Kids, in the winter of 2019, your Nan was facing a potential huge health crisis and while I knew I could and would support her as I had through two heart attacks, a stroke and bell’s palsy, I also wanted to take the time to appreciate her.
She’s a tough one, your Nan. She survived an overprotective and religious fanatic father, an abusive marriage, a premature baby, young widowhood, raised two headstrong daughters ( including your rebellious, short-tempered, creative mother), supplemented her nursing degree with post-grad courses, retired, changed careers, returned to nursing and had recently sold her home of 25 years to move into a seaside apartment.
We’d had our differences over the years, mostly because we are alike in so many ways but the one thing that remained unchanged was that no matter how often we fought, we were there for each other when it mattered.
And this health crisis mattered.
Life, Kids, hits you with unexpected curve balls but trust me when I say this: where there is love and family, there is hope and you can and will get through anything.
Kids, on the eve of my 32nd birthday, I was feeling particularly thankful for all of my many, many blessings and it made me feel a little bit nostalgic.
I started thinking about the very best birthday gifts I’d received over the last few years and here are my top 5:
The gift of a social media blackout: In 2016, I practiced the first of my no socials on my birthday cleanse and by Gods, it was fantastic to have the silence! What’s more, people actually took the time to call me and what’s better than talking to your loved ones on your special day? I was going to do the same in 2017!
The gift of being surrounded by friends and family: Each year, I had birthday parties surrounded by the people I love… whether it was an intimate dinner where the whole #howimetyourfather campaign kicked off or high tea with your Spirit Mom at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
3. The gift of a kickass studio tour and being on my own show in New York: In 2016, my f***ing amazing Wyrd Sister Leo gifted me with a NBC Studio Pass for my upcoming trip to New York. It was by far the highlight of my solo Big Apple vacation AND I got to record and star in this epic mock late night show interview:
4. The gift of a fantastic 30th island holiday: My angst at turning 30 in 2015 was majorly alleviated by the incredible week-long birthday celebration and vacation your Nan booked for us in Mauritius. Your aunt Sam, Nan and I really reconnected, doing aqua Zumba, snorkelling, catamaran cruises and water side dinners. It is also where I learnt to appreciate the art of going solo and lessons I have implemented in my life ever since.
5. The gift of love and life: Kids, in the spring of 1985, your Nan risked her life for mine with a two month hospital stay and a risky emergency C-Section. She’d regularly remind me of the crazy circumstances leading to my birth:
When I look back at photos of my birth I can’t believe how incredibly strong my then 24-year-old Mom had to be to care for a baby born two months early:
I’m so thankful, though, for her bravery and for always being there for me. I love you, Mom!
Kids,in December 2016, I travelled alone to New York City and people,who should have known better,kept asking why?
Them : “Why would you do that? And alone too? That’s crazy!”
Me (thinking it internally but I should have said it out loud): “I’m f***ing off to the other side of the world because I am sick to death of your narrow-mindedness; your gossiping about my sexuality; your assumptions that I must hate men and children because I have neither when it couldn’t be further from the f***ing truth and you don’t know how hard I have to work to keep my desire for having a baby under control; because you assholes talk about me maliciously on Facebook where the world AND I can see it and you don’t even think about my feelings,do you?!!”
Like I said, there were many reasons why I travelled solo to the Big Apple but ultimately only one really mattered …my happiness.
In the space of just one week, New York quickly made me feel at home by:
1) Making me feel like a local:
Sure,I got lost so many times but somehow I always ended up where I was intending on going later,like Central Park, so it worked out!
2) Inspiring me on the daily:
There were so many things to see and do in New York that inspiration was seeping into my pores all of the time.I felt re-energised and motivated for the first time in a long time and I wanted to write again.Not just about one attraction as I had been for the past two years but about a variety of topics!
Staring out at the city line from the Top of the Rock, I knew it was time for a career change.
