It's amazing what people are willing to reveal on social media. When writer Khaya Dlanga asked his followers to answer an array of deeply personal questions, they didn't hold back.
He reached out to them by using Instagram Stories, a handy tool that allowed him to pose questions which could then be answered anonymously. For months he kept posting questions about just about everything under the sun – from asking people about their deepest regret to what's the best thing a stranger has ever said to them – and he was astonished at the candour of the answers he received as well as the sheer volume of the responses.
“I imagine people saw themselves in many of the responses. Perhaps when they saw what others were going through or have been through, they realised that they were not the only ones," he says.
"The anonymity helped too. And to me, it felt like a release. In a strange way, I felt like a priest in a confessional booth, with people unburdening themselves, saying things they may never have said to anyone before, while also aware that their answers could potentially be seen by thousands of people once I posted them. Maybe the burden felt lighter because thousands of strangers were now also carrying their story, even if it was just for that moment it took to read it."
Now he has compiled many of these forthright answers into a fascinating book, It's the Answers For Me. We take a look at some of the amusing, sad and bewildering comments he received in response to his questions.
What secrets are your parents hiding from you but you know?
"That my cousin is actually my dad’s daughter."
"That my younger brother is inheriting everything."
"That my dad is not my biological father and he may not know too."
"That they had a bad sex life."
"They scammed some lady of 500K, pretending to be tenderpreneurs."
"Fact that they aren’t my real parents. My late mom was a twin to my current mom."
"They watch porn."
"My uncle was an arms dealer."
"They add one year to their anniversary to hide that I was born before marriage. Found conclusive evidence."
"That they sold my dog when we were poor but told me it was stolen."
"The fact that they forgot when I was born and that the current birthday is made up."
What have you always wanted to say to your parents but can’t?
"My childhood was a nightmare but it’s okay, I forgive you guys."
"You’re amazing but sometimes the pressure of your amazing relationship is too much."
"You don’t know me as well as you think."
"I love you but it will take a long time before I forgive you for my childhood."
"Seeing you every day in an abusive marriage f*cked me up."
"Mom, what is it that you have against me? Dad, you’re a coward."
"Stop applauding Dad for doing the bare minimum, no one thanks you for being a mom."
"Thank you for an amazing childhood. I honour you both."
"Mama, please say you love me."
"I love you Dad. You made me a champion."
"You are like the parent you complain about."
"Go to therapy."
"That I’m a lesbian, they shouldn’t expect any husband anytime soon or even later."
"Mom, why are you sad?"
"Dad, I pray every day that I never marry a man like you."
"Why did you not teach me that I’m good the way I am."
Would you recommend your ex to someone else?
"Someone I don’t like, sure."
"To someone with a gambling problem who is work obsessed, yes. Perfect match!"
"Yes, my worst enemy."
"Absolutely, he’s a great soul."
"I don’t want others to suffer like I did."
"I still hate the fact that she is with someone else."
When did you realise you were going to dump them?
"When the scab on his leg got stuck on my white sheets. Imagine wasting linen on a boy."
"The day she fried the eggs before the bacon. I realised then that she can’t cook."
"When he said my son should stop baking. He should play cars like other boys."
"When I’d get annoyed when he’d ask to come see me."
"When his greatest ambition was to own a bakkie."
"When he said The Rock is the greatest actor of all time."
"When I saw that his shoe collection was three times bigger than mine. And I love shoes."
"When I found three guns under the bed in the guest bedroom."
"When I found three IDs in his room with different names. WTF?"
"When I started seeing all the normal objects that could be used for murder. I had to go."
"When I smsed the letter M followed by his ID number to 32551 and it came back saying MARRIED!"
"When he proudly told people at a braai he was homophobic."
"When I saw his bank balance."
"When he asked me to wake up in the morning to go buy bread."
"When I started feeling like taking off my shoe and hitting him each time I’d see the back of his head."
"When I found nude pics of his side chick. What hurt me the most was her whack eyebrows."
"After our first kiss, I knew. I realised that nothing will ever work out here at all."
"When I started to detest everything about him. I started to hate how loudly he walked."
What’s the most important question to ask on a date?
"How often are you happy?"
"Are you a sexual offender, murderer or abuser?"
"How is your relationship with water?"
"What are you healing from?"
"What are your short and long-term goals? What’s your relationship with your mother like?"
"Is there anyone wondering where you are right now and why you aren’t answering?"
"If we date but went our separate ways after three months, why would that happen?"
"Do you want children?"
"I have chosen to remain celibate until I get married. Will that be a problem for you"
"What is the most recent lie you told?"
"Are you a DA member?"
"Do you take amasi with or without sugar?"
"What’s your credit score like? Do you have a good relationship with SARS?"
How do you show someone you like them?
"I follow them on Instagram."
"By randomly checking on them. If that doesn’t get the message across, I back down."
"Tell their best friend so they can tell them."
"Laugh at his posts and his stories a lot."
"Stare at them. If they stare back, look away quickly. Repeat until the person approaches."
"Forfeit time with a long-time friend who’s visiting just to see them."
"Invite her over for a meal with friends and cancel everyone else but her."
"Comment on everything they say on a social setting and never ask them for money."
"Avoid eye contact."
"Write a love letter."
"Roast them, ignore their texts. I’m very awkward when I’m into someone."
"Think about them and wait for God to reveal just how amazing I am to them."
What is the one thing you find you can’t forgive yourself for?
"Not letting my crush know that I’m into him. Now it’s too late."
"Not making time for my mom while she was alive."
"That I settled for a course that I should have changed and now am with a job I don’t enjoy."
"Choosing a man over my education. That haunts me so much I am even depressed."
"Staying in an abusive marriage for 13 years."
"Getting into a car that subsequently led me to being sexually assaulted."
"Allowing myself to be scammed of 140K. This haunts me every day. I’m going through depression."
"Allowing myself to fall for a gay guy when all the signs were there."
What’s the best thing a stranger ever said to you?
"A woman came up to me at the airport and said, 'You are so anointed. The sun shines on your head.'”
" 'What does it feel like to know you are the most beautiful woman in the room?'I did not feel pretty at all."
"That they’d turn lesbian for me."
"'You’re destined for great things. You don’t feel like it now but you’re gonna make it.”
"You walked into the room and I saw competence."
"If I had the money I would use your face as a show and tell to my plastic surgeon."
"That I have a beautiful pure spirit. I try to remember this when I’m being hard on myself."
This is an extract from It's the Answers For Me by Khaya Dlanga, Pan Macmillan.
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