“Every man cheats but if he loves you enough you’ll never find out”
Amber Rose says, allegedly.
It’s a popular enough sentiment but I call bullshit. I call bullshit because I don’t believe that a man who loves me will cheat on me.
But a friend agrees with Amber’s supposed declaration. He stands beside her and goes even further, and gives me the emotionally tattering and intellectually insulting:
‘but it’s not about you; it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you’
This leaves me feeling a certain sort of way. But never one to abandon a discussion, I give my friend a part-defeated-part-pseudo intellectual:
‘You are supposed to love people in the way that they want to be loved. If my guy cheats on me then he does not love because my love does not include cheating.’
My response isn’t wrong or untrue but I know that it isn’t wholly sincere because it isn’t the whole truth of my feelings. But I can’t quite find my feelings, so I give up and go to bed.
And then the following morning, I wake up to ‘why is Shezi so big?’ as a Facebook comment to a rather beautiful photo of myself posted by another friend. Naturally, I’m shocked because I hadn’t realised that I was particularly big, big enough to deserve this sort of comment, made on so public a forum. I hadn’t realised that I had become ripe for the fat shaming and cyberbullying and humiliation cocktail. I hadn’t thought about it. I have been too busy being happy.
Of course I’m not so happy now.
Now, I am ashamed. Now I am preoccupied with the moments where I dropped the ball, let myself go. I am obsessed with the exact point where I forsook and betrayed my body, condemning it to fat and general ruin.
I am not so happy, now.
My happiness has been lost and shame has replaced it.
And this is possible, this instantaneous loss of happiness and shame substitution is possible because I live in a world which is constantly telling me to be less happy and more ashamed: ashamed of my body; ashamed of my skin; ashamed of my vagina and the inner thighs with touch and leave no gap; ashamed of myself.
I also live in a world where someone is entitled to police my body and make careless and hurtful comments about it. I live in a world where it is OK to hurt me, to criticise me, to diminish me. And what’s more, this hurt and abuse and shaming and shame are all somehow my fault. It is my fault that people hurt me, because how I dare I not be of mass that’s pleasing to them, for example?
And it also my fault that hurt actually hurts me, because why am I not strong enough to simply not pay attention to it? Why do I take it so personally? (I suppose because it is personal, you are saying horrendously hurtful things about parts of my person: why could be more personal?)
But of course it doesn’t end there because I then see that Carien du Plessis called ANC female party members Pantypreneurs and the ANC let it slide; as though it isn’t an insult; as though it isn’t sexist; as though it isn’t misogyny specifically directed at black women. But of course it is precisely because it is misogyny directed specifically at black women that it does not matter, that the ANC can so easily let it slide. And I know that it doesn’t matter to the ANC or anyone because ultimately, this too is my fault as a black woman. It is my fault that Carien du Plessis is an asshole, and it is also my fault that I live in society where I am prey to male predators. It is my fault that I live in a society, where I am told to network in order to get ahead; and that while I am trying to network, while I am knocking on doors, some or other sleazy man will creepily rub my thigh or my ass or my shoulder and say to me repugnant things such as: one favour deserves another or if you don’t give it up you won’t get in (and the ‘it’ is my vagina).
It is my fault, and therefore I should be shamed, my shame bag filled.
And then it clicks and the sort of way becomes a more particular way:
This is what it means to navigate the world, as me, as a black woman. This is what it means to exist in this world. It means shame and hurt and abuse and insults. It means being constantly bullied. It means to every day be scrutinised, be weighed, be measured, on an arbitrary scale and ridiculous measure, and constantly be told that I am wanting; that I am not enough. Not enough! That is society’s chorus.
And so, I finally fully get why Amber’s declaration and my friend’s assertion nauseate me:
A man who cheats on me betrays and shames me and therefore cannot love me.
A man who cheats on me joins the chorus.
He joins the chorus which says that I am not worthy, I am not deserving. He joins the chorus which says that I am not deserving of being honoured, of having someone be faithful to me and be devoted to me. He joins the chorus which says that I am not worthy because I am not enough; the chorus which says that I should be supplemented.
He joins the chorus which says that I should be shamed; because even if I do not find out that he has cheated, he has still gone out to the world and told it that I am not enough.
A man who cheats on me joins the society which hates and rubbishes me. And that is not love and that is wholly personal and completely about me and against me.
Writer: Nomfundo Shezi