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Read Letter

A Double Minded Person Is Unreliable

Dear Jack,

You really can’t afford this yoyo relationship. It’s dangerous to your health. I’m not really sure your girlfriend knows what she wants.

Have you read Mine Boy? It’s a critically acclaimed book by Peter Abrahams. His father was Ethiopian, his mother “coloured”. One of the first few books to draw attention to the barbaric problem of apartheid in South Africa. It was actually published in 1946, two years before apartheid became an official policy. To help you situate the theme and historical context I’ll quote a paragraph – (Xuma is the protagonist):

‘You say you understand,’ Xuma said, ‘but how can you? You are a white man. You do not carry a pass. You do not know how it feels to be stopped by a policeman in the street. You go where you like. You do not know how it feels when they say “Get out! White people only” You want me to be your friend. How can I be your friend when your people do this to me and my people?’

Xuma was a strong and well built black South African. Migrated from the village to Jo’burg in search of work in the mines. The mine conditions were terrible. The miners ‘cough and then spit blood and become weak and die’. Xuma was accommodated by a lady named Leah, a moonshiner. She sold prohibited gin (ogogoro, burukutu, kainkain). He soon fell in love with Leah’s niece, Eliza, a very beautiful teacher. Unfortunately Eliza was a conflicted soul.

Eliza had the ‘sickness of the city’. She suffered from a sense of identity. She’s described as wanting all the things she couldn’t have. She wanted the things of the white man. Xuma had all the manly attributes she desired. But he wasn’t educated and cultured. Her cultured suitors on the other hand lacked his manliness. They were representational verisimilitudes. 2D characters. This created in Eliza yoyo desirability for Xuma. One moment she loves him, the next she cuts off. She swung from one extreme to another. If only Xuma could be that composite dream. Never mind the contradictory nature in the aboriginality of the constituent elements. Seemingly resolved at a point in the narrative, she offered herself to him as “his woman”. Then she skittered off.

Xuma was frustrated. ‘Did your woman leave you because she is mad with wanting the same things the white man has?’ he asked. Xuma had in his own words, “the understanding of the heart and the pain of understanding”. But there was Maisy. Ever smiling, wasn’t pretty. But Maisy loved Xuma, made him smile.

You are Xuma. Your girlfriend is unstable Eliza. Your life just became a novel! Writing a review, Nana Fredua-Agyeman described the Xuma conundrum as “psychological dilemma, the torment of wanting and not having or needing and knowing no matter how hard you work at it you simply would not achieve it.” I don’t know how long your heart can endure the flickering cycle of emotional thawing and freezing. Or how well it can take the altitudinous vertigo of passionate hope – the sudden drop of shattered dream. Surely you must suffer from emotional sea sickness. You live in hope and fear at once. You’re what your girlfriend wants and not what she wants at the same time. If only she can adjust one or two things in you… A little trim here, a little snip there. Sort of an autochthonous plastic surgery until you become the Stepford husband.

Your present state is an inconvenient truth. But tell me, how are we going to scalpel your nativity? We can edit your history on paper, even your parentage but how do we edit their contributions to your constitution? If you’re not the man now, can you ever be the man to her? And after you become a cardboard character will she still have “you”? You know she’s never asked herself that. You keep trying to be who you’re not. Your relationship has become a synthetic lab. Alchemy going on.

But if we accuse your girlfriend of not knowing what she wants how about you? Do you know what is good for you? Your vanity is clashing with your needs and peace. You’re like a man who walks into a clothing store to buy a shirt. There’s this shirt you like. Only the neck is too tight. You keep assuaging yourself in front of the mirror. You insist on buying it despite feeling suffocated; like someone pressing your Adams apple. If this lady were not pretty is there any redeeming quality left in this relationship? Isn’t her looks the only reason you keep going through the ritual of transforming into an emotional regurgitate?

Your girlfriend has become a bad habit. You can’t marry a shell. Content is what invariably determines happiness in a marriage. I know young men want to physicalise dreams of marathon sexual congress. But you won’t remember all that beauty and dreams of coitus when the trouble starts.

Your marital relationship will occupy a major chunk of the pie chart in the determination of your happiness in life. You can’t be happy if your partner is emotionally unreliable. You can’t plan. A double minded woman is unstable in all her ways. Ditto a man. This thing is going to spill into other things.

And your girlfriend is just being selfish. And she knows you’ll be waiting. My analysis? You can’t afford her emotionally. You’ll become a wreck. I’ve said this to you before: Sometimes what we want does not really want us. Sometimes what we want is not good for us.

Your mentor, LA.

NB. Forgot to tell you the end of the Xuma story. Eliza went on a long train journey and never returned.


©Leke Alder 2013



Tags : Dating, Hurt

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