Becoming Iman: An adventure through rebellion, religion and reason by Iman Rappetti
I am going to build one of those famous flyovers, definitely not like that engineering disaster of a highway in Cape Town that goes nowhere, but an elegantly efficient one that can neatly swoop over, let’s call it the gaping, crocodile-infested chasm that defined my marriage, in the ‘Imploding Years’.
When I met the Mr to whom I would become Mrs, I had largely carried the fear of God and plagues in respect of sexual dalliances. Of course there was the understandable dabbling in discovery and lightly dodging the licking tongues of hellfire so I was untouched (in the biblical sense) when I finally let my ex-husband cross the frontier. He was the only one. The anointed.
So when the complex of our union was torn down and demolished, leaving behind only smouldering heaps of recrimination and destruction, I found myself in the hinterland of fear and inexperience where these matters were concerned. When things fell apart, my sense of self and my confidence lay in the rubble among so many other things. I had to start with what was the most damaged, my self-esteem and my attractiveness as a woman. I had always been confident and sure of myself but I realised that actually I wasn’t anymore.
But I’m not one to sit in a heap and ossify slowly. Especially if the invitations to the big pity party say ‘ADMIT ONE ONLY’. Where’s the fun in being miserable alone? My misery had to become something else and it soon morphed into militancy. C’mon girl! Take charge! You are the commanderess-in-chief of your own sexual revolution! You keep it all together for a man and then it’s all for nothing. Hell no! Find that backbone, get out your gear, it’s time to go to war! More importantly though, I had been coming round to the realisation anyway that the whole ‘All-hail-to-the-hymen, marriage-is-a-covenant’ bullshit was just another way to define a woman’s self-worth by things that she did not always have supreme and singular control of. And it also seemed like a pretty backward value system. But there was a negative side to this Amandla state of being that was reactionary and not as thoughtful, as I would later discover.
I found myself out of practice in the gladiatorial amphitheatre of dating, where you have to dodge lion-like predators who are just hungry and thirsty and amoeba-like species that are looking to land and leech. So many types, so much to learn, I thought, as I began to dress for the battle. Two-storey heels (ouch), bustiers (gasp), clutch bags and slashes of red lipstick that I had to remember to wipe off my teeth. Egged on by my sister friends, I ‘put myself out there’. The trouble is that hunting grounds are just that, hunting grounds, complete with dangers that require you to be prepared and to understand the game.
Was I the prey or the predator? I kept forgetting. I’d giggle to myself where the effort just seemed to be too much. Stand at the bar, at a strategic point and surreptitiously monitor the entrance. Act like you’re not interested, that you’re bored even and be obsessed with your phone. Sip your drink with your eye fixed on that screen. Lean in, let the girls peek over the rim of your top, let a little sexy bra show, flick your hair, lick your lips and look slightly cross. Or engage in serious conversation about war and hunger so that he knows you’re a ‘serious’ person. Challenge him and then move on. Engage in this contradictory switching between interest and boredom and appear more out of reach than your brightly smiling, all-offering ‘competitors’ around you.
‘Men like that,’ the adapted The Art of War manual inside my head whispered. They like the chase. The harder it is, the more challenging they find it. It was an awfully taxing and tedious choreography for me. But it seemed to work and one night I got home, accompanied, and ready to follow through on, the purpose of all this preparation. But I hesitated. The guy was too slurpy, too eager, too, how shall I say it? Too stupid. But the game plan reminded me, you’re not wanting to build a house and buy Royal Doulton tea sets with him, it’s a shag! Get on with it and then throw him back into the pond! Long story short. After an untidy mash-up of lips and tousled hair, buttons popping in the haste of undressing and collapsing onto the bed, I just couldn’t do it. And perhaps I did the unthinkable by thinking too much about what should just have been a ‘drive-by’. What would this single-use discard play give me, I thought? A sense of worth or shame?
I wondered if there was anything beyond.
So much for the revolution. If I was leading an army they’d be left in the heat of the wilderness, starving and circling, having sacrificed everything for the fervour of a single, now hollow-sounding ‘Take the fight to them’ slogan, willing to be martyred for a leader who was worse than insane but indecisive.
Then I thought, what’s wrong if I was just myself? I could be with whomever I wanted and it didn’t have to be an act of war or defiance. It could just be about mutual need, an honest declaration that ‘Hey, I don’t want to have your babies but would you like to get sweaty with me?’ That you didn’t have to hate the person you were with, that you didn’t have to punish him by proxy for the crimes of someone else, but that you could actually be an adult about it. Say what you want, agree and get it.
And again what started out as rational, sensible and fair didn’t come to a logical conclusion. It seems the men I met were not about honesty. They were seriously touched in the head. Baggage, lots of it, tied them down and tripped them up. If it wasn’t an ex-wife and kids, it was about their ‘notch in the belt buckle’ rate and how many girls they could get by week’s end. And don’t even get me started on the married ones with their sob stories of ‘my wife has just let herself go and doesn’t appeal to me anymore’. Those I fantasised about taking home just so I could strangle them and do their wives a favour with the insurance money.
But then, frustratingly, I’d be hit with, in fact all my successful single girlfriends would be hit with this one, that classic ‘you’re too intimidating.’ A gem. Really? Reasonably speaking, what could intimidate a man about a woman who has her own point of view, is not looking for an ATM and is confident and not needy in any weird sense?
What’s wrong with a woman who would like to be exempt from the games men play that are aimed at making sure ‘that stekkie doesn’t become too hectic’ by not answering messages and then acting surprised and afraid when she asks for clarity and closure?
I’ve come to the conclusion (for now) that finding someone with sense, style, sass, good manners and kindness with a sprinkling of ‘street’ is akin to going on an expedition for unicorns. Silence the horns, put away the bait and rather just stay at home.
But before I put on the expensive lingerie that I enjoy wearing just for the sensory personal pleasure and slide into bed with YouTube, a word to the brothers.
It’s actually quite masculine and sexy to say how you feel. ‘I like you, would you like to join me for dinner?’ or to not be a douche when a sister asks you and just say, ‘yes, that sounds wonderful,’ or ‘no, but thank you so much’.
And, if and when it doesn’t work out as you’d planned, feel free to just say so in plain language. ‘Thank you for your time but this is not for me.’ Believe it or not, the women I know would not spontaneously combust or transform into Crazy Girl and eliminate you.