Monthly Archives: December 2011

Some of my best friends are Women

Some of my best friends are women…Really! Well that hadn’t always been the case. For the entirety of my teenage existence most of my friends were almost exclusively boys. I attended an all boys catholic boarding school .Which meant from my foray into teenage life at 13 till I turned 18, for 8 months each year, I was in this testosterone laden environment . My high school had been established by Marist Brothers and such was their legacy that even at the time I attended , the entire teaching staff was exclusively male. An occurrence which rather unfortunately extended its reach to the ground and kitchen staff. Save for a handful of female “waxers “whose job description entailed keeping the floors well polished a task which conveniently meant that they spent most of their working time on all fours , which only tickled our juvenile fancy.

It was in this testosterone jungle that I found myself embracing puberty in , Survivor style, if you discount the fact that we all probably would have loved to get voted off the island( no this blog does not end with me coming out the closet …quite the contrary ).It wasn’t all doom and gloom though .The school itself was a beacon of academic and sporting excellence, for which I benefited from and am eternally grateful.

There were attempts made to get us to engage with the opposite sex. As the powers that be realised that academia and sport alone would not quench our testosterones desires.This meant organised social encounters with our sisters from the oestrogen jungle with often comical consequences. An expected outcome considering that they were limited but highly magnified social interactions that revolved around various clubs.

Suffice to say it was only when I got to university still drunk on testosterone and determined to make up for lost time. Unfortunately ,I was a complete novice and was not equipped with the necessary social skills that my crusade required. As a result my early dalliances were heavily skewed towards viewing most women around me as dating partners. Could you blame me. I had never really known them as friends. These escapades often proved futile and often left me feeling stranded in the ” friend zone”.

Up to that point my understanding of what male-female relationships had its foundation heavily entrenched in Hollywood movie propaganda. Particularly movies such as Brown Sugar and When Harry met Sally. All based on characters who always started out as friends but eventually fell in love. It seemed that almost every I saw a male-female friendship on the big screen, it wound up turning into romance. Very naive of me. As I was soon to learn .So that was my plan , befriend them and you will romance them. Basically these movies and most movies even today were propagating the stereotype that whenever heterosexual male and female friendships developed , the end result was usually romance.

Now this little rendezvous with my teenage self has a purpose. It is not just a flirtatious dance with nostalgia. Recently I came across a You tube video that attempted to tackle the old adage. Can men and women really just be friends. Is the idea of a pure, platonic relationship between non-related, heterosexual men and women a myth? Whilst the research was light hearted and definitely unscientific in its approach it was nonetheless enlightening.

All the women were seemingly assured in concluding that yes it was possible for platonic relationships to exist. The opposite however was true when it came to the men. Their responses were almost all hesitant but always eventually settled on the fact that no man and women cant be friends. It seemed for men the physical attraction served as the major stumbling block. An issue that was confirmed by the fairer sex when it was put to them whether they were aware of their male counterparts attraction and whether they thought their male friends would hook up given the chance. You guessed right another resounding yes. Basically the women had tried playing the ” naive ” card , but hadn’t really succeeded. This led the researcher to conclude that men and women can’t be friends.

The belief that either men are such dogs we want to nail every woman we encounter or we only befriend women as leverage to nail them , is disconcerting and the potential self loathing if true forced me to take stock. On the surface I would easily say ,I have a fair few female friends, and as I made a point of highlighting at the start even go further to state some of my closet friends are women.

From the onset it seemed to me a bit blinkered and 1950esque to say that we can’t have platonic relationships with females we are not related to. After all we work together and sometimes even share sports interests and socialize together. At the same time I will be folly to ignore my own missteps in my early university years. I believe however that I was an outlier in the minority of people who didn’t know any better by virtue of my limited exposure to women in my pubescent years.

Fortunately I have managed to successfully navigate my way through the murky waters that were the “friend zone ” years. The Robin to my Batman in that regard has been maturity the unexpected spawn of repeated failures. I learnt the hard way that hiding behind the cloak of friendship, irregardless of how it turned out in the movies always almost backfired for me in real life. (Cue Just a Friend by Biz Markie)
Almost all ending on the same fashion. The 3 am alcohol fueled call/ text . As well as the accompanying standard response , “I really like you as friend and I dont want to risk losing that”. Ah Dutch courage be damned.

What I have also learnt though is that though it may be tricky, men and women can successfully become close friends. In fact , I have often found that there are often positive benefits. (Not those benefits…that’s a whole other minefield all on its own ) to do so. Women spend the majority of their time together discussing their thoughts and feelings, and are much better at confiding in other women. Things seem to operate differently with us men. We tend to be far more group-oriented and tend focus less on interpersonal relationships with each other. During our poker nights or a friendly game of football we only ever seem to express emotions that are usually associated to our allegiances to our team of choice. Its all very grandiose and macho. Rarely do we share feelings, insecurities or personal reflections. On the off chance that we actually do, we often feel the urge to attach a disclaimer. A favourite amongst my mates being “no homo”, a colloquialism made popular by the character Riley from the Boondocks whose greatest fear is being thought of as gay upon expression of any supposedly female traits. As a result most men end up confiding in women more than their male friends. Something I am often all too guilty of.