3) Putting me at ease about difficult choices I’d made previously:
When I left a side project as a theater reviewer in 2015 because my family needed me emotionally, physically and financially to help with my dying grandfather; people didn’t understand and so many of them faded away from my life because I was no longer available to be frivolous and fun at a red carpet opening night three times a week.
It felt like a horrible thing at the time but I do not regret spending 2016 taking care of Pa ,our family or dedicating myself to my magic career that year either…both elements thrived because I was focused and I am eternally thankful for it.
As I took in a number of Broadway shows in December, I realised that things had come full circle and this,this opportunity right here, to see award-winning international shows was meant to be all along.I have always been a theatre lover -I didn’t need to be “famous” to prove it.
4) Seeding a sense of wonder for myself :
Thanks to the mind and emotional f***ery of He Who Must Not Be Named; being dumped by my travel buddy; warring family wanting Pa’s estate and all of the malicious gossipers; my sense of self-worth was f***ed royally.
Having my wits and determination to depend on to guide me and keep myself safe in the Big Apple rebirthed my self-belief.
I felt imbued with new-found confidence in the Wonder Woman I know I can be. I worked hard to get to New York again and I could do that and so much more if I just tried.
F*** the haters in my world, I am f***ing AWESOME!!
I loved New York,where I was free to be me SO much, I didn’t want to go home …
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world” – Louis Armstrong
Kids, I really hate the date 23 November. It’s the date in 2015 when we were told your great-grandfather was dying and it’s the date in 1996 when we lost your grandfather, my Dad, to a violent and senseless crime.
That this date is exactly a week after my birthday on 16 November, is something I have been haunted by for decades. It seems like a lifetime ago when one week my family and friends were gathered around one table celebrating my birth and the next, those same people were crying around a body.
It’s why I make a huge fuss about my birthday each year – I need to be surrounded by love and happiness because the next week, I won’t be.
On the 23rd, I withdraw from everything and everyone and I don’t usually talk about my Dad because even after all this time, the loss of him is equally painful and liberating. I know you won’t understand that, because you’ve never met him but Dad and I had a complex relationship. We still do.
It sounds clichéd, having Daddy issues, but my father was a force like no other. Fun-loving, daring, loving, passionate, creative and my all-time hero; Faizel Williams also had a very dark, frightening side I was often exposed to. I loved both parts of him in equal measures but I would be lying if I said it didn’t have an effect on how I engage with people, especially men, as an adult.
Eleven is a really young age to have to deal with grief – hell, your aunt Sam was eight – and a loss like that leaves an undeniable mark on your psyche, your soul and your heart.
Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to not having my Dad around for the big things – matric dances, first crushes, first boyfriends, first job, my graduations, my driver’s licence test, my first international trip, my wedding and your births.
It’s the small things, though, that still trip me up – I want to be able to call him when I am sad or mad or hungry; get a big bear hug when I need it or dance in the middle of a busy road because our favourite song is playing.
I ache for a missing parent but I count my lucky stars for the one who is still around. Your Nan Soraya, though, Kids, is unbelievably incredible. She’s been there for all of the big moments and every little one in between and she did it all on her own. Sam and I are so incredibly lucky to have such a Supermom!
On 23 November, 2016, Your Nan, Aunt Sam and I remembered your grandfather on his 20th death anniversary with one of his favourite songs:
Kids, on the eve of my 31st birthday, I was feeling overstimulated, overwhelmed and over-stressed by social media.
Besides the fact that it was literally my bread and butter, just trying to stay up to date with everything that was happening out in the digital world and my loved ones ‘social lives was incredibly tiring.
Not to mention the soul-crushing depression that comes with knowing exactly which people couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge my special day… I didn’t need that kind of rejection!
I’ve told you about how I became selectively social both online and offline after turning 30, right?
For my 31st birthday, I decided to try a social media experiment: I would go Internet, Wi-Fi, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest, email and WhatsApp free for 31 hours.
