday. I took on a larger-than-life lover and entered into an affair to rival all affairs in the history of romance. Basically, what this means is that I had one of the best holidays of my life. And that I am a cheater.

But before you judge me, allow me to elaborate. You see, his power and majesty were so overwhelmingly refreshing. The winds of his whispers had me entranced and the way I was able to relax and just breath around him was spectacular…

He’s a rather large fellow, my summer lover. He has the charisma of ten princes combined, and a capricious character that grabs hold of you like an episode of Greys grabs hold of over-emotional, unstable women. He’s been around, gets around and will continue to be around for a long while to come. And chances are, you’ve made his acquaintance. Cape Town is his name. Ring a bell?

I realised my love for this magnificent fellow the moment I laid eyes on him. And my feelings were only made more concrete as I danced to The Beatles in a shop crammed with every vinyl I have ever wanted to own. My heart expanded as I ate the best pizza of my life on a beachwood deck poking out just high enough above a natural forest for me to be able to marinade in a summer sun setting over the ocean. And marriage was a sure thing after vintage clothing and trinket shopping, daily beach walks and swims, serendipitous meetings with friends, adventures in Observatory, live bands on Long street, and a meander from wine farm to wine farm. *Insert long, dreamy sigh here.

That said. I do have a conscience. Joburg was certainly on my mind, albeit rarely. The convenient thing about getting away is the wide-angle lens that positions itself in your mind, allowing for an entire gamut of perspectives to filter in. And perspective is a very healthy thing.

You see, I realised a very interesting and important detail while going about my affairs. And it all has to do with the f-word. Friends. Sure, Joburg cannot be awesome because of an ocean, or a mountain, or bergies that pee into the wind, oblivious to the laws of physics (hilarious by the way). And Joburg will never boast the daily strutting of bikini-clad hot bods or moonlit beach walks. But do you know what Joburg has? It has your friends and my friends. Our friends. And that’s why we still get excited when we see the outline of our city as we approach it, the ultimate signifier of the end of a trip to anywhere. And that, dear reader, is why I left my part-time lover and returned to the familiar arms of dear Joburg. I will stray again, it’s certain. But what is more certain is my inevitable return. **

**That is, of course, just until I can convince my pals to move down to CT with me. Then I’m outta here faster than a kugel running away from a parktown prawn (of which there are none in CT). Okay, okay, just kidding. (But not really.)

If You Go Down to The Arch Tonight

I have a five-kilometer radius around my house that serves me well. True story. This self-made micro-metropolis fulfills all my 20-something needs. Suffice to say, I rarely cross the boundary line. The wheels on my car just won’t go round and round. My Fiat just says no.

You see, my ‘four Fs’ condition for a happy life is satisfied within my mini-Joburg. I’m surrounded by top crop friends, food, fun and fashion.

That said, I should have known better than to try fix what ain’t broke but I only remembered that axiom after the incident had occurred.

The thing is, I was invited to a birthday dinner at one of Melrose Arch’s swanky panky eateries. On receiving the invite I thought, “Yay! New people, new place. Fresh blood. Nom nom nom.” But that was just the right side of my brain. The left side went, “Eek, I’m dressed like an androgynous punk and I have just cut all my hair off”.

But ignoring my hesitant intuitive side I pointed my car in the upper class direction and white knuckled it way over my precious perimeter line.

Yikes.

First I got lost in the underground parking lot and ended up parking as far away from the restaurant as is possible. When did parking on the curb become a faux pas, huh? Then, on what seemed like a 5km hike to meet everybody I stopped and asked three people for directions. Two of them didn’t speak English and the one who did sent me the wrong way. Not one for accepting defeat, I missioned onwards.

Finally, I arrived at a table with but one familiar face smiling at me and all the other mugs scanning me north to south, east to west. I don’t drive a Beamer. I don’t wear labels. The only stock market I can talk about is the one where my aunt sells off her sheep and cows. I only own one pair of heels and, ‘No thanks, I don’t do botox’.

That said. Once all our differences had been highlighted, they were gracefully swept aside and an unexpected thing began to happen. I started enjoying the company of these white-collared folk. Heck, I even had them laughing at my little quips.

Four hours later we were all hugging each other goodbye. I walked away (in the right direction) feeling energised after an evening away from my comfort zone. I had even made a new friend or two.

I still revel in my creature comforts. But every so often I venture out beyond the indies, punks, creatives and art fags. And I find that it can be just as much fun over there as it is over here.