Tag Archives: childhood

mothers and daughters

My mother’s three names mean ‘sweet, happy song’. Probably true when she was a toddler, but try having four kids in five years and this soon changes to ‘bitter, sad death knell’. I dare any 25 year old woman to stay sweetly happy without a nanny or housekeeper and a full time job. Cue tons of shouting and bickering in our house – we were quite a handful.

Did your 16 year old aunt* teach you to call your mother “bitch” when you were three? Mine did. My mother pretended to be angry at the time, then she laughed about it. Mothers and daughters. Oh the love and hate – ample fuel for a slew of motherhood-based horror movies like Mama, Madre, et al.

A true style icon with expensive tastes, my mother wore gorgeous dresses and Bruno Magli shoes because low heels ‘hurt’ her. It was a gift from the gods that we had the same shoe size. It may have been imagined but instead of admiration she mostly gleaned jealousy and envy from other women. I’m not surprised, she looked pretty when she woke up, with not a stitch of makeup on her green eyes or fair skin AND she was married to a handsome, charming man-child who brought orchids to Mowbray maternity hospital when I was born. The same poor man I used to kick on the shins for giving me his brown eyes instead of green eyes like I wanted – but that’s another story…

I could never fit my 12 year old arms into her pink tulle 21st dress** (she was 1.74m tall and weighed about 45 kilos). Later, she dieted like crazy during her supposedly too-fat phase on the Atkins diet and injections until she weighed 50-odd kilos and started climbing into my clothes much to my twentysomething disgust. Even then my father’s sister asked her whether she had cancer instead of complimenting her.

I’m sure she could’ve been a model but not with her seventh day adventist upbringing. My mother never smoked or drank but she could dance like a demon. My father and her mesmerised people with their dancing. Everything she cooked, baked, knitted, sewed or wore, looked and tasted awesome. So that’s quite an icon to aspire to, especially if you’re frizzy-haired, lomp, big-boobed with braces and zero interest in fashion or makeup. But at least I didn’t need any pseudo icons in magazines when I had my own to look up to at home.

Sounds perfect? Far from it.

Take soup meat out of the freezer instead of lamb chops and you’d know all about it (my attention to detail came rather late in life). The Samuel L Jackson character in Pulp Fiction would cry in his boots when my mother raged. Once she burnt a huge iron mark on my father’s red lace shirt WHILE HE WAS WEARING IT. And let’s just say when I turned 13 on Friday the thirteenth it was not a good day for me when I made us late for my orthodontist’s appointment.

Thanks mother, for fixing my bok bek with braces when I was 13 and my big boobs when I was 20. Thank you for using up your whole salary on a private convent school education so that I wouldn’t be affected by earlier boycotts and riots in the ’80s and where I communed with squirrels at lunchtime and went to posh girls’ birthday parties. Thank you for teaching me how to cook by beating and shouting the crap out of me every Sunday. And thank you for giving me a backbone and the strength to give natural childbirth to a baby with a huge head who weighed 3.78 kilos.

Without any drugs.

I used to cry while hearing Sweet Mama by Richard John Smith as a nine year old (maybe because it was on a Sunday and I still hadn’t done my homework or I was slaving in the kitchen or my periods started). Whatever.

This song is for you mom, because I know you did your best…

Glossary of South Africanisms:

  1. lomp (lorm-p): clumsy
  2. bok bek (bawk beck): literal meaning – buck mouth, overbite 
my mother's 21st with my dad and her cake
My father and mother at her 21st in that dress**

Primary school kids and sexual content: then vs now

Sketch by the child, aged 8 (inspired by my old concept for a beer label)


Sex Ed for primary school kids is a tough topic, with a huge difference between sexual content available now and when I was a child. Then, there was tame ’70s TV, compared to the sexually and graphically violent shows at our fingertips now. In primary school my mother got me books on ‘changes in your body’, so I couldn’t just check out someone’s private parts on my phone. Most of what I gleaned about sex was via the secret reading of cliterature.


Primary school

My first taste of sexual content was aged nine, when I sneak-read my parents’ James Hadley Chase paperbacks. 

It didn’t make me promiscuous, potty-mouthed or dress like Lolita. Instead, I remained shy and cloistered up until I went to a convent high school for girls where I remained shy and cloistered. At my first job I was named and shamed on the noticeboard for not knowing what a ‘BJ’ was at 23. A Polaroid of me eating a banana was also my first foray into sexual harassment. But that’s another story.


High school

My biggest involvement with boys was a bunch of us blowing kisses and waving at young army guys en route to Wynberg from the back seat of the school bus. Pathetic maybe, but sweet and innocent too. Hence total disgust when I overheard some senior girls talking about ‘naai’-ing* in the loo. Sex Ed was a nun teaching us, and some smartass classmate bombarding her with questions on masturbation. 

And then I did some research.



Today I am the owner of the filthiest mind north of the Labia – stylishly honed on illicit childhood reading. This included my young uncle’s Scope magazines plus my mother’s ‘Everywoman’ gynae book (from whence I’d copy line drawings of couples in flagrante). While studying graphic design at Michaelis I discovered reams of photographic books at the library that made me appreciate the beauty of naked humans without the awkwardness of being in the same room.


My child

My husband made me hide all my erotic literature after our daughter started asking “What are they doing, mommy?”. I also removed the Cosmos and GQs from the loo reading pile after she said “Why are they kissing on the lips? Are they married?”. She was six. He’s right. We didn’t need to have the talk just yet.


Kids today

Most magazines for twenty something women are filled with fashion, make-up, sex and schlebs. Is this really all females need to know? I feel for my daughter growing up with cyber trolls, violent bullies, instant access to porn and rampant sexual predators. It’s a far cry from me giggling at someone’s older brother’s porn comic in the primary school toilet to today’s kids filming their schoolmate’s rape for likes.


Kids and sex – now vs then

Kids today are having sexual experiences as young as nine. Lord help us all! I don’t even know what’s changed from my childhood until now. Surely porn is still porn whether it’s available on your cell phone or you read it in a smutty paperback in nineteen foot sack? But why didn’t reading porn then make me stop respecting myself or showing gynaecological self portraits to strangers?

Sons and daughters need to be reared with the same values because all genders deserve equal respect and consideration. Too many children are left to do as they please instead of being given a snotklap* or punished when they misbehave. Sex education in primary schools should lead to better lifestyle choices and might even reduce incidents of abuse if the child is aware of their rights. Ignorance is never bliss because knowledge always empowers.

Is it nature vs nurture? I’m simply a mother who wishes for her daughter to stand firm in a festering world. If she wants to know about sex and doesn’t necessarily want me to talk about it, I have an age-appropriate book for her. If she wants to check out my stash of adult literature when she’s older, that’s ok, at least she’ll be reading a book. A dirty, sharp mind with a pure, strong heart sounds like a decent human being to me…

*Glossary of South Africanisms:

1) naai (nigh): f..k

2) snotklap (snawt-klupp): literally ‘snot smack’, slap face (until snot runs)