I can not speak on what my female friends benefit from a friendship with me, but I know for me being able to confide in them is a great motivator in cultivating and sustaining these friendships. They are usually higher in overall quality, enjoyment and nurturance on average than the same-sex friendships. That being said there challenges to be faced.

Challenges include but are not limited to defining the friendships,dealing with sexual attraction (the Elephant in the room) , meeting in the first place, and dealing with people’s responses to the relationship. It seems that most of us are high on that viral cocktail of cynicism and skepticism when it comes to cross gender relationships .Think about how often we barrage our friends with nudging, winking and: statements like “Are you really just friends”. Emotional infidelity may also be an issue if you are in a relationship with someone else.

I am not taking the high road and saying I am not physically attracted to any of my friends. In fact some of these good platonic friendships have some kind of sexual undertones. Sexuality is part of being human. Sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of or get awkward about. The important thing is realising that the you do not always have to ACT on any minor occasional sexual energy. Of course you can be friends, expecting your sexuality to just shut itself off is foolish. It’s there. So what. Go on with your life and your friendship. Denying yourself the liberty to be sexually aware is unhealthy. Being honest, being mature, and loving yourself are the keys to all your relationships, including your platonic ones.

To succeed as friends, both parties have to openly and honestly negotiate exactly what their relationship will mean whether sexual attraction is a factor and how you will each deal with it. A lesson I learnt from my time in ” friend zone ” wilderness.

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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The Rat Race

Ah. The rat race. To quote of a mine “Screw the rat race.The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. This cant be life.” This was in the middle of a candid conversation with the said friend a while ago. On the surface everything seemed rosy. He had got a graduate job in his field of study after graduating from university a few years ago and he had been steadily employed ever since. But here he was telling me that he wasn’t happy working in an office all day with no opportunity to grow creatively.That already in his short working life the 9-5 routine was already starting to feel a bit mundane.That he felt he was caught up in the rat race.

What is the rat race? Right off the bat It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. As an analogy to modern city life the rat race echoes how some of us feel about our work. We sometimes feel like rats in a single maze expending a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing either collectively or individually. An endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit.

With this rant about the rat race still echoing in my head I started to think about what success is , and proceeded to quiz some of my other mates as to what it meant to them. One friend described success for her as a comfortable place, where she can live the way she wants and be happy.This got me thinking about the relationship between success and happiness. Often I have had friends say “I’ll be happy when I find a job.” “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion.” “I’ll be happy when my thesis is finished.” In short they will be happy when they are successful in a given task.This raised the question , does being successful equal happiness ?The formula in this case seems clear: work harder, then you’ll be successful, then you’ll be happier, but is it?

A lot of justify our commitment in running the rat race under this guise of a pursuit of happiness. How many times have we all mouthed the following “I’m working my ass off now so I can be happy when…[fill in the blank with a six figure banking job, make a scientific breakthrough, get into law school, etc.].

Another colleagues definition of success though was more succinct. He said that for him success is having an honest monogamous relationship with millions of dollars which allows us the freedom to travel and explore. I think this is a definition of success that the media and society in general forces on us. As a result we measure success with the make of your car,size of your bank account, your house, level and quality of your education and neighbourhoods. When we attain all this material wealth everything looks good from the outside in but is this really success or are we working toward the idea of what we have been told success is?

For me this how I choose to define success for me. If you love your work and stay true to your beliefs in spite of what you are pressured to do around you, that is success. Success is speaking your truth, not denying yourself. Contentment and having a set point of peace at the center of your being, pure in love, where daily challenges are met with integrity and creativity. Happiness is the ultimate success.

The rat race often leaves us stressed with its constant structure, little or no free time, slaving away trying to get that promotion, but human interaction and casual ability to relax is missing. It’s very hard to find happiness when you are still caught up in the rat race. Some of us might even go on to justify the rat race by indicating that we are doing so we can provide for our loved ones. Here is the thing though. Providing that’s not love. Being there that’s way more important. On the flip side you cant really be “there” if you cant provide for your family. So the balance then must lie somewhere in the middle. Money will never buy happiness. At most it can just be a down payment that can make it easier for you to be happy. That being said I refuse to accept that the rat race is the answer.

A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are human beings. Let us reject the insidious pressures of society that continue blunt our critical faculties to all the happenings around us that results in us sacrificing our happiness.

Success should not just be financially measured but is about developing oneself into the person you are here to be. There should only be one success we aim for , to be able to spend your life in our own way.

