Monday, November 05, 2012

stuck in the middle with you

I used to joke that while some people lived 'all over the world', we'd lived 'all over Obs', and that in many ways it was the same thing. I'm starting to realise that was truer than I'd thought.

After 20 years of living in small rural towns, a couple bunking with my parents while I was studying and then 15 living in Observatory (I've just checked the maths, I think that's about right), it seems I'm now experiencing urban, middle-class, predominantly white, mostly Christian, South African suburbia for the first time.
And it's ... not that interesting.

In fact, it's a little drab.

I realise now how unique life really is in Observatory. A diverse suburb never torn apart by the Group Areas Act, always integrated, always diverse.
It was easy while living under the rainbow of South African nationhood to assume that it arched over us all, encompassing our differences while in a weird way keeping us all on the same page. Living in Obs was our commonality, and that gave us the freedom to express our individuality.

I have no doubt that the longer we live out here in the 'burbs the more people we'll meet with shared interests beyond just our age, our breeder status, our common wish to bring our kids up safe and healthy. But I think they're fewer and further between.
In Obs I never felt I had to look this hard.

In Obs I never felt I was living a stereotype. In middle-class 'burbia the part-time working, 30-something, home-owning, Golf-driving, flip-flop wearing, under-her-breath swearing mother-of-two is the Queen of Stereotype and I seem to fit the part perfectly.

Where we live is still utterly amazing, but as we venture out finding schools and attending swimming lessons I'm encountering the curse of the middle classes ... the banal names, the fake Christians, the bad genes jeans, the lack of critical thought, the material 'must-haves' and the emotional taboo's. And it's ... a little drab.

I'll tell you what's not drab though. Getting on a boat in your pyjamas before breakfast to visit a flock of flamingos. To watch them take flight above you and wheel over your heard in a flurry of pink and black against a grey blue early morning sky. To look over and see their long legs reflected in the eyes of your daughter as she gasps in delight.

That's what I'll remember as I grit my teeth and ponder my identity next to a warm chlorine-and-pee soaked pool on Thursday. And as I try not to overhear the banal conversations about Jayden's Christmas wish list and how expensive horse-riding is these days and who's under-15 rugby team is the best and who's fucking who on the PTA (okay, I made that up - I'd love to be privy to that one), I'll try and remember too that we'd all rather be frolicking with flamingos than doing the school run right?
We all know there's more to life than the new store in the mall right?

Please tell me I'm right?

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