29 May 2016

Teenagers Through the Lens of Alcohol

In grade 10, there was a noticeable peak in my peer's likeliness to going out. Innocent nights ending at 11 became promiscuous, alcohol-fueled jeopardous hours of darkness ending at the dawn of a new day. Clubs became popular; firstly those closer to one's homes and then further and further away. People would arrive at school on Monday and spew out their  latest revelations which their weekend had allowed them with reports of the influx, or lack thereof, of eye-candy and booze.

I never quite caught onto this trend of jolling. I felt like an airplane taking off in the wrong direction for a long time- my  friends were taking lift and I stood static on the ground. Years went by and still Monday would arrive trumpeting a new bout of  stories with an increasingly prominent theme of danger, booze and boys.

Eventually, I caught the bug- not the booze,boys and brawl bug but a curious bug. A sense of excitement, nervousness and intrigue arose within me as I stood in front of my double-doored, silver knobed wooden cupboard; what was I going to wear to one of the most notorious drug-filled and dangerously located clubs in my near-by vicinity? I had skipped comfort of the more eloquent and safer spots-I was going straight in for the kill; Clad in black leggings with a small faux gold zip down the left side, black boots with a small heel, a long green, oval-necked stretchy top and a black leather jacket I set off...Steph was going to Gwigwi Mrwebi Street.

The wide alleyway, at midnight, was as dark as a street would be without the natural fullness of the moon watching over it, littered with the orange-glow of artificial light from the odd street lamp which worked. Smoke rose from the 24-hour industrial workshops which lined the street. Outside the club stood three large bouncers which seemingly, at the flash of a note let the profit-providing underage patrons inside.

The thud,thud,thud and boom, boom,boom of the latest remixed house music (or was it drum and base?) sent the room into a continuous shake- similar to what I imagine a never-ending 7.5 magnitude earthquake would be like. I met people who I had heard about from my friends deranged fables- tall boys who oozed confidence, with slick 'perfect' hair and dream-like smiles.There I was, inside the 'dream' I had always imagined. I finally put faces to names I had heard about for years and I have come to a conclusion-It's all an idealized lie.

Firstly, grade ten Steph forgot about opinions. People whom my friends swooned over were only worth a passing glance in my opinion. I hated the music at this club. My friends accounts of their nights entailed a type of music unlike any other. I was mezmorized by the 'fun' narrated to me by friends in grade 10 at these clubs, unbeknownst to me that I would absolutely dread it.

The week after my little adventure passed and by Wednesday the central narrator in a large collection of the stories recalled to me over the past two years said  "I can't wait to be excited and blissful". I didn't understand this; was my friend not happy? Was something wrong? I further asked "What do you mean, B" and she replied "Steph, I can't wait to get drunk". Folks, that is when the missing piece of this 720 piece puzzle was put into place. People are dependent on alcohol for fun.

I was briefed on accounts of raucous nights ending in anarchy but through the lens of alcohol. Characters in these portrayals of a 'successful' night out were always so happy because of the infiltration of chemicals to their brains. Upon reflection, a 'good night out' never came from not being intoxicated. I felt like my peers had hyped their nights up so drastically that they morphed into an illusion so far removed from reality.

This incident made me realize a couple of things: Firstly, don't take everything at face value. Secondly, other people are going to have opinions that you won't necessarily agree with. Thirdly, NEVER GO TO GWIGWI MREWBI STREET AGAIN!

Till next time-
Steph

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17 May 2016

Is 'Play-play' a Frightening Reality?

