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My ghastly romantic history – with a happy ending…

September 26, 2012

*Names of the swains involved have been changed to protect them from having contracts taken out on them…

Thursday evening, I was looking at The Boyf from across the table at a restaurant in Cape Town. I was treating him to dinner on his 50th birthday. I thought: “After all the years of the romantic horror I had to endure, how did I get to be so lucky?” And I sent a big, fat THANK YOU to the patron saint of romance. I am sure she is a woman.

But, then again, holy crap, did I have to suffer for the privilege of finally finding my life partner twelve years ago, at the ripe old age of 35….

First, let me explain the nature of the crushes I used to develop when I was younger.  They were usually directed at somebody who had no interest in me whatsoever, and who wasn’t planning to change that attitude anytime soon. They were enduring – some of them lead to years of unrequited luuurve. And they involved hours of daydreaming, practicing my new signature (with the surname of the boy I had a crush on) and weeping listlessly into my pillow. Oh yes, and sticking romantic sunset pictures of couples into my scrapbook.

A bad, bad beginning

My disastrous romantic history started at the age of 12 in Standard Five (Grade 7), when I developed a crush on *Louis van der Veer. The only thing that made him stand out was the fact that he was taller than the other boys because he had failed a year in primary school. But that was enough for somebody with non-existent standards. Needless to say, Louis treated me like dog poop, including flirting with my best friend at my house for a whole evening.

In high school (just for girls) my major source of potential crushes was our church. Here, I sat in the very last row with my mother, my beady, boy-hungry eyes flicking from pew to pew in search of the best-looking back view of a teenage swain. It finally settled on the curly black head of *Jannie Bredenhahn…

Jannie the Boeremusiek fan

All through Standard Eight (Gr 10) and halfway through Standard Nine, I pined for the love of cold-hearted Jannie. He barely seemed to notice me, and yet, I snuck a photograph of him on my Instimatic camera whenever I got the chance, and added it to the growing collection on my bedroom mirror. I attended every Sunday school social, so I could catch a glimpse, exchange a sentence, or admire his ghastly brown corduroy pants and loud checked shirt.

As his matric farewell loomed – he was a year older than me – I prayed to all manner of gods, angels and saints to be The One he invited to go along. And, lo and behold, it happened! I got asked!

But my history of having invitations withdrawn was about to start here…

He then invited me to go along with him and his friend to a rugby match in a town several hours away from Pretoria. On the way there, I was subjected to one of Jannie’s enduring passions, “boeremusiek”. To this day, I shudder at the thought of listening to the “polka”, the “settees” and the “vastrap”, blaring from the portable radio he had dragged along for the trip

It was night on our way back. In the rickety school bus, under the cover of darkness, I was subjected to some Afrikaans schoolboy necking. Pressed into the corner of a school bus seat, I swooningly endured having an inexpert tongue shoved down my throat, cherishing the dawning realization that I would have snogging rash from his day-old beard for days to come. Man, I was so proud! I had finally gotten the object of my schoolgirl fantasies to maul me in the name of love! And I had proof!

I tripped around on my pubescent Cloud Nine for a whole week, secure in the knowledge that, at the Church Youth Society camp the following weekend, he would be mine, all mine…

Er. NOT.

For the entire weekend of the church youth camp, Jannie Boeremusiek pretended that I didn’t exist. I wept rainstorms onto my friend Magriet’s shoulder, I tried to talk to him, I tried to work out what I had done wrong (because it just HAD to be my fault, no?). But no answers were forthcoming.

That following week, I plucked up the courage to phone him to find out if our matric farewell date was still on. This is what he said: he was in the process of looking for someone else, but if he didn’t find anyone in time, I could still come with. Yes, he said that. At this stage, whatever was left of my pride, rebelled. I told him no thanks; I wouldn’t be his consolation prize. And fled back to my already tear-drenched pillow.

In my matric year, I developed yet another badly directed crush on someone from the boys school residence across the road. So I asked him to my matric farewell. He said yes. And then he withdrew a week before the event, citing a desire to go home for the weekend as his reason. (He lived in some godforsaken one-horse town called “Dwaalboom”) So, like all desperate girls, I took my best friend’s brother as an emergency measure. We actually had a rip-roaring time. So yah-boo-sucks to Mr Dwaalboom.

