It shouldn’t be embarrassing but it is


  1. Introducing someone as your husband or wife. It’s like saying, ‘Here is someone I often have sex with’. Or if not often, then at least now and then. Introducing someone as your boyfriend or girlfriend is even worse. And describing someone as your lover is the gold standard of embarrassment. Fortunately, no one says that, at least not in South Africa.


  1. When someone tells you they are ‘trying to have a baby’. I don’t know where to look. I have a friend who likes to reply, ‘Don’t let me get in your way’.


  1. Walking past a group of teenagers. Well, that’s more humiliating than embarrassing.


  1. People posing for photographs intended for social media, i.e. just

    about every photograph nowadays. It was one thing taking a happy snap for the family album that’s opened on rare occasions – it is quite another being a mini-broadcaster with an audience of at least 300. Viewers of pictures taken for social media know immediately how you want to be perceived: sexy, ironic with great breasts, blissfully bonded. (I’ve been watching people photograph themselves endlessly on Camp Bay beach over the past few days.)


  1. Buying a particularly big packet of toilet paper because it’s on special. I know, everybody goes to the bathroom. But there’s something about walking through a shopping centre with a huge and unwieldy rectangular package of Twinsavers that makes people think all you do is sit on the toilet.


  1. Being in a tour group. I don’t actually know whether this is embarrassing, but I have a sense it is when I see these big groups of chattering tourists with a tour leader in the front holding up a sign.

Ten Reasons I Know I’m Getting Old

  • I’m ten times, make that a hundred times, more likely to wake up, wired, at four am than go to bed, knackered, at four am.
  • Everything that happens, not only in my personal life but also in
    old age

    Poster for Picasso exhibition, Boca Museum of Art

    international affairs, seems to have happened before, even though people run around screaming that this is totally new, whatever it is. Okay, maybe ‘casual orgasms’ (over clothes) among groups of women at a sex-positive sleepover is something of a new thing, at least to me, though for all I know it was old hat in Ancient Rome.

  • I’ve never caught an Uber. I don’t have an Uber story about an inappropriate and / or excessively dangerous Uber driver to tell at a dinner party.
  • I can’t get on board the latest hip intellectual theories. Privilege theory, or race theory, or whatever it is called is just as much of a trend as post-modernism was before it, and Marxism before that. Theories come and go. They frequently gloss over more than they explain; they disregard or flatten individual circumstances and experiences in an attempt to explain it all. Anyway, if we’re going to talk about privilege, then one obvious way to be privileged is to be a human being, because you stand very little chance of being raised in a tiny crate and enthusiastically gulped down by other creatures, unlike, say, a pig.
  • I like a good sit-down.
  • The people in my gym class are much more likely to discuss a frozen shoulder than their record-breaking half-marathon time.
  • I don’t do self-destructing social media apps – and we all know why that content self-destructs! – like Snapchat. I do Facebook, the home of brags and humble-brags, kittens and babies, and political conspiracy theories.
  • I’ve never been on a Tinder date. I have to admit that I did do some online dating on Yid (Your Ideal Date) – I think it was the only site available in Cape Town – in the late 1990s. All I remember about the one man I met was that we had long and earnest discussion about his poodle, which I never met.
  • Past boyfriends have collapsed into a kind of mulch. Who did I stand outside screaming at in the rain?  Who was it exactly that I vomited on? Why did it matter so much?
  • I fear the young.



5 ways I am different from my 15-year-old self

  1. I no longer blame myself for my failings. Instead, I blame the world. I realise that so much is unfair and beyond my control. Also, blaming the world makes me feel better about myself.
  2. At 15, I was scared of authorities and systems. They seemed eternal. But I’ve seen the generation above us abandoning the rules they once imposed. They’ve taken new lovers, embarked on trips, changed their fundamental beliefs, given up. Authorities will crumble: my children will come to realise this, too. There is no real penalty for not doing your homework. ship of fools2
  3. I know that people are self-righteous about the issues of the day, but scornful of how things were done in the past. Future generations will feel similarly towards us. We may be obsessed with gay marriage and white privilege but those who come after us will embrace something else, perhaps animal liberation. They will look upon us as cruel, barbaric and incomprehensible. We will be vilified.
  4. I no longer need to be similar to other people. When I was 15 I did all kinds of things I hated just to be like everyone else: going to youth camps, spending the day on Clifton, wearing my socks rolled down below my ankles. I realise that people are not like one another, even if there are some feelings we all experience.
  5. I now understand that the cool boys think everything comes easy. They get fat. Nerdy boys have always got something to prove. This keeps them lean and hungry.