Friends and family were freaking out about how they were going to contact me:
My response was:
“We’ll do it like people did it in 1985 when I was born … send snail mail or pick up a damn phone and call me!”
Physical interaction in the digital age was going the way of the Dodo and I, as a relic of the glorious 80s, refused to participate in its untimely demise.
Besides, if I wasn’t spending my birthday with my eyes glued to a screen, it freed me up to take in the (hopefully) handsome and available male sights all around me.Who knows if your Dad might have been lurking around somewhere?
Kids, by the spring of 2016, my cosplaying obsession was in full swing and with my all-time favourite holiday of the year, Halloween, coming up, there was just one more character I simply had to inhabit: the Zombie Bride of the Mother City at the Zombie Walk Cape Town 2016 event.
Your Uncle Leon laughs at me for this but my zombie alter ego had been steadily building up to major life milestones for several years – I’d been a cheerleader in 2014, a nurse in 2015 and now it was time for me to tie the undead knot.
Your Nan also really got into the spirit of wedding dress shopping … I know how much she’d been dying for that to happen!
29 October, 2016:
Cosplaying events are always way more fun with friends and so off your Uncle L and I went with Kaanita, Daniel, Ethan and Tania in tow, to join the hordes ( and I mean HORDES) of rotting bodies for Zombie Walk 2016.
These are some of our cool undead memories of the day:
Kids, in the spring of 2016, I found myself having to defend being different to loved ones once again.
It had been a battle I constantly had to fight since childhood and even though I thought I was done explaining who and what I was at age 30, I had to re-introduce the concept of diversity to those closest to me.
That I was different from the culture and people I was born into was apparent from a very young age – I came home from my first day of primary school on the Cape Flats perplexed by the fact that this establishment did not have a cafeteria or lockers like I’d expected it to have ( let’s blame this on hours and hours of watching The Wonder Years).
In high school, my penchant for public speaking, poetry writing , black clothing, emo music, being vocal about women’s rights and having dreams that did not immediately include marriage set me apart from my peers and I constantly had to deal with “but why do you always have to be so different from everyone else? Can’t you just be normal?” comments from frenemies and bullies.
I struggled with depression as a teenager because being different was frowned upon and I twisted myself in all kinds of anxiety-ridden pretzels in an attempt to fit in …anywhere with anyone.
Finally, in my late 20s, I learnt to be comfortable with my weirdo self and share who I was with those in my inner circle.
It’s difficult, though, when the qualities I had worked so hard to cultivate in myself – strength, independence, free thinking, honesty, assertiveness, diligence, creativity, emotional vulnerability – were the very things people wouldn’t accept about me.
They used labels like weird, other, different as weapons in attacks on my character but were totally fine with me being that when it suited their needs.
I shed a few tears (ok, a lot of them!) at this renewed rejection but then I remembered something your Spirit Mom Leo shared with me soon after we met:
Being different in a world of sameness and sheep-like mentality is nothing to be ashamed about. I am, I was and I will always be weirdly different and it is more than okay – it is my damn birth right!
It’s yours too, my loves. You are extraordinarily wonderful just as you are and don’t you ever let anyone tell you differently xx
Here are 30 things I learnt about myself and life after turning 30:
I have no more f***s to give and it’s ok:
No, really. Before 30, I would be stressed about what people thought of me and whether they’d accept me for the weirdo I was.
After 30, I was like “well, f*** a f***ing zombie, if you don’t like me, screw you!” I liked me:the dressing like a hobo writer; dance in the car and the supermarket; can’t be bothered to even pretend to like people I should me and that was all that mattered.
No was my new favourite word:
As in “No, I am not attending a family function where I have to pretend the perpetually divorced aunt’s comments about my inability to land a man doesn’t hurt my feelings” or “No, I really don’t want to pay for your mother’s birthday cake just because you’re broke AF and didn’t plan ahead”.
