Being right all the time is so hard.

Rich - Lion 1

There was a time when I knew everything. You might think that it’s easy knowing everything, but it isn’t. It really is quite a burden to bear. The pressure of being right all the time is pretty intense. It certainly wasn’t something I took lightly.

Ignorance is bliss, so they say.

I was raised in a sheltered home, although some of my friends believe it to have been a shelter for abandoned children, and that I landed up there because my parents were embarrassed by what I looked like.

I went to a good co-ed school, and somehow survived the ridicule that having coke bottle bottoms for glasses, a double set of braces, and very thick wavy hair all at the same time tends to invite.

The fact that I wore sheer stockings and a little chamois skirt in the school musical didn’t help either. It seems the excuse that I played Lion in a production of The Wiz wasn’t good enough to explain away the outfit.

Fortunately, being selected for the tennis, hockey and cricket first teams balanced things out a little. Well, I like to believe that anyway. Rugby might have me helped more.

mazda 323The first real test came during my first ever driving lesson. We came careening down the hill in my Mom’s red Mazda 323, with my Dad in the passenger seat. As I turned into our driveway my Dad nervously exclaimed, “You’re going too fast!”

OK, so he might have done a little more than just ‘exclaim’, I guess it sounded more like something one of the passengers on the Titanic might have screamed when they saw the iceberg. “Don’t worry Dad, I’ve got this!” was my reply. The gate pillar proved that I was wrong. But I was unperturbed. It was a minor hiccup.  A pimple on the face of omniscience.

And so I embarked on a stint in the National Defence Force. Yes, those were the good old days of conscription. During my first year of wearing the irresistible Air Force uniform I found out the hard way that dating two girls at the same time is not the seriously lucky situation I thought it was. Rich - Canaries 1aShunned and dateless, it was Life 2 – 0 Rich. Nobody had prepared me for rejection of this magnitude.

But I soldiered on as one must, moving onwards and upwards into the varsity years. Latin proved to be the next downfall. The shock of failing something hit me like I had been run over by a car. When the driver put the car in reverse to make sure, I realised that it was perhaps time to start applying myself. Perhaps, dare I think it, I might not be infallible. Nonetheless; Illegitimi non carborundum

Knowing everything comes at a price. Failure is that much harder a burden to bear. It’s the ultimate set-up. I had spent so much of my life trying to be perfect, the consummate people pleaser and the professional smokescreen technician.

I had a pretty blissful twelve-year wait before life taught me the hardest lessons. Before I realised that I knew absolutely nothing about life.

I learned that ‘happily ever after’, and ‘until death do us part’, had a sell-by date of only ten years.

I learned that being the perfect father is a fallacy, being the perfect son even more so.

I learned that financial security is a pipe dream, and that ‘prime minus two point five percent’ is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and a dangerous bedfellow.

I learned that not everyone who portrays themselves as your friend is actually your friend.

I learned the hardest of lessons; that nothing is as it seems. Knowledge is subjective.

I learned that life is hard.

The more I learn, the less I realise I actually know.

And so I have learned to appreciate the moment. Tomorrow it might all have changed. I cannot know what it will bring, but I know what I have today. For that I am grateful.

I also learned that it’s perfectly OK to be perfectly fallible. It’s the beauty of being human. And when we stop trying to be perfect, life is just so much easier and happier.


Never trust a beautician.

20130605-072207.jpgShe looked at me intently. “You have beautiful eyes,” she said. I blushed and stammered uncomfortably, feeling like a right idiot as I replied. “Thanks … it must just be the light.”

There isn’t a much more uncomfortable place for a man than a beauty salon. Besides, of course, the dreaded prostate examination by a female doctor, which ranks right up there in the awkwardness stakes.

“Would you trust me?” she asked.

Now there’s an interesting question. Number one, I don’t know you, not from Andile, and number two, well, no. No I don’t. Because I’m clearly out of my depth and my gender comfort zone. I can’t see a single piece of equipment I recognise and can talk about.

The little white outfit and the running water melodies playing in the background. The hushed tones of the other white-clad beautician ushering another victim into the cubicle next door, all the while smiling reassuringly at me. No, I don’t trust you. Alarm bells are sounding in my head, I’m thinking ‘flight’.

20130605-072030.jpgI’m as open and firmly in touch with my feminine side as the next ex-hard-core endurance athlete. The term beautician sounds acceptable. Barely. It sounds like bike technician if you say bike technician really fast. But when you insist that it’s a derogatory title and that ‘beauty therapist’ is more correct, you’ve lost me to the other side.
A therapist is different. A therapist implies lying on a leather sofa and telling a stranger about my early relationship with my mother’s breasts, and how that relates to my love for my bicycle, which is, incidentally, a ‘she’.