Tom Eaton is a South African screenwriter, satirist and best selling author amongst a heap of other accolades. Among the towering mound,he is also a writer for a local paper. Eaton writes for The Times, a daily national paper. The following is an extract from today's feature:
"But now, as he looked at the toy soldiers strewn across the floor, his face was pale and unsmiling. Even though I was not yet 10, I realised that something had hurt him as he knocked and looked down. It had slipped through his defences because he had never expected to encounter it here, in the room of a child. He leaned against the doorframe, and seemed enormously tired.
"This is a game?" he asked. It didn't sound like a question. It sounded like an accusation. Then the real question came.
"But why would you play this?"
Later, seeing my embarrassment, my parents explained.
Our guest was German and when he was in his late teens he had been drafted into Hitler's navy and sent aboard the battleship Tirpitz. The ship was relentlessly hunted and spent the war limping from one Norwegian fjord to another, where steep mountains and shallow water offered some protection from the British bombers and submarines that pursued it. Forty years later, that fear still clung to our guest: many of the Cape's coastal roads, where mountains plunge into the sea, made him anxious.
Our guest survived the attack and the war. Millions didn't. All of his brothers were drafted and killed. Hitler sent his mother a medal for surrendering so many of her babies to the meat grinder.
"But why would you play this?" At the time, I thought I heard disbelief in his voice and that was why I was embarrassed. I thought he was saying: "You stupid child, how could you take any pleasure from war?"
Now, though, I think I understand his tone better. It wasn't disbelief. It was despair.
And yet here I was: a child, playing at mass murder. Somewhere in those first eight or nine years I had learned that war was fun. And I think that's why the kind, anxious German felt overcome with despair. We had learned nothing."
Here, Eaton was a child and found himself, due to societal cues, diminishing a gruesome event into an enjoyable game. We still do this today. In South Africa, with particular reference to 2008, our nation was plagued by xenophobic attacks which resulted in several deaths...yet strikingly similar events occurred, with the same results last year, and continues took plague our nation daily. Many aspects of any country can be seen as negative, but it becomes our choice in how we respond to an event. And really, we have two choices: remain on the floor with our toy soldiers or, tightly buckle our $1000 leather belts and pull up our 'Ugg' boots and face the issues head on.
Maybe we're indoctrinated to think that serious global issue, like wars, are just games and are so far removed from our every day, safe-haven bubbles that they don't beckon a second of our thoughts to its effects.  We can't act innocent...or oblivious forever. The world can be fun, but it isn't a game; maybe it's time we ought to stop playing. Do these attacks on people,cultures,religions, ideologies and belief systems of humanity  devalue and become 'play-play' in our minds?
Eaton's perspective of this event is altered by thirty-or-so years' experience. It is interesting to note the expression of "despair" on his guest's face, now made visible due to experience, where in it's place once lurked "disbelief". 
The article makes for a very interesting read and a poignant comparison between South Africa then, now and its future.
Generations pass and wars continue. We've learnt nothing.
For the full article visit: http://www.rdm.co.za/lifestyle/2016/05/17/revolutionaries-won-t-do-any-actual-fighting.-they-ll-leave-that-to-you

Till next time-
Steph

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10 May 2016

How to Survive Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Bed

Yesterday morning I woke up half an hour later than I should have. It wasn't because I failed to set my trusty alarm clock, or because I slept through my alarm clock either- I made a conscientious choice to press 'snooze', roll over and cover myself in my soft horizontally-striped felt blanket and continue doing just that...snoozing until I had squeezed out, with both white-knuckled hands, every possible split second I could spare before being late for my first lesson at school.

I tumbled out of the left side of my bed, as per usual. My body was attacked by a cold I had never felt before. My slipper-less toes curled upwards trying to avoid the temperature of the polar wooden floor which decked my bedroom. My eyes unlocked from the comfort of my lower eyelid just enough to reveal ambiguous forms. And, to make matters worse, my brain soon woke up only to remember that it was only Monday.

With a bad mentality and a yearning for the safety of my thermal covers I started my day. After all the necessary were done- and I mean necessary- I left the house for school. I went through every lesson as a body which could easily have been mistaken for that of a zombie- both in sight...and I'm sure in smell. I shuffled from class to class; Mathematics first, then Zulu, then Science with the exception of English where I knew we would continue reading from the novel Tess of D'urbervilles which is on the track to possibly becoming my new favourite book (Sorry, Carlos Ruiz Zafon!). Once the bell sounded and I was introduction to Tess and the 'May-Day Dance' I returned to 'Zombie mode'.

My eyes battled to stay open as time 'supposedly' inched its way forward. By second break I was a walking, blabbering mess! 

My gentle giant of a friend, Katlego,whose name means successful in  Tswana, is a lanky boy in my class always boasting a wide, white smile contrasting his light brown exterior. On the 5 minute walk from Life Orientation to English for the second time that day- which constituted trekking from one side of the school to another- Katlego stretched out both his arms revealing an impressive arm span. I stretched my arms out in a similar pose to see how far I could stretch, whilst still walking the journey to my next subject.

I was noticeably much shorter in stature and consequently in 'wingspan' too. This was when I got the bright idea and mustered up all the voice I could and told my towering friend to run.

"What?" replied Katlego
"Just run" I responded

and with that, one giant and one gnome-sized Steph , in comparison, ran with arms stretched out wide as if we were aeroplanes, altering the angle of our arms as needed to avoid the red brick-faced meandering passages of our school. We flew up the stairs, squeezed through narrow passages and sprinted...I mean flew as fast as we could, navigating through the winding maze-like passages of our high school as pilots in the skies.

The endorphin released into my body from simultaneously running and laughing so hard that lachrymal fluid  spilled out from my eyes miraculously caused me to become bright eyed and bushy tailed once again.

I rolled over and woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, but thanks to a good friend, a great laugh and a bit of playful innocence I was successfully brought back to life.

Maybe that's the secret; Next time you find the grogginess encapsulating your body, grab a friend, stretch out your arms and become human aeroplanes!

It's okay to 'wake up on the wrong side of the bed' once in a while... I'm just going to make sure that from now on I leap from the right side.


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2 May 2016

Stop this S***!

