My daughter stood on my tummy the other day as I lay on my back and lovingly asked me : “Daddy, can I jump up and down?” Oooouuch, who could say no to her angelic little face. “Yes, but just once” I said as I tightened the few remaining muscles in my abdomen. She jumped up and landed back gently and was quite delighted. “Daddy, your tummy is soft like a jumping castle”, she said adorably with her characteristic lisp. That’s love alright but did she have to use that metaphor? Jumping Castle? Really? The D-word started flashing in my mind. Yes you guessed right, diet. Political correctness demand that I call it a weight-loss programme. Stuff PC, I’ll call it a diet.
The women in your family have probably at some stage in their lives embarked on a diet. And men. Mostly on Mondays. It’s not me, it’s scientific research that says most people choose to embark on new diets on Mondays. And most have quit by Tuesday evening. Now I see why Monday is not people’s favourite day of the week. No one looks forward to starving, oops, dieting.
Society being as patriarchal as it is, a man declaring “I’m going on a diet” gets one of those frowns that accompany men who admire David Beckham’s grooming as opposed to his soccer skills. So I’ll be damned if I’m going to declare that my daughter’s likening my tummy to a jumping castle made me want to “go on a diet”. But I do go on diets, periodically. Nothing radical. I just ditch the sugar and its relatives and eat the way human beings are meant to eat. But then again, what is that way?
My most favourite living scientist, Professor Tim Noakes goes into a quite a bit of scientific detail in his book, Challenging Beliefs, about how and what our ancestors hunted down and ate. They obviously hunted down protein, so we must have strayed from their healthy meat(protein-based) diet to today’s carbohydrate-laden diet.
But then again man stopped being a hunter and became more of a gatherer at some point and relied more on agriculture(greens) for survival than on meat. Was this a good move or not? My kids, and most other kids I know would vote against the fundamental values of the Agricultural revolution, purely based on the way vegetables taste. I love kids so I agree with them. I too hate cauliflower. I maintain flowers belong in vases on Mother’s Day and those rare occasions when you can’t afford diamonds for your loved one, not on my plate.
Anyways, being the closet tree-hugger that I am I have a strong natural aversion to ingesting a pill or medication that is supposed to make me lose weight. It’s a science thing I guess, the simple understanding that nothing man-made can “melt away” human fat in a living body, never. Granted, one can mess around with appetite or metabolism but anything beyond that is a bunch of hot air.
Read this quote I came across recently on the often-misunderstood cellulite.
“Amazing how magic creams keep getting sold to help the world get rid of cellulite.Fact is, there is no real difference between cellulite fat, and regular fat. All of the cellulite sponges and creams designed to “dissolve” cellulite and other gimmicky devices are all ripping you off. Unfortunately, cellulite is actually caused by muscular atrophy, a condition that occurs when the layer of muscle becomes weak and undefined, and separates from the skin, making the unattractive fatty deposits visible. So the first thing you need to know is that cellulite treatment has nothing to do with your skin and everything to do with the muscles underneath the skin. And remember, cellulite removal has NOTHING to do with weight loss. Even the skinniest of girls can suffer from cellulite.
The good news is that there is a way to reverse muscular atrophy, and banish annoying cellulite forever. And no matter how much you weigh or how old you are, you can do this naturally without popping pills or using phony lotions. Exercise…”
So you are probably wondering right,if he claims to know so much about human physiology and weight-loss how come he looks BMI-challenged, with a jumping castle for a tummy?
Because, my friend, our relationship with food is not governed by our brains but by our emotions. Basic biology, sympathetic nervous system vs central nervous system. Everything you’ve read until this point comes from my brain(central nervous system) but what I eat, how often I eat and my addictions to ‘nice’ foods are governed by the not-so-logical sympathetic nervous system. I have not mastered the mind over matter technique as yet, mental illnesses do not help either, hence my little problem with accumulating body fat where others can notice it, like my tummy area.
Whilst willpower can help you whittle away the unwanted extras, anybody who’s ever gone on a diet will tell you it takes more than an iron will to keep those pounds from returning. It’s that old adage: reaching the summit is rarely a problem, it’s staying on top that’s the issue. So instead of focussing so much of our energy on losing weight and eating right we should zone in on “feeling right”, reaching our perfect emotional and mental state. More balance than perfection really.
We all know it somehow, it’s been encoded into our genes: When I feel good I eat well, I don’t binge on food, alcohol and other nerve-calming things. But upset your internal balance and you will pay through your waistline. That’s why people say “I tend to eat a lot when I’m moody”.