I broke into a light clammy sweat, grateful for the patterned shirt I was wearing, which would hopefully hide that fact. But then I felt the beads break out on my forehead too, and my head was filled with thoughts of my cricketer friend Justin, who regularly ‘pushes a bead’. He was going to make my life a misery for ever stepping foot inside a beauty salon.

But then my thoughts turned to the impending baby – his, not mine. It’s an amazing thing, perspective. I thought of that poor bastard Justin changing nappies and suddenly I found my voice.

“What do you want to do to me?” I asked meekly.

I had come for a freebie, a test to find out how badly the sun had damaged the skin on my face through years of triathlon training abuse. The results showed that the overall skin age was a year younger than my actual age.

I felt like I had just won an Ironman, pummeling the sun into a distant second place. But I realise now that it was an intricate set-up, a ploy to disarm me. She had other plans with me. Richard the test dumbass.

20130605-072228.jpgApparently beauticians – let’s just call them what they are, shall we – have a bad rap concerning IQ. But let me tell you that the rap is just a calculated diversion. She lured me in, schmuck bait. I was circling the drain. It all seems so clear when I look back now.

“If I tint your eyelashes a little, your eyes will stand out even more”, “and you will look absolutely stunning,” she said. “I won’t charge you”.”

Another two consecutive blows: kapow kapow! The male ego, and another freebie. I wasn’t even a moving target. We are such a dumb and gullible gender at times.

“Will it be noticeable?” I asked.

“At worst you might look like you have a teeny bit of eyeliner on, but only if you look for it, and besides, it fades quickly,” she said. “We’ll use a colour that will blend.”

20130605-072157.jpgBut it was the final, clever, calculated line that clinched it. “Your eyes will be a devastating force of nature. Women will crumble.”

I swear that plinth still has the indentations from my fear-filled fingers in it. I clasped hold with a grip that only Rafa’s tennis racket might fully understand. But I let her have her way with my lashes.

Ten minutes later I was on my feet, feeling decidedly normal. “That wasn’t so bad,” I said, grinning from ear to ear like I had just been handed the baton by Bradley Cooper.

But a very loud and dramatic exclamation ensued after only one glance at the innocent little mirror, “What have you done to me?!”

She called her assistant over, the Batman gambit. By now she was giggling uncontrollably and I was in a panic. It was the same panic I felt that time in Standard 9, when I was caught driving and wheel spinning our school combi in the St David’s car park whilst waiting for the teacher and for the last tennis match to finish up.

The vice-head of the school had come marching out of the building towards me and the stalled van in the dust. Yup, it was the same panicky feeling.

My eyelashes were black. Pitch black. Blue pitch black actually. To help with the imagery, let me tell you that I am fair in colouring. It wasn’t a plausible combo by any stretch of the imagination.

“Can we reverse it?” I whispered hysterically. “I look very gay, like, screaming queen meets drag queen, gay.”

“No, but it will fade quickly, and after six weeks we will need to do it again,” was the reply. “Why though? You look stunning!”

In that awful moment I realised that I was going to spend the next six weeks behind a pair of very dark Jackie Onassis style sunglasses.

I picked up what remained of my much bruised ego, and left the salon to reassurances that I looked “fantastic!”

I had no idea how to accept what I saw in the rear view mirror; I was just so grateful that I had a day to fix the disaster before I would present training to approximately fifty people who knew me. Colleagues.

39Despite being told that I couldn’t wash it off I raced straight to the bathroom. Never tell a control freak what he can or cannot do! But before long I realised that both Breeze and Dove were no match for the blackness. This was a job for something a lot stronger.

I rummaged under the kitchen sink, pushing aside the bleach which I figured might cost me an eyeball, and gleefully returned to the bathroom with the Clean Green. I scrubbed, I rubbed, I pulled my lashes, and I rolled them between my fingers. Not a single pantone difference.

Then Keryn popped past my house…

I can still hear the words, her chastising tone. I felt like a little boy of four all over again. “What were you thinking?!”

All I wanted was for her to tell me that it wasn’t THAT bad. I wanted to be back in that other place when I was four. That place where I got to be comforted against my mother’s breasts and the ills of the world would abate.

But no, no such luck. Keryn wasn’t throwing me a lifeline. I wasn’t four, there was no mom, and there were no breasts.

The next day I leaned over my eldest, who is seven, to put her seatbelt on. Wherever my head moved, so did her eyes. “Are you wearing make-up, Daddy?” she asked quizzically, her eyes wide.

