Family ties that bind us to the festive season

2018-01-07 06:10
Rhodé Marshall

Rhodé Marshall

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Once again, we have survived what, for many, is a fickle festive season during which they are forced to break bread with racist uncles and women have to dodge questions about the status of their uterus and whether the reason they’re single is that no one wants them.

Among this crowd of agitators we also have to face our past mistakes over and over again. While scoffing plate upon plate of red meat for three days should be the highlight of the festive season, we all know that family and close friends back home would rather use their self-appointed authority to say anything that comes to mind and hit right where it hurts. I mean, what’s the festive season for if not to sit ready with your purse and a tolerant attitude while the words cut right in?

Before everyone headed home for the holidays, I heard and watched my peers psyche themselves up for all the possible insults they might have to endure while at home – mind you, many could barely afford to go home because of high transport costs and the obligatory Christmas tax, but they did it anyway for the family’s sake.

Between having to listen to my coloured family talk for hours about what black people are like and their culture – none of them has black friends, by the way – I also had to listen to constant comments about my weight, which I am perfectly happy with.

The comments meet you right at the door, after “hello”. It’s followed by a look that says: “How dare you offend my presence by wearing those shorts in this heat and exposing your potholed thighs!”

For many young women who have to endure these comments and have their backs against the wall – because what are you going to retort to 89-year-old Ouma? – the difficulties come with hardly anyone taking an interest in what 2017 was like for you. Instead, they place the same amount of pressure on you to be skinny, to have your hair pinned straight and to bag a dude as the rest of society – about which you don’t give a flying hoot – does.

I was confident when I arrived at Cape Town International Airport, but I sure didn’t leave there feeling the same way.

In the face of all the aunties using their assumed authority to say as they please about you, you end up opting to sit with the big-bellied uncles struggling to breathe, listening to their woeful tales of all the chronic pills they have to pop daily and then rounding the one-sided conversation off with their racist comment of the day.

It is hard enough for us grown women to handle such talk, but when we see an active eight-year-old being constantly teased about her weight – even more so while eating – it is especially piercing.

Many family members regard body-shaming remarks as camouflaged compliments or as proof that they care. To them I say: Those words hurt, even if it is not your intention. So, the next time you see this person, ask them how they’re doing. Leave comments about their body out of the conversation.

Read more on:    family

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