I especially loved saying Hell to the f*** no when friends, acquaintances and potential dates tried to talk me into going to places or doing things because it was more convenient for them.
My comfort, after 30, came first… f*** the rest!
Here are my boundaries, now f*** off:
So-called friends who couldn’t deal with not being the centre of my universe whilst I was in the middle of taking care of my dying grandfather and dedicating myself to passion projects or clients who contacted me after hours were not so graciously told where to f*** off to because I have boundaries.
Staying home was my new favourite past time:
Time was when I’d be out there with the most narcissistic of socialites, snapping pics on red carpets and attending every event or show opening under the goddamn sun.
By 2016, I was tired of the constant fake behaviour and forced friendships with so-called celebrities so I found new events (GOT premieres) and red carpets (my bedroom’s) to frequent.
Shutting myself in my apartment for at least one day a weekend where I didn’t have to go out at all because it was too peopley out there was how I held onto my sanity during all of the adulting I had to do.
Holding my tongue was no longer an option:
I learnt to be blunt AF because it was the only way people would understand me when I kept saying no (see point 2).
My entire life, I was always worried about protecting other people’s feelings and not daring to retaliate when they hurt mine.
New me didn’t have such qualms. If you were a guy wasting my time with small talk about the weather or asking me to send you boob pics on dating sites, I told you exactly where to stick your small member and not ever f***ing contact me again.
If you were a client who wanted me to rise at the crack of dawn to fill in for you because you were going away for the weekend, I told you where to get off on the bullshit train.
Biting my tongue to keep the peace was no longer my modus operandi.
I am a cosplaying freak:
Who loves nothing more than donning tights and a cape and showing off at events to other geeks.
Your aunts Sam and Mishka and your godparents Leo, Tendai and Leon are the only five people in Year 30 that I felt completely at ease with.
They loved me when I was crabby and happy over silly things; they let me cry when I needed to or just be quiet when I couldn’t put into words the things that hurt me and they weren’t afraid to call me out on my crap when they needed to.
Feeling guilty is a waste of time:
So I finished yet another tub of Nutella without using it for the pancakes I actually bought it for… so freaking what?! Did anyone die? No? Then, shut up, Brain, and just let me enjoy my chocolate high right now.
Ditto for not finishing blogs, reports etc for work when I was ill. I was delirious on medication and sleep deprived, for Drogon’s sake, it’s not like the company would fall apart without me!
I am worth showing up for:
Old friends who bailed last minute on plans and dates who stood me up were no longer worth my tears.
Spending time with me, especially when I had to rearrange shit so I could see them, was a f***ing privilege. If they couldn’t be bothered to show up, I wouldn’t be bothered to answer calls and texts in future.
I will not settle for mediocrity:
I deserved the very best I could give myself – from a future partner to what I ate and who I spent my time with to where I travelled to – so if those things were not up to par, they had to go.
We are so focused on making sure everyone else (family, friends, significant others etc) is happy and getting what they deserved but what about ourselves?
In 2016, I made myself my priority – f*** anyone who thought that was selfish!
It’s never too late to do anything:
Like read the Harry Potter book series for the first time (yes, I know, considering I saw all the movies and worked in magic, I should have done that yonks ago but whatever!)
If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll ask Google:
Dudes, what I knew about being an executor of an estate or how to process a medical aid claim back was dismal. Being an adult doesn’t come with an instruction manual so thank the Seven for Google!
Eating breakfast for supper is ok:
As a kid, I would laugh at my Dad and your Aunt Sam for tucking into a bowl of Kellogg’s at 6pm but I came to appreciate the wonders of a good scrambled egg or waffle at supper time.
Life is short, do shit that scares you:
Like training for and running a 10km race or lasting five minutes in a paint ball game (I am NEVER doing that again!)