So, on this, my tenth day on the protein-rich diet based on Professor Tim Noakes scientific based conclusions, as I look forward to more steak-filled days ahead, my mind wonders to why I could not keep the weight off the last time I tried this diet.
I whittled away the fat like a living, walking fat-burner. The amount of clothes I gained back was really amazing. The running made it even easier to shed the kilos. But like all good things, it all came to an end. Sadly, the process seemed to reverse itself. And the fat cells seemed to come back more aggressively this time around, hence my jumping-castle experience with my daughter.
But even as I started the search for a solution, I knew deep down that the fatty deposits on various sections of my body were a result of an imbalance in my emotional make-up than how and what I ate. Yes the sugar made me a bit BMI-challenged, but I know deep down that to return to healthy eating ways I need to get my chemical mental balance right.
I could go all organic and eat cauliflower and a lot of greens or even start organic farming. But I’m not easily taken in by “new things”. See, my grandmother farmed organically long before it became a fad. She had to grow food for us to eat so we could live. Simple as that. Not much of a choice. See, it’s a bit like people who eat mopani worms or locusts/grasshoppers as a delicacy at some fancy do, I pity them. For long periods those were a major source of my protein growing up. I will not willingly ingest them now so I can feel adventurous. I had far too many of those adventures in my youth. Ditto organic farming.
Not that I have anything against healthy organically-grown food(or even organics bought from Woolworths), no, I’m just ok with them. Ok.
So if I could offer you advice on not developing a jumping castle tummy, it would be simple: 1. Get your mental health right(emotions etc) 2. Feel good about yourself 3. Eat lots of proteins, and some vegetables and 4. Some exercise won’t hurt.
Thank me later, oh you want thank me now, you’re welcome!
It’s been seven years since you’ve been gone. Seven years! Damn, I swear it feels like it was just yesterday when I got that terrible midnight call. “Eish Ndoda, Kavani’s been shot”.
A lot has happened since that day. I’ve been meaning to write to you but I always revert to that self-censoring mode that makes me think I’m too focused on self. But when I realized that I might never outgrow that mode I threw caution to the wind and decided to let you in on what has gone on since that fateful night on 07/07/07.
Where do I start? Do you know you became an uncle five times over in the past six years. Your siblings have been a bit busy. The first one was born six months and 10 days to the day you left us. He bears your initials, MJ. Not only that, you share the same middle name. And the M name is a translation of that middle name. MJ huh? Bet you thought it was Michael Jackson. Oh but you loved that man and his music.
Sadly he has passed on too. I watched his memorial on TV and silently swallowed my tears for fear of being misunderstood. I don’t think anyone but you will understand the connection. Do you remember when you were just ten and I brought back my music cassette case during varsity holidays? Yes, the one I told you not touch under any circumstances. I cannot forgot the look on your face when you told me the tape player had messed up my Michael Jackson original tape of Dangerous.
When Michael Jackson visited South Africa in 1997 you twisted dad’s hand to get tickets for us boys to take you to watch him. I can’t forget the awe and wonder on your face when Michael Jackson did his almost falling over act. I have to admit, I too was convinced he had some invisible ropes holding him in place. And that euphoric feeling after the concert when you just want to buy everything Michael Jackson.
I still have a poster and his History World Tour Magazine somewhere amongst my belongings. They are not in good shape but I cannot get myself to get rid of them, I can’t clean out my closet like Eminem. Oh yes Eminem. My brother, I have to hand it to you, you influenced my attitude towards rap music more than any other person I know. Yes I liked a bit of Tupac’s music but you made me embrace his genius, to see beyond the profanities. Do you remember us rocking ‘Carlifonia Love’ as we entered the King David’s school premises in the Toyota Cressida?
Look, it’s one thing to navigate your way around a parking area teeming with top-of-the-range SUVs in Sandton’s King David School, but to do that in a Toyota Cressida with Tupac’s voice booming “…welcome everybody to the Wild Wild West”. I felt bad. The good kind of bad. And it was all thanks to you. I remember walking into a Look and Listen outlet looking for Marshall Mathers III and you schooling me on why it’s ok when Eminem says he wished his dad dead and a whole lot of other rap higher education besides.
When that midnight call came from my sister on that fateful night, in my mind nothing so terrible could ever happen to you that all I said was “Which hospital has he been taken to?” Even my subconscious could never associate you with such a violent end. Not my little brother, No, Not Him.
It took me a long while to be alone following the hurried, blurred and painful events of that night. But when I was alone, as I bawled my eyes out, I could not stop myself repeating : “No, Not my little brother. It was not your time.”
