Can anyone define culture for me please? What is it? Who is it? Does anyone have his name? It must be a man, I’m sure of it. I rate he’s old, has a pot belly of note, walks around topless, and because I am who I am, I figure he’s black and Zulu. Bab’ Culture sits on my right shoulder and on my left sits Reality, laughing her arse off because she can’t believe the lengths I will go to to negotiate with Bab’ Culture. Not to get anyone excited and all motivated to lose weight and buy an outfit or anything; but I have recently started planning my wedding (recent is relative considering that it’s been 2 years). What I’m finding difficult is not so much the venue and décor but the realization that even when I label my special day as a ‘white wedding’ I still have Bab’ Culture sitting on my shoulder screaming his head off at me. “It’s not how WE do it!” he says.
It starts with deciding the number of guests. For white people it’s simple. Cousin Patty is a cousin twice removed and hasn’t called in six months, so she gets the chop. For me… or rather us, it’s a little more complicated. Cousin Patheka is a cousin twice removed, I haven’t seen her since I was 5 but because her grandmother, who loved my mother, let my aunt stay with them for a week when she was in University and the police had kicked them of campus (Forte Hare…that’s where all the educated blacks went in those days), and killed a chicken for her when she went back to school; Cousin Patheka is a shoo-in for an invite! Seriously?! And so after numerous hours of scratching names off and adding some, I’m left with a list of 200 guests who will all go out of their way to come to my wedding, because, yes you guessed it: Bab’ Culture insists that I pay for all travel and accommodation- “we can’t invite people and expect them to pay for themselves, It’s not how WE do it!” he roars in my ear. I swear; Jane at the office made every single one of her guests pay for their own return flights and accommodation to Australia when she got married. Then we get to the food- heaven have mercy because this is what is going to take me to my grave! I can’t serve fish (Bab’ Culture says it doesn’t count as meat); no pork because 5 of the 200 hundred guests are Shembe. We can’t have beef; my dad has gout (at this point Reality is rolling all over my shoulder in hysterics because we’re eliminating WHOLE foods to accommodate 6 people). So chicken or lamb it is. If memory serves me well, Jane served muscles and oysters even though her sister and a brides maid had a shell fish allergy…I’m just saying. At this point this is where we stand: 200 guests, 150 from out of town, they need accommodation and travel money and on the menu for this auspicious occasion is chicken and lamb. Now the colors, I simply can’t have my orange and fuchsia because fuchsia is not masculine, “Why don’t I try brown” says Bab’ Culture? Okay, so that’s 200 guests, 150 out-of-towners who need transport and accommodation, lamb and chicken are on the menu and a brown motif on my day. I can live with that; “but what about the booze” asks Bab’ Culture slowly stroking his belly. Reality momentarily pauses her fit of laughter because she knows and I know that there’s NO WAY Glen Fiddich and Jonnie Walker Black Label could have been written about in our history books. Bab’ Culture takes this moment of uncertainty to clarify that Malume James (there’s always one) drinks like a fish and seeing as how I’m expecting him to leave his home for a week, I might as well be accommodating to ALL his needs. Can’t argue with that logic now can I? I’m also reminded that I should use the family priest because he’s always said how well I’d turn out. Let’s ignore the fact that he calls me by my mother’s name because he’s simply too old to remember mine, oh and that I haven’t been to church in almost 6 years (like the frequency of my visits to the gym, I think this might affect my Vitality age). So with food, décor, guest numbers and the booze sorted, I think I’m out the woods. Nope, not yet. My dress color comes into question: I can’t wear white because I have a child, how about a nice brown to match my décor? Okay, so I’ll look like a big ol’ turd on my wedding day, fine, at least I get a wedding. ..And a nice hat or something because my husband’s family might not allow women to show their hair- a turd with a hat…nice. At this point I think I’m better off choosing a date to sit at home and get drunk off my 1.5liter Four Cousins wine, thinking about the wedding that almost was…no sharing with Bab’ Culture!
This brings me back to my initial question, who or what is culture? From where I sit; culture is you, your friends, your parents, and your family. It’s a culmination of ideas - some which have not changed with time - but most are flexible depending on the situation and who benefits the most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone’s beliefs or anything; but I think that in this day and age we should slowly start moving away from doing things for the sake of doing things…even if it is for ‘culture’.