One day I hope that she will forget.

The pre-training managers’ meeting went badly. I walked out of the room, my face a furious shade of my favorite wine. The peals of laughter followed me all the way upstairs to my auditorium.

I turned the lights down low, grateful for the kickass PowerPoint I had created. Any excuse to divert attention — no coffee for me, no usual greet-and-mingle routine.

20130605-072142.jpgAlmost three hours in, and I thought I’d gotten away with it. A knock on the door, and the managers from the earlier meeting entered, walked purposefully down the middle aisle, and presented me with ‘something important’ which I needed to read straight away. They stood there solemn and serious.

There was complete silence in the room. One hundred eyes trained on my face. I burst out laughing when I realised that I was looking at an advice guide on make up removal.

I still bear the self inflicted scars of ridicule.

Come to think of it, ‘therapist’ is a perfect title. A therapist has the ability and understanding to be able to manipulate both mind and emotion. We trust that it’s for our own good. Sometimes it’s not!

I was suckered by my own vanity …I still like to blame that therapist!

Never trust a beautician.

Mind you don’t trip over your ego

attitudeConceit and confidence are neighbouring traits and both start with a cee. But the swagger says conceit, and so do the hardened eyes. There is never a good reason to have an inflated ego. Let alone flaunt one.

We all know the type. That dude in the gym with the backwards cap, massive pecs, and no calves. With the aggressive demeanour you might innocently assume comes from an overdose of roids. He lumbers around the gym like he owns it, and won’t use any equipment unless there are mirrors positioned to give himself at least three angles of his lift. The only thing bigger than his ego are the chorbs on his biceps.

And then there’s the snappily dressed hipster dude with his labelled clothing and chapeau, talking loudly into his white Samsung S4 about the new Mini Cooper he’s ordered, and the apartment he is buying with the view over the city. He knocked a good couple of kays off the price because he knows a Seeff brother. They do sushi regularly at that hip spot where all the waitresses know him by name because he throws money around as often as the girl in accounts throws her name away at the company functions.

ego_logo2The list goes on and on. Egos are everywhere. You might even have one. The guy who parks in the disabled parking bay, the queue jumper, or the woman who brags about her kids before she’s even asked.  The lady who can’t smile because of all that makeup and enough Botox to make Tommy Lee Jones look young again.

The professional athletes, politicians, successful bankers and trophy wives. The Lotharios, head prefects, models, and superstars. Too cool for school. Immortal in their own time. Self-elevated, loved by the image looking back at them in the mirror. But blindly ambitious.

Quite frankly I couldn’t care who you are. You don’t impress me with your egotistic narcissism. In fact, truth be told, I lose respect for you no matter your crowning achievement. The otherwise impressive accomplishments and acclaim you might deserve are lost to me the moment your ego rears its ugly head. There are few qualities I find as distasteful.

donald trumpYou’ve Trumped me, and that’s no compliment. No contest. I don’t want that accolade. Your swollen ego makes me lose interest in you faster than JZ distanced himself from the The Gupta Wedding.

Wars are fought over ego. Poverty is created by ego. The ills of our world invariably find a beginning in one ego or another.  From the megalomaniac right down to the man who sees his wife as an object.

This is what I know, every single person on this planet is better than someone else. The tea lady is better than the welder because she can write. The receptionist is better than the driver because she has computer skills, but he in turn is better than the gardener because he can drive.

In other words, if the standard for having an attitude is a level of ‘better-than-ness’ then we all deserve to stare haughtily, straight through the eyes of the minions who are somehow lesser beings than us.

Staring with eyes that look, but do not see. Eyes that fleetingly search for symbols of worthiness, icons of wealth and position. Finding none, they glaze over, or find a watch or a phone to look at instead.

Therefore, by that definition there is always someone on this planet who has a right to see you as a little person.

In my eyes, your value is based on how well you treat those who do not and can not benefit you, how well you treat those who are the ‘little people’ in your world. How humble and grateful you are for the gifts and successes you have been granted or have worked hard for. They can disappear literally overnight, and who knows, you might become reliant on those you chose to spurn today.

simoncowellOr, you’d better hope that those who are above you on the ladder, and who’s asses you’ve become so accustomed to, find you as valuable once you can no longer serve a purpose.

The people who have the ability to singularly impress me are those who by all standards might deserve an attitude, but don’t have one. Their successes and good looks haven’t changed them. Their wealth and position are not the attributes which define them.

They know WHO they are. And who they are, has nothing to do with WHAT they are. If you’re one of those people, I like you already.