The rat race might be the default setting most of us find ourselves in but even so we shouldn’t be to afraid to press that reset button. If you hate your job then think of it as jail. Take it as punishment for being scared to pursue your dreams. Do your time! Then work your way out of it. But be responsible. Whilst I m not advocating for people to quit their jobs , without a workable plan. There are alternatives. Case in point my father. He worked almost 25 years for the “man”. But finally had the courage to preset reset and venture out on his own and became an entrepreneur. Something by his own admission that has given him great satisfaction and less job related mental strain. For some it might not be that in you are in the wrong career, just might be time to stop working for the “man “and maybe be the organiser of the rat race. Having spent a lot of time in laboratories , I can tell you this.You would rather be the guy running the experiment than the lab rat.

The lasting effect of that rant my mate had about the rat race, is that it reminded me that it is important for each of us to define success for ourselves , aggressively pursue our passions and remain responsible while doing it.That we can’t live life for others, but only for ourselves. Success can never really be , if we forfeit our happiness in the process.

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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Uncategorized


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OK, lets have a quickie then

Ha!Its not what you think..shame on you.But it got your attention.In the spirit of World AIDS day I decided to write a quick blog.My small contribution in raising awareness on the AIDS pandemic.One of my good mates put it to me recently that while they have enjoyed some of my previous blogs , they have been a bit too long. Well today dear friend ,I will treat you to a quickie.

I am actually typing this on my phone on my way home after a very productive day(If you call spending the vast majority of the work day on the various social sites productive )To those who might have missed it .Today is World AIDS day .A day set aside to promote awareness of the AIDS pandemic which has had a devastating effect, especially in Sub Saharan Africa. I m sure most of my fellow African brothers and sisters can testify that the reality of HIV/AIDS is all too familiar on the continent. Most of us know off or have had a relative or friend pass away from the virus.

My time today on the social networks was enlightening as people did their bit to raise awareness through sharing articles & posting updates /tweets to raise awareness .Whilst this was commendable what struck me was an article I just read titled Every Day is World AIDS day .The author of this particular blog pointed out that they found the concept of World AIDS day bittersweet , with particular reference to the role the media (and by extension I guess social networks play.Since a vast majority of us get our news & subsequently share it using these platforms )

The reason this particular Blogger felt it was bittesweet is that on the one hand, it’s a day when much of the media focuses on a global pandemic that desperately needs attention. On the other hand, it’s become the only day when much of that same media shines a light on the issue even as millions more have become infected with HIV worldwide and when we are at critical juncture where we could see the end of AIDS if efforts – and media attention – are brought to bear.The same it could be argued applies for social media trends .I personally don’t recall ever seeing anything raising awareness of the pandemic other than today.

I find this intriguing because as an African , naturally a huge chunk of my friends list whilst diverse is still predominantly African. All of us have at some stage I believe been affected by the pandemic .The stats don’t lie .It is estimated that 34 million people are living with the HIV virus & here is the thing, the vast majority of those infected live in Sub Saharan Africa .In fact an estimated 22.5 million people were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2009, including 2.3 million children.During 2009, an estimated 1.3 million Africans died from AIDS. Almost 90% of the 16.6 million children orphaned by AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa.Those are depressing stats.Cry, beloved Motherland.

Other tid bits I picked up from the various media today is a worrying trend .The majority of adults in Africa who have HIV get it from their partners,with a high prevalence amongst married couples.That is scary! But not surprising. Especially when you factor in the whole concept of “Small” houses that seems to be generally accepted in our culture.It is not just this several other elements of our culture also contribute to the prevalence of the birus on the continent.Chief among that being that it seems generally taboo openly discuss issues around sexusl health.. Our people are dying ,we seriously need to get over that.We have embraced foreign cultures with aplomb and even let go of some of our perceived backward cultural trends.Why cant we do the same in this case.One might argue that is mainly a problem with the older generation the older generation(the refusal to discuss issues surrounding sex) but our generation has its own shortcomings.The biggest of which is exemplified in a track called Doing it wrong by Drake of his Take Care album where he sings “We live in a generation of not being in love & not being together but we sure make it feel like we’re together“.The Booty call generation.People are dying.

One of the experiences that still haunts me to this day is a conversation I had with a close family friend years ago who was on his deathbed from HIV related complications.He was as thin as an anorexic at the time.The little hair he had left was thin and wavy almost as if it had been relaxed.He was a pale shadow of his old robust self. The once proud, loud man who could keep any room spellbound with his stories was no more. He needed a walking stick and used the walls of the to help him keep his balance as he walked around the.It was a sorry sight.But it was not all some kinda freak show.He actually said something very poignant that has stayed with me.He went on to spoint out that whether I was sexually active or not did not really matter to him,because his advice was universal .Always use the ABC rule in issues of sex .That is… Abstinence .Be Faithful .Condomise.You don’t want to end up like me. I thought I was invincible,but look at me now.He passed on a few weeks later .But his last words to me have stayed with me.

The final thing I will say is this.I hope that The issues surrounding AIDS become a more common dialogue especially but not exclusively amongst my fellow Africans.Lets aim to get rid of the stigma attached to the AIDS pandemic. It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance! Be responsible. Know your status. Get tested.Not Just today on World AIDS but regularly.

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Posted by on December 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


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