The dark period that followed, I’m still too mentally fragile to go back to the countless visits that I made to the police station to follow up on the case. My man, My main man. Oh but I tried. See, I felt really responsible for the failure of the police to apprehend your killer. I’m your big brother, I should have protected you, I should have. Protect. You learnt to do that quite early in your life.
I always admired the way you protected our little sister, the baby in the family. You were just a little baby yourself when you guys went to Cresslawn Primary, but I cannot forget how much she depended on you, how she wouldn’t do certain things unless you were there. How you had to wait for her in after-care when she had extra-murals. You never complained.
And when you changed schools to Midrand, you continued to protect her. I was deeply moved when she told me how when you were in varsity you sat down with her to help her make decisions about which subjects she should choose at school. You were a better bigger brother than I was.
Funny to think I was thought you were such a spoilt brat at one stage. You won’t remember this but when you were about three or four you came to visit us in the village. When our grandmother served you tea and bread you turned the slice of bread over and declared “I don’t eat unbuttered bread”. My jaw dropped. The cheek! And granny made a plan, ha! In my wildest dreams I would never have gotten away with such demands.
It must have had something to do with being the fourth child because damn, you always got away with murder. Remember how you called McGyver “my McGyver”. And Michael Night. Our father had to go and get you that talking car, Kitt was it?. I couldn’t understand why the world had to stop for you. You owned the TV in the house. We were all at your mercy.
At your funeral I wanted to tell everyone about all these things. To tell them that my little baby brother who had such a lazy manner about him had these qualities that made me look up to him. No, I did look up to you. When I heard you were the General Secretary of the Pharmacy Students Council at varsity my pride knew no bounds, that’s my boy I said. That’s my boy.
You made me want to be a better big brother. You made me want to impress you. Remember the one time at the Boulders Shopping Centre? You saw this pretty girl and looked at me? Yes, the time you wanted me to make a plan for you to chat to her. You were so impressed when I didn’t hesitate in approaching her and said my little brother wants to chat to you. I never told you but I had met her before, I knew her family so those were the easiest brownies I ever scored. I was heartbroken when I discovered she didn’t hear of your passing for up to two months.
When I told her older sister, she seemed more hurt than her little sister. That’s what you did, you touched more hearts than you intended.
Every once in a while I go back to that video of you giving a talk two weeks before your passing. I watch it and think to myself, he would have made a great pharmacist.
About two years ago I walked into a pharmacy to get some medication. The young man behind the counter stared at me in a very strange way. He continued to serve me whilst stealing these little stares at me, until he got the courage to say, “I don’t want to open closed wounds but are you in any way related to the Majoko kid who passed away in his final year at varsity?”
I assured him that he could speak freely. He said he had just had the freakiest moment of his career because he could see you in me. And after all these years he still spoke reverentially of you. I guess like me, he felt sorry that such a promising life had been cut so short.
That was me right after you passed on. I felt so sorry for you. So sad. I went in to a depression so bad that I contemplated ghastly thoughts of avenging your death. Crazy right? I mean, like really. But I feel you should know. I felt the people you called your friends betrayed you.
That night, you had done the most selfless thing by visiting your friend in hospital, and even taking along another friend(or friends) on the trip there. Sadly, the friend you visited in hospital that night passed away shortly after you passed on. I can’t understand why the people you sacrificed so much for could not feel indebted to you enough to volunteer the truth about that evening.
Officially your death remains unsolved. Unofficially we know you were shot in what we believe was a case of mistaken identity. Your friend’s family know what happened that night, but I figure self-preservation is a much stronger animal instinct than bringing closure to our family. If only they knew that our family’s beyond retribution by now.
I would much rather someone owned up. Apologize. That’s what people don’t get. It’s not about the law, jail, revenge. It’s about people. Living people. People who ask themselves the same question over and over and over again. That’s what that Pistorius boy doesn’t get, it’s about the mother, the father, the siblings, her people. It’s not about him. But that’s just me getting upset.
I think of the people in the house where you lost your life. There were at least two kids your age or younger in that house. The kids and their parents silence cannot be cheap. I hope at some point they know that they can get their freedom back by giving us our closure.
My little brother, I got side-tracked. This was about me remembering you. The spoilt you. The responsible you. The perfect brother. I intended to tell you about Kaizer Chiefs, Man United and a whole lot more. To tell you about Lawu, Rori, Ntwanano, Kona, Lwandle, Nalwo and Rofhiwa.
I wanted to tell you that I still live my life to make you proud because you were deprived of that chance. That our mom’s gotten better since that terrible time. And dad, I know he still has this question: “What had my boy done wrong to be killed like that?” I know because the weeks following your death we sat and spoke for hours. We never got an answer to that question.
