When I was in Standard 2, I dressed up as Emmeline Pankhurst and chained myself to my classroom’s overhead projector in protest of female subordination. I must add that my costume involved a large blue satin skirt, a corset and a blouse boasting ruffles and couch upholstery. I must also add, I was a profoundly chubby child. I’m telling you this because I cannot remember a time when I haven’t felt exceptionally privileged to have been raised with the gender dynamics and relationships I see in my family. My father thought it an outstanding move for his daughter of 10 to assume some kind of time-travelling suffragette role in the name of gender equality. I count myself lucky. Very lucky, to have as a constant, from my childhood to adult life, the conviction that men and women do not fit comfortably into stereotypes and that We Are All Equal.
This MONTH, I discovered that you were talking hank, mom and dad, and that we are not designed to be this way. We are different, lads and lasses are; we are Mars and Venus – and! – AND! – surprise surprise, ‘TIS VENUS WHO IS THE OPPRESSOR!
At the heart of gender conflict, we were told this month, lies one stinky holiday which has women basking like Cleopatra and men breaking their backs like the people whose job it is to wave palm fronds and feed dates to Cleopatra all damn day. Valentine’s Day turns women into oppressors and men into minions, we learned this month.
So, once America waddled up to the COUP office and taught us all about this girly Valentine’s schmuck and how horrid women are, and how far we ought to go to make it up to the world’s men, it also introduced us to a solution. A holiday, of sorts.A celebration to set right the balance: Manentine’s Day (read that like I’m James Earl Jones). I won’t go into the day itself, because our esteemed editor and chief instigator of wickedness already explained it all very well right here.
As COUP took on the Manentine’s challenge, we set a task of epic proportions for ourselves. Things are always epic when you want to be both caring and clear that you are taking the piss, I am learning. We designed 8 custom packages for our 8 deserving heroes of Manentine’s Day- all the time following the official Manentine’s Rules, which declare things like sport, beer, sex and confectionary the vital parts of manly-loving (very subversive). Charged with procuring the contents of these packages, I spent 2 days scouring Johannesburg for our gifts. Here then, are my highlights:
1. Matt du Plessis and Sipho Hlongwane, with whom we had a wonderful time designing packages using their mutual willingness to give dirt on each other (betrayal is a clear sign of Bromance, which is obviously very manly.) Jeopardising the manly rule of beer-drinking, Sipho and Matt received mineral water and gin/tonic/Appletizer bouquets respectively. Breaking the mould is a very masculine thing to do. Also, at Matt’s insistence that Sipho loves anything plaid, from my local (?) Scottish apparel store, I sourced a tartan tie for Sipho.
“Which family’s tartan would you like?” Storekeeper asked.
“Hlongwane”, I replied.
2. Approaching the Dischem check-out with a basket containing: a pack of razorblades to keep Spillly’s gingerness under wraps; 8 body brushes for stroking of our heroes’ egos and 8 boxes of Imbiza: the Power Pill for Men. Please imagine that right now. By this stage of my shopping, it was dark and stores were closing and the man in my own life had joined me because he was sick of not seeing me while I shopped for other women’s men (jealousy: very manly, argh.) As the cashier peered into my basket, I clasped her hand and (because this is all I could think of) whispered, “I’m not a bad person”, over and over at her. Man in my life, realising that the cashier was about to deduce that all those boxes of Imbiza were being bought for him, fled from the shop in defence of his virility.
3. On instruction to ‘get shitloads of ribbon’ (when your boss says this, you must not fail), I found myself in an art shop in Allen’s Nek. I don’t know how I got there. While 3 elderly ladies sat at tables behind us, painting globby landscapes on gigantic canvases (many baobabs, many aloes, some dolphins) the Art Shop Lady (ASL) – who was lovely, if not a little on the Napoleon Dynamite side of life – and I shared this exchange:
Me: Hello. I need a lot of ribbon. All of your ribbon, perhaps.
ASL: What kind of ribbon? We have different kinds.
Me: Well, something manly, but also very full of love.
ASL: What is it for?
Me: A gift, kind of, (and then, remembering Mike Sharman’s rhythmic gymnastic dancing stick, which I was yet to construct) but it must be hardy and practical, too.
*What follows went on for about 18 days.
ASL: What about this?
Me: Not manly enough/ not enough love (alternating)
*I finally settled on matte bronze ribbon bearing hearts with very sharp corners (grrrr MAN) when ASL convinced me-
ASL: this is probably the best ribbon we have. Of all the ribbons, I would probably say that this is my favourite. It’s probably very manly. It’s really… the best. I would buy this ribbon.
At this stage, I have far exceeded the appropriate length for a blog post, but I can assure you, I have tales a-plenty. My failures were as abundant, I don’t mind admitting. From my hunt for Sipho’s Yorkshire Terrier (which was to be named Edith Piaf, and which was almost a ridiculously-priced plush version in a fluffy pink handbag, a Fischer Price terrier-ish night-light when I finally accepted defeat; to being scolded by the lady in the dance store, who could not sell me legwarmers for Kevin McCallum’s very precious ankles (it ISN’T WINTER; legwarmers are only good FOR WINTER.) It was a rollercoaster. A testosterone-fueled, meat-wheeled (excluding Grant Nash, who enjoyed a very manly, vegan-friendly Manentine’s) rollercoaster.
If, at this stage, you are still reading, and at all interested – or particularly bitter (this means you, Deep Fried Man) about being neglected on Manentine’s Day, check out COUP’s Twitter stream for a blow-by-blow account of the day’s activities.
Until next year, your friendly former-suffragette, Manentine’s fairy – now assuming the 5 poses of female subjugation.