I felt broken and strangely well-put together at the same time. I cried at the most inappropriate times, like being surrounded by 13 000 people at a public running event or went for weeks without shedding a tear because I was so busy organising his affairs.
I laughed at his multiple memorials because he would have loved seeing his entire family together for once.
There is no rhyme, reason or quick fix to grief and I had to learn how to be patient with myself until I got to the other side.
Being afraid and insecure are realities of adulthood:
I can’t take money with me when I die, so I spend it:
I splurged on spa days at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel with your Nan and went to several 3D movies with Leo a month.
I did body shots at Beefcakes; applied for loans to go to Mauritius and bought multiple cosplay costumes because I could. Life was for the damn living!
I can let it go:
That grudge I have against the boy who broke my heart; the too tight dress from 2007 I’ll never fit into again and the paperwork of things I sold eons ago – I’ve cleared them out.
The awesome Bennii was a HUGE inspiration to me in this regard. I watched her give away sporting equipment she didn’t need; disperse advice freely or say exactly what she was thinking and it made so much sense to me.
Cleansing yourself emotionally, mentally and physically is important so be like Frozen’s Elsa:
I will not compete for anyone’s time or affection:
Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, people, especially family members would compare me to my siblings or cousins, making me feel like I had to compete for their affection because I wasn’t good enough.
That belief spilled over into my friendships and working relationships. By 30, I realised that this shit had to come to an end and it started with me.
I was f***ing awesome just as I was – I didn’t need to be more like anyone else. Again, if you didn’t love or appreciate me for who I was, f*** you!
I hate SMS texting:
I also hate people who use it. If you are over 18 and writing lyk dis, I will f***ing disown you.
I detest selfie sticks and their users:
Unless you’re Zoolander and Hansel – then let’s do a #selfiestickselfie and can Alexander Skarsgard be in it before I lure him away for a long, LONG stay in my love dungeon?!
I can’t party like a 22-year-old anymore:
Dear gods of Westeros, my liver roared its dissatisfaction at being used as a chemical waste ground the minute I turned 30 and I couldn’t manage more than one glass of bubbly or four watered down cocktails on a night out.
Gone were the days of bar-hopping with Tendai and Leon down Long Street …a damn shame!
I can still shake what Soraya gave me:
Sure, I couldn’t down shots anymore but man, could I still dance like no one was watching!
Clubbing occasionally whilst sober or you know, giving everyone in my local Spar a show by dancing in the aisles still felt really, really good as I got older.
I do not have to pretend to like every theatre show or movie I’ve seen:
Man, I wish I had learnt this earlier so I could get some hours of my life back.
I love babies, children and animals:
It is other adults I have an issue with. Seriously, if people could just keep their unwanted opinions, their filthy habits and oversharing to themselves, that would be great.
I adore food:
I will eat anything and everything and I will not feel guilty about it.
If you are going to be one of those annoying as all hell women who talk about how many calories are in curly fries, I will silence you with a death stare or get up from the table and let you eat your cardboard in peace.
Spending time with my family and friends is more important than anything else:
I don’t care if there is a conference or launch happening that simply everyone has to be at – I am not everyone and the people of my heart come first.
Tag me in shit if you have to and I might retweet, repost or like it but my must-attend moment is where my tribe is.
Equally important is me time:
Even Wonder Woman needs a break from everyone else’s troubles and to find her centre. When I am having me time, I am not doing nothing, I am being me.
Age ain’t nothing but a number:
Aaliyah was right (though she may have been referring to something else!).
Age is a state of mind – at 30, I felt more in tune with my 18-year-old self and rediscovered the values I had as a teenager. When applied to my adult self, those ideals made life really simple for me and I was far happier for it.
Here’s why the Afternoon Bliss package at the Belmond Mount Nelson hotel is a must-do:
It ain’t expensive to treat yourself like a movie star:
I’ve had people the world over tell me that Cape Town, and especially its luxurious hotels are pricey… they’re not.