Do you have a memory from early on in your life, and for some reason  remembered it?

I remember being at the drive-thru at my local McDonalds when I was young- I'd guess about 8. My 6 member family were all piled up in the car and we were ordering our favourite deserts (a family ritual every Sunday) which consisted of the same order: 3 creamy white, sugar-filled and decadent chocolate-draped ice cream sundaes, a similar rich, dark crimson and creamy strawberry sundae for my dad and two crispy and cracked golden apple pies for my oldest sister and twin brother.

I distinctly remember bringing up the topic of swearing (although I did not know it as 'swearing' at the time) whilst eagerly awaiting to wrap my tiny hands around the undulating plastic form of the cold chocolate sundae I had ordered. Back then I had just heard words such as "S**t", "damn" and "crap" being thrown around for the first time at school-which my more experienced self now sees as laughable compared to the words hurled around now, but nonetheless that was the day I discovered that 'swear words' existed and asked my parents inquisitively what these words were, why people used them and what they meant. I think I had realized that these terms weren't 'everyday', frequently used terms (or that's what I thought) as  I had never heard these words spoken before in my household.



My mom answered my curiosity with a simple sentence "People who swear are not 'cool' (but rather are trying to be) and lack vocabulary as they cannot find better words". I think I rolled my eyes and blurted out something along the lines of "Seriously, mom. Come on?". My mom, in proper motherly fashion has repeated that sentence to me a handful of times since and at first I hadn't thought it had made an impression on me. I mean really? I doubt that the reason that people swear is because they want to 'fit in' and be cool. Really?

With that, the car rolled forward and was met with an outstretched hand giving a traditional brown plastic bag with the top curled down slightly and handed it to my dad. With that, I enclosed my 10 oddly long fingers and unusually irregularly shaped short nails (I was a nail biter) around the just off-white wondrous concoction of ice-cream and chocolate and forgot all about the conversation with my mom. Until, sometime later, I brought up swearing again where my mom, again, simply repeated her now increasingly popular line "People who swear are not 'cool' (but rather are trying to be) and lack vocabulary as they cannot find better words".

Fast forward to grade 8 where hearing words such as "s**t" "pu**y" and even "f**k" were the norm. I entered high school and still hadn't found myself blurting out these words. I distinctly remember a friend stating "Just wait Steph; By the end of high school you'll be swearing (and drinking) like a sailor" I responded with laughter and a strong statement of doubt.



Fast forward 1825 days (...or five years) to Steph as a senior. I went out to lunch with my best friend from preparatory school -Sam, whom I haven't seen since the day I left preparatory school. Every fourth word which she stammered was a swear word which after all these years has become less sharp to my de-sensitized ears but nonetheless still harsh. When Sam asked whether I swear, with a wide smile, a sense of childish giddiness and a great sense of pride I responded with "No", only to be met with a look suitable for seeing an alien who had just landed on Earth.

I have a concern; Since when has it become unusual for a teenager not to swear? How has our generation (and our parents) turned these once socially unacceptable words (in most regions) into an unacceptable scenario if one does not use them? Some argue that these are words- just like any other-and shouldn't be seen as any different, but in my opinion, these words historically, politically and socially operate in a context where the particular words are (were?) frowned upon.
Why is it that the individuals, like me, who don't swear have become the 'abnormal' ones?



On the other hand, we kids have been described as sponges-absorbing everything we see and hear. If your parents are condoning these vile utterances than maybe it isn't our generation who are the messed-up ones, popularly known as the trigger for the "decline of our society as we know it".

Upon some Google searching, I have found that there are an astounding 1,025,109 words in the English language, according to the Global Language Monitor. This number out ways the number of swear words by about 1.025.009. There are only a hundred or so swear words currently circulating- but as is the nature of any dynamic language, there will be more. Let's use these one million plus words to benefit ourselves and our society.

On the odd occasion that 'Sugar Honey Ice Tea' does escape my mouth, it still pierces my ear ossicles and makes me shuffle uncomfortably and as you can probably tell from my use of asterisk's I still avoid swear words.

Upon reflection of that Sunday drive-thru where my 6 family members were bundled in the warmth of our long, white Chrysler, I realized that maybe Steph back then did in fact want to be that 'cool kid' who had a brain full of complex and elaborate words at the ready to be spewed out at any given moment and never needed to use these 'swear words' and you know what... I think those of us who don't swear, we're the cool kids. It also shows something about our ability to overcome the grueling peer-pressure that accompanies the life of a teenager in high school, particularly. Can someone get cooler than that? I don't think so.

I think that the Steph clustered amongst her family in the car partly wanted to be the 'cool kid' but more importantly wanted to make her parents proud- with a wealth of words which weren't 'swear words'.

Excuse the hypocrisy and the irony, but don't get caught up in all this ****.
Dung! The word's dung!


Stay cool, kids.
Till next time-
Steph
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