But I also know that like me, he appreciates that the twenty three years that you spent here, could not have been spent better. I have gotten better too. I have my moments. Some good, some really bad but I’ve discovered ‘better living through chemistry’. More about that some other time.
A while after you passed on it hit me that our world stopped for you when you were a baby because your time was limited on this earth. You had to spread all the love you could in that twenty three years. And you did.
In the year that you passed on I didn’t celebrate my birthday. My birthday month partner was gone. I have toyed with the idea of celebrating my birthday on the 16th of August instead of the 11th, but it’s a little difficult to explain this to the world. I haven’t given up on this though, I mean, what’s five days between brothers?
I’m off to play Eminem’s “When I’m gone”. You were crazy about this song. Wish I could ask you, Did you know? I’ll throw in a bit of MJ’s “Gone too soon”. And Eternal too. Damn, I’ll play all the songs that I had intended to put onto your memorial CD back then.
07/07/07. Like I said in your obituary, our pain will get better, but we will never forget you.
Your Big Brother.
I think I’m getting old. No, really, I am. Oh, stop sneering. I know I’m only 40, (emphasis on only), and still have a good few months to lay claim to being that young.
One recent Sunday on a lazy drive contemplating another five-day interruption of my weekends, I had a moment of clarity. A revelation. See, I listen to talk radio on weekdays but on weekends they play crap music so I switch stations. This particular Sunday I quietly hummed along to a Rick Astley song, followed by Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on”, Mike and the Mechanics and so on. At the end of my 30 minute drive I realised I had enjoyed seven songs back-to-back on a programme dubbed the Golden Oldies, and it hit me, OMG, I’m old. I listened to a Golden Oldies show on a talk radio station on a weekend, and enjoyed it! Death. By aging!
Look, I know some youngsters who listen to ‘adult contemporary’ music. But this was different. Enjoying seven Golden Oldies in a row is inconvertible evidence that Mother Nature has caught up with me.
Growing old creeps up on you, it doesn’t just happen. No. It starts with little things like that newspaper vendor whom you thought of as being in the same ballpark as you age-wise thanking you for a tip with the words, “thanks Malume!(thanks uncle!)”. The poor guy didn’t understand why I did a double take when he said those words, he had no idea he had gone to my core and made a tiny but visible crack on my fragile ‘youthful’ ego. When the petrol attendant does the same you know something about is not the same anymore.
Not that I’m in denial and think being twenty four forever is cool or anything, No. I just didn’t think I was “uncle” material just yet. It’s one thing to be excluded from applying for that business subsidy for the youth because you are over 35 but to be placed in the “uncle” category? Damn, that’s something else. Some bones in my body don’t take kindly to being “uncle” material.
The aging process is really sneaky. You stand a better chance of catching a six-year-old peeling off that one sugar crystal from your tea saucer than you do of catching the aging process in action. You don’t go to bed one night being young and wake up old in the morning. No it’s a process that’s eerily silent, insidious in a way.
Look I’d be lying if I told you the aging process leaves no clues along the way. You get plenty of clues. No, I’m not referring to 21st birthday invitations drying up. That’s not growing old, it’s just growing growing up.
I’m talking about realizing that current fashion trends are skinny this and skinny that, and if like me you’ve sworn you would never be caught dead in skinny jeans and pointy shoes, you’re in trouble. You know something’s not right when that clothing retail store that you were so loyal to in your twenties and thirties stocks nothing but skinny jeans and pointy shoes. As if that’s not bad enough, the shops on either side of your once-favourite shop stock even more skinnier jeans and shoes so pointy you can walk right into a circus act.
And it’s not as though I own vinyl records or anything. I’m trying to stay relevant you know. Honestly, I try. It’s not my fault that I don’t think pointed shoes and skinny jeans look funny on a grown man. But the more I look around me, the more I realize that I have to hunt down that special shop that still keeps “normal” fit jeans. On the bright side, the aging process does give you clues.
The clues, just like the aging process are there for everyone to see. If you suddenly develop interest in mature activities that require a lot of patience then Father Time is announcing his presence in your life. Take going fishing for instance, at twenty-five I would have never given the activity a second thought. Recently I’ve taken to spending a whole Saturday trying to persuade very elusive fish that their interests lie outside their natural habitat. The fish haven’t taken a liking to me so far but I still get home to announce proudly that “I spent a brilliant day out fishing with the boys”. I suspect the lack of evidence in the form of fish makes it difficult for anyone to argue against suspect aging-related afflictions.
