Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

The Stories Within the Story

on June 18, 2014

South Africa’s story of apartheid is well known to us all. I remember the 80s boycott of companies that did not divest from apartheid South Africa. I remember Mandela’s election. I remember attending a speech by Winnie Mandela at a packed Yankee Stadium when I was in college (before she had her troubles). Like the advent of the home computer and 9/11, we lived through the story of democracy coming to South Africa.

On this visit, though, I am encountering other stories.

There is the class story; a holdover from the country’s history as a colony of Great Britain. People frequently refer to me as “Milady.” It’s kind of charming, though I find myself wanting to object and say, “I’m not a lady.”

There is the story of same-sexuality. Who knew there’s a large community of gay people in Cape Town? I have met individuals whose eyes tell sad stories of woundedness. Over the course of 2013, 78 gay people were stoned to death in one Cape Town neighborhood. That neighborhood’s churches were silent. I feel an unprecedented joy that gay people come to services at my church.

There is the story of singleness. People ask my age and the whereabouts of my husband. People inquire about how many children I have — and are genuinely surprised that I have none. Yes, really, none. I’m told that single men are something of a valued commodity. “Not here too,” I think. But then I encounter single men nearly everywhere I go.

My most memorable meeting so far was with a man named Cameron. I met him at a craft fair of sorts. He practices “energy release” (which is basically massage therapy) and demonstrated on my hand. Polite conversation ensued, and then out of nowhere he told me that I have beautiful lips.

“Do this,” he said, asking me to mimic him as he pursed his lips into a pucker. We both laughed. A few questions later I found out that he is a proud Scottish South African. Of course! Just like those boldly audacious Highlanders I used to read about in romance novels.

What are some of the stories that you have learned through the people you’ve met in new places both near and far?

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