At just R2225 per package for two people, the Afternoon Bliss package is well worth it. Weighing up what the usual cost of a full body massage, followed by lunch at a restaurant would set you back, this package is value for money.
Location, Location, Location:
Gods, the Nellie is beautiful! It is also so multi-layered with seemingly endless gorgeous places to relax (snag a table in the luscious garden if the weather is good and keep an eye out for a visiting Hollywood star every now and then).
While the Lounge is the spot to be, I adore the Planet Restaurant &Bar for its amazing cocktails (my favourite being the Alexander, a perfect concoction of Van Ryn’s Brandy, crème de cacao, fresh cream and nutmeg, of course!).
Heaven is for real:
And it is located at the Librisa Spa!
From a statuesque chandelier in the foyer that demands to be swung from (don’t worry, I didn’t!) and the healthy but tasty fruit and tea bar to the oh-so-gentle touches of the talented therapists in suitably styled rooms, being a pampered angel is a reality.
Drink tea like the English:
With cucumber sandwiches, mouth-watering chocolate cake, scones with clotted cream and an endless array of the finest teas (or speciality coffees if you’re a caffeine addict).
The Nellie’s Afternoon Tea buffet is renowned for being one of the best in Cape Town, laden with every savoury and sweet treat imaginable and it is quite difficult to know where to start!
The super cool but still dignified ambience:
How often do you actually get to dress up smartly and rub shoulders with the rich, famous and fabulous?
At the Mount Nelson, that could be any day of the week! With its old school glamour, classic décor, soft music and excellent service, this world-class establishment made me feel like I was Romola Garai in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, about to meet my parents and lover for a dance in the 1950s.
I know you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with meeting your father but what I learnt about the search was that sometimes a girl has to stop and eat a cream puff or three whilst being pampered and spending time with her Mama in one of the Mother City’s most luxurious hotels. A happy me is a more attractive and holistic me, right?!
I can’t wait to go back to the Mount Nelson Hotel soon!
So, when the opportunity arose to transform into Hermione Granger for the highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Cursed Child launch party, there was NO way I was going to miss out on it!
Your Spirit Mom Leo, lovely mermaid Emma and I had to complete quite the rigorous process to get our owls and golden tickets to Hogwarts aka Exclusive Books ‘party at the Canal Walk Shopping Centre – I mean, seriously, with the amount of hoops we had to jump through just to score an invitation, I practically had to give one of you up before you were even born…
After two months of emails, registration AND costume planning, The Night finally arrived:
30 July 2016 …
Any fan of the book or movie series will know the feelings that hearing the signature Potter music conjures within you.
Add that to the incredible sense of belonging you feel when you see hundreds, nay THOUSANDS, of fellow Potterheads dressed as Dementors, Dumbledore, Luna Lovegood; Moaning Myrtle and more and you’ll understand when I say that I felt like finally, I’d come home.
Leo, Emma, your aunt Bennii and I were utterly gobsmacked at the realistic and detailed costumes on display. While we rocked the crazy hot Bellatrix, gorgeous Quidditch Seeker, beautiful muggle and sexy student looks; other fans were unbelievable Snitches; Sybill Trelawneys and more:
As I said, the atmosphere was utterly magical because of all of our die-hard Potterhead enthusiasm and seeing everyone in costume BUT I need to stress that the event was no party.
By the mere mention of the word party, we’d been harbouring fantasies about chocolate frogs, a sorting hat ceremony etc …what we got instead was a four hour long queue and preferential game playing cards with very little communication from the Exclusive Books staff about what was happening.
The organisers either desperately needed to hire Leo and I to do their book launch parties for them in future because we’re kickass publicists, magic fanatics AND awesome cosplayers or they should have taken a leaf out of Ster Kinekor and Mnet’s, uh, books (pun TOTALLY intended) who rocked a feast with music and entertainers worthy of a Westeros wedding for the Game of Thrones Season 6 screening.