Some clues are just direct. I’m talking real life clues like your little sister saying to your face, “Damn, my brother is old”, and having a good old chuckle for effect. Or suddenly realizing that staying awake past 10pm takes a lot of effort and planning. That 10pm World Cup game will cost you plenty in the days ahead.
I thought something was not quite right when people whom I thought are my age always took a reverential step backwards for me at weddings and funerals and always seemed to have this little uncomfortable looks on their faces if I stayed beyond the greeting stage. Being politely offered a chair a respectful distance away made me a little suspicious, and when the young man said, ” there you are groot maan(old man), no need for you to stand like these young people”. The crack on my youthful ego widened.
The most conclusive evidence that I am old came from my own flesh and blood. It all happened one morning before our trip for school. We were running a little late and as I hurriedly dressed up in the bedroom I overheard the following most painful conversation between my four-year old daughter and her six year old brother. And you thought they were just innocent little children, ha!!
“My brother, you are six years old, right?”
“Yes, and you are four years old”, my little boy responded with confidence.
” Do you know what I’m gonna do when I’m very old, when I’m twenty four – ”
“You want to be twenty four? I don’t want to be twenty four. That’s grown up”, my wise six-year-old boy said. I could only imagine the look on his face.
“Don’t you ever want to grow up, like mommy and daddy?” His little sister asked.
” No, I don’t want to be grown up like them. Do you know what happens when you grow up to be as old as mommy and daddy? Do you know? You have to look after yourself. Just like the teenage mutant ninja turtles do. Do you want that?”
My little girl is silent now. Obviously considering the ramifications of looking after herself should she grow up.
“Ok, I won’t grow up. Do you know how old mommy and daddy are?” She asks.
“They are very old, very old – ”
” They are so old we’ll never know how old they are”, my little girl adds.
I was mortified. Listening to this serious exchange between the two little people who are the apples of my eye reaching the conclusion that I’m so old it’s beyond their grasp shattered any remaining notion in me that some people could view me as looking too young for my age. My own flesh and blood consigning me to that group of people who’ve ‘been there and done that’.
At that point I walked out of the bedroom before they got silly notions in the head of taking over the house because their old man’s past it. Not on my watch. Wait till you are ten. Me, very old, ha!
See, I’ve always harboured this silly belief that I look good for my age and I had ‘proof’ of this. Last November at the beginning of a 10k race I got into a conversation with a 50 year old lady. I know her age because we exchanged ages for the purposes of our discussion on ultra marathons.”F…k, you don’t look that at all, I was guessing you’re in you’re in your early thirties”. See, I told you I had proof. Sadly I had no camera to record the look on her face to cheer myself up every time I’m reminded that “youth” is not a category I should tick on application forms.
But as with all traumatic processes, acceptance comes after denial. And with acceptance, peace.
With acceptance came new realizations. Realization that there are a few things that I’ve seen that some youths haven’t. I got to watch tennis before the ladies outfits came to resemble the Rio Carnival in terms of colour, way back when Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova always wore white and there was nothing to distract you when watching tennis. You know, when Andre Agassi’s hairdo resembled a drummer from a heavy-metal band. These days a tennis player looks odd when they wear all-white.
When watching soccer I can excitedly shout to my wife during a game, “see that guy there, yes, the one in the suit, yes yes the Manchester United team manager, Ryan Giggs, I watched him make his debut, today he’s managing the team”. Come to think of it, most of my childhood heroes are now team managers, balding or TV soccer pundits.
It’s ok to age gracefully though, to look your age. It’s ok to be part of that generation of people whose childhood heroes and megastars are now into their golden years or have passed on, without making any “reality” shows on TV to hang on to their fame. That tells me I too can lay claim to having seen a thing or two in my time.
Although I have accepted my fate in aging gracefully, I refuse to understand that a normal human being can wear sun glasses indoors, carry on a conversation with headphones stuck in their ears, chat on their phone whilst sending that all-important instant message on their smartphone. When I see a “youth” carrying on like that, then I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my tummy that reassures me that it’s ok to be “uncle” age.
The other day I sat watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles with my six-year old boy. I could see the awe in his eyes. He thinks the world of those mutants and their Mutagen Gel that solves all their problems. And that’s when it hit me. When he said to his little sister that when you are old you look after yourself like the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, that was the highest sign of respect he could accord to his “very old parents”, so old that he could never possibly know our ages. So old that they can look after themselves and their kids, without Mutagen Gel.
I suddenly like being old. I am a Teenage Mutant Ninja turtle.