For close to three years now, I’ve been the breasty half of a sort-of intercultural couple. I’m a boeremeisie; hy’s ‘n Engelsman. Sure, we’re both “white South Africans” but as anyone who married slightly out of their own-own tribe will tell you – classifications like “white”, “black” and “coloured” are pretty useless to tell you whose cultures are similar. Within these arbitrary classifications – don’t you just hate filling it on insurance forms? – exists a kaleidoscope of cultural idiosyncrasies.
I can’t speak for Xhosa-Zulu couplings or Italian-Portuguese marriages, but after 3 years of Boere-Soutie coupledom, I’ve learnt a thing or two about dating an Engelsman.
And so – I present to you: The Boeremeisie’s guide to marrying a Brit: Part One.
(Before I begin – a question to my readers. I use the word “Soutie”. Is this okay? Or is this offensive? Should I use “Rooinek” instead? Or should I ask my grandfather for more words? Just kidding. But seriously – is “Soutie” okay? My man laughs it off – and I honestly don’t mean to be mean – so just tell me if “Soutie” is to you what “Dutchman” is to me. Because “Dutchman” SUCKS.)
Anyway – let’s get back:
The Boeremeisie’s guide to marrying a Brit: Part One – How to handle a sick day
As a Boeremeisie, you come from a long line of tougher-than-tough ancestors. First, they gave Catholicism the finger by getting on rickety boats and vomiting their way all the way to the southernmost tip of Africa. There’s a lot of land between Europe and where you’re sitting right now – but no. They had to get as far away from the Hail Mary’s as they possibly could. Sea sickness be damned.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and they’re at it again – this time using nothing but bare feet and ox wagons to get the hell up north. There was no N1 those days. Just a helluva lot of stubborn endurance and way too much malaria on the way. But hey.
Then they invented guerrilla warfare – those red-coated Rooineks and their regimented rules be damned. Your great-great-great grandfathers were the ones who recognised that war is WAR. Not some silly little game where one takes tea breaks and wears funny hats. So they played dirty. Perhaps this isn’t something to brag about but it does prove the point – us Boere are a tough bunch.
Today, the tough-and-stubborn gene shows itself in one big way: We refuse to be sick unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Think about your childhood. Think about how many sick days you just stayed home. My number is zero. In twelve years.
The general rule was this: If you’re sick enough, the school will send you home.
They sent me home twice:
The first time, chicken pox.
The second time, a very dodgy chicken mayo. (Damn those chickens! Making me miss school twice!)
Could my parents see that I was sick? Sure. But again – if you’re sick enough, the school will send you home.
Think about prize giving day. I bet that just about every single kid in your class got the 100% attendance certificate. Because – and say it with me now – if you’re sick enough, the school will send you home.
This may sound like a cruel way to raise a child, but be glad your parents were tough. It teaches you not to make excuses not to work. As grown-ups, we follow pretty much the same rule – unless you’re vomiting all over your desk or physically broke something, you work. Screw the flu - take the Medlemon, suck up the Corenza and get on with what has to be done.
Now – your Engelsman is a bit different when it comes to getting ill. Remember that his ancestry – though also filled with tales of bravery – does not come close to yours. He’s a softie. In his school, there were only a handful of kids who got the attendance certificate – and they were all Afrikaans.
Your Engelsman was taught that any excuse is a good excuse. Head ache? Stay home. Cough? Stay home. Didn’t like the taste of your cereal this morning? Stay home.
As someone who has fallen in love with a non-Boer, you’ll be forced to face this reality many a time.
1. Obviously, you can’t just let someone stay in bed because they feel a little bit ill. That’s ludicrous. But you can’t just be tough with the Engelsman either. Believe me – this does not work. Be too tough and risk adding a dose of self-righteous pity to the existing problem. You do NOT want this.
2. Offer your whispered sympathies and pat him softly on the head – if you’re unsure of how to physically conduct yourself around someone who embraces illness, think about how you would stroke a dying horse on the farm and do that. It works.
3. Now for the kicker – an amendment to the old school rule: Sweetheart, I know you have a lot of important work to do. I think you should go to the office, but if you still feel this horrible after a couple of hours, perhaps go to the doctor. Yup – the doctor is the school nurse. If he really is as sick as he thinks he is, he’ll be sent home.
The only problem with the above is that doctors hand out sick notes like the ANC hands out T-shirts during election time. But oh well.
If he does get sent home – try your best to be nice.
At first, this will be hard. You will have to force yourself to be sympathetic. That is, until the (mis)fortune of getting truly ill or injured in the company of your Engelsman befalls you. Then, dear girl, you will learn the value of the Engelsman Way and never have trouble being nice again.
Let me explain:
It happened to me last week: Hubby-to-be was booked off for two whole days. As expected, Day One was okay – I brought medicine. I gave snacks. I listened as he moaned and groaned. I was proud of myself for appearing so sympathetic.
Day two was too much: I cracked. I was too tough. I told him that he looked just fine to me and kind of left him to himself.
And then – after three whole years of faking sympathy on sick days – it was my turn.
The very next day I was alternating between being flat on my back and hunched over the toilet – whatever my man had, I had it worse. And that very afternoon – stubbornly going about my chores – a fall down the stairs left me with a foot injury so bad that I was back on my back – for several days.
If this ever happens to you – congratulations on choosing your partner well.
Being sick or injured in the company of an Engelsman is AWESOME.
They don’t tell you to stop complaining. They don’t tell you to get up and get on with things. Instead, they indulge you with treats and sweets and DVDs and your medicine at the right time.
One thing’s for sure – you only need to get sick once to start appreciating that always acting like Boer war general is certainly not the only way.
Until then, grit your teeth and follow the steps…