All the horror of my high school disasters was made up for by a very sweet post-matric holiday romance.. He was good-looking and intelligent and one helluva conversationalist. His conservative politics got in the way eventually. But he was the first truly good egg in Mads’ Love Wars.

Mr Muscle

In my second year at varsity, my first long-term love entered my life. Energetic, short and sporting a collection of muscle that would eventually lead to the undoing of our great love. Boy, we had loads of fun together. The future was, well, over theeeere and we had a lot of innocent fun in the over-protected womb of the University of Stellenbosch.

But he had a strange obsession – with very muscular women. His pin-up chicks included Martina Navratilova and women body builders. (those chicks with the washboard stomachs and aspirin tits) It’s not that I didn’t try. I pushed weights with my fragile and very pear-shaped body till I was blue in the face. I will carry to my grave a chronic lower back injury, in the shape of degenerative disc disease, induced by pushing the calf muscle machine at full weight and dead-lifting barbells way to heavy for my strength. But the most positive comment my healthy, slim twentysomething body managed to inspire was: “You have soooo much potential.” Of course, my calves never got bigger. No matter how hard I tried.

In the end, as expected, I was dumped for a woman so short and so muscle-bound that a friend of mine drily referred to her as “the circus artiste.” My dumbbells were tossed into the corner to collect spider webs.

Mr Perfect

As short as Mr Muscle was, as tall was Varsity Boyf Number Two. At that stage, my mother referred to my romantic history as “From 3ft 6 to 6ft 3.” My father was mortified by the fact that Number Two was Dutch – my sister had already married a Dutchman and my dad liked him NOT ONE BIT. “Ag Jirre Liefie,” he begged, “moet tog net nie nog ‘n donerse Kaas in die familie inbring nie.” (God, honey, please don’t bring another bloody Cheese into the family…) Dear old dad. He was never known for his subtlety.

Number Two was a study in perfection. Good looking, kind, clever, musical, sporty. Well mannered. With rosy cheeks that older women loved to pinch, and younger women lusted after. I felt like I constantly needed to pee around this person to keep other women away from him. It was unbelievably tiring. He was also commitment phobic.

I eventually took a gap year to Japan to teach English, to give myself an adventure and him a chance to think things over about marriage. On my way back, we met up in Europe and did some backpacking. He eventually did pop the question, or rather, accepted MY bloody offer of marriage which I had made in what was a leap year.

Another offer about to be withdrawn…

But my history of having romantic offers withdrawn would continue unabated. As soon as I had accepted, he looked extremely nervous and didn’t stop looking nervous for about two years afterwards. The poor man had started regretting his impulsive decision – made over a primus stove at a Cap d’Antibes youth hostel – the moment it was “out there”.

For a year, this comedy of errors would continue. We got engaged with a fancy ring. His mom organised us an engagement party, which embarrassed him so intensely that, when the engagement cake came out the kitchen – featuring our intertwined initials – he rushed to the garage fetched a saw to cut it with. Yup! And people wonder why I’m a blathering basket case.

After much trial and error, we broke off the engagement and, after much more trial and loads more error, the relationship ended.

I was thirty, single, and working in the performing arts. Single men were very hard to find. Straight men were very, very hard to find…

I will spare you any further venturing into the details of the Mads’ Love Wars. Let it suffice to say that it would take five years of dating a staggering variety of assholes – and also five years of enjoying being single and travelling and partying – before The Boyf appeared on my horizon. In a banana-yellow Ford Cortina.

At long bloody last!

Our meeting was, of course, not without its comic disaster. I was at a bar with a friend of mine and he and his friend were at the same place. He and my friend knew each other. After she had introduced us, I mentioned to her that I found him rather cute. So, the next time he walked past our table, my friend, larger AND louder than life at the best of times, bellowed: “Cobus, Mads LIKES you!”

He was terrified of women at the time – he was a survivor of the Love Wars himself and recently divorced. So let’s just say it took several more months before we finally started dating.

It hasn’t all been moonshine and roses, mind you. We’ve been through some pretty hectic stuff together. But we’re still together after 12 years, and every day, I still consider myself truly blessed to have this man in my life. He’s warm, loving, kind, funny and insanely intelligent. He has the patience of a saint, which, with me, is always a good thing. And, most important of all, he loves me.

Warts, pear-shaped butt, non-existent calves and all.





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