On the face of it

2009-04-13 00:00

The first time I received an e-mail informing me that people unknown had written on our wall, I hurtled outside in a fit of fury to inspect the garden fence.

Convinced that one of the local “artists” had spray-painted it during the night with an offensive example of modern expressionism, I didn’t stop to ponder the improbability of anyone sending us an e-mail about it.

For fear of sounding like a halfwit, this was before I understood what Facebook was all about and that connecting with friends around the globe by writing on their wall is the whole point of it — their virtual wall, I now realise.

I’m not an Internet junkie, unlike my other half, who, on one of his endless surfing expeditions, casually registered himself on Facebook without mentioning it to me.

To my puzzlement, our popularity suddenly increased ten-fold as my inbox became clogged with e-mails from all manner of folk wanting to be friends — some were foreign, others were local, but all were strangers.

And so, without feeling the need to it either, I hijacked my husband’s identity and launched forth into Facebook.

Since the system only allows one user per e-mail address, and given my man had so blithely commandeered ours, I had no qualms about remaining incognito while searching for old friends, ex-boyfriends and the odd ex-husband, all under the guise of Mr Steyn from Maritzburg.

It’s understandable that when one has a relatively common surname, (both locally and overseas in our case) that you are likely to be confused with folk of the same name.

Mistaken identity takes on a whole new slant, however, if a picture of one’s grinning mug does not appear on one’s homepage, thereby confirming that one is not a bespectacled choirboy from Vienna or a tattooed teenager from Rotterdam.

Hans from Holland and Frikkie from Vryberg would not have thought they’d found their long-lost mate in my beloved had they been able to inspect his photo.

As the weeks went by, several more wannabe friends expressed their desire to join my husband’s fan club, only to be disappointed when they discovered he wasn’t related to Piet from Pofadder or the same person with whom they’d tiptoed through the tulips in Amsterdam. And then things took a turn for the bizarre when a saucy dame from Benoni decided that my loyal husband of 17 years had to be the same fellow with whom she’d conducted a spot of slap and tickle in the office broom cupboard a few years earlier.

It was her unmistakable enthusiasm for a repeat performance that finally prompted the decision to reveal myself. Not only that, but some of my old school friends were becoming suspicious of this weirdo from Maritzburg, who insisted on befriending them, had joined the Pinetown High School Old Girls Club and listed his passionate pursuits as baking, flower- arranging and dancing.

And so, for the sake of my husband’s reputation, I was obliged to relinquish my anonymity and reluctantly posted a photograph of us both on his homepage — more because I feared further advances from confused women who might fancy a man who could bake and dance, than for wanting my face plastered all over the Worldwide Web.

So, along with most other things in life, my man and I now share a face.

We’ve linked up with people from our past and keep up with those in our present.

But every now and then confusion reigns and someone insists that my husband attended high school in Blaakschendijk, owes them 200 euros and had promised to marry their little sister.

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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